Category Archives: LPAR

Campaign Season is here!

I’d like to encourage all Libertarian Party of Arkansas members to be active campaigners for the many Libertarian candidates we have on the ballot in Arkansas this year. It took a lot of hard work and money to achieve ballot status for our candidates, and we need to make sure that effort was for a good reason.

You can find our list of Libertarian candidates at the LPAR web site. Pick out at least one campaign (or more) that you can commit to work for. There are many ways that you can help—from telling your friends, to door-to-door campaigning, to making a financial donation, to arranging events for the candidate, to attending events with the candidate, and much more.

Our candidate for Governor, Frank Gilbert, will provide the LPAR with continued ballot status if he receives at least 3% of the vote in November. That would save us a lot of time, effort, and money. It’s up to us to do what we can to make that happen. So let’s GET INVOLVED!

—Kathleen Wikstrom, LPAR Vice-Chair

Sebelius v Hobby Lobby was decided in 2010… with Citizens United

Many people are anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court decision on the Sebelius v Hobby Lobby case. But in reality, the case was already decided back in 2010 with the Citizens United decision.

The Hobby Lobby case centers around the First Amendment guaranteed right to the free exercise of religion. The free exercise of religion includes objecting on religious, moral, or conscientious grounds to being compelled or prohibited from performing certain actions by the government.

Basically, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, is seeking to use government force to compel the Hobby Lobby Corporation to provide abortion-inducing birth control medication to their employees as part of their Obamacare-approved health insurance coverage. Hobby Lobby, which was founded and is owned by deeply religious people, has objected to providing these certain abortion-inducing medications on religious grounds.

The government is arguing that Hobby Lobby can’t claim a religious objection, because they are a corporation. They are making the claim that corporations do not retain the freedom of religion.

Enter the Citizens United case. The Supreme Court decided in Citizens United that corporations have the First Amendment protected right to free speech, especially political speech. The majority argument claimed, in part, that corporations are nothing more than a collection of individuals and, therefore, retain the same rights that individuals do.

So one must wonder: If corporations are considered as people for the sake of freedom of speech, are they not also considered as people for other rights listed in the very same Amendment as free speech, particularly the free expression of religion as in the case of Hobby Lobby?

I would submit that Citizens United, whether one personally agrees that corporations are people or not, has in fact set the precedent that they should be considered as such. In as much, Citizens United then also sets the precedent that corporations retain all the same rights as individuals. Therefore, the corporation of Hobby Lobby has the exact same rights of freedom of religion as the corporation’s owners do.

Sebelius v Hobby Lobby is, in essence, a moot point. It was already decided nearly four years ago and should have never made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Hobby Lobby, and any other corporation, has the right to claim exception and to object on religious, moral, or conscientious grounds to any mandate imposed upon them by the government. Furthermore, Hobby Lobby should file a counter suit against Kathleen Sebelius for damaging their reputation; threatening their business and livelihood; and wasting their time, their money, and the taxpayer’s money while pursuing this case.

—Ben Marquis

The Philosophy of Liberty

Sometimes it can be difficult to explain libertarian ideas to people who are unfamiliar with them, so it is always nice when people come up with simple, easily-understood explanations that we can share with our friends. My friend, Ken Schoolland, did just that with this short flash animation video. He starts with the principle of self-ownership, a concept most people can agree with, and shows how it is the basis for all libertarian ideas.

Please share it with your friends!

—Kathleen Wikstrom, LPAR Vice-Chair

The Militarization of the Police

For those who follow the news or participate in social media networks, it has been hard to miss the numerous stories about the killing or assault of innocent citizens (or at least, non-dangerous citizens) by police. What were once written off by some as “isolated incidents” have clearly become common occurrences in America.

Concerns about potential abuse of using military tactics for domestic policing date back to the time of the Constitution, when the Founders worried about standing armies and intimidation of the people.

Most reasonable discussions about the use of SWAT teams focus on already-violent situations, but, increasingly, SWAT teams are being used to turn non-violent situations into violent ones. While the fear of terrorism drives much of the support for the militarization of police, SWAT teams are much more likely to target non-violent “criminals,” primarily as part of the failed War on Drugs. But even most people who support drug laws would oppose turning their enforcement into potentially violent situations that put innocent citizens and police officers in harm’s way. The likelihood of armored vehicles and military gear being used for good is far outweighed by its potential for harm to citizens and police officers.

