Perspective on Libertarianism

Being a libertarian woman, in my experience, is lonely. It’s like being part of a club with only three people, and one of them is your cousin. I’ve found myself running parallel to a lot of people in what they think and how they perceive me. I am close to being enough for either political party, but there is always a limit, a barrier, that keeps me from fully engaging. I’ve felt isolated from most political discussions since I was in high school. While I was accepted as democratic from my democratic friends, and conservative by my conservative friends, I felt like I could never be honest with either group out of fear of being judged.

 I can say, genuinely, that I have met very few women who were libertarian. Even professors I have had classes with consider libertarianism for men in their 20’s. It’s not that I am uncomfortable being a libertarian, it’s more so that I feel like I am being forced to either vanilla or strawberry ice cream when all I wanted was a chocolate bar. Most people I have been honest with typically consider me an anarchist. I don’t see myself as an anarchist, just as someone who wants options and variety in voting and representation. 

Just because I’m a libertarian doesn’t mean that I hate the government. Actually, I would like to one day work in foreign service. I don’t hate public schools, the USPS, or feminism. I’m this weird creature that exists in the rare forgotten, in between the two parties, without feeling myself in either. I can have a progressive voice while retaining certain conservative values, and I think that’s great. Again, I like options, but I wish more people saw libertarianism without thinking of a frat boy high on Atlas Shrugged.

I would like to comfortably say what I think without being labelled as a part of a “phase” or a “Texan version of a Democrat.” Is it really so erroneous to lie between the two extremes? I’m not one to be extremely political, and I don’t really believe in pressing my beliefs on other people. I don’t see organizations for libertarian women, instead we get grouped in with conservative women like we believe the exact same things.

 Most libertarians don’t bother voting in elections because neither party really exhibits their platforms. Voting for libertarian candidates is often considered a wasted vote. It’s unfortunate enough that the political system attempts to pull libertarians either way, but it’s worse to see it within your own friend groups. 

Many people like to think of politicians and Washington, D.C. as some distant and poor reflection of real society, but we as a community have internalized the same exact polarization. Before you as a reader dismiss this idea, think of this: How many friends do you still have that you disagree with either politically or religiously? Why would someone not seek these different ideas/ people out?

It’s lonely to be a libertarian woman because of these polarized groups we form amongst ourselves. It’s hard not to be enough for either party, not to feel comfortable voicing my own opinions when I know the social pressure tells me to go along with or accept things I disagree with. It’s hard to be dissected by people who claim to know your political identity better than you do. I’m dismissed by the political system, discounted as someone with a juvenile interpretation of parties, and shamed for wanting something more than what is offered. 

Even though I don’t always feel welcomed in political conversation, I like being a libertarian. I really enjoy having a foot in both doors. I like agreeing with some parts of liberalism and some parts of conservatism, it makes things more challenging and conversation on why I’m not socially conservative/ economically leftist more interesting. 

It’s kind of a problematic notion that someone should fit into two distinctive categories without room in between. In essence, I’m not going to change because someone wants me to, or because my demographic is underrepresented in elections. I would like to think that there is room for an “independent woman” in politics who believes in access to birth control and less federal tax. I don’t think libertarianism is as much of a fad as it is perceived as, if anything it is a change in generational thinking. 

From Socialism to Liberty

By Stephan Lopez.

Back when I was a freshman in the wake of the 2016 election, I felt abandoned by my party. The Democratic National Convention (DNC) had exposed its true nature when it didn’t give the nomination to Bernie Sanders, who I believe should have won the primary. To know that the man that controlled the debate topics and carried much larger crowds still lost really made me wonder about the legitimacy of the party. Amidst the Trump run, I decided to give him a chance but I still held onto my socialist values of Medicare for all, high taxes, and other government subsidies. Then, the impossible happened: Trump actually won. I wasn’t really shocked by the results but more by other students’ reactions. Some people cried, others wallowed, and some celebrated and I just kept working. I reminded liberals that it was their fault for denying Bernie the opportunity to run. I still believe the battle of the political ideologies should have been dished out between Bernie & Trump, but I will settle for good ol’ AOC from Brooklyn.

