Are We There Yet?

July 21-27, 2014

By Jay Edwards

At the recent Arkansas Press Association convention we were greeted by flies. KM was there too; she is the member services expert for the APA.

A few years back it wasn’t flies, it was water, first a thunderstorm at the golf tournament in Alma (we never got to tee off) then a broken sprinkler system, which affected, in a bad wet way, the bottom five floors and the lobby. I was lucky, having secured a room on the sixth floor, and watched as my drenched fellow journalists sloshed around below. 

This year, the front door of the Embassy Suites would open and along with every human entering came about ten flies. By the end of the convention we were all abuzz.

But, flies aside, I’ll always remember this year’s great event for the moment I became a Libertarian. There were three political debates on July 11, and all three had the third party candidates who were there to tell why we should vote for them.

But after hearing from the Libertarians and thinking I should join them, I figured I better know what they stand for. It all sounds pretty good.

I found a video on Youtube of Libertarian John Stossel, asking some people on Times Square what a Libertarian was. Here are the three answers he got.

1st man: I never heard about that.

Woman: I don’t know.

2nd man: A librarian who takes too many liberties?

Back in the studio, Stossel explained that they believe in individual freedoms. “It is what the founders believed,” he said. “They believed that government should keep its citizens safe and then butt out.”

According to Dr. Jeff Miron, director of undergrad studies in economics at Harvard, “Liberals and Conservatives are on some level the same – they are authoritarians. They have strong views on the right way for people to run their lives and want to impose those views. Libertarians want to let people choose for themselves.”

I like the sound of that. Yes, I am now a Libertarian.

In the first debate, for lieutenant governor, Tim Griffin was skyping live from an office in D.C. He said hello loudly, answered a few questions, said he had to go vote, and his screen went blank.

That left Democrat John Burkhalter and Libertarian Chris Olson, who said he didn’t believe the state even needs a lieutenant governor. Interesting tactic, I thought. 

Both Burkhalter and Olson said they are not career politicians. Hearing that, Byron Tate, the publisher at the Pine Bluff Commercial, leaned over and said, “Politics is the only profession where longevity and experience hurts you. How many people do you know who when looking for a surgeon say, ‘Give me the new guy.’”

Burkhalter came away looking the best to me, but it helped that Griffin was off voting and Olson is running for a position he doesn’t believe should even exist. I was still a Democrat at that point.

Next up were the attorney general hopefuls. Again there were three, but all stayed for the whole debate. We began with an opening statement from Libertarian Aaron Cash, a 26-year old Northwest Arkansas lawyer who began by saying we might not recognize him because he’d left his tin-foil hat at home. Also on the podium were Democrat Nate Steel and GOP Leslie Rutledge. Steel and Rutledge are attorneys too; all three candidates have mothers who are schoolteachers, but Steel reminded us that he mentioned his momma first. 

Last were the governor candidates and the four debating were Joshua Drake of the Green Party, Republican Asa Hutchinson, Libertarian Frank Gilbert and Democrat Mike Ross.

Drake likes Ross who was the most intense but Gilbert was the funniest.  What can I say? Funny gets me every time.