Driving the somber backroads of southeastern Connecticut at night is always a tense experience. These roads bend quickly, both around ancient trees and over desolate farm hills. Sure, you can try to drown out the eeriness by blasting The Doors at full volume and incoherently screaming into the darkness. But even doing this, you won't be able to shake the ominous feeling that somehow something just isn't right.
These streets are always foggy -- as if some ghostly smoke is still rising from the embers of King Philip's War. Dead trees reach out of murky swamp-water like goblin claws cursing the sky. To walk through this country alone at night one would have to be fully loaded up on shamanic mushrooms and prepared for an intense, life-changing spiritual battle.
These are haunted grounds, places with names like "Witch Meadow," "Devil's Hopyard" and "Mystic." The earth shakes down here sometimes for no reason and local nutmeggers have been plagued by strange "noises" since they first arrived here on wooden ships.
When I was young, adults would whisper rumors about Satan-worship in these forests. People would often come by bizarre stone etchings or chickens strung up in the trees by their entrails.
"It's some animal doing this," the police would explain. "A mountain lion mated with a wolverine and their offspring is attacking livestock. If you hear any sounds like chanting in a forgotten language, just close the windows and turn your TV volume up as high as it will go. Everything will be fine."
That was a lie, of course. As are whatever pathetic official explanations there are for all of the inexplicable boulder-stacks, pentagram-shaped shacks, and abandoned 1940s ambulances that are out in the forests here.
Make no mistake about it: there's black magic in this land -- which is also probably why the two biggest casinos in the United States are here.
What would provoke me to drive down these roads alone on a Saturday evening? Why wouldn't I stay home watching some old VHS tape of William Shatner telling horse jokes? Why would I risk taking the Wrong Turn and suddenly becoming a human sacrifice for Connecticut's purple-hooded elite?
Well, primarily out of boredom... But also to cover the story.
You see, last Saturday was the night that the Libertarian Party of Connecticut was holding their 2018 convention at a bar called The Deck in the little coastal town of Westbrook.
The fact that the Libertarians decided to have their Convention at a bar added some extra incentive, of course. And, according to the Party's Facebook page, if you said "taxation is theft" you could get beers for only $3.
In truth, the Convention had started around Noon. I missed most of it since I had spent the afternoon cleaning up my yard from the second of three nor'easters we were to have in 11 days. But I made a point of getting there for 7pm in order to see a man that I had been communicating with via email months earlier.
I'm not sure when I had heard the name Larry Sharpe. I believe it must have been around the time of the 2016 Libertarian National Convention in Orlando. I had actually considered going to that shitshow. In fact, I had even considered serving as a delegate -- which caused John McAfee to write me a postcard soliciting my support. But at the last minute I decided not to go. And so I missed the drama over the Party's Vice Presidential nomination.
During that 2016 Convention, it took two ballots for former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld (once R, now L) to get the Party's nomination. Despite having Presidential nominee Gary Johnson's active support, a whole lot of Libertarians did not want Weld as their VP nominee. Instead they backed a handsome and charismatic 47-year-old named Larry Sharpe.
There's a lot to the Larry Sharpe story: He's a child of adoption, a US Marine, a University of Maryland graduate, a business consultant, and since 2012, one of the most coherent voices in the increasingly-incomprehensible Libertarian Party.
When Sharpe lost the nomination to Weld, it was similar to Regan losing the GOP nomination to Ford in '76. Sure he was edged out by the favorite. But his showing was so good that everyone should've seen the writing on the wall immediately:
Larry Sharpe is the future of the Libertarian Party.
As Politco recently said of Sharpe, he is a "rarity: a serious Libertarian candidate."
This past summer, Sharpe announced that he was going to be running for Governor of New York. This caused me to immediately berate him to be a guest on my podcast.
"I'm a big goddamn deal!" I kept writing to him in drunken emails. "Why are you wasting your time with bums like Tom Woods? I've had Ron Paul and John McAfee and Adam Kokesh on my show! This is the place for stars, man! What the Christ are you waiting for, dude?"
For some reason, we weren't able to schedule the interview at that time.
So this was largely my motivation for driving to Westbrook on March the 10th: To finally corner Sharpe on my home turf and accost him with questions about obscure 19th century anarchists.
I got there right as Sharpe was getting ready to take the "stage" -- which was really just more of a beer-soaked area in front of some screens. I hurried past some House and Senate candidates to the front row, propped up my camera, and started recording right when Larry started speaking.
Then a funny thing happened: Sharpe gave one of the best libertarian speeches I've ever seen in person.
He immediately started off talking about philosophy: "We have a culture where we believe that government is righteous, that law is righteous."
Then he moved on to how the average American doesn't think in the same terms as Libertarians: "They can't imagine a world without government."
