OLYMPIA — Campaign season often consists of candidates promising to give things to voters. In a rally Monday, Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee Jeremy “Spike” Cohen went the other away, vowing to take things away.
Speaking on the state Capitol campus, Cohen checked off a list that included — but wasn’t limited to — ending: the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Reserve, the war on drugs, civil asset forfeiture and mandatory minimum sentences.
“Ending every single bad policy that they have put in place, and putting the power back in your hands where it always belongs,” Cohen said through a bullhorn to a crowd of about 100 people.
Cohen went on to excoriate “they,” the Republicans and Democrats he said wanted to keep people divided, angry and scared.
With his Libertarian Party running mate, presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen, a Clemson University professor, Cohen has his work cut out for him.
Minor political parties have faced uphill battles in elections. In 2016, in what could be considered a good showing, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson drew 5% of the vote in Washington. Johnson — and his vice presidential running mate Bill Weld — were both former GOP governors.
This year’s Nov. 3 general election may be even tougher than usual for minor parties to attempt to break through.
This year, the Libertarian Party and others must contend with the bitter political divisions between Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joseph Biden — and swaths of America that firmly believe each should be elected.
Regardless, Cohen — an entrepreneur who started and owned a web design firm before moving into libertarian politics — Monday sought to build a case against both.
He blamed Biden for a host of problems — from America’s recent wars and government surveillance on citizens, to the war on drugs — by calling attention to Biden’s decades in public service, in the U.S. Senate and as vice president.
Cohen went on to criticize Trump’s career, calling him a “lifelong crony who has used the power of government to enrich himself at the direct expense of those around him.”
Rallygoers — who were about as likely to wear sidearms as they were facial coverings to protect against the new coronavirus — cheered Cohen’s lines. At times, they chanted “end the wars” and “end the Fed.”
After his speech, Cohen took questions from the audience, including one from Yelm resident Matthew Lee, who asked how the candidate would improve health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Here’s our answer to the VA,” said Cohen. “We have found that it would actually be better to simply give you that money so you can go and get the health care you need … and just dismantling the VA entirely.”
Lee, 22, said he served in the Marines after enlisting at a young age — and he liked Cohen’s answer on health care.
“Very strong charismatic person, very good communication skills,” said Lee, who added that he voted in 2016 for Libertarian candidate Johnson.
Monday’s political rally was the first he had ever attended, Lee said, and he would be voting Libertarian again this fall.