The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown from a few hundred a year in the 1970s to approximately 50,000 raids in 2005, according to surveys conducted by Peter Kraska, a criminologist at Eastern Kentucky University.

For those interested in reading more about this scary path, as well as a detailed history of how we got here, I highly recommend Radley Balko’s recent book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop. Balko had this to say about the situation:

Law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.

There is reason for concern that police officers are tempted to turn non-threatening situations into dangerous ones, in order to get the chance to use their “cool, new equipment.” SWAT teams have been deployed in many American cities, leading to the deaths of innocent citizens as well as police officers, to break up illegal poker games, to capture someone suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program, to raid the homes of low-level drug users, to raid bars suspected of allowing underage drinking, and other non-threatening situations.

Assault-style raids have also been used to enforce regulatory law in recent years, including IRS raids at respected Arkansas businesses, including Mountain Pure Water in Little Rock and Duncan Outdoors in Conway. (Check out this 17-minute video about the raids on those Arkansas businesses.)

In a review of Balko’s book at Amazon.com, John J. Baeza, a retired New York Police Department detective, had this to say:

A profession that I was once proud to serve in has become a militarized police state. Officers are quicker to draw their guns and use their tanks than to communicate with people to diffuse a situation. They love to use their toys and when they do, people die.

The days of the peace officer are long gone, replaced by the militarized police warrior wearing uniforms making them indistinguishable from military personnel. Once something is defined as a “war” everyone becomes a “warrior.” Balko offers solutions ranging from ending the war on drugs, to halting mission creep so agencies such as the Department of Education and the FDA don’t have their own SWAT teams, to enacting transparency requirements so that all raids are reported and statistics kept, to community policing, and finally to one of the toughest solutions: changing police culture.

The effect of militarization on police culture has been startling. Dogs are now routinely shot. Women have been sexually assaulted during routine traffic stops. Elderly citizens have been killed for resisting unwanted medical treatment in nursing homes. Unarmed innocents have been killed for what is classified “resisting arrest.” The police are clearly out of control.

There’s only one way to stop this escalating militarization of police, and that is for the people to stand up and say “no.” It’s time to get America off the road to becoming a police state.

But perhaps it’s time to consider a more radical solution. Let’s compare the aggressive military mindset of today’s police forces to how a private police service might operate. In fact, such a service already exists, in the city of Detroit, where the government police department has thrown up its hands in failure, informing people that they enter Detroit “at their own risk.” According to a recent article at freethoughtproject.com, the Threat Management Center is filling the void:

The Threat Management Center’s sole priorities are the protection of the people under their charge. They have specific incentives to focus exclusively on safety, and find non-violent ways of defusing tense situations before resorting to force. Since they’re privately funded, they have a direct incentive to make their customers happy. Any form of misconduct can instantly result in a loss of funding. The best part? The Threat Management Center doesn’t exclusively protect paying customers. Yes, they protect people for free.

The training that they give their officers is designed to fill their “mental toolboxes” with non-violent ways to diffuse potentially-violent situations. Dale Brown, founder of the Threat Management Center, said, “We make sure that in that toolbox, there are so many options to create a non-violent outcome that it’s almost impossible to have violence.” Brown summed up his company’s goals and policies like this:

We are not looking for people, and we do not accept people, who are human predator oriented, people who like to fight or people who like to shoot people… We’re not looking for the kind of mindset that says “you know what, it’s OK to use violence as long as you can legally explain it.” We’re looking for people who don’t want to use violence under any conditions. What we emphasize is 100 ways in a situation which would normally be fatal-force oriented, 100 ways, to not have a violent or fatal incident take place. We protect communities here in Detroit, upscale communities… we have approx 1000 homes that depend on us for safety. And we have approx 500 businesses that are our clients as well. And then the people that cannot afford our services, we help them for free. The reason that we can do that is because there is a healthy profit margin leftover from excellence from providing for our major corporations. We offer free training to families. We call it Free Family Friday. Typically, the prosecutor’s offices, the shelters in the area for domestic violence victims, stalking victims are sent to us for assistance. We protect them for free. We escort them to court. If they have a violent ex-husband or boyfriend or neighbor or some stranger that’s coming after them, we will literally stay with them, transport their kids to school. We stay with them at their homes with our rifles and keep them alive. And in 20 years, none of us have had a court date and, more importantly, none of us have been killed. And the most important, no one who has ever come to us for help in 20 years has ever been injured or killed after coming to this organization.

