RENO, Nev.— Observing the first big day of action at the Libertarian National Convention in Reno, Nevada, was a bit like walking into a heated argument between two people in an unhappy relationship. But this relationship was the Libertarian Party and it involved about a thousand delegates from all over the United States.
The tight schedule was chopped up with constant interjections from delegates raising points of order, points of information, and points of personal privilege, thwarting the proceedings so severely that the entire scene gave off the vibe, to this millennial, of a CD that won’t stop skipping.
In fact, by early afternoon, it seemed as if the entire process was somehow moving backward.
At first, one couldn’t discern if this was an unusually hostile convention or a predictable display of political infighting. The truth, it turns out, is that all attendees were witnessing “a parliamentary coup d’état,” as one delegate told me; a premeditated attempt by the upstart Mises Caucus — a sect within the party viewed as liberty-driven revolutionaries by true believers and “toxic … useful idiots” by their detractors — to take complete control of the Libertarian Party.
“We’re at the culmination of five years of work,” Michael Heise, the chair and founder of the Mises Caucus who architected the takeover, told Timcast. “And I think there’s going to be like, large scale change in the Libertarian Party and it’s going to be a fight, there’s definitely going to be some contention — especially on Friday — but at this point, I don’t think there’s too much that can be done to stop us.”
At the 50th anniversary of the Libertarian National Convention, which reportedly saw the largest attendance in the party’s history, the Mises Caucus — named after Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), an Austrian School economist who advocated for free markets and private property — planned and staged what one party member described to me as “a hostile takeover.” The blueprint for this coup, a 70-page document that was circulated among Mises members, transformed into a energetic but by-the-rule-book insurrection; a robust reimagining — or, as their critics might suggest, a rebranding — of the Libertarian Party in the name of Mises and the spirit of Ron Paul.
Dave Smith: Comedian for President?
Although the convention officially began with a day of education and a reception at the Nugget Casino Resort on Thursday, March 26, the real kickoff occurred about three miles away at a venue called The Alpine. There, key players in the takeover and their most ardent supporters gathered for a comedy show.
The headliner was Dave Smith, the face of the Ron Paul revolution. In the past few year, Smith’s following has grown exponentially in the wake of appearances on The Joe Rogan Experience and Timcast IRL. His own podcast, Part of the Problem, has strengthened his platform and a touring schedule has led him to dozens, if not hundreds, of cities for stand-up comedy shows and libertarian state conventions. Outside the venue, some of Smith’s fans, who stood in a long line stretching to the end of the block, could be overheard quoting from the introduction that runs at the beginning of each episode of his podcast.
“We need to roll back the state,” said one ticket holder with a laugh. “What if he just came out and said that?”
This mashup of quotes from the introduction — “our prisons are flooded with nonviolent drug offenders,” “if you wanna know who America’s next enemy is, look at who we’re funding right now,” “every single one of these problems is the result of government being way too big” — offers a thumbnail of Smith’s outlook.
Smith, a self-described 90s kid from Brooklyn, is an uncommon hybrid. Even a regular listener to his cultural commentary might view him mainly as a politically savvy smartass; more of an outspoken, diehard libertarian with a sense of humor than a bona fide stand-up comedian.
“I was so nervous when I bought his last stand-up special, I didn’t watch it for three months,” one audience member, who is also a party delegate from Massachusetts, told me before the show. “I was worried his stand-up wouldn’t be funny and it would change my opinion of him.”
This didn’t happen — not for the concerned Massachusettsan when he finally watched the special, and not for the 300 or so people who came to watch Smith at The Alpine that night.
Smith’s identity as a libertarian certainly informs his style and outlook, but he’s more than a glorified ideologue who relies on scoring easy laughs from fellow libertarians who share his worldview. To his credit — and, perhaps, to his eventual detriment as a potential political candidate — he’s a genuine intellectual who uses profanity and scorn like surgical instruments. And his craftsmanship as a comic is muscular and formidable. One is hesitant to invoke the Holy Trinity of Counterculture Comedy — Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin — when describing Smith’s strengths as a comedian, but they might be his closest entertainment ancestors.
What sets Smith apart, and makes him an uncommon threat to the Cathedral, is that he appears to have serious ambitions of running for president on the Libertarian ticket in 2024. Imagine a millennial Lenny Bruce whose political convictions are so ingrained that he can rattle off passages from Murray Rothbard. Or, for a chilling inverse of that thought, imagine a more hip version of Gary Johnson who sells out stand-up comedy venues.
