California Senator Kamala Harris says there’s no space for compromise on President Donald Trump’s commitment to protect undocumented immigrants who arrived when they were children.
Legislation protecting the roughly 700,000 people whose futures are in the balance “needs to be clean and I feel very strongly about that. No strings attached,” Harris said in an interview on the BuzzFeed News morning show AM To DM, which airs on Twitter at 10:00 every day. “We made a promise as the United States government to these young people and we need to keep our promise. That’s it. Period. Full stop.”
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer left meeting last month telling reporters Trump had agreed to a “clean” bill enshrining the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. But the same politics that have derailed decades of efforts to overhaul the immigration system continue to threaten the plan.
And Democrats like Harris face an additional challenge: Trump is so deeply toxic with their supporters that they may find it hard to indulge in the theater of bipartisanship with him.
“How willing are you to work with Donald Trump on this?” I asked Harris.
“If he keeps his word, I’m all for it. That’s a big if,” she said.
“So, you’ll be there standing over his left shoulder in the rose garden when he signs the bill? Can you even do that as a Democrat?” I asked.
“Stand over someone’s shoulder?” she laughed. “Listen, let’s get to that point and I am all for everyone who agrees that we need to pass a clean DREAM Act with no strings attached.”
Harris also said she’s walking a fine line as the deadline for renewing DACA status approaches this Thursday. One one hand, she appealed to DREAMers to make sure they submit their paperwork by Oct. 5, and to reach out to her office for advice.
But she also said she understands some of their trepidation about filing paperwork with the Trump administration.
“I cannot guarantee, because they won’t guarantee, that they won’t share the information with ICE,” she said. “We get mixed signals. They say it’s not going to be a high priority for deportation. I’d like to believe that’s true, but they have not given us any guarantees. In that way I think it’s highly irresponsible of this administration. Highly irresponsible.”
Harris also spoke in the interview of her confrontations with Jeff Sessions and other Republicans in the Senate this year, and of her obsession with the Kingsman movies.
On Monday night, Anthony Scaramucci invited friends, publicists, and reporters to the basement of the Hunt & Fish Club, his swanky New York restaurant, to announce the launch of a cryptic new media venture, the Scaramucci Post.
The New York Times, The Guardian, The Hill, McClatchy, BuzzFeed News, and others wanted answers. What is the Scaramucci Post? Why does it tweet bizarre Twitter polls and endless emojis? After a day of horrific news coming out of Las Vegas, why do we care?
“I am looking you dead in the face and saying I don’t know,” Scaramucci told reporters, when asked about what the new media project will be.
“I just want to make sure I’m describing this right as I use words,” one reporter in the scrum said. “If I describe it as a social media news platform—”
“Say Scaramucci has absolutely no idea what he’s doing,” he interjected, “and he has absolutely no idea what Scaramucci Post is.”
Even in half-jest, Scaramucci still sounded like a conventional digital media executive: The ScarPo is, in his telling, an advertising-supported, politically centrist, millennial-focused news outlet distributed natively on social media platforms. There will be livestreaming. There will be discussions with political influencers. And he may even hire reporters down the road.
“It’s a social media, Periscoping, experiential thing,” he said. “I may drop some articles on the Twitter feed that I like. No landing page. On Twitter, Instagram.”
These are…kind of the right buzzwords? And in true media launch form, Scaramucci even showcased his first advertiser, a new women’s sports site called Knockout Times. “If I get four or five more sponsors, I’ll be converting this thing into a website,” he said.
As for editorial ethos: “I think that there’s a wide-open space in the middle that is not being served,” Scaramucci told reporters gathered around him. “It’s the Walter Cronkite space. It’s the space in the middle where there’s a level of objectivity.”
Scaramucci was also asked about a recent BuzzFeed News report that he had told friends, in writing, that he wants to run for president or governor of New York someday. Scaramucci, whose correspondence was obtained by BuzzFeed News after he called the original report “fake news,” once again denied he has elected office ambitions. And anyway, he told me on Monday night that media was more his thing: “I see myself as a TV host.”
