Earlier this month, I sat down with entrepreneur and Libertarian Party chairman hopeful Charles Peralo to clarify his goals for the party and to discuss his thoughts on the current election.
LibertyBuzz: First off, can you tell our readers who you are and what you have done to prepare yourself for the position of Libertarian Party chairman?
Charles Peralo: I am Charles Peralo. I’m an inventor based out of Manhattan. I grew up in Rock Hill, New York, but I moved to Manhattan when I got a little bit older. My background really came from entrepreneurship. I started my first start-up when I was seventeen. I filed my first patent when I was eighteen, and since then I’ve spent the last five years working really as an inventor and an entrepreneur. I currently hold two brands of patents and have several more pending.
I’ve been involved in the Liberty Movement for eight or nine years. I started out online. I was involved in the Johnson campaign in 2011 as, probably, their first volunteer. I was active at the CPAC convention when he was running as a Republican. Then I was involved in the Seasteading Institute, an organization based out of San-Francisco. It raised quite a bit of money, got a lot of attention, and boosted my profile within the movement. Recently, I have been the co-founder of www.beinglibertarian.com where we have about 45,000 likes on Facebook and I have connected with a lot of people in the Liberty Movement.
Regarding the Libertarian Party, I can’t say I’ve been here that long. I’ve known a lot of people in the party for years. I’ve voted for them for a number of years as well. The thing with the LP was is that I was never satisfied with the quality and standards that were being put out of it. I heard a lot of weird stories about some people involved.
It’s because of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton that I said the LP needs to become more viable. That’s why I’m here. I don’t want to change the principles. I am one hundred percent a libertarian, and I like everything the LP stands for. But the website is terrible. The management is terrible. The fundraising is low. These are things that need to be fixed.
LB: What would you do as the Libertarian Party chairman?
CP: I would really focus on four core ideas. The first is I would set up a Libertarian Party app to make it so anybody within the United States could connect with our party, see if their area has a local party, see what they can do to get involved, and, ideally, see what they can do to run for office.
The second problem is that the websites that are being put out by candidates and local parties are just sub-par. When someone runs for US senate and they have a hotmail email and a website that looks like it came out of 1999, they’ve lost at least one voter. I would make a simple, basically like a WordPress for Libertarians and show them how very cheaply they can benefit.
The third thing is I have a lot of experience with growing Facebook pages and growing social media. I would set up six to twelve Facebook pages that are single issues, use the LP network to grow them to twenty to fifteen thousand, then spread them out organically. We grow their audiences to half a million people who are in the Republican and Democratic parties and use them during the election cycle to promote Libertarian Party candidates.
The fourth thing I would want to do is set up a program where people can become Libertarian Republicans and Libertarian Democrats. Right now people in the Republican Party still want to vote for Rand Paul. Some still want to vote for Bernie Sanders. The Libertarian Party has not made themselves viable enough yet for people to want to cross over and join us. I want to make it possible for people to become affiliates of the party, but not members, still get information, still be involved, and still contribute some money and vote for us.
LB: What are your goals for the Libertarian Party?
CP: Right now we are the crack you don’t notice in the window. We get between one to three percent in almost every national and statewide election, and the major parties do not really acknowledge our existence. I would like to make it such that we are the crack that annoys them and the one they want to fix. We need to get five to ten percent every election, and I think it is a viable idea. Look at Rhode Island, Maine, and Virginia. There are a lot of states where third parties consistently break five to ten percent. Normally, they are just single candidates, but I think we can do it for the Party as well. The other goal is the Libertarian Party just needs to raise more money.
LB: What is your advice to everyday people who want to get more involved in the Liberty Movement?
CP: The Liberty Movement is much bigger than the Libertarian Party. If you go to CATO, Mises, Young Americans for Liberty, Students for Liberty, or the Ayn Rand Institute– these are organizations that, every year, raise more money than the Libertarian Party. They have more members. They do more, and they don’t really like to admit the Libertarian Party exists. That’s something I’m trying to solve.