This is an impressive record, and it indicates the possibilities for effective law enforcement without violating people’s right. If the police cannot start focusing on protecting the people rather than threatening them, private security companies may be our best option.

—Kathleen Wikstrom, LPAR Vice-Chair

The Non Aggression Principle, as I understand it

The “Non Aggression Principle” (or NAP) is an ethical doctrine that states that aggression is wrong, aggression being defined as the initiation of physical force or fraud against persons or property, or the threat of the same. In order to join the national Libertarian Party, you must affirm that you “oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.”

In a letter to Francis Gilmer in 1816, Thomas Jefferson stated it like this: “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” He went on to say, “No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.” (emphasis mine)

We all understand that to practice the NAP we can never initiate force against individuals or against their rightly-acquired property. As I have come to understand this concept, I equate force with violence, whether physical (actually touching another person) or non-physical (fraud). This ethical stance does not include self defense, for in that case we are responding to an initiation of force against ourselves or our property. I am no pacifist. As R. Lee Wrights put it during a speech at one of our State conventions, “Break into my house and you’ll see how much of a pacifist I am.” This is the easy part of the NAP, and I think most people get that, heck, it was stuff we were taught in preschool. “Don’t take other kids toys, don’t hit other kids, etc.”

Taking this to a higher plane, how does this apply to our system of government? Most of us understand that codifying morality is in direct opposition to the NAP. For example, I may believe that prostitution is immoral, but it should not be illegal. To a sharper point, I believe that the “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” part of the Fifth Amendment is in direct violation of the NAP. If the owner of the rightly-acquired property doesn’t want to sell, no one, not even the government, should be able to take that property from the owner, regardless of the price offered. Again, those are things that I, at least, see as fairly easy concepts. But what about those things that we find both morally and ethically reprehensible? Wouldn’t it be one of the tenants of good government to correct societal wrongs?

In my opinion, the answer is a resounding NO. To back that up, I will go back to what Thomas Jefferson said above: “law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” Individuals, even those that are what society deems to be “outside the norm,” have rights, too. Even when their actions are reprehensible, as long as they do not initiate force, either violently or by fraud, against another individual or their property, they have every right to be as disgustingly repugnant as they want to be. To paraphrase a famous quote attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you do, but I will defend to the death your right to do it as long as you don’t initiate force against another individual.”

I do not believe that it is provided anywhere within the Constitution for our government to become the arbiter of societal wrongs. The “general welfare” clause has been brought up during discussions of this nature, but James Madison said this of the “general welfare” clause, in a letter to Edmund Pendleton in 1792:

If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.

If the “general welfare” clause allows the government to be the “righter of wrongs” (also becoming the arbiter of what is right and wrong), it would, in my opinion, completely invalidate the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution.

The real problem with having government make laws that make certain aspects of human nature illegal hinges upon the “or else” clause that is inherent in all laws. These laws have, as part of their inevitable conclusion, the barrel of a gun pointed at a person’s head. Let’s take anti-discrimination laws as an example. First, these laws provide that the government is the sole arbiter of what is, or is not, discrimination. Is that something we really want the government to decide for us? Next, if a business, as that is where most anti-discrimination law is directed, is found to be in noncompliance with this law, what happens? A government official will visit that business, point out the noncompliance, and probably extract a bribe (aka: fine). The government will then monitor the business for any further noncompliance. If the business continues this practice, it will be shut down and the owner arrested. What if the owner doesn’t want to be arrested? Well, here is where the “or else” clause kicks in. Now the owner is in defiance of the will of the government, so other government officials, with guns, will show up to arrest the owner, who will then either be incarcerated or killed—all because he or she was in violation of government approved behavior. Am I saying that I approve of discrimination? No. But there are much better, non-physical, ways to cure this “societal” ill, provided by a free market.