Smith is aware he’s a kind of centaur of a public figure with one half of his body in different worlds.
“I swear, 12 years ago when I was failing at stand-up comedy and obsessively reading Hans-Hermann Hoppe books, I thought to myself, this may not work out,” the 39-year-old Smith, tall and slim as a whip, said when he walked onstage. “It somehow turned into this whole f—— thing.”
He marveled at how an “End the Fed” chant preceded “an opening round of d— jokes” from his openers — “Will that ever seem to make sense?”
Aside for a lone throwaway nod to the Austrian school of economics (“What was the Rothbard [quote]? ‘Two tooths for a tooth’? … [That] reference is pretty deep”), Smith, like his praised progenitors, offers a devastating diagnosis of our country that’s equally insightful and hysterical. The absurdity of mainstream culture has prompted him to formulate certain penetrating truths to reckon with. And he didn’t shy away from divisive waters, most notably when he offered certain observations like, “Women civilize men and men check women. That’s the natural order of things, and we’ve lost it.”
After the show, about two-thirds of the audience was replaced with a new crowd for a live recording of Smith’s “Part of the Problem” podcast. (The other third remained because they purchased tickets for both events.) The energy in the air could, at least in part, be attributed to the anticipation of the “Reno Reset” for the LP that the Mises Caucus planned for the following morning.
Between shows, a young man approached Heise, who was standing off to the side of the stage. Heise had been turning down drinks throughout the night in anticipation of the battle set for 9 a.m. the following morning.
“Saturday night,” he kept saying. That’s when he would presumably allow himself to cut loose.
The young man shook Heise’s hand and offered his help in the morning: “Literally, call me up, text me, whatever. Like literally, whatever you need.”
“It’s gonna be hard to miss me, man,” Heise said. “I’m wearing the f—— suit I got married in. I’m gonna have some f—— loud gold shoes. I got a forest green suit.”
“But whatever you need, I mean, I’ve done a lot of dirty work in California,” the young man continued. “Whatever you need, something last minute, something comes up — whatever you need.”
“You are deep enough to where I think you’ll be able to intuit what has to be done,” Heise said.
When the young man excused himself, Heise told me: “It’s hard to describe the community that we have. … This is a f—— nationwide collective of people that believe in this. Like, it’s crazy.”
He added, “The Reno Reset is, we got motherf——s running for every position on the LNC [Libertarian National Committee] and I’m using my experience in my state of Pennsylvania — it’s kind of a template for what I believe is going to happen because that got real contentious like real quick.”
Later that night, when an audience member asked Smith about running for president, he said, “If there was someone else, who could do well—“
“There is no one else!” someone cut him off.
On Smith’s second attempt to answer, he was interrupted again by the same interjection.
“I heard you!” Smith shouted. “Because we live in a world with crazy f—— laws, I have to f—— word this the right way: If no one else emerges who can f—— do what I know I can do, then I will do what I have to do.”
After the ensuing applause subsided, Smith continued:
“The process to decide who gets the nomination for the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party is the exact same process as they [use to] decide who gets the chair, right? The delegates are gonna decide. … So this is the first step … I’m very focused on this weekend right now [and] the people that I believe in … grabbing a hold of the steering wheel of this party. I think that’s the first step … in this mission.”
“Basically, start preparing yourself for D.C. 2024,” Heise said, referring to the year and location of the Libertarian National Convention when the party announces its presidential nominee.
Mises: ‘Hero’s Journey’ Generation or ‘MAGA-Adjacent’?
A hint of the contrast between the establishment Libertarian Party and the Mises Caucus can be gleaned from their websites.
The “Party of Principle” was established in 1971 on the broad opposition to “any government interference into their personal, family, and business decisions.” The foundational belief of the party states that every person should be free to pursue any interest they have so long as they cause no harm to another person.
A visit to the Mises Caucus site lodges a more specific, urgent demand encased in radical resistance:
NOT ONE MORE
NOT ONE MORE WAR
NOT ONE MORE LOCKDOWN
NOT ONE MORE BAILOUT
NOT ONE MORE MANDATE
“Really, what we’re going through right now with the Libertarian Party is like a version of the hero’s journey,” Angela McArdle, the Mises Caucus’ nominee for LNC Chair, said during the May 26 live recording of Part of the Problem. “And we’re the new hero coming in, collectively, all of us. And the party has sort of already failed and failing is part of the hero’s journey. … you see, there’s no doubt that they fall on their face, and then they gotta go back. And they’ve got to learn and train harder and win.”