It was probably halfway into my sophomore year at Trinity that my whole political view started to change. One of the things that really got me started was rereading some of the founding documents. The Constitution & Bill of Rights are great at reminding us about the American ideal that we used to all agree upon. Go even deeper and you may find your way into the Federalist Papers to see how they debated government in their day. These writings show some of the best mockery dished out between Hamilton and Jefferson as they debated the formation of the federal government. The debate then wasn’t about what things counted as rights, but rather the functional role and size of the federal government. This contrasts the current political state that seeks to grow its reach and power, deciding for the people what rights they have and do not have.

By this point in my life, I’d gathered a lot more experience through work, school, family, and friendships, so when I got to reading these things it felt like a whole new message. I’m not talking sleazy political messages, but more of a deep-rooted belief. One of the things that truly makes someone a Texan, more than being born here, is that you take things with a rootin-tootin attitude. This means that I have always loved guns, but also that I don’t get weighed down with my own faults or others and instead try to be exemplary. It is this state of mind that slowly took over, helped me through the toughest of times, and made me realize what it means to be a Texan, once I knew that it was easy to know what I stand for. Ultimately when I realized that the government has no power to grant rights to people I figured it was upon each one of us, as individuals, to come together and regain control of our lives instead of entrusting them to the government.

Even as a socialist, this idea applied to me. Although I didn’t like the idea of having to pay out of pocket for medical expenses, I further disliked the idea of a bureaucrat telling me that I cannot receive a certain treatment or drug because it isn’t within their bill. Instead we should all work together, whether through church, family, or community, before we even mention government intervention. That was the root of all the problems that came with socialism. In the Founders’ days, no one truly trusted the federal government to do anything except collect taxes, so why should we allow it full control of our lives? It was within our Constitution, that explicitly warns against a tyrannical and giant government, that I could find solace in my new political stance: libertarianism.

Photo: Gage Skidmore. Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Rethinking Sex: Catholicism, Sex, and Morality

Before I start, I would say that I am pessimistic about the prevalent cultural attitudes toward sex in America, particularly on college campuses. So, what motivated me to write this article? Primarily, a lack of articles in this space (and in Trinity University’s school newspaper) about sexual morality (although we have recently published some good pieces about love, morality, and relationships, which I recommend taking a look at) in general. Is it morally right to have premarital sex? What about gay/lesbian sex? What about using protection during sex? Should sex be seen merely as a means for pleasure?

All interesting questions, and none of which I can provide an answer to in a short article such as this one. However, I do want to discuss the problems with the current sexual climate; I write this article acknowledging that, as a self-identified libertarian and lifelong Catholic, people have a right to do what they please with their lives. But so long as I do not impose my own beliefs on others, I should be free to criticize others’ actions as immoral and wrong. That being said…

Let’s talk about sex.

To start off, I might be the worst possible person to talk about sexual morality. My own church is embroiled in a child sex abuse scandal that has spanned over the past several decades, with a new scandal involving priests and nuns emerging just last week. I unapologetically condemn these incidents and pray to God that the perpetrators are brought to justice. But this is a good springboard to talk about sexual morality, because for far too long, one of the main criticisms of Catholic morality has been the stingy criteria it places on its followers and clergy for having “acceptable” sex (or none at all).

And for that, I want to propose a new (Catholic) approach to thinking about sexual morality, but one that is inclusive enough so that everyone can take something away from it, regardless of religion. Because right now, I believe that we are in a sexual crisis. As traditional gender and sex norms have given way to “explorations” of gender and sexuality, we need to consider whether or not this “shift” has been for the better, that “shift” being the product of the sexual liberation movement spearheaded by feminists and the broader left-wing.

To be clear, I am not looking to “move backwards” or lament about “days gone by.” The only direction we can look now is forward, so that should remove any notion that I want to roll back any genuine progress we have made as a society. But I will point out that problems some might think are isolated are rather part of a larger failure of the sexual liberation movement that happened under multiple waves of feminism and a relativistic approach to gender and sexuality. Those problems range from a 40% out-of-wedlock birth rate (the bulk comprising minority groups) to the rise and growth of the “incel” (short for “involuntary celibate”) subculture.

It goes without saying that sexual freedom can have its consequences, and I do not think the way forward should be paved with irresponsibility.

I do not want to understate the severity of these problems. Children born out of wedlock are much more likely to have social and behavioral impairments, lower education and job prospects, and engage in early sexual activity. These problems are compounded when the child/children live in a single-parent home. It goes without saying that sexual freedom can have its consequences, and I do not think the way forward should be paved with irresponsibility.

