My Take on the 2024 Libertarian National Convention

by Rob Yates
LPNC Communications Director

This was my first LP National Convention, in my home city of D.C. I love that city, and much of my early disdain for politicians was seeing them ruining it. Walking into the belly of the beast to the backdrop of #BecomeUngovernable was a personal treat. I want to impart my experience to you all.

Before I get into the details, a few acknowledgments are in order. Angela McArdle (LP Chair) ran a fantastic convention, decisive but fair, keeping things moving as best as could be expected. Ryan Brown (LPNC Chair and Delegate Chair) was a machine - first on the floor and last off, counting delegates, managing votes, tracking changes, and ensuring that the NC delegates were by far the most organized and prepared in the country. And Susan Hogarth was a fountain of help and information, willing and available to give background or direction for all the strange twists and turns of this most Libertarian of gatherings.

I drove up to D.C. with governor candidate Mike Ross. Between us in the car and a few phone calls with Kim Acer (Mike’s Campaign Manager), we were able to hold roughly 10 hours of campaign meetings. Exciting, productive, and necessary as we enter the peak campaign season.

We got in mid-afternoon Thursday. Check-in at the Hilton was smooth and quick. The hotel is old but pretty, right in the heart of Northwest DC, with some amazing views of the city. No time to linger, though, we had things to do.

Credentialing had a long line, but it moved fairly quickly, and registration took just a few minutes, and soon we were having drinks at the Radical Caucus suite, where Lars Mapstead's campaign manager was displaying his hidden talent as a bartender. It was a festive and optimistic atmosphere, filled with the sort of mirth that only Libertarian friends can muster when reuniting after a long time and immediately jumping into raucous disagreements about literally everything. We saw plenty of familiar faces and met some new ones, as we enjoyed a couple of excellent Old Fashioneds.

After about an hour, it was time to leave the hotel and head to Penn Social for the LP comedy night, featuring Lou Perez, Robbie Bernstein, and Dave Smith. As we were getting ready to go, I learned that, while I'm more of a fashionably late sort of person, Mike takes punctuality seriously - another reason he should be governor.

The show was excellent – the perfect psychological apéritif for the lunacy we would manifest the next day. Back at the hotel we had a quick night cap and then called it a day, hoping to get rested for a long day of business on Friday.

The next morning, business started at 9 AM promptly, and we sort of almost hit this target. Things went smoothly for about ten minutes, which is good, I guess? During the credentialing part of the agenda, which I am pretty sure is the first official agenda item, things started to go off the rails a bit.

Basically, there were significant disputes over the validity of some of the potential delegates credentials. If anyone wants to know the details, reach out, and I can try to explain or direct you to someone with a more fully vested interest in the outcome. If I’m being honest, it all seemed like a giant waste of time to me, and there seemed to be plenty of opportunity to avoid the conflict from all sides. Nevertheless, we went back and forth over several states, with lots of motions, points of order, chair decisions, and all the other super exciting parliamentary procedures that we fight about following to the letter (#BecomeUngovernable). That was basically Friday. Including a break for lunch, that initial argument lasted until we adjourned for the day at 5 PM. There was a stretch of about an hour where I'm pretty sure the argument was over whether a proposal required 2/3 or 7/8 support to pass. We did settle that absolutely critical point of contention, thankfully, freeing us to stop all foreign wars, I assumed. In reality, though, it just meant we were able to approve the agenda – which had been modified at least twice that I counted – and then the day was done. One day down, agenda approved, mission accomplished?

Friday evening dinner and drinks was energetic with discussion of the day’s events, which had garnered the excitement of the people present in a way that could only happen with a group of Libertarians. Nevertheless, spirits were high and we were all anticipating the next day when we could actually do something. The planned events on Friday evening featured a comedy night in the hotel, but first, Clint Russell, vying for the VP nomination, debated Vivek Ramaswamy, edging out Larry Sharpe for the honor.