McArdle is currently Chair of the Libertarian Party of Los Angeles and a two-time candidate for state congress in California. She is currently spearheading an effort to repeal the city of Los Angeles’ vaccine mandate and has provided pro bono legal defense for a number of businesses in California who defied lockdown measures.
“The old guard, the older people, they should be behaving like the Obi Wan character — guiding and leading the way,” she continued. “Instead, they’re trying to hold on. It’s like, Bro, you’re 80 years old, sit down. Like, you can’t lift your sword, but we do need your advice. And so we’re not casting them all out, they need to shift roles, just like we will have to shift roles at some point.”
To that, Smith added: “In the mid-1990s, when I was like, I don’t know, 15, we had these political leaders. I don’t know if any of you guys will remember them, but there were these people like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden. Isn’t it kind of amazing that they never passed the torch? And isn’t so much of the problem that … they’re all f—— 80 and they’re still holding on to their same position?”
Not everyone at the convention shared the same enthusiasm or support for the Mises Caucus’ ambitions.
One attendee, who’s running for lieutenant governor in his state, told me they were a “MAGA-adjacent” movement.
“A lot of MAGA people blame the Libertarian Party for Trump losing some close states and they don’t want future elections to be tipped in that way so they want to kneecap the LP and make sure we don’t get [on] the ballot,” he said. “So in 2024 we will [have] a joke of a presidential candidate” — a direct shot, he confirmed, at Smith.
(Smith reminded me later that night that he has been “really harsh on Trump” before. “I know there’ll be people who are pissed off about that, but I’m gonna really tell you why. You f—— say you’re gonna drain the swamp and that’s the whole swamp around you. That’s not 4D chess, motherf——.”)
In the view of the lieutenant governor candidate, a significant portion of the people involved in the Mises Caucus are essentially yesterday’s recruits enchanted mainly by the allure of shaking things up.
“This large group of new people, a year ago, were not libertarians, but then [they] got recruited,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Here, join us. We’re doing this thing. It’s called takeover the Libertarian Party. And if you join us, your life will be exciting.’”
Others, like Adam Kokesh, libertarian activist and former spokesperson for “Veterans for Ron Paul,” lodge even more ominous, and harder to prove, allegations against the Mises Caucus concerning what he called “the toxic culture that they brought into the party.”
“They use the Ron Paul branding as a gateway,” he told me. “They’re playing on that sentimentality. … ‘Look at these politically correct leftist sympathizers who have made the Libertarian brand something we don’t want to associate with it. But now … you can come in and be a Mises-flavored Libertarian and we’re gonna take over.’”
In Heise’s personal opinion, Kokesh is “jealous” that “his influence had greatly diminished.”
“I personally think that he’s really angry that he doesn’t have the kind of influence he used to have,” he told me. “I think he sees me as like a little brother type. … Because I used to work under him and s—.”
Kokesh further accused the Mises leaders of being “useful idiots” who rely on “dark money … money that I’ve seen appear in different places without explanations.”
“I wish there was dark money,” McArdle told me. “If anyone could send me the dark money or links to the dark money, I’d love to see it.”
According to the nonprofit watchdog organization Open Secrets, the Mises PAC has received a total of 174 contributions over $200 during the 2021-2022 election cycle. The largest single donation was $10,000.
McArdle went on to say that detractors from their movement have effectively “taken the Libertarian Party and twisted it to be a Social Justice Party. Because they have low self esteem and … they don’t believe that they can sell this message. And we just reject that.”
She added: “There are going to be people who call us names. And that’s okay. Because that’s what happens when you start to make a serious difference.”
The Mises Caucus isn't libertarian, but is instead a right-wing, nationalist, xenophobic, reactionary, fascist/fascism-adjacent movement. That they're taking over the Libertarian Party means that the LP is no longer a libertarian party.
— Aaron Ross Powell ☸️ (@ARossP) May 28, 2022
— Idaho Joe for CD-1💚🖤🫐 (@IDJoe4Congress) May 30, 2022
The day before the convention began, the Southern Poverty Law Center ran an article asking if the Mises Causes could “Sway the Libertarian Party to the Hard Right.” The story, published under the “Hatewatch” section of the nonprofit’s website, accused the MC of, among other things, promoting bigotry and espousing “positions [that] mirror the Trump-aligned hard right.”