Since Scaramucci got booted from the White House after he told the New Yorker that Steve Bannon likes to “suck [his] own cock,” he has hosted an episode of TMZ’s live show; he went on The View alongside his actor doppelganger, Mario Cantone, and suggested that Bannon is a white nationalist; he announced the launch of the Scaramucci Post with a series of polls about just who the account should follow next, often selecting well-known people in the media; and he hosted this would-be party for a group of New York reporters in the basement of his own restaurant, a charade of sorts, where Scaramucci reflected on topics like gerrymandering and the moon landing.
Reporters weren’t quite sure what they had witnessed. We knew we were at the Hunt & Fish Club with Anthony Scaramucci. We knew that Scaramucci is working on some sort of media outlet.
And we understood, I think, that Scaramucci shrewdly knows the best way to keep the media’s attention is to become part of the media.
Steven Perlberg is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. His PGP fingerprint is 0ACB FA3B AC49 D43C 79C4 8DE5 3C06 7521 F4EC 3AA5
A group that describes itself as a “grassroots movement” to support Donald Trump is raising money in Trump’s name — and spending it to boost Republican candidates the president has not endorsed.
The group, Citizens for Trump, is raising that money through a group called Patriotic Strategies, which is organized as a limited liability company. In one race, Citizens for Trump even supported the opponent of the Trump-backed candidate, endorsing Roy Moore in last week’s Alabama Senate primary.
Citizens for Trump also lists a staffer who also works for a Republican congressman, though that congressman’s campaign now says the staffer no longer works for the outside group.
Neither Citizens for Trump nor Patriotic Strategies, the Texas-based company that claims to accept donations for “Citizens for Trump America First Movement” on the group’s behalf, is registered with the Federal Election Commission. There have been no public filings on how much has been collected or how it has been spent — a lack of disclosure that one campaign finance attorney called “shady” and that even one ally concedes is improper.
In a telephone interview with BuzzFeed News, Citizens for Trump executive director Tim Selaty Sr. described a volunteer effort that he sees as too small and too loosely organized to be considered a super PAC or a nonprofit advocacy group. But it’s a small operation with big goals: In addition to Alabama, Citizens for Trump wants to assert its influence in upcoming Ohio and Florida races.
A donate button was only added recently to the Citizens for Trump website to help offset out-of-pocket expenses, Selaty said. The button links to a PayPal page for Patriotic Strategies, which, according to business filings in Texas, incorporated as an LLC last March, listing Earl and James Lee Brown as officers. Selaty said he would be surprised if the group has raised more than “a couple thousand” dollars.
“We’re a volunteer organization who came together to help get Donald Trump elected,” Selaty said. “We didn’t get any PAC money.”
Asked if the organization was making a profit, Selaty replied: “No, actually, we’re probably losing money.”
The outside group shared a staffer with the congressman: Vanessa Treft, a field director for Renacci who also is listed as the Ohio and Michigan director for Citizens for Trump. Citizens for Trump’s website lists 19 volunteer team members, including Selaty and Treft.
Selaty acknowledged collaboration with Renacci’s campaign in several areas. “We discuss certain things on occasion,” he said. “Not through Jim, but through other surrogates,” including Treft.
Selaty said Treft “hasn’t lost her title” with the group, but she is “pretty much full time with Renacci now.”
In an email, Renacci campaign spokesman James Slepian wrote that Treft works full-time for the campaign, “but is no longer a paid employee” of Citizens for Trump.
Slepian also said campaign advisers are not aware of the group’s fundraising operations or structure, and that there had been no “legally impermissible communications” between the campaign and the group.
“To the extent that anything of monetary value is provided by Citizens for Trump to Renacci for Ohio, it would be subject to the same legal contribution and reporting requirements that govern any other donor,” Slepian added.
Republicans who favor other candidates in Ohio are complaining that the group is not playing fair. And a campaign finance expert says the Citizens for Trump arrangement raises legal questions, in part because it has not registered as a political action committee, and because outside spending groups are not supposed to use a candidate’s name — in this case, Trump’s.
“Unfortunately a group of shady operators saw the president’s candidacy to profit from his name, likeness, and catchphrase,” Paul Jossey, a Republican campaign finance lawyer who has written about deceptive super PACs, told BuzzFeed News after reviewing the organization’s material. “Most Americans, even most lawyers, are not sophisticated enough to recognize ‘Citizens for Trump’ is wholly unrelated to the president’s reelection campaign unless they read the fine print.”