In conclusion, the Non Aggression Principle should be the guiding principle for all we do in life, not just in the political sphere. Realizing that violating the rights of the individual (even those individuals whose actions are morally repugnant) violates the NAP is essential to understanding this ethical principle. Laws that define appropriate human behavior violate the NAP. Even if they are intended to “do good” by correcting inappropriate behavior, violation of these laws ultimately leads to the initiation of force against a person or their property. To that point, I will leave you with one more quote:

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. —Mahatma Gandhi

—Mark M. Young

We the Employers need to adopt new hiring criteria

We the EmployersEvery couple of years, voters hire representatives to do the job of protecting the interest of the people. It has been common practice to elect lawyers and business owners, in the hopes that they have answers that the “average” person does not. But this strategy has not worked out well for “We The People,” — we the employers need to adopt new hiring criteria.

After all, lawyers and business owners have, at the very least, a dual focus: on their own career and on representing constituents. I’ve had a career, but now I’m a stay-at-home mom. Raising my children is my career. Their future is my focus, and a better future for Arkansas means a better future for my children. That’s why I’m running for Congress.

I’m not running for Congress so that I can begin campaigning for re-election the minute I step into office. I’m not here to make deals and sell our country’s future to increase my own power, the power of my party, or the power of government. I’m not here to make important contacts, gain status, get a title, or create new regulations that will benefit my business.

I’m here for one reason: to make sure my children have MORE freedom—to make sure they aren’t indentured to an over-reaching state with an endless appetite for squandering the labors of the people it was created to protect. I want to reduce, and even eliminate, the enormous burden of debt that we are leaving to our children.

The future of America is intricately tied to the future of my children. That is why I will work tirelessly to restore freedom for all Americans and why EVERY vote I make will be for more freedom and less government.

-Debbie Standiford, Libertarian Candidate for US Congress, Arkansas’ Second District

Why I Left

Since joining the Libertarian Party, I have been asked numerous questions by friends, family, and strangers. Usually the first question is, “What the hell is a Libertarian?” My favorite one is, “Aren’t they the ones that want to legalize weed?” Both of these questions are great, and provide an outlet to answer why I am a libertarian, and more importantly why I am a member of the Libertarian Party.

To give you a little background information about myself, I have considered myself a libertarian since 2010. I was an avid Ron Paul supporter, and I would probably still be in the GOP, had he not been treated the way he was at the RNC convention. It was there I realized “you people” were not welcome in the party.

I was now politically homeless. After attending my state’s Libertarian Party convention a little over a year ago, I was sold. For once I was in a room where I was not a “Paulbot” or a Continue reading

We Are Libertarians

We Are Libertarians

We are not “Republican-light.” We are not “Democratic-light.” We are Libertarians.

It is tiresome to continually be asked why we would want to run a Libertarian candidate against a “good Republican” or “a good libertarian leaning Republican.” Would this same person ask that of the Democratic Party? Would this same person expect the Democratic Party to not run someone against a “good moderate Republican?” Of course not. So why do they ask us? As Mark Axinn, LPNY chair said, we could just as easily ask “why are they running against so many good Libertarians?”

I believe Republicans and conservatives do this because they have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be a Libertarian. They believe we share some sort of camaraderie with them but can offer no proof of what makes them think this way. They throw around words like “Republican-libertarian,” and “conservative libertarian,” and “constitutional libertarian” like these word salads have some sort of meaning. They do not.

A libertarian is someone who believes in the non-aggression principle, plain and simple. Simply put, the non-aggression principle states that no man may initiate force or fraud against another person or his property. This is also called “classically liberal” in many circles and fits just as well as the word libertarian. The political party that upholds these libertarian principles is conveniently named The Libertarian Party. Republicans and Democrats have no such moral compass. This is evident in the sort of legislation both parties have brought us. However, since I am talking about the Republicans today, let’s see what they have done to this state and country recently.

  • Republicans have brought us, in the last legislative session in Arkansas alone, a bill that steals $125 million from the taxpayer’s pockets to give to a for-profit steel mill.
  • The Republicans also passed legislation in the last session making it more difficult for the Libertarian Party to get on the ballot, restricting our freedom of speech and freedom of choice.
  • The Republicans also passed legislation increasing an already ridiculous burden for the citizens of Arkansas to bring ballot initiatives to the people to vote on.
  • The Republicans also brought us a bill to be voted on that will double their term limits.
  • The Republicans have also brought us a bill making it much more difficult and expensive for a person to get certain body modifications to their own body. And this was all just in the last session alone!
  • Now, in the current fiscal session, the Arkansas Republicans are trying to ram the private option funding through the House any way they can! The private option is the largest expansion of Medicaid in Arkansas history and was passed initially last session in our Republican-controlled legislature! And one of the biggest supporters of getting this passed in this fiscal session? Nate Bell, the supposed “libertarian Republican!”