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to help people let go of collectivism as they search for the truth and find their way to liberty,” McArdle said in a statement to SLPC. “We will always fight for the freedom of all people.”
Smith offered some brief and mocking comments regarding the SLPC article onstage Thursday.
“That was their ace in the hole?” he said. “I swear, I deserve better enemies.”
It might be worth re-emphasizing that Smith was speaking onstage as a comedian, and musings during a performance may not necessarily reflect the spirit in which they were given and they might not translate accurately into printed words.
Later that weekend, when I mentioned the criticisms posed by MC’s opponents, Smith offered a more candid response:
“Honestly, I’m not even really focused on that. Like, the truth is that there’s this new group, which is really only a few years old, that just took over this whole f—— thing. And that’s gonna generate some people who are like, ‘What the hell? We used to be running this thing and now you guys are.’ But now that we’ve taken it over, it’s kind of like our job to do such a good job with it that everyone’s kind of like, ‘Alright, I’m kind of glad they did this,’ right?”
“So I think of that as more of a challenge. That’s just how I think about everything, whether it’s podcasts or anything else [where] the responsibility is on me. It’s not like somebody owes me to listen to what I f—— do. … If they don’t, that’s my fault. You know? I have the obligation to make you interested in what I’m doing. … that’s our job now — to make people go like, ‘Okay, I got to admit, they’re doing a really good job with this.’”
Perhaps the Mises Caucus’ overall response to the SPLC could be summarized in the faux honor they bestowed upon the nonprofit on Friday night, shortly after it became apparent that they would gain control of the Libertarian Party.
McArdle presented SPLC with the “Failed Grifter of the Year” Award.
“It was a tough race [but] at the last minute, the SPLC came in and swooped!” she said.
A Party Divided
If there is any doubt over whether or not the Libertarian Party was divided over the weekend, consider the fact that the thousand or so delegates could not reach a consensus on the motion to adjourn for lunch.
Due to the variety of procedural interruptions, the scheduled time for lunch had long passed. And even though a two-thirds majority is required for a motion to pass, the number of delegates in favor of going to lunch seemed roughly equivalent to the number of delegates who opposed going to lunch.
As a result, the Committee Chair, Whitney Bilyeu, couldn’t determine a majority on sight.
“We’re gonna have to count,” she said. “So it’s very clear that there are people in this room who are just hellbent on making sure nothing else gets done.”
Shortly thereafter, Nicholas Sarwark, executive director of the Libertarian Policy Institute, spoke up with the type of ornate delegate-speak that was commonplace during proceedings:
“Parliamentary inquiry. May I ask the chair to consult the parliamentarian as to what the chair’s prerogatives are with regard to providing a recess for people who have raised a point of privilege and a need to eat for medical reasons and whether or not the chair can dispense with the counting vote?”
That afternoon, Sarwark, an attorney, was overheard saying, “If I can do two weeks of a murder trial, I can do two days of a convention.”
Nick: “it is UNLIBERTARIAN to not listen to voices who you disagree with”
Me: “point of personal privilege! Nick has blocked half of us on Twitter”
— Karlyn Borysenko, future Governor of New Hampshire (@DrKarlynB) May 28, 2022
It was unclear what or who motivated so many disruptions to the scheduled proceedings, but Heise told me that their opposition was “purposely trying to drag it out.”
Even so, at least two motions from MC supporters required time-consuming discussions and individual vote counting. The first, to replace Bilyeu as chair, failed, while the second, to replace the original agenda with an agenda written by Heise, succeeded.
In fact, the former effort failed on two counts. Initially, Vice Chair Ken Moellman declined to replace Bilyeu.
“We have been fighting internally and focused on the wrong enemy,” he said. “Ms. Bilyeu is actually legitimately a better presiding officer than I am — straight up.”
When the motion went to a vote, it was struck down.
At any rate, the results of both motions did little to impact the pending success of the MC’s bid to secure all nine controlling positions of Libertarian National Committee: Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and five at-large members.
By the end of Saturday’s proceedings, McArdle had been elected Chair and Dave Smith’s endorsement for Vice Chair, Josh Smith, had won in landslides. While more elections had been moved to the following day, Dave Smith declared victory on Twitter.