For everyday people, I have been involved on two fronts. For one, the Internet is great for those who live in more far out locations. However, there is always a libertarian related group in your area. There are always Bitcoin meetups. There are always Students for Liberty chapters. I would say to get involved with them. Also, promote the content. People on both sides, Democrats and Republicans, can respect Libertarians on at least one to two thirds of the issues.
LB: On your website you spend a great deal of time explaining why the Libertarian Party needs to be better about maintaining a strong online presence. Can you expand on what those programs would look like and how they would benefit the party in the long term?
CP: I’ve mentioned the LP app, and I’ve mentioned the website builder… I think you can execute these projects very cheaply because there are a lot of libertarian computer science majors in college right now. We could let them build up an app, and it would get hundreds of thousands if not millions of downloads. We would give a little stipend as payment, but they are also going to put that on their resume, making them viable in the job market. There are going to be a flood of computer programmers who will want to do these type of things. There will be a flood of designers who will want to do the LP website and will do it for free.
Why is it valuable? Because when people go on and they don’t like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, they see a candidate with a bizarre website and weird social media presence or ugly banners, and they don’t vote for them and they will never look at the Libertarian Party again. They write it off as a joke.
LB: What you are describing sounds very simple. Why do you think it has not already been tried?
CP: I think the issue with the Libertarian Party is a that lot of people live in the past. Most of the people in the Liberty Movement are under thirty-five. The most active people are ages 19-25. But if you look at the Libertarian Party itself, I would say the average age is over 55. If you ask the members of the Libertarian Party they will tell you the website looks good. If you ask the majority of users, they think it is a very poorly made website. I just don’t think they have very high standards.
I think on the other issue, some people in the party are just placeholders and they’re there to have a vanity position which they don’t do much with and they don’t really want to do much with. It is a combination of not realizing there is a problem and not wanting to do the necessary work to improve.
LB: You also believe the Libertarian Party should go local, and one of the ways that would help is through social media sharing. Can you describe the mechanics of that in greater detail and why is your system better than the one the party uses today?
CP: The current system is really not a system because the national LP, when it comes to media exposure, doesn’t really help local or statewide candidates. I think my plan to have six to twelve Facebook pages on single issues and using that to help local and state races will help us have more presence online besides just the one national page. We will be able to guarantee more candidates time to be promoted. On the current page we have 700,000 likes, but you can really only post once every half hour if you want a modest percent of your audience to see things. If we have twelve pages, we can get a lot more people promoted.
LB: Another weakness you have identified in the libertarian party is its inability to fundraise to the capacity of its competitors. Why do you think this is, and how are you going to change that?
CP: I think it is hard for the LP to raise money because, honestly, it is a losing proposition. If you donate money to the Libertarian Party, you are not donating to someone who will likely win. I don’t want to lie to people and sell snake oil. I think what we have to do to raise money is to provide services, provide resources that people want, and charge a modest amount of money for that in order to increase membership. We need to start raising up our hands to people who have been active members of the party. We currently charge $25 for membership in the party. We do have people in the party who earn enough to contribute $250. We have to ask a little bit more. I have proposed building an buisiness caucus in the party. But fundraising is probably going to be the trickiest issue. I think it is sort of the domino effect to get there. You have to improve the website. You have to build more coalitions. You have to get more results so the money will come. Unless we get that magic donor like Peter Thiel. It could happen. Maybe we need to talk to those people a lot more.
LB: You also advocate creating a supporter or affiliate status in addition to the existing membership status. Do you think that is a viable solution for gaining the support of disaffected Republicans and Democrats?
CP: I think it is one hundred percent a viable option just because. At the end of the day, there are a lot of Democrats and Republicans who stay in those parties so they can vote in the primary. They hate the Mitt Romneys, they hate the Hillary Clintons, they hate the John McCains, they hate the Donald Trumps and they want to vote for . . . Well, either they are not going to vote or they want to want to vote for the party.
