I remember my reaction when I first heard that Rupert Boneham had an interest in seeking the Libertarian nomination for Indiana Governor. I thought, "Oh, great. A reality show TV star. We work so hard, so long to be taken seriously, and we'll be cast as a joke party." He had no prior involvement in politics, but he is instantly recognizable by many thanks to his appearances on the show "Survivor".
The thought of the publicity he could bring to the Libertarian Party looked like a plus. People who would otherwise not be checking out the LP now would, and that's great. But what about his policy positions? If you see a tie-dyed tank top on a man everywhere he goes, is it because that's how he's come to brand himself, or is it that he's a bit of a pothead? Does he know anything about libertarian philosophy or policy solutions?
The Hamilton County LP hosted its monthly Meet-Up last night, and Rupert spoke for about 15 minutes. The biggest issue for Rupert? Getting government out of charities. He went on to detail how state and federal agencies have interfered with the business of his charity, Rupert's Kids, draining it of money and time, replacing those things with nothing. He works with troubled youth, with the intention of setting them up with life skills, including vocational trades. He speaks knowingly, and with passion for the kids in his programs. He observed over time that private charity succeeds when it moves kids out of their programs and into the adult workforce. Government charity has the effect of keeping people in the system, and vastly less functional.
Some libertarians may not be as excited to hear him talk about education, where he takes a destinational approach rather than directional. He spoke about eliminating some administration, moving education away from the state and back into local control, eliminating I-Step, and increasing vocational training and life skills training. He doesn't sound like Murray Rothbard, but rather Milton Friedman.
But on the whole, Rupert groks libertarianism far more than I expected at the onset. And, he's a great spokesman in this setting at least, being about 20 people. People in the restaurant kept coming over, and eventually he went over to sit with a table of fans that waited for him to end his presentation to us. People took a real interest in everything he said.
I like to reserve judgment on endorsing candidates until I've seen them in many situations. He's got the interpersonal down. Of course he has TV down. I'd love to see him on a bigger stage, and would love to hear him on the radio with a host that is less than friendly, to see how he performs. After all, the governor's candidates are standard bearers for the parties. They do public debates, and have to hold their own, while putting across a distinct message, and in our case, one that represents libertarian values.
As to the political mechanics, there were a lot of grumbles within libertarian circles several months ago about the idea of Rupert as standard bearer for the LPIN. At the same time, those grumbling haven't stepped forward to run themselves, nor have they recruited a candidate to advance a different platform. I don't know what this represents, whether it's a concession of some sort or laziness. It's disappointing because I really like contested conventions. It's good for the organization to have competing viewpoints make their cases, with the best articulated winning the day. Grumbling and muttering doesn't accomplish anything in particular. The phenomenon of one believing they have a superior outlook and then sandbagging it is most peculiar to me.