On the other hand, the incel community is a hyper-misogynist online subculture whose members have at times engaged in violence in “retaliation” for their lack of sexual fortune, as is the case with Elliot Rodger, Alek Minassian, and Dimitrios Pagourtzis. There are many takeaways from studying this group, but what I understand is that these men feel an entitlement to sex, and if they do not get it, then violent retaliation is justified (which is horrifyingly celebrated within the incel community).

Of course, there are many others problems that I can discuss, like porn, the oversexualization of women, and prostitution, but for the sake of length, I want to answer the burning question in the room: what is the solution? Is there a one-size-fits-all answer to the diverse range of problems we have about sexual morality? As I have said, it is not a culture that encourages having sex with whomever you want, whenever you want. But neither is it an entitlement, where if a man fails to get sex, it is the collective fault of women and that there must be a Marxist “redistribution of women” so everyone gets their “fair share” of sex.

My solution is simple: take on responsibility. Some intellectuals have already been talking about this, so let’s build on their work and apply it to sexual ethics. Teaching people to be responsible for themselves can build self-respect. If you respect yourself, you can respect others. For those inclined to have lots of sex, being responsible will help in foreseeing potential consequences in having so much sex (like having children out of wedlock). For the “sexually challenged,” having more responsibilities can take one’s mind off constantly thinking about sex. Focusing on oneself and one’s talents will surely attract someone’s attention at some point, and people like (and love) a responsible person every now and then.

In the Catholic tradition, the act of sex is the renewal and sign of the sacrament of matrimony, the ultimate expression of giving oneself over to the other. In other words, sex is something to be cherished as gift from God, not something that is to be feared, reduced to a one-liner on a bucket list, or become an entitlement. And I fear if we do not change our attitude toward sex soon, much less have a serious conversation about it, we will continue to suffer the problems that I have outlined in this article, and then some.

Photo by Prayitno. CC BY 2.0. Flickr.

None of Your Damn Business: The State of Privacy in America

A few months ago, Stormy Daniels, an adult film actress who has alleged having sexual affairs with President Trump, went on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to talk about the details of her sexual relationship with the president. I personally have not watched the exchange, because quite frankly, I do not care nor do I want to know what happened behind closed doors in Trump’s bedroom with Daniels. The reason I bring this up is because the YouTube video of the exchange between Kimmel and Daniels has garnered 8.8 million by now. 8.8 million people decided that Trump’s sex life was worth knowing about. Kimmel paved the way, thinking it was acceptable material to put up on TV and on the internet.

This story is indicative of assumptions we often make about other people, namely that we assume to have a right to know even the most personal details of other people’s lives. Troublingly, some people find it acceptable for the most intimate details of people’s lives to be out in the open for all to see. We must acknowledge that there are things we are not supposed to know about someone. If someone denies sharing a certain detail about his life, leave him be; it is his business at that point.

Before I go further, let me be clear: I am not arguing that we should be closed off from one another. There is value in sharing deeply personal details about one’s life, and we can learn a lot from each other when we open up. But we should differentiate between the voluntary exchange of such details and the coercive manner in which such details can be extracted from someone (such as through bullying, harassment, intimidation, or social pressure). Far too often, people go the latter route in finding out personal details about others and see no harm in it.

Censorship, nonetheless, is not the solution. If Kimmel wants to interview Daniels and ask her what sex with Trump was like, it is his prerogative. But, censorship aside, there must be some discussion about the implications of Kimmel’s actions and what he is normalizing by probing the most intimate of details about Trump. Of course, Trump is a politician, and like all other politicians in this country, we subject his personal life to the highest scrutiny. What is his education? What is his personal health? Has he done any public service? These are all legitimate questions to ask, and it would be wise for the president to give honest answers to these types of questions. But scrutiny can go too far, as I believe Kimmel did in his interview with Daniels. More often than not, acquiring such sensitive information usually leads to malicious actions on the part of others.

There are some violations of personal privacy that have rightfully gotten some pushback, but some of these problems persist to this day and pose huge threats to our personal privacy. Doxxing (the finding and publishing of personal information for malicious intent), government metadata programs, and cyber attacks are some of the more extreme examples. But there are subtle ways in which we normalize the coercion of people into giving up personal information, if not outright stealing that information and showing it to the world. The grand hypocrisy is that we always look to keep big padlocks on our personal lives, but we look for bigger hammers to smash others’ padlocks.