Citizens for Trump formed during the 2016 presidential election to back Trump’s White House bid. The group was among those that sued the city of Cleveland over its security plan for last year’s Republican National Convention and eventually won more accommodating protest space. Longtime Trump political adviser Roger Stone and far-right provocateurs such as Milo Yiannopoulos and InfoWars’ Alex Jones were among those featured at the group’s convention-week rally.
Stone told BuzzFeed News that he has never been paid by Citizens for Trump but has appeared at other events for the group, including a recent speech in Georgia.
“I never knew how they were constituted,” Stone said. “They’re very much a shoestring operation. … Most of these people, it’s their first political outing.”
But, Stone acknowledged, “They do endorse candidates, therefore they do need to constitute themselves as a 527 or a c4” — two types of nonprofit political advocacy groups.
The group’s big move so far in Ohio is a website — dishonestjonny.com — that attacks Secretary of State Jon Husted, one of Renacci’s Republican opponents.
But information about that website’s origin began to disappear once BuzzFeed News began asking questions. The site, for example, no longer includes its original “Paid for by Citizens for Trump” disclaimer at the bottom of its pages.
According to online records BuzzFeed News reviewed during the week of Sept. 24, James Brown of Patriotic Strategies registered the dishonestjonny.com domain on Sept. 5.
Efforts to reach Brown or Patriotic Strategies were unsuccessful.
A Patriotic Strategies page on Facebook links to Citizens for Trump content and describes the company as “a ‘start to finish’ conservative based political solution provider company that provides insightful and intelligent action plans that follow strategic ideas aimed at solving problematic challenges.” The page also links to an undeveloped website that records show was registered by Selaty.
But the phone number listed with the registration for dishonestjonny.com — the site registered by Brown of Patriotic Strategies — is the same number Selaty used when applying for a rally permit in Cleveland last year and when calling and texting with BuzzFeed News last week. The address listed for Brown on Patriotic Strategies’ incorporation papers in Texas also matches the address on Selaty’s 2016 permit application. (Selaty did not respond to a follow-up text or email requesting to be put in touch with Brown.)
By Friday, the dishonestjonny.com domain’s registration information had been made private in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) database and at GoDaddy.com.
Meanwhile, records show the Renacci campaign registered a similar domain — dishonestjon.com — on Sept. 5, the same day Patriotic Strategies registered its anti-Husted site. The Renacci site has not yet been developed.
Selaty said Citizens for Trump would like to back an entire slate of pro-Trump Republicans in next year’s Ohio primary, where open races for all statewide offices are on the ballot. He acknowledged that the group sometimes could be at odds with Trump, as it was in Alabama.
“There’s a division in that base,” Selaty said. “We’re not mindless sheep.”
If you were a libertarian, 2016 was supposed to be your year.
Rand Paul was going to build from his father’s following, take the movement mainstream, and win the Republican presidential nomination. He would realign the party establishment around anti-interventionist, fiscally conservative, and (some) socially liberal policies. That didn’t work.
Then the Libertarian Party was going to capitalize on the historic unpopularity of Hillary Clinton and, especially, Donald Trump. Their nominees would run up the middle — if not to the White House, then certainly to official minor party status and the possibility of federal matching funds for future candidates. But their nominees were Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, and that didn’t work, either.
So now libertarians are, at best, back to where they were four years ago. Paul is talking about recapturing the magic of his 2013 filibuster. Johnson and Weld are just a phone call away (not that either should be waiting by the phone this time). President Trump turned out to be more of a foreign policy hawk than he let on, and he is pushing a law-and-order agenda that conflicts with the open-border, pro-criminal justice reform principles of libertarianism. Is his presidency an opportunity, or is it the snuffing out of an opportunity?
The movement remains ever in search of the perfect messenger. There are some prospects in the pipeline. Most conversations start with Paul and include names like Justin Amash and Mike Lee, two Republican lawmakers with libertarian leanings and the occasional ability to make national news. But capital-L Libertarian Party libertarians are often suspicious of Republicans who must compromise once they are in Congress — and this is one of the key measures of how fraught with tension big-tent libertarianism can be. Some want purity, others preach pragmatism. You can ask a dozen libertarians the same question on the future of the movement and come away with a dozen different answers.