A lot of people thought Clint went after him pretty hard. And I mostly like Vivek, for a Republican. But, to me, with maybe two exceptions, it was more of an affirmation circle than a debate. You can watch and decide for yourself.

Anyway, when that "Debate" ended, we headed down for more stand-up. Lou Perez went on again, and, once again, he was hilarious. Funny, dedicated, and a good dude, I had the good fortune of hosting him on Liberty iNC and getting to spend some time with him this weekend. I urge you to check him out if you are unfamiliar.

For some reason, Lou was not headlining, that was an honor reserved for Alex Stein, known for playing obnoxious characters while giving histrionic speeches at city councils around the country and for almost being arrested by Capitol police for screaming “Big Booty Latina Hoe,” at AOC (the last one is actually kind of funny). Commenting that I was unaware that Alex Stein was a standup comedian as he went on, I learned that he is not, in fact, a stand-up comedian, by any interpretation of the word. I stayed for about 15 minutes, thinking he had to say at least one funny thing, but he just got louder and more aggressive. If he was doing anti-comedy it rang more hollow than a politician’s campaign promise.

Anxious and confused from what we had just witnessed, we ducked into the karaoke thing across the hall for a few drinks and socializing, and then called it a night.

Saturday opened with the presidential candidates debate. I have had several of them on Liberty iNC and watched many of their other debates at our convention and other states, and I have to say, they were all in top form; this was the best debate I'd seen among them. I am linking to the video if you want to watch, but I left thinking it was going to be an interesting decision by the delegates.

That took most of the morning. I had a ticket to the lunch with Dave Smith. I know Dave is controversial to some in the party. He certainly has some takes with which I disagree, and his influence and voice have been a hard pill for many to swallow. I like Dave, though, unapologetically. I think he is one of our best messengers currently, second only to Spike Cohen, and he has gained a foothold in the normie space that is not something we come by easily. At this lunch in particular, Dave was in top form. He was relaxed and funny, but reflective and poignant. He talked about his decision not to run for president, the success the party has had, and things he might have done differently. Then he took a few questions and a few pictures, and it was back to the floor for the delegates.

This time, we were more productive, voting on *gasp* more than two items until 3:30, when we recessed for RFK Jr.’s speech.

RFK came on a little late, to accommodate the delegates finishing some business, no worries, I got to meet the best representative we have in the federal government, Thomas Massie. I told him about Crosley Green, and he took the name down to see if he could do anything. I won't hold my breath, but I will press the issue, and it's better than nothing.

When RFK finally came out, it was worth the wait. Doesn’t matter what you think of the man, his speech was absolutely perfect for this crowd. He should seriously give his speechwriter a bonus. He went into history through a Liberty lens, talked about the importance of the 9th and 10th amendments, decried the deep state and the oligarchy that runs us, and waxed poetic on the beauty of freedom and individual Liberty.

We went back to the room to vote on some of the LP Executive Committee positions, a task which would take until the next evening to finally complete, but we did not stay late as everyone prepared for the event that had generated by far the most press and controversy, the speech by President Donald Trump.

Rumors were already flying around the room about secret service lockdowns, closed hallways and elevators, and aggressive MAGA supporters. In the end, I made it through security in about 90 seconds, and got a really good spot to the side of the stage. There was a small dust up when MAGA disciples took front row seats, which had been reserved for LP delegates, I guess hoping that they could absorb some of the power of their messiah. They all, or at least most of them, moved, and the only other incident was the violent removal of LP mainstay and longtime activist, delegate, candidate, and previously EC member Starchild by hotel security, although for what is unclear.

If RFK should pay his speechwriter more, Trump should fire his. The crowd was less anti-Trump than was portrayed. As I tried to explain, we didn’t boo Trump. We also didn’t cheer him. We booed bad ideas and cheered good ones. He just had a lot of bad ideas he wanted to talk about. He finished strong, though, drawing cheers when he committed to putting a Libertarian on his cabinet if he wins the presidency (though I suspect he considers Mike Lee a Libertarian), and then eliciting a thunderous and sustained applause when he promised to free Ross Ulbricht on day one of his administration.