In the end, there are just some things that are not for us to know. We all keep secrets, even if we do not like to admit it, but it is a good thing in some cases. Hannah Arendt defined totalitarianism as the erasure of the boundary between public and private life, where privacy was nonexistent in the face of an omnipresent state dominating every facet of social life. Think Orwell’s 1984, where no action could go by without the watchful eye of the state keeping tabs on what is going on. If we are not careful, if we are not vigilant in protecting the private lives of ourselves and others, we could easily slip into an Orwellian nightmare where nothing is hidden from the prying eyes of others, which is not desirable for anyone who cares about personal privacy. After all, how would you feel if your whole life were on display for all to see?

ICE Needs Reform, Not Abolition: a Libertarian Perspective

Crying children. Illegal immigrants locked away in cages. Children forced to appear alone in court. Nothing galvanized the nation over the Trump administration’s immigration policies than the debacle of this past summer, which has even drawn comparisons to the Nazi concentration camps.

By “debacle,” I’m referring to the Trump administration’s announcement of its “zero-tolerance” policy along the U.S.-Mexico border. The policy stipulated that illegal migrants crossing the border with children were to be arrested and detained separately. The administration argued that the policy was geared toward deterring migrants from crossing the border with children and fighting sex trafficking across the border. But the policy had unintended side effects.

It turned out that the policy achieved neither goal. In fact, it ended up separating families with legitimate asylum claims, causing mayhem at the border and across the country. Even though the Trump administration ended the policy of separating families, hundreds of children remain separated from their parents (despite a court order mandating the reunification of families), down from a peak of 3,000 children at the time the administration ended the policy.

But the political fallout has yet to fade away. Multiple prominent Democrats have called into question the legitimacy of the agencies responsible for carrying out the zero-tolerance policy, singling out Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in particular. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-described Democratic Socialist who was recently elected to represent New York’s 14th congressional district, has called for the outright abolition of the agency, joining a growing chorus of Democrats that want to shutter the agency.

There is just one problem: ICE actually performs some useful functions. A quick trip to the ICE website shows what ICE has been up to with regards to deporting criminals, usually posted on the top of the front page of the website. These are good things, as criminals who do not have a legitimate claim to be here should be fast-tracked for deportation. Simply calling to abolish ICE ignores these legitimate functions that the agency is tasked with carrying out. It’s foolhardy and ignorant at best because it dashes any hopes of thinking about practical policy proposals and engaging in thoughtful and rational discussion.

First, we need to separate fact from fiction. Let us start with some history. ICE is only fifteen years old, one of many agencies formed in the post-9/11 frenzy and consolidated into the newly born Department of Homeland Security. ICE’s predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), was abolished when ICE and a few other agencies took its place. Creating the agency and placing it under DHS was an attempt to quell fears that the government would not do enough in the wake of the worst terrorist attack in American history.

Since its inception, ICE’s responsibilities have included both preventing another terrorist attack from happening through our immigration system and enforcing immigration laws domestically. Left-wing commentators are right in asserting that ICE historically has had little regard for due process in rounding up illegal immigrants off the street and deporting them. They also have a point that the agency is overly concerned with deportations and does not take a humanitarian approach to immigration, which stems from its dual responsibilities of regulating immigration and combating transnational criminals, forcing ICE to take a one-size-fits-all approach where their tasks have zero flexibility and does not tolerate a discretionary decision-making process.

But progressives, who have coalesced with other activists and politicians into the “Abolish ICE” movement, either lack a clear vision for what a realistic immigration system will look like or are trying to push the debate in a direction where a reasonable compromise is not possible. After all, most voters oppose scrapping ICE altogether. Even if voters did support shuttering the agency, without a comprehensive plan to get rid of the bad parts of ICE, the agency’s powers would simply shift elsewhere into another agency, which doesn’t accomplish anything.

Now, in an ideal world, ICE would not exist. Immigrants, both legal and illegal, have far fewer incarceration rates than native-born citizens and are far less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. Even when immigrants do commit crimes, it would be better to let local police departments handle it instead of federalizing the issue, as one libertarian commentator proposes. But we don’t live in an ideal world, so we should try to prioritize small government and the right to free movement as best we can. To start, we need to recognize that when families were separated, that was Customs and Border Protection (CBP), not ICE. ICE is responsible for domestic enforcement of immigration laws; CBP is in charge of maintaining security at the border (while I’m on the topic, there are important distinctions between the two agencies, which usually intertwine, complicating efforts to reform them). But for now, my proposal will deal solely with ICE and no other agency.