“There are a lot of anti-establishment coalitions that are starting to realize they don’t like the game of politics the way it’s being played,” said Matt Kibbe, the former CEO of the tea party-aligned FreedomWorks who helped a Paul super PAC last cycle. “I do think that’s a profound opportunity for libertarians. But the liberty movement has some growing up to do, because being anti-establishment is not nearly enough.”
There also is renewed discussion of whether a third party is viable, as Trumpism splinters traditional Republicanism. But the early focus has been on Washington-friendly centrists: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, atop a hypothetical 2020 unity ticket with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. Such a bid would not advance the libertarian cause, but Weld could not hide his enthusiasm for it in a recent telephone interview. “I like the Kasich-Hickenlooper romance,” Weld said. “I’m not prepared to light candles against it. I think it would be a healthy thing.”
So the loop continues. The cycle repeats. Libertarians are the future of US politics — and always will be.
That future weighed on those who huddled inside a small hotel ballroom last month for the Libertarian National Committee’s summer conference in Kansas City, Missouri.
These two-dozen party leaders take their roles seriously — and the result felt a little like group therapy mixed with a college student government meeting.
Yes, they know they need to somehow figure out how to reactivate their coalition and cut through the noise in a post-Paul, all-Trump-all-the-time world. At the same time — point of clarification! — some of them would kindly appreciate it if only authorized entities use the Libertarian Party name.
Regardless of the heavy existential questions of what’s next or who’s next, most of the attendees were earnest and optimistic about the future. And during breaks over local barbecue served buffet-style or colorful cookies with the Libertarian torch eagle logo, they enjoyed each other’s company. The problem is they don’t often agree on the answers to any of the big questions.
In the opening hours of the weekend meeting, LNC member Jeff Hewitt raised the idea of a Coachella-style music festival: live entertainment and a celebrity speaker or two to attract a younger crowd.
“You’ve got to shake them a bit and say, ‘This is the cool one, these other two” — Democrats and Republicans — “are evil,” Hewitt, who serves as the mayor of Calimesa, California, told BuzzFeed News. “They’re what took your parents’ house away. They’re the ones where you keep going, ‘God, by the time I get my paycheck, there’s nothing left for me.’ Those are the issues we can drive home. But it’s kind of got to be sexy. It’s got to have the good rave-type music or whatever else that goes along with that.”
But is demonizing the two major parties as “evil” the best elevator pitch for a party looking to grow?
“We’re nice. Those guys are not nice.”
Libertarian National Committee Chairman Nicholas Sarwark believes in a more positive-reinforcement approach. Over lunch, he noted how, that morning, he had approvingly tweeted a link to a column on immigration that Jeff Flake, the Republican senator from Arizona who faces a tough reelection challenge from pro-Trump forces, had written for the New York Times. “We’re going out of our way to acknowledge those good people in the Republican and the Democratic parties when they do good things,” Sarwark said. “I think the realignment is going to come if [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and Trump just keep beating the crap out of their party members who are legislators with libertarian positions.”
“We’re nice,” Sarwark added. “Those guys are not nice.”
Then there’s the foreign policy approach.
These libertarians believe that the less-interventionist, more-isolationist themes espoused last year appealed to voters — and that the Libertarian Party can be a home for those disappointed that Trump has not lived up to all of the themes he embraced as a candidate. At the LNC meeting, for example, members approved a resolution calling for the US government’s immediate withdrawal from NATO.
But for every creative outreach idea or substantive policy discussion aimed at building a bigger tent, there’s some other proposal or remark that shows how suspicious they are of outsiders. In Kansas City, some members moved to restrict unauthorized libertarian groups from using the party’s name. The measure failed by a 3-13 vote, after considerable debate. The discussion frustrated the LNC’s most colorful member, Starchild, a prostitute from San Francisco who prefers the terms erotic service provider or companion. “The party is just a vehicle, a means to an end,” he said. “It’s ultimately not what’s important.”
“We will always be a — what do you call it? Like a craft beer. We’ll never be the Budweiser.”
