Media Pundits Aren't Listeneing to Libertarian Harry Browne

The most frustrating thing about Libertarian presidential candidate Harry Browne's campaign, according to New York state party chairman Lloyd Wright, is that no one seems to want to acknowledge that he's running.The news media don't report on him. The National Commission on Presidential Debates won't include him. And even pollsters give him the cold shoulder."When these national polls are being conducted, Libertarian Harry Browne is not a choice being offered," Wright said. "They don't even list him. So it's difficult. One of the criteria of the debate commission is a certain position in the national polls. When they don't even offer him as an actual choice, it's hard to get a percentage!"There are many ironies in Browne's failure to get the attention he needs to run a successful campaign for the presidency. His exclusion from opinion polls--Browne will be on every state ballot, while Green candidate Ralph Nader, who is included in many national polls, will appear on fewer than half--and from nationally televised debates is just one of them. There's also the fact that the Libertarians had established themselves solidly as America's third-place political party well before upstart H. Ross Perot came on the scene. And the fact that the media love to comment on Americans' anti-government backlash--but not on the candidate who takes the strongest stand against government's reach. And the fact that the candidate may well have torpedoed himself on the matter of name recognition by refusing to accept Federal Elections Commission funds to which he's entitled, leaving him with comparatively little to spend on advertising.It's mainly because of that last fact that the Libertarians are now conducting the bulk of their campaign on-line--word of mouth and furor against attempted government intrusion have combined to give Browne a fanatical following among Internet users--and on the radio. With little to spend, the Browne campaign has been trying to generate a buzz through talk radio appearances and through radio ads targeted at markets where they can make the biggest splash, including Washington, D.C. "It has worked in getting us some endorsements to be in the debates, [Washington Post columnist] David Broder being one, but it has not worked tremendously," Wright admitted.Browne's exclusion from the presidential debates is the sorest point with the party: the Libertarians lobbied furiously for his inclusion, which was their primary campaign goal. "Given the bipartisan nature of the [debate] commission, that wasn't a big surprise for us," Wright said. (The commission, founded by ex-chairmen of the Democratic and Republican parties, maintains that it is "nonpartisan. ") The party's "only consolation," according to Wright, is that CNN's Larry King Live has scheduled a "quasi-debate" with Browne, Nader and perennial New Alliance candidate John Hagelin after each official debate.In existence for 25 years, with 128,000 registered Libertarian voters in more than 20 states and 20,000 paid party members (up 67 percent since the beginning of this year), the Libertarians can hardly be called a fringe party--although, perhaps catching the scent of discontent in the air, they've taken a harder line this year than they have in the past, including in their platform such radical planks as elimination of the IRS and the income tax, a 50 percent cut in the federal budget, privatization of Social Security and total drug legalization, including a universal pardon for all nonviolent drug offenders."We believe in more freedom and less government," Wright summarized. "The government should focus on protecting the people and their rights and their property from force and fraud. Everything else, it should get out of people's lives."Browne is a 63-year-old investment consultant and author of several books on libertarian philosophy and financial strategies (including You Can Profit From a Monetary Crisis, a New York Times No. 1 best-seller). He has never held political office, nor has his running mate, high-tech entrepreneur Jo Jorgensen. Browne and Jorgensen will be making campaign appearances in various cities up until the election.

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