First, to address the heart of the problem, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) needs to go. This is the part of the agency that is responsible for mass deportations, which was kicked into high gear under President Obama and continued under President Trump. This should give civil libertarians pause since ERO has broad police powers in arresting and deporting illegal immigrants. Additionally, budget hawks should note that if the U.S. government were to undertake the enormous task of deporting all illegal immigrants from the country, it would carry a price tag of anywhere between $400-600 billion, even when illegal immigration has a positive impact on the U.S. economy. The only part of the agency that should be salvaged is its removal authority, which should be transferred to the other division of ICE, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), which is concerned with targeting transnational criminals. This will alleviate ICE of any responsibility to deport non-criminal aliens and refocus its efforts on deporting actual criminals, like gangs, sex traffickers, and terrorists.

Second, ICE should discontinue its Secure Communities program, which was shuttered by the Obama administration after it was revealed that it was profiling, but was revived under President Trump. Additionally, ICE should also shutter its 287(g) program, which allows for local law enforcement officers to enter into partnerships with ICE to help the agency identify and deport illegal immigrants, effectively extending the agency’s authorities into local police departments and turning police officers into ICE agents. Both programs have been weaponized by President Trump against cities who refuse to sign onto or comply with these two programs, with the president calling them “sanctuary cities” and threatening to cut off their federal funding.

Third, ICE should close its “stipulated removal” program, which allows for illegal immigrants to waive their right to go to court and instead be fast-tracked for deportation. This program is inherently rife with due process violations; many undocumented aliens do not understand the deportation process and many sign their rights away without knowing exactly what they are doing. Fourth, the number of beds in DHS detention facilities should be reduced (below 30,000 would be a start), so the department has less of an incentive to keep the beds full with immigrants and therefore, less of an incentive to round up immigrants. Lastly, we should shift illegal border crossings from criminal to civil offenses, which removes the mentality that illegal immigrants should be treated as security threats. This would also take off the burden on the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services), which is currently swamped with cases of children needing to be resettled in the country and forcing unaccompanied children to remain in CBP and ICE custody.

I understand that I’m dealing with old news, but our immigration system has yet to face comprehensive reform that both reflects our nation’s values and keeps our nation safe. Even when the news media, political commentators, and social media shift away from talking about immigration, the effects on those impacted are still there. It’s past time that we seriously consider proposals and start thinking about reforming–and shrinking–the agencies and departments that deal with immigration. This includes recognizing that comprehensive reform does not stem from two-word slogans chanted in the streets aimed at policies that rip apart families, but realizing that our immigration system is much more complex and that serious reform tackles all the parts of the larger immigration machine. Ultimately, I want the country to consider the long-term psychologicaleconomic, and international effects of maintaining a hardline immigration policy, which is not good for anyone concerned with pursuing a freer society where freedom of movement is cherished, not belittled.

CD21 Debate: A Disappointment for Libertarians

This past Thursday, a debate was held between the three main candidates running in Texas Congressional District 21, the candidates being Chip Roy (R), Joseph Kopser (D), and Lee Santos (L). As moderator James Forsyth opened the debate, he said that the CD21 race was “one of the most interesting and competitive races on the ballot locally in this political season.” Forsyth chalked this up to Lamar Smith’s leaving Congress after thirty-one years in office, but I would add that it was also interesting because the debate included Santos, a rarity in a political system dominated by two parties. As for the debate topics, the moderator chose to ask the candidates about the national debt, immigration, healthcare, guns, women’s issues, climate change, and cyber-warfare.

During the debate, I felt as if a wall was put up between the two-party candidates and Santos. Neither Kopser nor Roy directly addressed Santos and vice versa. Chip Roy even went so far as to say “my opponent” in his rebuttals–note the singular. Speaking of rebuttals, the only direct rebuttals that happened were between Roy and Kopser. Santos never rebutted her two-party opponents and she never directly attacked them either. Hence why I felt like there was a partition in the middle of the room, three-way debates are unusual and I imagine that Roy and Kopser were not expecting to be debating a thirty-party opponent. Case in point: when I spoke to Chip Roy this past week, asking him why a Libertarian should vote for him over Santos, he was at first dismissive of Santos’ chances of winning before listing issues and stances that he thought would be attractive to libertarian voters.