Even so, Starchild and others remain disappointed in last year’s presidential campaign. Johnson and Weld, former Republican governors with national profiles, were attractive to the party’s pragmatists because of their potential crossover appeal. Purists found plenty to dislike, especially in the squishy Weld, who before his contentious nomination to be Johnson’s running mate had supported Kasich in the GOP primaries. Johnson and Weld staked their viability on qualifying for the televised presidential debates. But their poll numbers were never quite strong enough — and they worsened after Johnson’s infamous “What is Aleppo?” blunder in response to a question about the war-torn city in Syria. They won a record number of votes for a Libertarian ticket, but it was a letdown nonetheless. “Setback? No,” said Larry Sharpe, an LNC member and business consultant who nearly beat Weld for the VP nod and now is running for governor of New York. “Could we have done better? Yes.”
When told of these comments in a telephone interview, Johnson chuckled. “I would say to anybody that thinks they can do better: ‘Sign up. Do better. Advance the cause.’”
Hewitt, the man behind the Libertarian Coachella proposal, believes a start would be branching out beyond what he framed as niche issues, such as legalized drugs and prostitution. “If that defines who we are, we will always be a — what do you call it? Like a craft beer,” Hewitt said. “We’ll never be the Budweiser.”
Rand Paul was supposed to close this space between fringe and mainstream, and in the process, capture the 2016 Republican nomination — or at the very least, radically transform the party’s priorities and view of government.
But why he never took off doesn’t really have a clean answer. Was it the candidate? The issues? Too much noise from Trump? Not libertarian enough? Peaked too early?
In the wounded period that followed the 2012 presidential election, Paul looked like the heir apparent: He stormed into national relevance in March 2013, with his nearly 13-hour filibuster of incoming CIA Director John Brennan’s confirmation. For the junior senator from Kentucky, it was an opportunity to raise questions about the Obama administration’s use of drones (and for the Republicans in the Senate, an opportunity to join a media-friendly cause that concurrently rebuked a Democratic president).
“2013 was totally Libertarian Christmas for everyone.”
Soon, the Edward Snowden affair would invite scrutiny of US surveillance programs, right in the Fourth Amendment wheelhouse where many libertarians revel. Meanwhile, a war-weary nation was antsy over heightened expectations of US military intervention in Syria. No longer confined to the fringe of a major party, or to the backbenches of Congress, libertarians were confident this was their moment. “It’s true,” said Matt Welch, editor at large for the libertarian magazine Reason, “that 2013 was totally Libertarian Christmas for everyone.”
Paul struggled with the kinds of campaign mechanics that have felled some libertarian efforts, but he had no control over the rise of two other disruptive forces: Islamic terrorism and Donald Trump. ISIS beheading videos and ISIS-inspired attacks in the US began softening attitudes toward muscular foreign policy and surveillance programs. And Paul struggled to unite the insurgent populists who had backed the White House bids by his father, former Rep. Ron Paul, with the classic conservatives he would need to win the GOP nomination.
“I think Rand himself was a less-than-stellar candidate,” Welch said. “He couldn’t really develop a response for the Trump moments. He couldn’t sell his version of libertarianism as an authentically felt anti-establishment moment in a way others could.”
Rand Paul isn’t his father — a fact libertarian devotees acknowledge in different ways. His critics treat him like a sellout. “He’s just playing a different game,” said Sarwark, the LNC chairman. “The biggest frustration is he doesn’t speak for libertarians.”
Others are more nuanced. Liz Mair, a libertarian Republican strategist, wrote recently at RedState about a friend who observed that Ron Paul “telegraphs the belief that Americans (a traditionally majority white group) are exceptional. By contrast, Rand believes and tries to telegraph that America (an ideal, a dream, a concept, an idea undergirded by protection of a wide swath of fundamental liberties) is exceptional.” Trump clearly tapped more into the former.
“All this time, I thought they were voting for libertarian Republicans,” Rep. Thomas Massie, a libertarian Republican from Kentucky, told the Washington Examiner in March. “But after some soul searching I realized when they voted for Rand and Ron and me in these primaries, they weren’t voting for libertarian ideas — they were voting for the craziest son of a bitch in the race. And Donald Trump won best in class, as we had up until he came along.”
Crazy sons ofbitches can be a liability, though. They can be particularly dangerous for a libertarian movement where so many are resistant to authority, and where there can be a rush to have whoever will have them. It’s tough to weed out the unsavory characters.
“We haven’t been particularly good at policing ourselves,” Mair, who worked on the Johnson-Weld campaign, told BuzzFeed News. “We don’t want to be mainstream, but the only way to win is to mainstream ourselves.”
