Libertarian Mike Gravel for President?

Is Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Gravel going to seek the Libertarian Party presidential nomination? The former Senator from Alaska spoke to Harvard Democrats on Friday. Here’s the report from the Harvard Crimson:

In an interview after the speech, Gravel said that he had no intention of endorsing the Democratic presidential nominee if he did not receive the party’s nod, adding that he would consider running on the Libertarian Party ticket or as a member of another third party.

In his speech, Gravel condemned Obama for lacking concrete policies. Gravel also said that he feels he is more charismatic than Obama.

Gravel was as harsh on the Republican candidates, saying after the speech that he viewed John McCain as a “warmonger” and was “disturbed” by the religious inclinations of Mike Huckabee.

67 Responses to “Libertarian Mike Gravel for President?”

  1. Eric Larson Says:

    Overall, not a very good fit for the LP. He is on target with the war, drugs, privacy issues but probably not in line on the issue of universal health care, social security, education, or even global warming. I don’t think he would be successful.

  2. Peter M. Says:

    I don’t know if I would consider Gravel to be more charismatic than Obama, but he’s certainly a lot more interesting.

    Politically, I’d see Mike Gravel as possibly a left-libertarian, because of his issues on universal health care, social security, etc. Still, I’d agree that wouldn’t make him particularly popular in the LP, except for a small wing of it.

  3. Richie Says:

    Gravel should jump in the Green race, if he really wants to get somewhere.

  4. Eric Dondero Says:

    Gotta admit, he’d bring star power to the LP. And temperment-wise he sort of fits with the LP. He’s got that “LP look” about him, and that “quirky LP style” and mannerisms. Though, not a perfect fit ideologically.

    Not too mention he is from Alaska. He’s obviously very much aware of the Libertarian Party. If I’m not mistaken, Gravel was a US Senator in the late 1970s and early 1980s, right?

    If so, that’d mean he was serving at the height of the LP of Alaska’s victories: Dick Randolph and Ken Fanning elected to the State Legislature,
    Mayor of Kenai a Libertarian, ect…

    There was probably some contacts there back then. Be interested to ask Randolph what he thinks.

  5. Eric Dondero Says:

    He’d have no chance with the Greens. Cynthia McKinney is a shoe-in on that front.

    BTW, if Sarah Palin is picked as McCain’s VP, and Gravel runs on the LP ticket, can you imagine that for the first time in history we’d have two Alaskans running for National Office. Wow!

  6. Thomas L. Knapp Says:


    Gravel was a Senator from 1969-81. His main claims to fame were two filibusters to stop renewal of the draft, and his reading of the “Pentagon Papers” into the congressional record to keep them from being suppressed. Some good work, IMO. He probably shortened the US debacle in Vietnam by a few months with those efforts.

  7. Eric Dondero Says:

    Then I was indeed correct.

    That’s right smack dab in the middle of the “Alaska Libertarian Party’s glory days.” Randolph was first elected in 1978. Fanning and Randolph elected in 1980. The Mayor of Kenai, Dolph Thompson (?), that same year. By 1982 the LP had 12 elected officials in Alaska.

    Certainly Gravel was aware of the LP, and most likely had some contact if not explicit ties to the Alaska LPers.

    Somebody ought to check back with some real oldtimer LPers on this, like Chuck House, Len Karpinski, Rob Cliff and certainly Dick Randolph. Maybe even Andre Marrou?

    If Gravel could claim some sort of Libertarian Party of Alaska lineage, say, he gave the Party $20.00 at one point, or attended a meeting or two way back in 1980, he’d have a great deal of instant credbility in seeking the LP nomination.

  8. Thomas L. Knapp Says:

    Gravel’s an interesting proposition.

    Healthcare would likely kill him with the party (he’s a “single payer” advocate), but he’s solid on foreign policy and civil liberties and has an interesting environmental record—he supported overturning the Price-Anderson corporate welfare insurance subsidy, and shepherded the Alaska pipeline through the politics, but supports a carbon tax a la the “geolibertarians.”

    If the party is going to nominate a recent ex-other-partier with significant ideological deviations, I’d prefer to see it go Democrat-lite rather than Republican-lite. The most productive thing the LP can do this year is finally and forever break its real and imagined connections with the Republican Party, vote totals be damned. We’re never going to get anywhere as long as we sell ourselves as the GOP’s overflow tank.

