The Conscience of a Libertarian 1/2
It’s extraordinary and strange to think of, but none of this would’ve happened had it not been for Evan Mecham.
In the Republican primaries for the 1990 Arizona gubernatorial election, the disgraced former governor made a surprisingly narrow victory over Fife Symington, shocking many Arizonians who couldn’t believe that the racist impeached crook still had fans. Mecham was a colorful figure, but those hues were some sort of a sickly pale green. Realizing an unlikely opportunity had occurred, David Nolan stated that he would run for the governorship as a candidate for the Libertarian Party, the very organization he founded in the early 1970s.
Nolan got his first boost when he was endorsed by the iconic former senator Barry Goldwater. “Mecham has disgraced the office, and made a mockery of our state,” Goldwater stated in a widely-seen television interview, “Endorsing Mr. Nolan is the only sensitive and sane thing to do, he is the sole remaining candidate who stands for a free and prosperous Arizona.” Quickly, the Nolan team was able to run advertisements across various media platforms of Mecham in unflattering and barely caricatured light.
The funny thing about Arizona’s gubernatorial elections is that if a candidate did not get a majority of the vote it would move to a runoff. The election night results indicated that this would be the case this year:
Rose Mofford (D): 35.1%
David Nolan (L): 33.5%
Evan Mecham (R): 31.4%
At once a runoff between Mofford and Nolan was called for, receiving quite a bit of coverage in the national press. The Nolan campaign was met with new challenges fighting against a Democrat, but they worked hard to attract the support of political independents and other typically apolitical demographics. “Small Government, Big Solutions” was their populist catchphrase, as seen upon many a Maricopa County car’s bumper sticker. The results spoke for themselves:
The third-party Nolan became something of a minor political celebrity as the nation’s first Libertarian Party governor. Nolan pledged to finish his first term in office before seeking any higher ambitions, but nonetheless his status as governor played a role in the 1992 election, though he was not on any tickets.
Andre Marrou’s ambitious hunt for the presidency was aided by Nolan serving as proof that libertarian politics could function. Helped along by President Bush’s historic unpopularity, Marrou became the strongest third-party candidate since Theodore Roosevelt, winning Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, and New Hampshire.
A new party system had begun.
In 1994, Nolan won reelection against Democrat, and former mayor of Phoenix, Terry Goddard, and Republican businesswoman Barbara Barrett. The Libertarians were winning local elections in many states under the leadership of Party chairman Ron Paul, much to the distress of the GOP. ’94 also brought many to win seats in the federal House of Representatives. Even some famous Republicans, like Patrick Buchanan and Ross Perot, endorsed the party; in addition the Koch brothers pumped their vast fortune into the veins of the emerging beast.
1996 saw Nolan make his first run for the presidency himself, with Harry Browne as his running mate. By coming in second place, the two cemented the unfortunately waning powers of Republican Party, still hooked on big government conservatism.
2000 would see Nolan reach dreams that he thought impossible when he founded his little party decades ago with a small group of friends united in opposition to Richard Nixon…