Consider the words the Libertarian Party has chosen to rally around at its 2018 convention in New Orleans: “I’m That Libertarian.” It’s a sentiment from a little-known Cleveland Clinic doctor who finished fifth in last year’s balloting for the party’s presidential nomination (and who died of natural causes less than a month later at age 56). In a stemwinder of a debate speech, Marc Allan Feldman presented himself as a libertarian for all tastes.
“We haven’t been particularly good at policing ourselves”
“I am that libertarian,” Feldman said, a note of defiance in his voice as he became more exercised. “That Muslim libertarian, that Jew libertarian. That Christian, atheist, Hindu libertarian. That Rothbard libertarian, that Jefferson libertarian, you-know-I’m-not-messing libertarian. That LGBTQ libertarian, no-sex Libertarian. That MLK Jr., Malcolm X libertarian. That revolutionary, honor hall Ron Paul libertarian.”
Asked recently what the theme meant to him, Johnson was stumped. “Boy, I don’t know,” he replied. “I was not even aware of that. I did think he was a real voice of reason. I enjoyed listening to him. … When he says, ‘I’m that libertarian,’ I’m not sure what it means.”
Among those name-checked by Feldman was the late Murray Rothbard, a forefather of modern libertarianism who, like Ron and Rand Paul, stirred racially charged debates. Rothbard wrote sympathetically of David Duke, the Louisiana politician and former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. The elder Paul came under fire for racist newsletters that had been published under his name. The most doctrinaire of libertarians, including Rand Paul at one time, have spoken disapprovingly about parts of the Civil Rights Act, maintaining that while discrimination is wrong, the government should not interfere in private ownership. At the very least, those who hold oppressive views on race might see in libertarianism a cozy space to exercise their free-speech rights. “Marginal movements attract marginal people,” Welch said. “Once you go to a thrillingly out-there position … the existential reality of taking all this new flack can encourage you to go to an even more narrow-casted vision.”
The Charlottesville fallout prompted the Daily Beast’s Matt K. Lewis to declare libertarianism “a gateway drug to the alt-right” — a catchall term for the Trump-friendly following that includes white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis. His piece prompted polite pushback from several libertarian thinkers, including Mair and Jack Hunter, a former Rand Paul aide who lost his job after being outed for his past pro-Confederate beliefs. “There is no ‘pipeline,’” Hunter, who has renounced the views he pushed in his earlier days, wrote at Rare. “A slow drip, at best. Regardless, when it comes to racists, libertarians should always make clear, in no uncertain terms, that we are not them.”
Most libertarians who spoke to BuzzFeed News similarly stressed the need for an unequivocal disavowal. “Some people conflate being contrarian with being Libertarian,” the LNC’s Sarwark wrote to BuzzFeed News in an email after reading the Lewis piece. “Libertarians stand for all rights — of all people — all of the time. That ‘of all people’ part generally leads to white supremacists and nationalists feeling unwelcome within the Libertarian Party.”
Like many who face an uncertain future, libertarians tend to be sentimental.
Ron Paul, 82 years old and retired from the House, might still be their best and biggest draw. His Ron Paul Institute’s Peace and Prosperity Conference this month in the DC suburbs had a waiting list after selling out tickets at $75 a pop. (“If Ron Paul comes back to Congress and runs …” one Libertarian Party activist said wistfully on a recent conference call for members.)
But some libertarian ideas, if not the libertarian candidates themselves, have advanced. “We tend to interpret this libertarian moment thing through the lens of national, preferably presidential, politics — and I think that’s a mistake,” Welch said, noting the legalization of same-sex marriage and the rising number of states that have decriminalized marijuana. “We’ve moved to a lot of libertarian places in a 10-year period. The thing is, people tend to look at that and say, ‘OK, where’s our President Ron Paul?’”
A recent week in Congress showed the ebb and flow of where the movement might be headed. Led by Amash, the libertarian Republican from Michigan, the House voted to defund a civil asset forfeiture program championed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In the Senate, Paul was blocked in an effort to advance the libertarian cause on the use of military force.