  9. Eric Dondero Says:

    Ahh, he could find a way to spin that Health Care stuff. Something to the effect of “I much prefer a free market based single payer system…” If such a thing exists?

    I agree on this point Tom, if the LP moves left with a Gravel, instead of a Righty like Bob Barr, they could steal a great deal of votes away from Barack Hussein. You add a Gravel total to a Cynthia McKinney total, and then throw a quixotic Nader as an Indy campaign on top of that, and you’ve got the makings of a huge hole on Hussein’s left flank.

    I’m not a McCain backer, but I could see where he would greatly benefit from such a scenario.

    If it’s Barr (or Root), McCain will suffer and Hussein will benefit. Though, it would be equaled out cause you’d still have Nader and McKinney on Hussein’s left flank.

  10. Alex Peak Says:

    I like Mr. Gravel, and would be happy to vote for him if he’s the Democratic candidate. He has many wonderfully libertarian policies, and was my second favourite candidate in either of the two Establishment parties (Dr. Paul obviously being the first).

    However, given his opposition to free-market healthcare, I could not support his nomination to the Libertarian Party. Healthcare is a leading issue for me, and although I will overlook certain issues when voting for Democrats and Republicans (my concern simply being that they are much more libertarian than their fellow Establishment party members), I cannot overlook such an important issue when choosing a candidate for a party that should know better (e.g. ours).

    My advice to Mr. Gravel would be this: run again in 2012 for president as a Democrat. You would have gotten ten times more support in ‘08 had Dr. Paul not ran. And if Dr. Paul does not also run in 2012, I’ll support you.

    If you wish to run as a Libertarian, great, but you need to change your position on government-monopoly healthcare, among other things.

    (On the other hand, if we can get Dr. Paul to run for President as a Libertarian in ‘08, I’d be happy to see Mr. Gravel run as our VP.)

    Mr. M:

    I am a left-libertarian, but I completely oppose government involvement in the areas you list (i.e. “[government-monopoly] health care, social security, etc.”). (In fact, I oppose government involvement in everything.)

    Let us not assume that left-libertarianism has anything to do with modern “liberalism.” It does not.

    Mr. Dondero:

    To my knowledge, it wold be impossible to have a “free market based single payer system.” The libertarian position on healthcare is a solid one: our current policies (e.g. Medicare and Medicaid) hurt the poor by driving up the cost of healthcare. Doctors spend most of their time these days working on paperwork, which is why costs are so high. If you’re poor, but just not poor enough to get coverage, you’re screwed. (No nicer way to put it.) The Democrats I’ve talked to who support this system claim that those who want to pay for free market healthcare would still be free to do so; they seem to ignore that that’s just fine if you’re rich, but that most people are not.

    The single-payer system a la Canada is so slow and bureaucratic (the product of treating healthcare as a “right” instead of a market commodity) that many Canadians find themselves coming to America so as to avoid the six-months-long lines and, thus, avoid death and permanent injury.

    There is also the FDA, which effectively keep life-saving drugs off the market and allow would-be survivors to die. It has been concluded by most who have taken a detailed look at the history of the FDA that it ends up killing more people than it save.

    More detailed arguments can be presented, of course, to those who want them.

    Another point I’d like to make concerning what you have written is this: the presence of a third party candidate usually helps, rather than hurts, the Establishment party candidate closest to his or her ideology because it drives more Establishment voters to the polls, out of fear of the third party competition. I suspect that Gore would have lose both the popular and the electoral vote in ‘00 had Nader not run.

    I could potentially support Barr, but I would want to know how he’s progressed ideologically over the past few years first.

    Alex Peak

  11. Red Phillips Says:

    Hey Eric, Nader is a Lebanese Christian, but surely that is a ruse. Barack Hussein Obama also claims to be a Christian, but we all know that is a ruse, given his middle name and all. (The silly gullible masses still think that actually attending a Christian Church* means something. They don’t get how sly these crypto-Muslims can be.) Can’t you come up with some clever rhetorical device to remind all those gullible potential Nader supporters that he is really a closeted Islamofascist also? I just don’t know what we would do without ever vigilant Islamo-detectors like you out there protecting us from ourselves. Gotta go. Need to recheck under my bed. Might be an Islamofascist lurking there.