And you wonder why these word salads like “libertarian Republican” have no meaning.

Federally, things are just as bad, if not worse. Republicans brought us the PATRIOT Act, Homeland Security, TSA, Medicaid Part D, multiple stimulus packages to prop up private companies, multiple wars to massively increase the military budget, pork, etc. I could keep going, but you get the point. All of these programs stole money from our pockets and stole freedom from our lives.

These are supposedly the “fiscally conservative” Republicans. And yet you wonder why Libertarians candidates run against “good Republicans.”

As independent reporter Steve Brawner said in the Times Record today, “”Libertarians are the party of less government — really less government…That sounds like Republican rhetoric, but Libertarians are a lot more serious about it, and the party’s less government philosophy lands it to the left of many Arkansas Democrats on social issues.” Mr. Brawner gets it. Why don’t the Republicans get it?

This is the reason the Libertarian Party is the third largest and fastest growing party in Arkansas, because we get it. We get that the people of this great country and great state are fed up with the false choices they are being given at the ballot box. We get that people are finally saying, “ENOUGH!” The Libertarian Party is giving these voters real choice, a real difference from the eerily similar Republican and Democrat parties. People every day are fed up, looking around, and realizing that they too are Libertarians.

R. Lee Wrights, the Vice-Chair of the Libertarian National Committee, said today on his Facebook page, “Libertarians do nothing for America or themselves by joining and supporting our oppressors! WE gain nothing and America loses every time someone falls for this load of elephant droppings. Republicans cannot be trusted. We have learned even the Democrats have more integrity than Republicans. Not by much, mind you, but by a degree. Democrats tell us they are going to take our money and give it to others, then, they get elected and do it. Republicans lie through their teeth and tell us, “Vote for us, we are not like that!” Then, they get elected, take our money, and give it to their friends. Republicans and Democrats are two wings on the same bird of prey.”

I could not have said it better myself. We are no longer content with elephant and donkey droppings. We are no longer content pulling the lever for these people who campaign one way and then legislate another. We are no longer willing to play their games and allow them to run roughshod over us. We are not Republicans. We are not Democrats. WE ARE LIBERTARIANS! And, in Arkansas anyway, we are here to stay and to win.

Rodger Paxton
LPAR Secretary

LPAR 2014 Post-Convention Press Release

The Libertarian Party of Arkansas nominated 26 candidates, the largest number in its history, for the 2014 election ballot at its state convention, held this weekend in Little Rock.

Heading the state Libertarian ticket is Frank Gilbert, running for Governor of Arkansas. Gilbert currently serves as constable of Dekalb Township in Grant County, attending to the rural areas of northwest Grant County. Gilbert also served as mayor of Tull, Arkansas, for eight years, coroner of Grant County for two years, and is a former president of the Bauxite Education Association.

“I am excited by the opportunity, as the Libertarian Party’s nominee for Governor, to carry the message that free men and women have an absolute right to conduct their lives in any way they choose, so long as they don’t infringe on the equal rights of others,” Gilbert said, “as well as our absolute responsibility to bear the result of our actions. The Libertarian Party is the only political entity that has that message for the voters of Arkansas. I believe it will be a refreshing change from the politics-as-usual of the old parties. I intend to campaign vigorously throughout the state.”

If the Libertarian Party candidate for Governor receives at least 3% of the vote, the party will be automatically certified to run candidates in the next election cycle, without having to petition for a spot on the ballot.

Libertarian candidates nominated for other statewide races are Nathan LaFrance, U.S. Senate; Christopher Olson, Lt. Governor; Jacob Holloway, Secretary of State; Brian Leach, Auditor; Chris Hayes, Treasurer; and Elvis D. Presley, Land Commissioner.

Libertarian candidates for US Congressional seats are Brian Willhite, 1st district; Debbie Standiford, 2nd district; Grant Brand, 3rd district; and Ken Hamilton, 4th district.