If not Rand, then who? In a movement where consensus is elusive, a few names are consistently mentioned: Amash and Massie, Lee of Utah, and Sharpe, the Libertarian Party’s gubernatorial hopeful in New York. “Justin Amash — he’s my favorite,” said Starchild, the LNC member from San Francisco. “He’s the new Ron Paul. For a Republican, he’s pretty damn good.”
What will 2020 bring?
No one mentioned Johnson or Weld as a desirable option. Johnson’s vision of libertarianism was a “six-lane highway down the center of the road.” But he and Weld acknowledged that the message didn’t sell. Their failure to launch in 2016 may presage a similar dilemma in 2020.
“I do think there’s going to be a third-party challenge to Trump,” said Kibbe, the former Rand Paul super PAC hand. “I think that’s almost inevitable. The Libertarian Party is uniquely positioned because it’s done so much work getting ballot access. If it’s going to be a Republican who switches, that’s going to be dependent on if there’s a Kasich or someone who runs in the [GOP] primary, because that all dilutes the effort to defeat Trump.”
What will 2020 bring? In 2012, it was consensus that Mitt Romney was conservative enough. In 2016, it was Trumpism: nationalism and populism from a leader who said, “I alone can fix it.” In 2020, if and when there is a third-party bid, it could be libertarianism — or it could be a true independent, a unity ticket, or some splinter of one of the two major parties.
In other words: Libertarians might be having this same conversation again in four years.●
Henry Gomez is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Senate race in deep-red Alabama might be within reach for Democrats, after the Republican nomination of Roy Moore.
The poll, conducted by Opinion Savvy and commissioned by Decision Desk HQ, finds that Moore leads Democratic opponent Doug Jones 50.2% to 44.5%.
While still not a close-close race, that’s definitely closer than a normal Senate race in Alabama for an off year. The poll is of 590 likely voters in the state reached this week by landline and mobile, with a margin of error of 4 points. (Full methodology here.)
Though he is well-known and has a built-in set of supporters in the state, Moore has a long and complicated history in Alabama and nationally: He was twice removed from the state’s Supreme Court for refusing to follow federal rulings.
He’s suggested various national tragedies — including 9/11 — happened because of what he calls the United States turning away from Christianity. He’s written columns for World Net Daily, a fringe right-wing site known for pushing birther conspiracy theories about President Obama. And he has a long history of making anti-gay comments, as well as opposing Keith Ellison’s being in Congress because he is Muslim, and another man from serving in the George W. Bush administration because he was an “admitted homosexual.”
Jones, meanwhile, is a former US attorney backed in particular by former vice president Joe Biden. Winning in Alabama for a Democrat, though, even with an extreme candidate like Moore on the ticket, seems like a tall feat.
“Any time you get a result that seems to run totally contrary to the conventional wisdom of a state’s politics, it gives you pause,” said Brandon Finnigan, the executive director of Decision Desk. “However, Roy Moore barely won his election as chief justice to the state Supreme Court in 2012, underperforming presidential candidate Mitt Romney by 18 points. I still have difficulty seeing him lose in Alabama — even in the surprisingly close South Carolina 5th Congressional special, the Republican still won. But in a special held 13 days before Christmas? Who knows.”
The poll also found that 56.1% of voters somewhat or strongly opposed “efforts within the state of Alabama to remove monuments to the Confederacy from public grounds,” while 34.6% strongly or somewhat supported the efforts.
And when it came to the protests in the NFL that have become the source of a week’s worth of Trump commentary and a year’s worth of tense debate, that margin was slightly different. Per the poll’s phrasing, 53.4% strongly or somewhat oppose the protest of what some players call “a country that oppresses black people and people of color” — while 41.7% somewhat or strongly support the players.
BuzzFeed News has partnered with Decision Desk HQ for live election results coverage in 2018.
Outside Your Bubble is a BuzzFeed News effort to bring you a diversity of thought and opinion from around the internet. If you don’t see your viewpoint represented, contact the curator at email@example.com. Click here for more on Outside Your Bubble.
As a high school student, James Alex Fields Jr. wore a belt with swastikas on it, and he drew the symbol everywhere, several of his former classmates reported. By senior year, he’d come to be known as “the Nazi of the school.”
“You could see his beliefs plain as day,” said a former classmate of his at Randall K. Cooper High School, in Union, Kentucky. In fear of backlash from their community, several of Fields’ former classmates asked to remain anonymous. One even began tearing up at the thought of anyone realizing they’d spoken up about Fields’ past. “It’s getting really scary,” the classmate said.