This is not to imply that Santos was irrelevant in the debate. I was personally ecstatic that a Libertarian broke through the two-party stranglehold on debates, but as I watched the debate, I was heavily disappointed. I was glad that the moderator went easy on the questioning because I felt that Santos would not have been prepared for it. The reason I say this is that Santos, at least in the first quarter of the debate, had a “deer-in-the-headlights” look on her face whenever she answered questions. It looked sheepish, as if she herself was surprised to have even been there in the first place. She did not look like she had any confidence at all, she was constantly looking at her notes to remind herself of what she was going to say. Even when she did say something, it was often incoherent at best. When she was answering a question about she would do about cybersecurity, she began by talking about her time living in Kazakhstan and saying that we cannot trust the Russians. She said the same about China, but then she suddenly meandered into mentioning Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist who is believed to have been killed by the Saudi government. My question to Santos: what on earth does Khashoggi have to do with cybersecurity?

Other times, it seems like Chip Roy was much better at explaining his position–which often resembled libertarianism–than Santos. On healthcare, all Santos said was that the entire industry should be privatized and that she was victimized by Obamacare. In contrast, Roy laid out a quick but detailed proposal on healthcare: he attacked the idea of placing people into Medicaid rolls as “insuring more people” while advocating for more personal access to physicians and more portable access to insurance. While I do not take issue with either Roy or Santos’ general view of healthcare and where it should go, I felt as though Roy was more articulate and detailed on the issue than Santos. On women’s issues, Santos started her response by talking about LGBT rights and a transgender family member serving in Afghanistan. Again, what does her response have to do with the question at hand? She did back on track with her response, but when asked about Planned Parenthood a few minutes later, she vaguely stated that she “supports Planned Parenthood,” in part because she was a customer there. And herein lies my main criticism of Santos’ performance.

While I have been appalled at the extensive infighting within the Libertarian Party, I do think lines need to be drawn on who should run for office. This is hard to do because as a third-party, we simply do not have the manpower to field a candidate for every single office in the country. Very few Libertarian candidates actually go through a contested primary, so for most Libertarians who run, there is nobody to challenge them on their beliefs from a libertarian angle. This allows for a wide diversity of candidates to run for office, which can be a good and a bad thing. Good because libertarianism is an umbrella ideology and can come in many different forms; bad because some people will associate that one person they know is a libertarian and frame that person as representative of the entire ideology. Additionally, I belong to a camp within the LP that advocates for fielding strong and likeable candidates, not just anyone who wants to run.

At many instances during the debate, Santos was vague about her positions or said something that was anathema to libertarian ideology. Going back to her response about women’s issues, her stance on Planned Parenthood raises some questions. By support, does she mean personal or governmental support? Would she be okay with the government forcing me to pay for her to go see a doctor at Planned Parenthood? For now, I will give her the benefit of the doubt, but her positions on other issues give me pause. On guns, she thinks we need to eliminate bump stocks and raise the legal age of purchasing rifles to 21. On environmental policy, she thinks we need to make a transition to electric cars and “push [recycling] forward,” whatever those statements are supposed to mean. At face value, Santos comes off as a more liberal type that wants government out of most spheres of life but more involved in other places. To be clear, libertarianism is utterly opposed to the idea that government can solve all of society’s problems, and in this vein, Santos is no libertarian. If anything, she’s a left-leaning statist with some streaks of libertarianism, and in the debate, she was completely outflanked by Chip Roy who eloquently (and objectively) made a stronger case for libertarian ideas than Santos did, despite Roy being a self-professed conservative.

If there is any takeaway from this debate, it is that Libertarians need to be critical of their candidates and their party when it fails, as it inevitably will at times. To be clear, I am optimistic about our electoral chances in the years to come and I am generally impressed with the candidates that the LP has put forward in Texas. But I say “generally” because there are Libertarian candidates that I would avoid voting for because I do not think they represent the ideology and the party well enough to warrant my support. And make no mistake, Santos is one of those people. If anything, she did not offer anything unique or exciting in the debate, missing an opportunity to explain to voters why they should choose freedom and liberty over coercion and tyranny and calling out her opponents for endorsing the same tired solutions to the nation’s problems.