I think if you give them some form of affiliate status they are more likely to vote for us. If you look at the research of Republicans who disliked Mitt Romney more of them chose to not vote– more of them chose to stay home than voted third party. I believe seventeen percent of the people who were in the Ohio primary who are conservative Republicans chose to stay home. Mitt Romney would have won Ohio by three percent if that hadn’t happened. So why weren’t that seventeen percent going out and voting third party? It is because we didn’t give them the knock on the door. If they were an affiliate and they were a supporter, they might be more inclined to do so.
Also, some people say they don’t want the Republicans or the Democrats in the party. We have a platform in the LP. People know that’s what we’re about. Attracting more people in the DNC and the GOP is just what we need to do. We can’t win without them. Eventually we are going to have to branch out and get some. If not we will just always be a small party.
LB: According to your website, educating libertarians on how to be more successful in their political pursuits is a priority for you. You stress educational retreats, organized training, online classes, etc. Does the Libertarian Party have the infrastructure to provide these services and how do you think they would affect the number of elected libertarians in office?
CP: We definitely have the infrastructure to do that. We have a national convention every year where thousands of people will come, and we can do that every single year. Now, look at why that’s a valuable idea: In 2002 McDonald’s had their first quarterly loss ever, their stock was getting destroyed, they were actually absorbing debt for the first time ever, and they were losing new franchisees. They did a lot of things to recover, but the best thing they did is they made it so every franchise owner, every three or five years, they have to take a two-week retreat with the company, and be taught on how to be a better franchisee. They did that and noticed a lot of their locations went up: Complaints about cleanliness got cut in half. Complaints about cold food got cut in half.
I think we need to recharge the batteries of a lot of the people involved in the party. It is going to be a little hard to do. Some people in the party may not want to be taught things, but at the end of the day we have to accept we need to learn new things.
LB: What are your thoughts on the current presidential race?
CP: Well, I’ll put it like this: If you go on my timeline on my facebook page you will see a photo of me when Trump announced. I was at the bar at Trump Tower. It is of me faking a heart attack and giving the finger.
LB: Which of the Libertarian candidates is best suited to be president of the United States and why?
CP: I am running for chairman, so I have decided to keep a neutral position. I have been very supportive of Gary Johnson. I have known him for five years. However, I did a two-hour interview with John McAfee for the site, and I have to say he is an extremely intelligent guy. I think he could appeal to a different demographic of people in the tech world. Everybody knows who he is. Maybe not for the best reasons, but everybody knows who he is. Austin Petersen? (laughs) I have not been the most friendly to Austin. This is what I will say about Austin: He has managed to get a fanbase that . . . He has managed to get a fanbase and that is good for him.
Regarding the others, just a quick sentence on each one:
Marc Feldman is a very nice guy, extremely intelligent.
Darrell Perry: I am personally not an anarcho-capitalist, but he more than anyone has put his life into the Liberty Movement, and I think he deserves a lot of respect for that.
Kevin McCormick I got to know recently. I like him a lot. He represents the everyman.
There are some people I don’t think I could proudly say I am the chairman of a party with them as the nominee. I mean, we know the names. I am not going to mention them, but they need a big reality check. It’s nothing against them personally, it is just that their platform in some places does not really represent the Libertarian Party at all and it just kind of confuses me why they have been able to get into some of these debates saying some very bizarre things. Overall, if the five or six major candidates I would vote for all of them and would be pretty happy.
LB: What is your opinion on the Fox Business Libertarian Candidate Forum earlier this year? Who do you think won, and how do you think the forum can improve?
CP: I interviewed John Stossel and just got a call that he has lung cancer. I am very upset about that. He is a very nice guy and he has been one of the best leaders of the Liberty Movement.
