Early last year and through fall of 2019 I was favorable to a Jacob Hornberger candidacy. I was even excited about the prospect, though I made no secret that my first choice was a Justin Amash candidacy. Over the next few months, while preparing for state convention season and while getting to know more members of the party it started to become clear that while Jacob Hornberger had truly libertarian principles he was not a positive figure to many libertarian activists and party members for a variety of reasons.
“But the truth is that I, along with my fellow LP rebels, had a fantastic time throwing a monkey wrench into the convention at the last minute…” he said in July of 2001, in reference to his commitment run for President one week before the 2000 LP National convention after previously suspending his campaign.
I learned the details regarding his falling out with Harry Browne and Hornberger’s 20 year absence from the party, his falling out with the Libertarian Party of Virginia, and his unsuccessful Senate run as an Independent barely 18 months after his Presidential nominee bid in the Libertarian Party. It points to a fact that when given the opportunity to build coalitions with others in the party and work together, he is not interested and attempts to sabotage others under the guise of purity and adherence to his principles. His toxicity and divisiveness became apparent very quickly.
Other quotes reveal that he is aware that many consider him troublesome, “I also acknowledge the horrible charge that some have leveled against me–that I can be quite obnoxious. I agree, and I apologize for that too but think of the big advantage of resolving this whole thing now. It would enable me to turn this talent fully against Democrats and Republicans,” he said in April of 2001.
It is not appropriate to demand that we thank someone for their admitted obnoxiousness. Before you can weaponize that against the duopoly, you have to have enough power to be present on the debate stage to challenge them. Without that you’re shouting into the void at worst or an annoying pest they easily ignore at best. Being dismissed and ignored is not what our activists have spent countless hours of their lives working towards.
The duty of a Presidential nominee is to represent the party well and attract more members, one of the measures we use internally to determine if a candidate was successful. Hornberger seems not to care to attract anyone new to the party, even going so far as to say, “votes don’t matter” during the Libertarian Party of Kentucky’s 5th Presidential debate. Votes, may I remind him, secure ballot access and without that our down ballot candidates will suffer, not just this year but for the following 4 years as well. I am tired of explaining how difficult it is to be on the ballot and how much time and money it costs to accomplish. I am even more tired of explaining why the Libertarian Party runs a Presidential candidate every 4 years even when we haven’t managed to elect any Libertarian Governors, Senators, State Representatives, or Congressmen; largely because of ballot access.
“No accord can be reached with Jacob Hornberger that doesn’t begin with his public acknowledgement, circulated far and wide, that the accusations he’s made against so many different people were untrue and that he has falsely damaged the reputations of dozens of dedicated Libertarians,” Harry Browne said of his behavior.
There is no doubt that Jacob Hornberger is principled. It is also equally clear that he can be a toxic individual when he wants to accomplish his own goals without regard for the damage it may cause. That is a risk the delegates should not take on a Presidential nominee. The Libertarian Party can grow while maintaining our core values, any candidate who doesn’t believe that should not be running for the Presidential nomination. Principles do not make up for toxicity and our party has plenty of toxic personalities to go around. There is no need to enable more of them.