Analysis: Why Everyone Should be Watching New Mexico

Gary Johnson, former two-term New Mexico governor and two-time Libertarian presidential candidate, officially re-entered politics in announcing his run for New Mexico’s open Senate seat under the Libertarian Party banner. This comes after Aubrey Dunn, the original LP nominee for New Mexico’s Senate seat, dropped out of the race to “focus on his job as state land commissioner.” Johnson now faces Democratic incumbent Martin Heinrich and Republican challenger Mike Rich.

Johnson has admitted he faces a few obstacles to victory in November. New Mexico’s secretary of state recently reinstated straight-ticket voting, earning criticism from Johnson and a lawsuit from the New Mexico Republican and Libertarian parties, who argue that the change will benefit the dominant Democratic Party. RealClearPolitics rates New Mexico’s Senate race as “Safe Dem,” likely because the state leans heavily Democratic (45.9% of New Mexico’s voters are Democrats, whereas only 30.5% of NM voters are Republicans).

On the other hand, Johnson has a lot going for him. He enjoys considerable name recognition in New Mexico. His best showing during the 2016 presidential election was in New Mexico—his home state—garnering 9% of the vote. Additionally, Johnson was twice elected as New Mexico’s governor in the late 90’s, having won as a Republican in a state that was—and still is—heavily Democratic. A recent poll from Emerson College puts him at 21%, with Heinrich at 39% and Mike Rich at 11% (Johnson also beats out Rich among Republicans, pulling in 27% against Rich’s 25%). If this poll is any indication of the next few months of the race, it shows that Johnson, not Rich, will be Heinrich’s main challenger. And this indication hasn’t been lost on Heinrich’s supporters; Elizabeth Warren has publicly attacked Gary Johnson’s policies.

But most noteworthy is Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) recent endorsement of Johnson. Garnering such a significant endorsement from a sitting senator of another party is telling of Johnson’s policies and his past record of governor of New Mexico. During his tenure, Johnson vetoed over 700 bills from the state legislature. He cut taxes and balanced the state’s budget. As for his policies, Johnson’s ideology and priorities closely mirror those of Senator Paul. Johnson strongly favors the legalization of marijuana, wants to cut taxes and spending, and make it easier for immigrants to come to the United States.

But Johnson is certainly running a long-shot candidacy. A Libertarian has never won a congressional race, but if Johnson were to win, it would mean several different things for the Libertarian Party. For one, the party would gain greater legitimacy with the political mainstream and voters would see it as a viable alternative that can win elections. The policies that the LP advocates for—minimum government and maximum freedom—will have to be addressed by the major parties if they are to continue to stay in power, or else they risk losing more elections to Libertarian candidates, while facing serious opposition in the meantime. And finally, more people will find out about the Libertarian Party and have a better working knowledge of what the party stands for and what it will do once it can win elections.

By virtue of entering the NM Senate race, Johnson has made his race more interesting, and could have political ramifications both for his party and for the Republicans and Democrats. Even if he loses, it is still likely that he will collect a large number of votes, making his Senate bid one of the most successful in LP history.

Disclaimer: Zach Neeley is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Mark Tippetts, the 2018 Libertarian candidate for Governor of Texas.

When My Twin Brother Became My Twin Sister: A Personal, Political, and Religious Perspective

Editor’s Note: The following piece is a half of a point-counterpoint regarding libertarian and traditional conservative perspectives on transgenderism. Find the other half, written by Alex Jacobs, here.

For me, it all started one afternoon after school last May when my then-brother asked me to come meet with him and my mom downstairs in my parents’ bedroom.

“What I’m about to tell you will change the way you see me forever,” he told me. Within ten minutes, he proved himself right.

For my twin, it had started long before.  What he revealed that afternoon was that over the past two years he had slowly begun to realize that he was a transgender female. My brother talked about the private and group therapy sessions that he attended with my mom to help with the gender dysphoria he had been dealing with for the past several years.

To cope with these feelings, he had gotten a separate room in our house not because he wanted his own room (which he told me at the time), but because he wanted to crossdress in private. Additionally, my brother said that he prioritized trans-friendly dormitories on college tours.

Before that day, I had given little thought to transgender issues. It would have been easy for me to say to a transgendered individual, “I’m fine with you identifying as whichever gender you choose.” But it’s quite another thing to say that to your twin.