— Dave Smith (@ComicDaveSmith) May 29, 2022
“We have a clear majority,” he told me. “We’ll take the entire f—— thing. It’s gonna be somewhere between every single position and every single position minus one.”
The infighting on the ballroom floor was so evident that when Justin Amash, a U.S. representative for Michigan from 2011 to 2021, took the stage, he said, “This is my first national convention. Are they usually run like this?”
Spike Cohen, the 2020 vice presidential candidate, addressed the bickering outright in his speech:
“Some of you just don’t like each other and aren’t going to get along. I’m not calling for you to get along. I’m not even calling for you to pretend to get along. I’m just calling for you to stop ripping each other to shreds.”
Though she declined to comment on the Mises Caucus in particular, Dr. Jo Jorgensen, the LP’s presidential nominee in 2020, said that she’d like to see the party focus more on the “concrete stuff.”
“Being a psychologist, I know this: we need to get away from the abstract stuff,” she told me. “Because, first of all, our brains handle remembering concrete stuff better.”
From her perspective, the average person is more interested in the specific issues that appeal to their personal lives as opposed to the grandiose abstractions of politics.
Jorgensen formulated a metaphor:
“If somebody comes in, wants to buy a car, ‘Okay you’ve got kids, tell you what, instead of showing you the red convertible, let me show you the minivan.’ And it’s like we’re saying, ‘Oh, power, freedom, you know, sports car’ — because we like sports cars, I like sports cars. But you know, we can’t show them what we want, we have to show them what they want. So that’s what I think the Libertarian Party needs to head toward.”
However, Scott Horton, director of the Libertarian Institute and editorial director of Antiwar.com, saw the matter differently.
Horton, whose books include Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan and Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, has conducted well over five thousand interviews during the past two decades. His encyclopedic knowledge of U.S.-perpetuated atrocities in overseas conflicts can leave one feeling punch-drunk, sickened, and perhaps even hopeless. Martin Cowen, the libertarian candidate for attorney general in Georgia, describes Horton as “the Mozart of the modern American anti-war movement.”
When he speaks publicly, as he did during the ticketed luncheon on Friday, Horton only requires minimal notes. Timelines, dates, names, statistics, strategies, the comprehensive ins-and-outs of years of geopolitical affairs and failures — all of it is locked tight into the database that is his head.
With the possible exception of Heise, Horton might be the most influential figure behind the scenes of the Mises Caucus. His knowledge of the wall-to-wall failures of U.S. foreign policy is so overwhelming, it’s easy to understand why his role as an advisor is perceived as being invaluable. With the exception of Ron Paul, Horton is the only other figure in the MC whose name is often preceded by the phrase “The Great.”
“I’m sort of the f—— Darth Sidious who comes up with evil plans in the background,” Horton told a small group gathered to the right of the stage on Saturday afternoon.
“I almost knew that about you!” said one man in the group. “I figured you studied the Cheney Administration.”
Then, on second thought, Horton said Smith might be the Darth Sidious to his Plagueis.
“You gotta be a real goddamn Star Wars dork to know the storyline,” Horton said.
Shortly before Jorgensen took the stage, Horton explained that the perceived hostility of the Mises Caucus was actually coming from a position of fear that their plan may not work out. In his view, the old guard establishment members of the LP were so opposed to the MC takeover that their efforts could have been overruled even though their plan adhered exactly to the rulebook, he said.
Horton and Snowden Speak
Despite the tension among delegates, swords were laid aside in order to hear several speeches that united the party in theory if not in reality.
During the lunch that offered a brief time-out from the war-torn delegate battlefield, Horton reviewed the catalogue of injustices that the United States has committed overseas — “a little rundown of America’s imperial scorecard,” he called it.
Recapitulating a summary of the hypocrisies and horrors that Horton described thereafter would take up too many paragraphs, but a witness to the speech could provide a sense of what it is like listening to this indefatigable anti-war activist.
In Batman Returns, there’s a scene where the crooked politician Max Shreck is kidnapped by the Penguin and forced to behold the evidence of his corruption; the evil deeds he thought he had long since flushed down the memory hole.
But the Penguin has been keeping track underground the entire time. He has preserved and reassembled every shredded document with “a little tape and a lot of patience.” He even has the severed hand from a former associate that Max had murdered.
