A New Face in the Republican Party: An Interview with Austin Petersen

At the Young Americans for Liberty Convention that is currently ongoing, Missouri Senate candidate Austin Petersen debated economist David Friedman on Minarchism, a philosophy that advocates a very small government that only exists to uphold rights and public order, vs. Anarcho-Capitalism, which advocates for the abolition of the state. Petersen defended Minarchism while Friedman defended Anarcho-Capitalism.

One attendee of the conference, Will Nardi, said that the debate was “legendary, seeing Petersen go up against Friedman. Seeing Petersen go up against such a distinguished scholar, he definitely held his own. He stuck with exactly what the founding fathers had intended. I’m happy to see whatever he brings to the table when he is in office, I’m excited to see what happens after the campaign.”

I got the chance to interview Petersen after the debate, and here is what he had to say:

Q: What got you involved in the liberty movement?

A: I saw Ron Paul back in 2007 in the presidential debate. He really fought hard against Rudy Giuliani in that debate over our foreign policy, that really drew me in. I started volunteering and I’ve been with the movement ever since.

Q: After running for the Libertarian nomination last year, you recently switched from the Libertarian Party to the Republican Party. What led to that switch?

A: So, I asked my supporters if they wanted me to run for Senate. 100% of them said yes. When I asked if they wanted me to run as either a Republican or a Libertarian, 98% of them said I should run as a Republican, and this included Libertarians.

Q: What has the response been to that decision?

A: The response has been overwhelmingly positive, from both Libertarians and Republicans. Some people have pushed back against me, but not many. But the libertarians who are against my switch probably wouldn’t have even supported me when I was a libertarian. You can never have everyone on your side.

Q: Should you be elected to the Senate, who would you like to work with and what do you think you can do to make our country better?

A: I would love to work with people like Rand Paul and Mike Lee in the Senate. On the House side, I would want to work with people like Justin Amash and Thomas Massie. I would want to work with the Freedom Caucus, it’s good to see that the ideals that I support already have a presence in Congress. On the issues, I recognize that there are a lot of problems in this country, such as our massive debts and deficits. I would push for sound economic policy as well as social causes that uphold civil liberties. The Republican camp is obviously not a united front, as we have seen with the health care bill, and I think my ideas have a spot in that big tent.

Q: You are extremely popular among young people. What do you think makes you so attractive to them?

A: I think one of the biggest things that makes me attractive to young people is that they see how I started out like them. I started out in the liberty movement at 26 or 27, the same age as a lot of them started. I sort of rose out of the plebeian masses of the liberty movement, and ended up running for president at the age of 35. A lot of young people see me as someone they want to be like, they see hope for their own liberty advancing efforts.

Q: How do you plan to utilize these young people in your campaign?

A: We already are utilizing our young activists. We have around 12,000 activists that are available 24/7 pushing our campaign and our ideas. A recent example is that Politico ran a story stating that [incumbent Sen. Claire] McCaskill didn’t have any viable competitor. Countless messages and phone calls from our supporters to Politico led them to issue a correction.

Q: What advice would you give to young people, both at this conference and around the country?

A: I would tell young people to believe in themselves, the ideas of liberty can be advanced, and young people play a crucial role and have a lot of potential to be advocates of liberty both now and in the near future.

END OF INTERVIEW

Mr. Petersen is up against a well-established Senator, but I have a feeling he will put up a good fight. One thing I noticed that really made him stand out was his genuine attitude. Petersen took the time to take photos and talk with so many of the attendees at YALCON, and he did it with a degree of sincerity that you don’t often find in politics. Petersen is definitely not a traditional Republican, but he might be just what the party needs to stay relevant in the future.

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