It had been a long day, and the hotel kitchen was backed up, so I headed out with Mike Ross for dinner. We ran into Lou Perez, and we had a delicious seafood dinner at a place nearby that used to be The Russia House, pre-covid. I was glad to see it turned into something else cool.

Back at the hotel, we hung out in the veranda out front, sharing whiskey and wisdom, until the day caught up with us, and we went to bed, no way of knowing what fate awaited us.

On Sunday, we had to, at the bare minimum, finish electing our officers and nominate our president and vice president candidates. We started pretty close to 9 AM. At that time, I don’t think anyone had an idea what was in store. I mean, how could they?  I had checked out of the hotel and packed my car. The plan was to probably stay a bit late, but hit the road right after. At around 11 that night, I had to book another room.

We ended up going from about 9 AM until nearly 2 AM on Monday. We took a break for lunch (Spike was the speaker, and he did his Spike thing, where we all left ready to take over our local government right then and there), but not for dinner. Most delegations ordered pizza to their tables. We missed the gala, the Ladies of Liberty event, the auction, and I think a couple other things. But I’ll be goddamned if we didn’t finish the elections, all of them, after seven rounds for president, a showdown between finalist Chase Oliver and NOTA (None of the Above), a last-minute VP switch (I still want to know what happened to Kristin Alexander), intermingled voting on other members of the EC, and lots of other incredibly boring technical details.

There were some high notes, as well. Spike Cohen gave a speech. I would say it was fantastic, but it’s Spike, it would be redundant. He talked about how he had warned in Reno against letting a duopoly form in the party, but we had not heeded his warning, and then gave us some wisdom and some hope for potential unity and a way out.

North Carolina’s own Dan Johnson and Sarah Brady got engaged, when Dan put a ring on it in quite literally the most romantic possible proposal achievable at a Libertarian convention, which, it turns out, is pretty good goddam romantic. I definitely noticed a little extra dust in the room when she said yes.

And, of course, the venerable Ron Paul, the OG, the reason so many of us joined this Liberty movement, came out and rocked the place. I can’t, in good faith, attempt to recreate his speech, you just have to watch it.

But then, yes, alas, quickly approaching 2 AM, the business portion of the convention adjourned. Most people in the party had earned at least a couple of significant wins, and we had proven that, even when we were most divided by factions, we could still come together and pull off this amazing event, and so everyone left with a smile on their shoulder and a kind word for their neighbor.

Except we’re Libertarians, so none of that happened. At best, 30 percent of the people left, not happy, but not despondent, another 30 percent left happy it was over, and the remaining 40 percent left full of piss and vinegar, announcing they were going to do all the things they accused the other side of doing (this is not targeting anyone. All of you did it).

For me, it was too short and then too long, and we spent an absurd amount of time on things that might qualify us as insane (#BecomeUngovernable). I hate sitting, and I am pretty sure the people sitting next to me will never choose that spot again, because I talk way too much, and am fairly disruptive. I drank too much and slept too little, and I am still recovering. But I got a lot done with people from around the country, and plans we made to work together are already taking shape just a few days after convention. We represented well for NC, and the whole event, in the belly of the beast, my homecoming, is one I won't forget.

All-in-all, it was an amazing experience. I love my Liberty family, and I am proud to work with any and all of you. You are obnoxious, stubborn, self-righteous, petty, uncooperative, and reactive, but you are also principled, loyal, unwaveringly dedicated, smart, fun, funny, passionate, curious, brilliant, and eclectic in a way that can only be described as “Libertarian.” And, seeing as I am the only real Libertarian, I am qualified to make that determination.

Thank you all for a great convention. See you in Michigan.

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