“Remember, Max,” the Penguin says. “You flush it, I flaunt it.”
For the last 20 years or so, Horton has been gathering every detail of the United States’ catastrophic foreign policy and broadcasting the evidence to anyone who will listen.
Though his listeners included libertarians of every persuasion, Horton spoke to an audience that was largely silent except for the occasional incredulous grasps. The narratives he shares about “the U.S. government, our world empire — our dishonest, blood-soaked, paper-money-spending, absolutely destructive to the world and to our own society, world empire” have the uncanny ability of making people shake their heads in quieted disbelief.
Edward Snowden also gave a speech that morning from his undisclosed, but visibly well-soundproofed, location.
“Freedom from permission — that is what liberty is,” he said. “It is the ability to act without asking to speak, and to write and to do and to be yourself … without submitting yourself, and the completed form alongside it, to some central authority, to some higher being.”
He proceeded to reinvent the oft-cited analogy of the boiling frog:
“As long as … enforcing popular submission to the institutional prerogative of the day is executed slowly enough to avoid alarm, we’re doomed. … It couldn’t possibly happen in the United States: militarized forces patrolling the domestic interior and buildings — for your safety, of course. … It’s normal, this is the way that they’ve always done it. This is the way it will always be. And don’t get your history books out, don’t cite what happened in the past … It is extreme. It is radical. It is non-normative to object to these long established policies, right? Now take off your belt and shoes and walk through the scanner.”
Snowden’s physical absence from the room may have underlined and italicized the urgency of his message.
Indeed, it begged a question from an audience member, who asked if he would ever consider returning to the U.S. if, say, a Libertarian President pardoned him.
“I’d be happy to, I’ve said it since I left,” Snowden replied. “I have one sort of demand, and that is that the government provide a fair trial. The government strictly refuses to do this.”
Unless that happens, he said, he faces what could be the longest potential prison sentence in the history of the United States — a comment met with applause from the audience. One person shouted, “Hero!”
Snowden went on to explain that if the trial were truly fair, his hypothetical jury would have the opportunity to argue that his illegal action under the law exposed a greater crime: “that the government itself had violated the law,” he said.
“This brings us back to that Non-Aggression Principle, right? You are not allowed to initiate aggression. But you are allowed to retaliate. If the government breaks the law to violate our interests, are we then barred from responding in kind? That seems like a question that the jury would be qualified to consider. But the government, and successive administrations now have said they will never permit that. Because if they do that, they believe the government will be put on trial.”
The room — presumably united for a moment at the prospect of holding the government accountable for its own crimes — burst into applause.
‘We Are The White Pill’
With a virtually guaranteed victory on the horizon, the Mises Caucus rallied in a ballroom enlarged by the removal of partitions to accommodate hundreds, perhaps a thousand, supporters.
“Everything has gone according to plan except for one thing,” Heise told me, referring to their failed attempt to replace the sitting Chair, Bilyeu, with the Vice Chair, Moellman.
“That guy had access to our document the entire time,” Heise continued. “He knew everything that was happening every step of the way. … And I was giving him exactly what we’re doing so that he would know all the Roberts citations bulls—. And we knew that we weren’t breaking the rules. I don’t know.”
The following day, in a turn of events both ironic and unfortunate, Bilyeu was struck down with a series of illnesses including a ruptured eardrum. As a result, Moellman assumed the role of Chair after all.
The Mises Caucus All-Stars — Smith, McArdle, Horton, Heise, Tom Woods — graced the stage that night, alongside special guests like rapper Zuby and Maj Toure, who founded the nonprofit Black Guns Matter in 2016.
Heise told the crowd that they’re at an unprecedented time in history: they can get access to bigger platforms; improve their outreach and messaging. He said the paradigm of the mainstream media is dead.
“We don’t need ‘em,” he continued. “The age of begging for debate access is over. … [We can] do our own appearances and it’s all long format where we can actually flesh these ideas out. And let people actually think about them and when they actually think about them, what happens? Well, you guys are all here. You know what happens.”
“We are the white pill,” Heise said. “We’re the white pill for this country.”
Shortly after Heise spoke, Toure, donning a T-shirt that read “MEDIA — Most Effective Devil In America,” cooled the celebration with some sobering comments.
“Y’all are smiling now,” he said. “This is where it gets grim. You’re about to change America. That means you’re the enemy of the state.”