And then he tied this in to how Libertarians need to get their act together before they start demanding that voters dissolve the federal government:
"If we don't communicate effectively, if we don't understand that this is what we're up against, people will become afraid... Those people who you call dumb, those people who you call statists, those people who you attack, they vote our rights away every single year."
While these observations are pretty basic -- especially anyone who isn't a libertarian -- hearing these words at a Libertarian Party Convention struck a strong chord.
Here was a man who was able to not only communicate in libertarian terms -- which is far more than Gary Johnson or Bill Weld or Bob Barr could ever do. Here was a man who could also teach libertarians how to communicate with most other voters!
Beyond that, a Libertarian Party activist acknowledging the possibility of Amish-like voluntary socialist enclaves existing in a free society was one hell of a head trip. Aren't we supposed to be threatening helicopter violence against anyone who doesn't pledge allegiance to the word "privatization"?
All of this was a little too bizarre for me. Was there really here, in this half-filled bar on the coast of Long Island Sound, someone who could help Libertarians understand their own philosophy and then communicate those principles in terms that the average voter would understand?
After Larry was finished speaking -- and after I stole some End the Fed and The State Sucks pins from Darryl Perry's table when he was in the bathroom -- I finally decided to meet Larry in person.
"Hi, Larry," I said timidly. "I'm the host of PRIMO NUTMEG."
"Oh, yeah," he smiled. "Did we ever schedule that interview?"
"Jesus," I said. "You're still willing to go through with that? Didn't you hear what a horrible train-wreck my interview with Stephanie Kelton was?"
"No," he smirked. "What happened with that?"
"Oh, right," I remembered. "I haven't posted that one yet... Okay. When can we do this?"
And so this past Wednesday I finally had my phone conversation with Larry Sharpe. Over the course of 40 minutes, he knocked down one question after another:
Ron Paul? He's awesome. Gary Johnson? More of an instinctual candidate. Geolibertarianism? We need to move the needle generally towards libertarianism first. End the Fed? People need to even understand what the Fed is first. Cut taxes? Let's talk about cutting spending so there's less of a battlecry for taxes.
Finally, at the end of the show we got to the subject of the Libertarian Party. I listed as many of the recent problems within the Libertarian Party as I could remember offhand:
First there was nominating candidates like Bob Barr, Gary Johnson and Bill Weld.
Then there's the drug-induced social media posts seemingly supporting gun control, three-person marriages and Satanism.
And then there's Nick Sarwark's attacks on Ron Paul and the recent confusion over whether or not Paul was rejected from speaking at the Libertarian convention.
I probably could have gone on listing all of these perplexing, unnecessary and tragic moments in the history of the only political party that is supposed to be standing up for peace and liberty.
Were all of these instances effectively arguments against those ideals?
Sharpe didn't think so:
"Because we have an actual ideology," he said, "it means we fight. Because we have things to fight over."
"The Libertarian Party has a bad culture. We have a culture of losing. We've been winning arguments and losing elections for the last 45 years. That doesn't go away overnight... And a lot of people, very simply, don't know how to act. They don't know how to act! Do you know how hard it is for me to find Libertarian talent? It's difficult."
"We have trouble messaging. Correct. We have trouble with lots of things. You're right. It is a problem. But it's not one that can't be totally repaired. It can be repaired. It will just take some time. And this is part of the growing pains that we have."
And it's a good thing that Larry Sharpe is leading that charge.
In a lot of ways, Sharpe is like an early William Wallace. Or, at the very least, a business consultant who has a firm grasp on both the libertarian product and the political marketplace.
Here is the libertarian movement as fragmented Scotland: so many bickering clans arguing over dusty scrolls filled with the words of Mises or Rand. Free market literati raging to keep century-old feuds burning. Supposed-compatriots always hoping to pick a fight over theories of value and whatever the hell the Lockean proviso is... Then, in their free time, also lashing out at a senile uncle on Facebook because he can't admit that the State is violence.
Larry Sharpe is a different political animal. He knows that you can't put a naked fat man on national television and expect voters to start voting away state welfare programs as a result. And, what's more, he also knows that you can't just run a Republican as a Libertarian and expect that to actually change policy.
Sharpe is one of the few libertarians who sees how politics actually works: You need a philosophy and you need to be able to calmly introduce radical ideas to a mass audience who have been programed for generations. And, what's more, you need to be able to win over that audience.
In the end, Sharpe is right: Libertarians have been conditioned to lose. Not just conditioned to lose elections -- which a lot of them would be fine with -- but conditioned to lose the war of ideas in popular culture.
It's only by breaking that conditioning, by learning how to effectively communicate the genius of liberty with all of mankind, that the libertarians will every be able to actually find real freedom.