At first, I was open to it, but as time moved on and as my sister’s transition moved forward, I realized that my adjustment was going to be hitting speed bumps very quickly.

The first time I saw my sister dressed as a female was when we went to her therapist as a family. She was determined to cosmetically resemble a female. She wore her most feminine-looking clothes, put on some makeup, and wore a wig. On the way to the session, my sister kept asking me how she looked and if she “passed” (successfully looking the part of her desired gender).

I was torn, and for the greater part of the car ride and the session, I didn’t want to look at her. I just couldn’t; it was too much to digest at once. I chose to stay silent and look the other direction. I remember thinking, “This is going to be a lot harder than I expected.” That was putting it lightly.

After the session with her counselor and throughout the summer, my sister rarely dressed as a female, which made it more difficult for me to begin to understand and accept her for when she would begin to physically transition to being a female. She still went by her birth name and male pronouns, which made me doubt her commitment to her transition. Perhaps I needed another perspective.

I consider myself a political activist, so it was not enough to simply accept my sister as transgender. In other words, my aspirations to be involved in politics would become more complicated as others might see my twin as a source of controversy. I wanted to be educated to prepare myself for the inevitable debates I would be involved in, so I delved into reading various articles and even attended a transgender family support group. My goal became to know as much about the issue not only from a personal perspective, but to understand transgender political and cultural issues.

I watched debates on YouTube. I started seeing a counselor at my university. I looked at peer-reviewed studies from top scholars. I prayed to God, asking Him for help and guidance on an issue that my church has failed to adequately and extensively address—much less accept. My inability to make headway with reality coupled with my own grief over ‘losing’ my brother translated into more anger. Nothing seemed to satisfy me. I started to resent being a member of the 6% of American adults who have a transgender family member. I realized that turning to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community would not help; after all, I believed in the gender binary (a thought crime in LGBT circles), so that avenue wasn’t an option.

Eventually, I expressed this emotion to my sister; I had to let her know how I was feeling, and I needed somewhere to vent. I was driving us both back from a restaurant when I voiced my anger about my shortcomings in coming to grips with her transition. I will never forget what she said to me in reply: “Original thought is not easy to come up with, and I can only tell you to do more research.”

It was the last thing I wanted to hear; it pissed me off, but she was right. I had to think more. But, not just that: I had to think smarter. I happen to be someone who believes in the “live and let live” mantra, so I worked from that approach.

I tackled the issue from a religious point-of-view. I am a Roman Catholic, so I looked to the Bible for support, and, since it has nothing explicit to say about transgenderism (although Genesis 1:27 says that God created “male and female”), I looked to its teachings about tolerance, of which there were plenty.

One verse stood out to me: Luke 15:2, which reads: “But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’” There is also a point in the Gospels where Jesus sits down with several people whose lifestyles were considered abhorrent at the time and has dinner with them (Matthew 9:10). What’s striking about these people is that, in society’s view, they were considered the lowest of the low: thieves, prostitutes, tax collectors. I realized that no matter how many genders I believe exist, I had a civic duty and a religious obligation to see my sister as she has always been: a person with the same inalienable rights as every other human being. That’s how Christ viewed the so-called ‘social deviants’.

Over the past several months, I have realized what tolerance is and is not. Tolerance is recognizing another person’s right to exist, regardless of differences of opinion or belief systems. I made it clear to my sister that I would not play an adult version of ‘pretend’. An effort had to be made on her part to look, breathe, act, and talk like a female. If she was to be treated and addressed as a female, she had to look the part.

We mutually agreed that I would address her by her proper pronouns whenever she presented as female and that I would respect her decision to transition, despite my viewing her transition as morally questionable. This, I believe, is tolerance at its best: a compromise that is founded on mutual respect for one another’s opinions and livelihoods.

Furthermore, tolerance is what I believe our country is about—people with mutual respect and acceptance for one another who recognize every other person’s right to live their own lives as they see fit without interference from anyone else.

Nowadays, I would say that my sister and I are much closer in our relationship as siblings than we were before she transitioned, and we get along well. This is what I want to reflect in our society, one that is predicated and built on individualism, human rights, and tolerance. I want to work for a future for my sister, myself, and my country which is more tolerant, more understanding, and more free for all of us.

At the end of the day, we’re all Americans with the same inalienable rights. As St. Paul said to the Ephesians, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).