The Fox Business Debate, I think, was a confidence builder for many Libertarians. It made them think this was going to be our election, that we are going to become Ross Perot. I don’t think the debate itself really moved a lot of Democrats or Republicans our way. I think the people who watched it, overwhelmingly, were people who were prepared to vote Libertarian anyway. But if a million people or a hundred thousand people who saw it who were not otherwise libertarian changed their minds? Great. But who won the debate? As far as who was the best spoken, John McAfee was clearly the best spoken. He sounded the most intelligent. In terms of appealing to Libertarians, Austin Petersen probably did best. He really did talk well. He did say some things that appeal to the base. As far as speaking to everyday people? Gary Johnson. If you had never heard of any of these three people before, he probably came off the best. They all won and lost in their own respect. I don’t think it was good where John McAfee openly confessed to being drunk and having a gun on him. That was not the best move. I thought Austin Petersen was a little nervous, and Gary Johnson was a little wonkish. They all have some faults they need to get over, but Donald Trump is the most confused speaker of all time, so I think they are all better than him.
LB: Why in your view should disaffected Republicans and Democrats consider the Libertarian Presidential candidates?
CP: When it came to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, I encouraged everyone to vote for Gary Johnson. When I look at Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I think: This is just terrible. These are the two worst candidates ever. Mitt Romney, as bad as he was, wasn’t Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is so corrupt, she is a female Richard Nixon. How the Hell can anyone look at it and think this is good? I took Roseanne Barr’s candidacy more seriously than Trump’s. We are talking about John McAfee’s legal issues. I think Hillary Clinton is probably closer to a jail cell than anyone else. So the two major parties are running complete jokes. I think John Kasich, Ted Cruz, Andrew Cuomo would have all been a little more practical. They’re not going to get the nomination, and I would not have voted for them, but they would have all been better. The current election is a complete disaster. If it is Trump versus Hillary and the Libertarian Party does not break ten percent, it’s not Gary’s fault, it’s not John’s fault, it’s not Austin’s fault– it’s the Libertarian Party’s fault. What I am afraid of is we might not come in third place this time. I think disaffected Sanders supporters will vote Green Party. If they break three percent or five percent, and the Libertarian Party is stuck at one percent again, that will be depressing. If we do not break ten percent, I think it is our party’s fault and not any of the candidates’ fault.
LB: Do you think holding a political office is an important prerequisite to becoming president? If so why, and if not, how should voters evaluate each candidate?
CP: On the Republican side Donald Trump, who has never held political office. That makes me think that one should have experience in politics. Then we have Hillary Clinton who’s been in office many, many years, and she makes me think one shouldn’t hold political office. The last president who never held a political office besides an ambassadorship was Herbert Hoover. In my opinion, Herbert Hoover was, next to FDR and Woodrow Wilson, the worst president and he was, unlike them, a very bad manager. In the end, I think it is important to hold office. That’s, what I think, gives Gary Johnson a huge front-runner status. He has a very visible advantage. It’s not the only thing. Other than holding office, there’s experience in other aspects of life. There’s where you stand on the issues, but experience is a clear advantage and it is an important factor.
LB: What is the most dangerous policy you have heard suggested in this election so far and why?
CP: That is a tough question. I really dislike Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
From Donald Trump, it’s the idea you could just deport twenty million people. That would not only cost a trillion dollars, it would probably cause a civil war. If you tell people in Los Angeles, New York, and Texas that their friends and family are going to get deported, people will fight back. The good thing is it will never happen, but the fact that Trump claims to be serious about it is depressing.