    *The actual orthodoxy of Obama’s Christian confession is debatable, but that is for another day.

  12. Chris Moore Says:

    Gravel? He managed to raise less money as a major party candidate over the course of more than two years than Badnarik raised as the LP presidential nominee in a couple of months. Hell, Badnarik raised more money as an LP candidate for a congressional race (and he may have received more votes), and no one is claiming that Badnarik was a fundraising machine.

    Gravel brings nothing. No money. No existing support. The current LP candidates bring about the same to the table, but at least most of them are actual libertarians.

  13. LibertarianVoter Says:

    I voted for Mike Gravel in my state’s primary as the most libertarian candidate on the ballot. (I couldn’t vote for Ron Paul because I refuse to register as a Republican.)

    That said, I’m troubled by some of the policies he advocates, as has been expressed above, including his support for “Official English” (follow the link).

    Because I’m looking for the most-principled evangelist for the Libertarian message as possible, I’d vote for Kubby, Phillies, Barr, Root, Williams, Jingozian before I voted for Gravel.

  14. Ayn R. Key Says:

    I can’t say I’d support Gravel as an LP primary candidate, although he’d make the race VERY interesting. I’ll support the LP presidential candidate, even if it is someone awful like Phillies, and having Gravel and Phillies in the same room with real libertarians would make for fascinating debates.

  15. Gene Berkman Says:

    In regard to Alaska politics, I would bet Dick Randolph was closer to C.R. Lewis, who served in the State Senate when Randolph was in the legislature. Lewis, a National Council member of The John Birch Society, was the Republican candidate against Sen. Gravel in 1974.

  16. Trent Hill Says:

    Gene is probably correct,

    Randolph was more conservative than left-leaning, he DID support Paul afterall.

  17. Eric Dondero Says:

    Is Barrack’s “church” really Christian? It seems more like a Muslim Mosque. Have you seen some of the comments of Obama’s “pastor”?

  18. disinter Says:

    Overall, not a very good fit for the LP. He is on target with the war, drugs, privacy issues but

    Did you finally just admit you aren’t a Libertarian?

  19. paul Says:

    Gravel is not perfect, but better than many of the candidates seeking the LP nomination at present.

  20. Red Phillips Says:

    Eric, like I said, the orthodoxy of the United Church of Christ is very much up for debate. But the pontifications of Barack’s pastor have nothing to do with Islam. He is more of a black nationalist.

  21. Jason Gatties Says:

    Paul said it best above.

    Unless Bob Barr announces, I would support Gravel if he ended up seeking the LP nomination, especially seeing as how Ron Paul doesn’t seem interested. I voted for Paul in the Michigan primary because the Democratic primary basically didn’t matter. Had that not been the case, I would have voted for Gravel.

  22. Stine Says:

    Mr. Peak,

    As someone who doesn’t have health insurance because I’m unemployed, I’d take a 6-month wait over a wait-until-I’m-employed-again wait any day of the weak. I’m in a waiting line, too. I have to wait until I find a job and my benefits kick in.

    The debate over health care is essentially a matter of priorities. You and other free market proponents value timeliness of care … and don’t see a problem when the well-to-do get better care than those that don’t have as much money. Those of us that advocate a socialist policy want to be sure that even the poorest (or sometimes not poor enough as you mention) get a modicum of care at the expense of waiting a few weeks or months for it.

  23. Preston Says:

    “Gravel also said that he feels he is more charismatic than Obama.” More humble, too, apparently.

    But hey—can someone post a link to Gravel saying he is single-payer? I was under the impression that he wanted to give out health-care vouchers. Definitely not libertarian, but it still allows for free competition. I’m not trying to make the case that he is a libertarian, he isn’t. But I just want to be clear about where he stands.

  24. David Gaines Says:

    Gravel is not going to be the Libertarian nominee. It’s weird even to talk about it. He would have to suddenly abandon some of his most deeply and fundamentally held beliefs in order to make him acceptable to the LP. I was in the LP for many years and then left it when I rejected libertarianism a long time ago, but I have enough respect for the party not to want to see it used as just another ballot access vehicle with no regard to what its philosophy is all about.

