When I was first introduced to Austin Petersen during the 2016 presidential election, I immediately had an interest in his liberty-minded ideals. As an Evangelical Christian, the right to life, freedom of religion, and small-government reforms are very important to me. Petersen’s stances on these issues put him at the top of my list for candidates I would support if he ever decided to run as a Republican. On July 4th, the former Libertarian presidential candidate announced his intentions to run as a Republican in the 2018 Missouri Senate race.
1) If you are the GOP nominee in your race, how do you plan to avoid going down route of Todd Akin circa 2012? How can you succeed where Akin failed, and avoid repeating his controversial mistakes?
I can’t promise I won’t say controversial things. Ron Paul once said, “We don’t have the First Amendment so we can talk about the weather. We have the First Amendment so we can talk about very controversial things.” And while it’s certainly a shame that my beliefs in limited government, fiscal conservatism, constitutional foreign policy, federalism, due process, and ending the federal war on drugs are so unpopular as to be considered controversial, if there’s one thing I know, it’s this: What’s right isn’t always what’s popular, and what’s popular isn’t always what’s right.
If I don’t speak what I truly believe during this campaign, then there will be no reason to vote for me. There will be plenty of bland, generic alternatives in this race who will just tell people what they want to hear in order to get elected. If that’s really what you want, feel free to vote for Claire McCaskill. But I’m willing to speak the hard truths, because if I don’t, I will be doing a disservice to my fellow citizens. I am attempting to perform a public service, not pander to special interests so I can eventually exert power over the voters who elected me in good faith. I’m not running to take power for myself. I’m running to take power and return it to the people.
2) You’re technically a Millennial. How important is it to get younger blood in Congress, especially the U.S. Senate?
The media spends a good deal of energy making fun of millennials, but the fact of the matter is this: Since 2015, millennials have comprised a larger part of the workforce than any other generation, and it is their interests concerns that will dominate the national conversation in the years to come. But the average age of a U.S. senator is 62 – hardly representative of our workforce, our population or our electorate.
The Senate needs someone who is willing to question old and tired establishment solutions, and devise fresh and original approaches to the issues. I’m excited at the opportunity to be this candidate, and I’m eager for the opportunity to help my much-maligned generation fight back.
3) Do you think you can get conservatives, libertarians, moderates, and some Dems to coalesce around your campaign?
I absolutely do, and I think so because many of them have already pledged to support me. Prior to announcing my campaign, I made all sorts of calls to Missourians from all different backgrounds from all over the state. I had both libertarians and Republicans – and even some Democrats! – not only hear what I had to say with interest, but even commit to supporting me with their votes and with their donations.
No matter their political perspective, Missourians across the board are sick of career politicians making promises to get elected and then going back on their word as soon as they set foot inside the Beltway. They want a leader who will stick to his word and fight for his constituents no matter what. I’ve shown people that I know how to withstand political pressure and stick to my principles: I refused to endorse the Johnson/Weld ticket in 2016 and I’ve never changed my opinions to appeal to a particular party. This is what drew many moderate Democrats and Republicans, as well as lifelong libertarians, to support me during my 2016 presidential election. People want honesty and transparency in their representatives, and they know I can and will give it to them.
4) Describe your pro-life stance. Some of your critics have expressed worry that it’s inauthentic. How can we count on you to stand for the right to life in the Senate?
I’m committed to the three self-evident truths named in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Everyone should have the liberty to pursue happiness as they see fit, provided that it doesn’t infringe on the life and liberty of another. Abortion infringes on the life and liberty of another human being, and as such goes against everything we believe as Americans. What’s more, Roe v. Wade infringes on the rights of individual states to make important decision of the protection of life.
I will always, always vote for life in the Senate – including supporting the Hyde Amendment – and will support the rights of individual states to legislate on this matter as they see fit.
5) Describe what your relationship would be like with President Trump if elected. What are some things you think he has done well on so far? What are some issues that you disagree with him on?
Despite the never-ending uproar from the mainstream media, I think President Trump has in many respects done a solid job. By rolling back unnecessary regulations and pushing for tax reform, he’s made America a better place to do business – and the stock markets show it. The appointment of Judge Neil Gorsuch, a committed constitutional originalist with a strong conservative background, also was an excellent decision.
That said, I have my disagreements with the president and will make no bones about challenging him when necessary. First of all, I think the border wall is a terrible idea. I understand wanting to secure our southern border, but there are more efficient and cost-effective ways to do this. If we pursue this project, it’ll wind up being a massive, FDR-style public works problem that costs taxpayers millions and invokes eminent domain to steal private property from law-abiding citizens.
I also question several of Trump’s foreign policy decisions, including the massive sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. He ran on America First foreign policy—but an America First foreign policy does not mean acting as the world’s policeman and engaging in international conflicts or nation-building.
6) In what ways are your platform and campaign style different from your 2016 presidential one?
The biggest difference is the most obvious one: I’m running as a Republican. The 2016 election showed the world that getting a party nomination wasn’t a matter of playing by the rules and acquiescing to the status quo – it was a matter of speaking the truth and pushing for innovative and unconventional solutions. The Republican party needs more outsiders like Trump to bring new ideas to the table, and although I have my differences from the president, I want to be the same kind of disruptive, game-changing force on behalf of my fellow Missourians.
7) Prominent Evangelicals have endorsed you in the past. How do you plan on gaining and keeping the Evangelical vote in 2018?
I believe in liberty – which means I believe that Christians have the right to practice their faith and live out their lives as they see fit. I will defend the right of Christian baker to refuse to bake the cake for the gay couple as passionately as I will defend the right of the gay couple to get married.
And as I mentioned earlier, I believe in life – which means I will defend all lives, from conception to death, and will strive to put the abortion issue back in the hands of the states, where it belongs.
8) There has been some opposition to your campaign within the liberty movement in the forms of PACs and challengers. What would you say to those who aren’t yet sold on your campaign?
Most candidates and parties compromise on liberty somewhere along the line, whether it’s a socially conservative Republican who wants to legislate morality or a fiscally liberal Democrat who wants to take money out of the pockets of hardworking Americans to pay for unnecessary public works projects or expand the government’s failing healthcare system.
My commitment to liberty is not halfhearted or conflicted. I trust Americans to make decisions about their own lives – their sexuality, their religion, their jobs, their healthcare and their spending. I don’t feel the need to protect my fellow citizens from themselves or forward a particular vision of human flourishing. As I’ve said elsewhere, my vision for America is one in which gay married couples can defend their marijuana fields with automatic machine guns. It’s also one in which Christians can preach from the pulpit without fear of prosecution and business owners need not violate their conscience in providing for their employees’ healthcare.
Few candidates have this kind of consistent commitment to liberty – and even fewer have the honesty to stick to that commitment amidst the pressures of a national political campaign. I will bring that consistency and honesty to the table in across all the issues and will strive to faithfully represent Missouri at all times.
Petersen’s answers indicate that if elected to the U.S. Senate, he will be a champion for individual freedoms and personal responsibility. I believe that Petersen will join the ranks of liberty-minded Republicans in the Senate like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee to fight to protect our constitutional rights and enact small-government reforms.
You can learn more about Austin and his campaign here.