“I hear a lot of very spirited energy,” Toure said. “That’s good. That’s cute.”
He closed by challenging the MC with a motivational criticism:
“I don’t think you have the internal fortitude to do it. I think you all will lose because you will not be disciplined enough … to make the liberty movement move forward. And hopefully in a year two or three, I’ll come back and everyone here will say, ‘Maj, you were wrong.’”
Toure’s warning nearly functioned as a foreshadowing of the main event of the evening. While it seems likely that the majority of those in attendance would have been there purely in support of the MC, an additional charge of excitement could be attributed to the upcoming appearance of Ron Paul.
If one were to contextualize the Mises Caucus movement in terms of religious figures, Dave Smith is the Messiah, Ludwig von Mises is Abraham, and Ron Paul is Moses: he never saw the Promised Land, but he was a bold enough leader to descend from the Capitol of Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments of modern Libertarianism.
Or, as Heise put it, “The intellectual core [of the movement] is Mises, but the spirit is Ron Paul.”
Smith cogently summarized the MC’s goals, encapsulating the movement that Paul inspired, in his speech before introducing the former U.S. representative from Texas.
Smith said “the craziness that’s been going on over the last 120 years [has] culminated in the craziness of the last two years.”
“So what’s the big problem in America? Well, let’s think about it. Okay. Number one, progressives … starting with the original Progressive Era, which gave us the income tax and the Federal Reserve and the military industrial complex, starting with the First World War, the FBI, the three letter agencies and the New Deal.
“They gave us the warfare state and the welfare state and the central bank. But it’s not completely hopeless, because to fight the progressives, we have the conservatives. And the Conservatives only have one little problem, which is that there are a bunch of progressives.
“So the conservatives in America all endorse the central bank and the warfare state and the welfare state and everything that was wrong with the original Progressive Era. Conservatives at their best are fighting for what progressives believed in seven years ago.
“So conservatives never win, because they’re never attacking the root of the problem. What we stand for is attacking the root of the problem. We stand for repealing the entire Progressive Era. That’s what our movement is about. Every inch of it.”
A subtle, symbolic passing of the movement’s torch seemed to occur as Smith helped steady the 86-year-old Ron Paul as he took the two steps that led to the stage.
— Chris ‘Church of One’ Karr (@ChrisKarr17) May 31, 2022
Amid intermittent chants of “End the Fed,” Paul spoke plainly about the uniparty (“the top ten people in each each political party [are] buddies, they’re drinking buddies”), potential allies from the Left (“a progressive [who] believes in civil liberties, is anti-war, he’s a much easier convert than a war-mongering conservative”), and criticisms of his record in Congress (“I wasn’t downhearted … I just had low expectations.”)
“People think that freedom stuff, that’s old fashion stuff,” Paul concluded. “Well, tyranny’s old-fashioned — probably more than freedom. … Freedom and slavery and tyranny have always competed. … but freedom is popular.”
At a certain point during Paul’s speech, Smith looked back at Horton and said, “Looks like our plan is working.”
“‘Our’ plan?” Horton replied without missing a beat.
Once the speeches ended, Smith could barely move within the crowd without a small amoeba of fans gravitating within his orbit. He shook every hand and indulged each request — from posing in a cap that says “Libertarian Mafia” to signing a copy of Rothbard’s Economic Thought Before Adam Smith.
Later, when asked whether or not he felt overwhelmed by all the attention and love he’s getting mobbed with, he said: “It, um, seems about right to me. This is right about where it should be, no? Does it seem like too much?”
Revolt of the Millennials
Among the friendly, politically savvy outsiders and chainsmokers — some of whom wore long capes, a Statue of Liberty headpiece, and, in the case of Starchild, a delegate from California, sparkly fairy wings — one also encountered at the convention one erudite fellow whose perspective on the goings on made a lasting impression.
He was seated at one of the many bars at the Nugget Casino Resort, and aside from the long ponytail protruding from the back of his baseball cap, he could be described as a relatively anonymous man in his 50s.
In fact, he insisted on his anonymity when speaking with the press because, he said, his appearance at the convention could ruin his career.
“Many of my customers are extremely progressive, and they would absolutely cancel me for even thinking I might come here,” he told me. “There is often no one less tolerant of people than those who spend a lot of time talking about tolerance. I wish it were not so. And it certainly isn’t so of everyone. For example, if I disliked progressives, I wouldn’t spend all of my time around them, but I do.”