    Alex Peak: “Doctors spend most of their time these days working on paperwork, which is why costs are so high.”

    You’re partially right. Doctors started spending crazy amounts of time on paperwork after Richard Nixon & John Ehrlichman ushered in the HMO era to benefit some of Nixon’s top corporate contributors. This was 6 or 7 years after the establishment of Medicare. It’s not Medicare paperwork they’re drowning in, it’s insurance company and HMO paperwork they’re drowning in. See if you can find a general/internal medicine physician practicing solo these days, i.e. out of the managed care labyrinth. My best friend was a GP doc (he died in 2000) and I heard/saw his problems with health insurance companies at great length and in great detail. And he was no radical lefty, either. But boy did he hate being told how to practice medicine by corporate beancounters.

    The amount of fraud and waste in our so-called free market healthcare system is obscene. We already have about a third of the system under single-payer (more or less) via Medicare, Medicaid, and military healthcare. And this system is vastly more efficient in terms of dollars spent per patient than the HMO/PPO parallel system. So let’s just go all the way.

    As for the Canadians, go ask a few for yourself if they’d rather swap their system for ours. And I mean in toto, not a handful of rich people whining because they have to wait to get plastic surgery. If you want bureaucracy, long waits, and paperwork, go and get involved in any company’s HMO or PPO offerings right here in the USA.

  25. James Carville Says:

    I have insider information that says that Hillary Clinton is likely to seek the Libertarian nomination as well if she loses Texas and Ohio tomorrow. Not knowing much about Libertarian politics, I am tempted to say that she would be the frontrunner if that happens.

  26. Eric Dondero Says:

    Stephen, I posted a blurb and a link to this story over at

  27. Eric Dondero Says:

    You all want to be completely blown away??

    Hillary Clinton just hinted in Ohio that if she doesn’t win she just might support McCain over Obama.

    I shit you not! It’s up right now at

  28. Fred C. Says:

    “Gravel is not going to be the Libertarian nominee. It’s weird even to talk about it. He would have to suddenly abandon some of his most deeply and fundamentally held beliefs in order to make him acceptable to the LP.”

    What’s really weird is that it’s Gravel himself making these suggestions. It’s not the first time either.

  29. Eric Dondero Says:

    Red, you haven’t seen the latest news on Rezko and links to Saddam Hussein. Novak has a big story up today at RCP. It’s amazing. The London Times is now linking Syrian Tony Rezko to an Iraqi Billionaire associate of Saddam Hussein.

    This is all starting to make sense now: Obama’s opposition to the War in Iraq, and such.

  30. Ben Miller Says:

    I too don’t see the Libertarian Party as the party that would nominate Mike Gravel. I would have to agree that Gravel would be a better match for the Greens.

    But is there realy a call for him to run as a third party candidate? I think it would be a better idea for him to endorse Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader. Perhaps he could be a potential running mate for McKinney.

  31. George Phillies Says:

    I am in a bit of minority, because I am a Presidential candidate. In particular, I am so far as I know the only Libertarian candidate to have debated one of the top 10 D or top 10 R candidates, namely at the 2006 LPNH state convention Senator Gravel and I competed for the vote of one LPNH delegate. We did the debate the intelligent way. I presented for 10 minutes, and got 10 minutes of questions on my issues. Then he presented for 10 minutes, and got 10 minutes of questions on his issues. Our issues had nothing to do with each other, except on a few points like ending the War on Iraq where we agreed, so the debate structure worked well. The audience got to hear each of us on our issues, without wasting time on having us talk on the other man’s issues when it was not important to do so.

    To my ear, Gravel’s most radical issue was that he was an antiConstitutionalist. Of course, Constitutionalism is not Libertarianism, but Gravel was consciousness-raising for our Constitutionalist faction. His primary platform plank was National Initiative and Referendum, with the Natioanl Referendum becoming the SOLE supreme law of the land. All other laws, such as the Constitution, treaties, and acts of Congress, became subservient to the National Referendum.

    I am not expressing an opinion as to whether his ideas were good or bad, because that is not the point of my description.

