Popular conservative radio host Glenn Beck, who has refused to support Republican front-runner Donald Trump in the 2016 general election, interviewed Libertarian Party candidate Austin Petersen on his show on Friday. Beck was very pleased with everything he heard from Petersen, and while Beck’s staff clarified that he did not endorse Petersen, he said on the show to Petersen that, “You’re making my heart skip a little bit . . . You’re giving me hope that maybe there is somebody I can pull the lever for.”
As the presumptive nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both have high unfavorability ratings, many Americans are looking for a third party candidate. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on May 19th showed that 44% of Americans are looking for a third party candidate. The Libertarian Party is the largest of the third parties. It lines up with many conservatives on fiscal issues and some liberals on social and foreign policy issues, and thus is expected to have a good year in 2016 facing unpopular major party candidates. Three candidates – Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson; businessman and founder of the website, The Libertarian Republic, Austin Petersen; and tech mogul John McAfee have garnered most of the attention in the race for the Libertarian Party nomination, which will be decided at the convention held in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend. Gov. Johnson has long been considered the front-runner, but lately Petersen has made it close and has pulled many delegates and a lot of media attention his way.
During the interview, Beck went through a list of political issues and asked Petersen what his stance was on each of them. The first issue discussed was abortion, an issue where Petersen has raised some eyebrows by being a pro-life libertarian, a position that is inconsistent with the Libertarian Party Platform; however, Petersen defends it as a libertarian stance. Petersen’s position on immigration was discussed, and in sharp contrast to Trump’s policy, he believes in a simple “Ellis Island style” immigration system, with only a security check and disease check. On foreign policy, Petersen is a typical libertarian in that he is a non-interventionist but is okay with going to war when it is necessary as long as Congress issues a declaration of war. Petersen also discussed how he is opposed to Common Core and centralized education in general, and how he is a big fan of home schooling by parents’ choice.
With the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and given the old age of several of the current justices, the issue of who each presidential candidate would appoint to the Supreme Court has become an especially pertinent issue during this election cycle. During the interview, Petersen, who was an associate producer for libertarian Judge Andrew Napolitano on Napolitano’s Fox Business show Freedom Watch, said he’d appoint Napolitano “in a heartbeat.” He also said he liked libertarian Judge Randy Barnett from Georgetown University, and when Beck asked him about Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, Petersen said he’d be willing to appoint them but would rather have them in the Senate. Napolitano is well known for his natural rights jurisprudence and pro-life stance, and Barnett for his originality.
Glenn Beck is popular with many grassroots conservatives, especially former supporters of Ted Cruz, whom Beck endorsed, and who Petersen is openly trying to bring into his coalition. However, Beck is a controversial figure among many libertarians, and for some, it reinforces skepticism that they already had about Petersen.
Initially, the news publication that Petersen started, The Libertarian Republic, ran a headline declaring, “Glenn Beck Endorses Austin Petersen.” After another libertarian publication, A Libertarian Future, investigated this claim and found it to not be true, TLR redacted this headline, clarifying that Beck stopped just short of an endorsement, and they apologized for the mistake.
Dave Nalle, former national chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus, and a supporter of Gov. Gary Johnson explained that “Austin Peterson is skirting the edge of acceptability for a lot of traditional [libertarians]. Endorsement or outspoken support from Glenn Beck will be seen as a negative by many in the [Libertarian Party]. It reinforces the impression that Petersen is not libertarian enough. He is already suspect because he is pro-life so associating with a religious conservative like Beck hurts him.”
Petersen, however, believes he can unify the Libertarian Party and bring disaffected voters together to win the general election. When reached for a comment, Petersen said, “I truly believe that if conservatives, libertarians, and moderate Democrats can come together in this election, then we can finally root out the corruption in our political system.”
Petersen is also excited that he will be in the studio talking with Glenn Beck face-to-face on Tuesday. He said that “I’ve always been a great admirer of Beck, and I’m glad that I finally have the opportunity to speak with him face to face in studio this coming Tuesday.”