Posted on June 1, 2022

Mises Caucus Takes Control of Libertarian Party

Brian Doherty, Reason, May 29, 2022

A four-year battle for control of the Libertarian Party (L.P.) ended Saturday in Reno with a victory for the Mises Caucus at the party’s national convention. The faction’s chosen candidate for chair of the party’s national committee, Angela McArdle, won on the first round of balloting with 692 votes—more than 69 percent of the voting delegates.

McArdle’s first tweet after winning was characteristic of her caucus’ style: It mocked the L.P.’s recent past, quote-tweeting a March 2020 post that mentioned social distancing. She told the convention Friday she would not allow the party to “humiliate ourselves and alienate everyone” when faced with the next COVID-style crisis.

McArdle, a paralegal and current chair of the Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County, said in her speech to the convention Friday that the government response to COVID has left many working-class Americans thirsty for personal liberty, and “we don’t want to ignore them.” They have, she argued, “low-resolution views of freedom…and we need to bring that vision into focus by communicating our message clearly and by supporting our candidates and affiliates.”

While McArdle was the Mises Caucus candidate, the behind-the-scenes mastermind of its victory was caucus founder and leader Michael Heise. His disapproval of William Weld, Gary Johnson’s running mate in 2016, was an initial inspiration for the caucus’ launch. He found Weld painfully lacking in libertarian orthodoxy, especially when it came to issues such as war and gun regulations.

The caucus’s official platform is plumb-line libertarian, but its foes say that too many Mises Caucus members and fans downplay libertarian positions that might offend the right, are intentionally obnoxious and bullying, and are often racist. For example, the New Hampshire L.P., a powerful vector of Mises Caucus messaging, tweeted on Martin Luther King Day that “America isn’t in debt to black people. If anything it’s the other way around.” (The tweet was later deleted.)

The sense the caucus is soft on or actively encourages racism attracted the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center just before the convention began, which aired the concerns in a story reported with cooperation from many Libertarian Party members upset with the Mises Caucus.

Both Heise and Mises Caucus stalwart Joshua Smith, who won the vice-chair election Saturday, denied the charges of racism. Heise* said in a phone interview prior to the convention that the basic vibe they are seeking is online youths into edgy comedic podcasts, a new counterculture for whom the old L.P. holds little appeal. Heise believes that the current rumored frontrunner for a Mises Caucus–approved presidential nominee in 2024, comedian and podcaster Dave Smith, is so well-connected to the Joe Rogan world that legacy respectable mainstream media will be meaningless for party messaging moving forward.

In his nominating speech for McArdle before the vote, libertarian antiwar author and podcaster Scott Horton insisted that he’s seen thousands of new convention-attending members energized by the Mises Caucus in the last couple of years. (The last non-presidential L.P. convention I covered, in 2006, had only slightly more than 300 delegates and I doubt more than 20 of them were under 30 years old. This convention drew more than 1,000, and while this is only a guess based on pacing around a huge packed room for a couple of days, I’d say one-third of them might have been under 35.)

Meanwhile, during that same period, fierce factional dueling has played out in hundreds of hours of podcasts, hundreds of thousands of words of tweets and Facebook threads, and often on the business listserv of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC) itself. One such fight, summed up at length in Reason in June, involved a faction of non-Mises libertarians in New Hampshire attempting to create a new L.P. affiliate so that the national party could disaffiliate the Mises-dominated one and recognize the new one. The gambit, which ultimately failed, led to the resignation of then-national chair Joe Bishop-Henchman and caused one of the party’s few elected officials, Dekalb, Illinois, City Clerk Sasha Cohen, to quit in protest as well, saying “we are a big tent party, but no tent is big enough to hold racists and people of color, transphobes and trans people, bigots and their victims.”


Two former significant donors to the L.P., Kyle Varner and Michael Chastain, both with decadeslong history in the party, did say in phone interviews that the Mises turn, which they see as importing a level of racist edgelording they have no taste for, has made them stop funding L.P. candidates. Such defections are particularly relevant in this environment: The national L.P. has just had three months in a row of spending exceeding income, and the number of active donors has been falling for seven straight months.

Varner and Chastain see a distinctly right-wing culture and policy bent from the Mises faction. The caucus, whose whipping of its team proved very effective at the convention (combining Discord channels and physical signs waved on the floor featuring Ron Paul saying “yes” and Bill Weld saying “no”), wants to eliminate from the L.P.’s platform a statement that “we condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant.” (This first entered the platform in 1974, though it has not remained there consistently.)


A document of internal Mises Caucus strategizing that began circulating before the convention explicitly said—with reference to the plan to eliminate the line about bigotry being irrational and repugnant—that “one of the major goals of the Mises Caucus is to make the LP appealing to the wider liberty movement that is largely not currently here with us. That movement strongly rejects wokeism and the word games associated with it. This along with the deletion of the abortion plank will display that there are serious cultural changes in the party that are more representative of that movement.” {snip}