Five of Fields’ former classmates who graduated within the past two years and remember him well. Those memories paint a dark picture of the now-20-year-old charged with second-degree murder for plowing a car into a crowd of anti-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.
Cooper High School, located in the tiny city of Union, currently has a student population of a little over 1,000, and it’s 90 percent white. During his time there, Fields regularly found opportunities to single students out, especially for being “not white,” according to another classmate.
Fields would constantly mock those different from him, his former classmates said, and he often made hateful and racist comments. One former student recalled that Fields often harassed a female Muslim student, who wore a hijab, about being a terrorist.
“I usually tried to stay away from him,” the former student said.
Another former classmate who graduated last year recalled Fields picking fights with people who simply didn’t agree with his views. “He would make a lot of people uncomfortable because he’s one of those people that you never knew when they would do something,” the former student said.
When Fields, now a resident of Ohio, showed up to the “Unite the Right” rally against the takedown of a Robert E. Lee monument in Charlottesville, he flaunted that extreme ideology. Although Fields’ mother thought he was only attending a Trump rally, he held a shield emblazoned with the black and white logo of Vanguard America, a white nationalist hate group. Vanguard, however, denies Fields’ membership. But his Facebook page, captured by BuzzFeed, also revealed “alt-right” imagery, like Pepe the Frog.
Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer holds a photo of Susan’s mother and her daughter.
Even in high school, Fields’ former classmates said, nothing he did would have surprised them. No matter what Fields did, “the immediate response from people would be, ‘You know he’s a Nazi, right?’ It was not a secret,” one of his classmates said.
On a school trip to France and Germany, Keegan McGrath roomed with Fields. The two had taken German classes together for two years, and McGrath recalled that Fields repeatedly made inappropriate comments, praising Hitler and arguing that the French were inferior.
Although the trip was scheduled to last two weeks, Fields made McGrath so uncomfortable that he flew home after just four days. “He kept making these comments, and at one point I was like, “You can’t say these things, you know. That’s not right,” McGrath said. McGrath added that Fields was impatient while they were in France and anxious to get to Germany, which Fields called “the fatherland.”
When students tried to tell school officials of Fields’ radical behavior, however, they did nothing, several of his classmates said.
“A big issue was the school itself,” a former classmate said. “Because if anyone made a complaint, the administration would say, ‘We’ve taken note of this’ or ‘We will get this solved.’ But everything would be brushed off, just in general. Whether it was bullying, racist comments, or anything else.” The student added that, to their knowledge, Fields was never reprimanded or punished for his actions.
“I usually tried to stay away from him.”
Another one of Fields’ former classmates blames the school directly. “The school most definitely could’ve prevented it if they actually cared about the students and listened to the complaints about him,” they said.
Principal D. Michael Wilson, as well as all three assistant principals, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But Wilson told the Toledo Blade, “This is one outlier. That’s not who we are.”
Ed Massey, chairman of the Board of Education for Boone County, which oversees the district encompassing Cooper High School, said that the board had never heard of Fields and that only students facing expulsion would be flagged.
“The board had absolutely no knowledge of anything,” Massey said. “This is a tragedy for American communities.” The board has had a zero-tolerance bullying policy in place for several years and has no plans to amend the rules, according to Massey. No other board members responded requests for comment.
In his numerous interviews since the attack on Saturday, which left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead, Fields’ former history teacher Derek Weimer acknowledged that Fields’ radicalism had long been brewing. He said Fields had a fascination with Hitler and Nazi Germany that went beyond the normal interest in World War II. “He had white supremacist views. He really believed in that stuff,” Weimer told the Washington Post.
“I admit I failed. I tried my best,” Weimer added. “But this is definitely a teachable moment and something we need to be vigilant about, because this stuff is tearing up our country.”
Many of Fields’ former classmates feel the same. One, for example, worried Trump isn’t being hard enough on the growing threat of white supremacy in the U.S.
All of Fields’ former classmates wished that school officials and others had acted on the warning signs.
“I think the main takeaway from this whole situation is to express to people to not take actions and views like his as a joke,” a classmate said. “For years, that’s what the students and administration of Cooper did, and now, someone had to lose their life because of it.”