  32. Seth Cohn Says:

    Just for clarity to George’s post above:

    LPNH conventions, by tradition, offer a pledge of one first round vote to candidates who seek the LPNH’s support. Mary Ruwart was awarded one of these pledges (earned 3 years ago), and George currently has 2 such pledges, from 2006’s and 2007’s LPNH conventions.

    Gravel showed up in NH, seeking supporters left and right (mostly left) and personally asked to address the 2006 LPNH convention, seeking support.

    Yet George easily won the support of the LPNH crowd in 2006 (I believe the only (secret ballot) vote for Gravel was a sympathy vote cast for him to avoid a total shutout), because Gravel is a oldschool Populist and doesn’t really understand Libertarians… which is why he’s in no way a contender for the LP nomination in any serious way. End of Story.

  33. timothy west Says:

    liberterians themselves have no idea or consensus about who is or isn’t a libertarian. How can you represent these ideas outside the party?

  34. Eric Dondero Says:

    Yes, we do have consensus: Social tolerance and Tax Cuts. Simple as that.

  35. William Outlaw Says:

    “Can’t you come up with some clever rhetorical device to remind all those gullible potential Nader supporters that he is really a closeted Islamofascist also?”

    I have an idea - Nader the Jew Hader. Nader has scandalously acknowledged that the Palestinians are actually members of the human race and has pointed out the influence of “the lobby” so he obviously hates Jews.

  36. Dylan Waco Says:

    I rather like Gravel, who is something of a populist in the original sense of the term. That said, I don’t see anyway that a guy who publicly admitted he bilked the credit card companies to fuel a political campaign because they “deserved it”, is going to get the nomination of a party that is essentially a platform for laissez-faire economics.

  37. Sean Scallon Says:

    Gee where’s Robert Miles when you need him? Gravel would be his dream candidate for his fanicful “Progressive-Libertarian alliance.”

    It’s interesting Gravel would mention the Libertarians as a possible new home for him rather than the Greens which I thought would be his more natural base. But this election cycle has seen the emergence of so-called “left-Libertarians” or at least people who call themselves this like Dennis Kucinich, another former Dem presidential candidate. Miles may be reaching across the continent if he thinks leftists like the Greens can work with the Libertarians but when you think about it he’s not completly off the mark when identifying someone like Gravel who’s an environmentalist but is not going to let the EPA boss around Alaskans any more than he would let Big Oil or Big Mining or Big Timber companies either. Gravel does fill that gap between the Greens and the LP that could be the basis for a new coalition if that’s the direction the LP wants to go.

    The LP could go left with Gravel, right with Barr, neocon with Root or stay them same with Phillies or Kubby. It should be a fascinating LP convention.

  38. Ayn R. Key Says:

    Eric spaketh thus: Hillary Clinton just hinted in Ohio that if she doesn’t win she just might support McCain over Obama.

    Of course, neocons flock together. I guess this makes Hillary as much a mainstream libertarian democrat as McCain a mainstream libertairan repbulican, using definitions of libertarian that allow statists like yourself to use the label.

    Eric spaketh thus: Yes, we do have consensus: Social tolerance and Tax Cuts. Simple as that.

    Understated twice.

    You define social tolerance as being pro-choice on abortion, and drop all the rest of the social side of the libertarian platform. It’s more than just “social tolerance”. We openly advocate repeal of laws on social issues, believing the maxim “no victim no crime.”

    You define our fiscal policy as tax cuts, and drop all the rest of the fiscal side of the libertarian platform. It’s more than just tax cuts. We openly advocate massive spending cuts and outright elimination of many programs and a firmly balanced budget.

  39. Dave Williams Says:

    “I have insider information that says that Hillary Clinton is likely to seek the Libertarian nomination as well if she loses Texas and Ohio tomorrow. Not knowing much about Libertarian politics, I am tempted to say that she would be the frontrunner if that happens.”

    Posting as James Carville now? Rumor Control dude? Shit stirrer central? You are the man ‘Nadboy’.

  40. Dave Williams Says:

    Oh, I almost forgot, Gravel is a FLAKE!

  41. Phil Sawyer Says:

    The Libertarian Party should have offered its presidential nomination to Eugene J. McCarthy in 1976. It did not do so and the Party has never amounted to much ever since.

    The best thing that the Libertarian Party can do this year is to nominate Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez for president and vice president!

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