This was his first time at a Libertarian conference. After making a journey from a “small L” to “large L” Libertarian over the past two years, he said he wanted to attend and see how it feels.
“I always felt it was impractical to not be a Democrat or Republican. … [but] by the time the Trump Biden race shook out, I was so grossed out, I couldn’t do it,” he said as a preface before explaining why he voted for Jo Jorgensen in 2020.
He added: “2020 was a rough year. And it was really a giant emotional relief to vote for somebody that seemed intelligent, had views much closer to my own than certainly either of the two mainstream candidates,” he said. “It was very cathartic after … all the travails and difficulties of 2020.”
His disillusionment with binary options led him to the Libertarian Party, which led him to Jorgensen, which led him to Dave Smith.
“I think it’s in the nature of somebody who’s a podcasting … stand-up comic to have a sort of rough-and-tumble, take-no-prisoners attitude, [but] there may be a point where the return on the investment starts to balance out,” he said.
He attended the Mises Caucus event on Friday night, and thought the SPLC had “cover[ed] itself in shame” with their article.
“The idea that that was an event of white nationalists was a laughable accusation by the SPLC, on all of its faces,” he said, suggesting that they may profoundly “misunderstand the libertarian paradigm.”
Now, nearly at the end of his time at the conference, he reached the following conclusion about the Mises Caucus:
“My analysis of what’s gone on at this convention is this is the revolt of the millennials. This isn’t the revolt of the right against the left or the anti-establishment against the establishment. This is literally the millennial libertarians saying, ‘Okay, dad and granddad, mom and grandma, we’re going to take the wheel now. You’ve been driving us along the sidewalks and into the ditch lately, and we’re gonna take the wheel and steer ourselves back in the road — hey, we might even get on the highway.’”
‘There’s So Much to Do’
By Sunday afternoon, May 29, the Mises Caucus had completed a total sweep of the Libertarian National Committee. In addition to gaining the Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, and at-large positions, the MC nabbed all seven positions on the judiciary committee and fourteen regional positions.
— David Brady (@realDavidBJr) May 30, 2022
The @LPMisesCaucus has swept the entire LNC.
8 of 8 Regional Representatives
5 of 5 At Large Representatives
4 of 4 LNC Officers
7 of 7 Judicial Committee
Platform Plank 1.5 deleted
Platform Plank 3.5 amended
All desired bylaw amendments#RenoReset
— Mac (@anarchactual) May 30, 2022
Now that the millennials of the MC are in the driver’s seat, the Libertarian Party is in unprecedented territory during unusual times.
The tireless Heise remains confident in their movement. Indeed, he sees it as a return to the roots of libertarian philosophy.
“The Libertarian Party has gotten away from its founding vision, where the political aspect of things are actually supposed to be secondary, not primary,” he told me. “Spreading the message and getting people to embrace the ideas of liberty was the actual reason for the founding. And winning elections is a byproduct of that; it’s not the goal, it’s just something that comes along with it if we properly infect the culture.”
Smith sees an greater advantage moving forward because, in the past, the LP has had “no finger on the pulse of what’s actually going on,” he said during the live recording.
He continued: “In my Uber here from the hotel, gas prices here in Reno are like $5.60 a gallon — that’s a disaster for like regular people. And there’s so many things like that, right?”
Later that night, Smith’s word flashed through my mind during a conversation with my Uber driver. He said the gas prices just aren’t sustainable. The current average of $75 per day he spends on gas adds up to an additional $1,000 spent each month to drive for the rideshare company. (Another Uber driver had no reservations about telling me that he lost $3 on my ride.) He uses two cars, one of which has over two hundred thousand miles. He’s considered getting an electric car, but he’s reluctant to make such a hefty investment.
“It is what it is, I guess,” he concluded. “What can you do about it?”
When I asked if he keeps up with politics, he said he tries not to — especially since he left the Republican Party.
I told him a bit about the show he picked me up from; about Dave Smith, who might be a Libertarian candidate for President in 2024.
“It’ll be a long time before a Libertarian becomes President,” he chuckled.
“Maybe so,” I said.
But just before he dropped me off at the hotel, he said, almost to himself, reflectively, “Dave Smith … Huh.”
“There’s so much to do,” Heise wrote in a Facebook post on May 30. “I haven’t even begun mapping out what all just became possible after this weekend.”