Candidates for Arkansas House include Wayne Willems, District 15; Marc Rosson, District 20; Greg Deckleman, District 31; Rodger Paxton, District 51; Taylor Watkins, District 80; Eddie Moser, District 95; Michael Kalagias, District 96.

Candidates nominated for other Arkansas races include Valerie Emmons, Pulaski Co. Justice of the Peace, District 2; William Brackeen, Pulaski Co. Justice of the Peace, District 13; Christian Parks, Lonoke Co. Justice of the Peace, Ward District 2; W. Whitfield Hyman, Springdale Constable; Jacob Faught, Gentry Constable; Glen Schwarz, Pulaski Co. Judge; and Shawn Hipskind, Saline County Judge.

The Libertarian Party is the third largest party in Arkansas. The Libertarian Party of Arkansas formally submitted more than 16,000 signatures to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office last October in order to run candidates on the 2014 ballot.

LPAR in the news – “Third option for voters now on the menu”

A fantastic article by Steve Brawner, and independent journalist in Arkansas.

Third option for voters now on the menu

At the Cotham’s in the City restaurant near the Capitol, two potential candidates for governor are eating lunch at the same long table.

That might be awkward if they were both Democrats or Republicans, or if they were one and the other, and both had a chance to win. Instead, they’re both Libertarians — Frank Gilbert, who was elected a Saline County constable last year, and businessman Shawn Hipskind. A third potential candidate, Glen Schwartz, isn’t at the restaurant.

“In the past, Libertarians probably had to play ‘rock-scissors-paper’ to see who had to run for governor,” Gilbert jokes.

Party chairperson Jessica Paxton and her husband, Rodger, the party’s previous chairman, say their party has some momentum going into 2014. They point to the government shutdown as evidence that Republicans and Democrats can’t be trusted to run the government and that the government can’t be trusted at all.

Party members are under no illusion that one of their own will be elected governor next year, but it was nevertheless a time for celebration. A couple of hours earlier and after months of work, they had submitted 16,441 signatures to the secretary of state’s office in order to qualify for next year’s ballot. They need 10,000 valid ones.

Republicans and Democrats don’t have to do that because their presidential candidates won at least three percent of the vote in 2012. Third parties, who have trouble reaching that threshold, say such rules stack the deck in favor of the established two parties.

“The Republicans and Democrats say that, ‘Oh, we can’t have a cluttered ballot. Oh, we can’t give you too many choices because you’re not smart enough to determine between four people whom you would want to vote for, so we can only give you two,’” Jessica Paxton tells me over a plate of food that’s getting cold while I interview her. “I say, crowd the ballot. You know, if 12 people want to run for governor, let them.”

There was a time when Arkansas Republicans were where the Libertarians are — irrelevant but aspiring. Now they control both houses of the Legislature.

But that situation might be different. Democratic dominance was a holdover from the Civil War, but the two parties’ policies were not so very different. Libertarians are different. They mean it when they say they support smaller government. They typically support major cutbacks in social services and the military. They also usually favor gay marriage, abortion rights and ending the war on drugs.

They will have a convention next spring to nominate candidates. Paxton says she expects the party to compete for many positions and that members are interested in running in all four congressional districts and for the U.S. Senate seat.

That last one might have an impact in a close race. A recent Talk Business/Hendrix College poll found that Democrat Mark Pryor and Republican Tom Cotton are separated by only one point. Jessica Paxton collected 2.6 percent of the vote running for Congress in the 1st District last year.

Interestingly, that poll found that the largest bloc of Arkansas voters aren’t Democrats (31 percent) or Republicans (25 percent) but independents (36 percent). Counting the 8 percent who say they are “other,” 44 percent of Arkansans told a pollster they don’t identify with either of the two major parties.

Still, voters who call themselves independents tend to vote one side or the other. Pollster and analyst Jay Barth, a Hendrix College professor, said 71 percent of independent Arkansans voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. The three third-party presidential candidates only won about 2.5 percent of the vote combined.

Will voters give third party and independent candidates a chance in 2014? They haven’t much in the past.

However, there were many choices on the Cotham’s menu, and diners seemed capable of making their own decisions. Even rock-paper-scissors involves three choices.

Steve Brawner is an independent journalist in Arkansas. His email address is brawnersteve@mac.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.

Read more: The Courier – Your Messenger for the River Valley – Third option for voters now on the menu