Bernie Sanders’ economic views would tank the economy like mixing rat poison with gasoline and drinking it. I like him on social issues. I think he is okay on foreign policy. But on the economy it is just– I mean a fifteen dollar minimum wage? His tax plan? Our government currently spends 23 percent of GDP for the federal government and about seven to eight percent goes to state and local. With Bernie Sanders we go from about 23 percent to 35 percent, and then, not to factor in a GDP loss, we could go to 45 percent. A lot of people, such as the CBO, have said that Sanders plan could lead to a 5 to 15 percent GDP loss as well as a big slowdown while the government goes up. So if you factor in the 7 to 8 percent for state and local government and factor in this massive increase in the federal government, the United States government under Bernie Sanders, will very likely be spending 50 to 60 percent on the government. That puts us above Denmark. That puts us above the rest of the world. China is at 18 percent. So we will lose all the manufacturing jobs. We will be taxed to death. It would be a colossal meltdown. If Bernie Sanders were president I would probably leave the country.
For Donald Trump, his worst positions are on trade and immigration. You cannot have capitalism where you do not have freedom of goods and freedom of labor. Donald Trump wants to install a larger tariff than the Smoot-Hawley Tariff which was signed by Herbert Hoover, who once again was the only businessman not elected to office who ran a campaign similar to Trump. The Smoot-Hawley got signed into law and unemployment went from 6 percent to 15 percent in five months. It was an economic meltdown and Trump’s plan is worse than that. If there was a 35 percent tariff on Chinese or Mexican goods, the Dow would drop fifty percent overnight, and the global commodities markets would skyrocket.
On the immigration front, I just think it is racist what he is proposing. If you go to Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, most people there, Democrats and Republicans, like immigrants. For some reason Ohio, North Dakota, Michigan, states with practically no immigrants, they are the ones who think illegal immigrants are all the problem and I have no idea why that is. The only thing I can conclude is, sadly, maybe a little bit of racism.
LB: Who do you predict will win the presidential election and why?
CP: I’ve learned to never predict bad things. It seems like Hillary Clinton has the win. I am interested to see how the Libertarian Party does, because if we do get over ten percent of the vote as the Monmouth Poll is now predicting– What I would like to see is Clinton get maybe 45 percent of the vote, Donald Trump get 28 or 30 percent of the vote and the Libertarian Party get, I don’t know, 20 percent of the vote. If we get 20 percent of the vote we are going to be the viable guys. We’re going to have a lot of Republicans say they need to be more like the libertarians. And we’re also going to have a lot of Democrats say that? I’m going to probably predict Hillary gets it, but I hope the Libertarian Party is responsible for Donald Trump losing.
LB: What one critical issue do you believe deserves more attention than it is currently receiving and how would you solve it?
CP: Running as chairman, I don’t want to mess with the platform. I would take a couple of issues and make them a bigger priority. One example would be marijuana. It was a very high priority issue for the Libertarian Party. We were the first party in America to give the thumbs up on legalization, and now both major parties want that. I would no longer focus on it because almost no one is against it.
We should focus more on the FDA. I have a lot of friends in the pharmaceutical space. My company is called Pivot Foods, so I know what it takes to get on the shelf for food. The FDA has killed more people than anyone else you could imagine. It slows down technological growth. It makes it so no one puts money into pharmaceuticals, and because of that we are not getting good treatment, and we are not getting access to new drugs. There is probably trillions of dollars that would go into R & D for engineering, bio-engineering. I would guess the majority of Americans could not tell you what FDA stands for, but it is the most important thing out there.
LB: Any last thoughts you would like to share that I have not asked?
CP: I don’t know whether I can call the party “The Libertarian Party.” It represents all of the libertarian principles, but it doesn’t identify with the libertarian movement. Like I said before, Students for Liberty, Young Americans for Liberty, Mises, Cato, and the yn Rand Institute, all raise over $250,000 per year, and some raise 20 million per year. They don’t really want to help out the Libertarian Party. They don’t really care. That is the first thing that needs to be addressed.
15-20 million Americans identify as libertarian on their Facebook profile, yet we’ve only broken a million votes twice. I would like to unify the libertarian base. If we could show up with ten million votes every election cycle, we could actually matter. We need to do more to get the rest of the libertarians to take us seriously. That would probably be the biggest help in the world to get us going.
You can learn more about Mr. Peralo on his website here.