Michael Badnarik

by Eric Morgenson

University of Nebraska, Omaha

Michael Badnarik 1

Michael Badnarik was the 2004 Libertarian Party candidate for President. Prior to running for president, Badnarik worked as an attorney, and lectured and wrote as a constitutional law scholar. Prior to his 2004 run for president, Badnarik published Good to be King: The Foundation of our Constitutional Freedom, an exploration of themes such as classic republicanism, federalism, and states’ rights, which gained him significant notoriety in Libertarian circles.

Badnarik won the nomination of the Libertarian Party by defeating previously favored candidates Aaron Russo and Gary Nolan.1 His election to head the ticket of the Libertarian Party caused controversy among some party members, because many thought that Russo, a prominent film producer, would bring more publicity to the party. Badnarik ultimately won the nomination after three rounds of voting, defeating Russo 54% to 44%.2 Richard Campagna, won the Libertarian vice-Presidential nomination in a separate nomination and electoral process which Badnarik did not take part in.

In hopes of courting votes from both liberals and conservatives who felt that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans represented them, Badnarik ran in opposition to the Iraq war, and in favor of privatizing Social Security and lowering taxes. In holding these positions that crossed the tradition left-right spectrum, he hoped to receive votes from both liberals and conservatives who felt that neither the Democrats nor Republicans represented them. Badnarik wanted to capitalize on the unpopularity of the Bush administration among conservatives for its expansion of the federal government and the initiation of a controversial war in Iraq.3 At the same time, he hoped to curry favor with those on the left by running in favor of open immigration and in support of gay marriage. Badnarik went to far as to argue “Its hard to tell them (Bush and Kerry) apart on the real issues.” He hoped that supporting liberal social issues would help his standing with liberals who felt disenfranchised from the Democratic Party. Refusing to plant his political philosophy on the left-right spectrum, Badnarik ran as a Constitutional originialist and stated his political philosophy succinctly: “My approach is geared to a single criterion — does this policy or that action serve freedom? I’m willing to be pragmatic in pursuing policies that affirmatively answer that criterion. I’m not willing to compromise that criterion away.”4

Perhaps Badnarik’s most notable contribution to the election of 2004 was his attempt to get involved in a Presidential Debate held at Washington University in St. Louis on October 8 2004. Badnarik, along with Green Party candidate David Cobb, was arrested for trespassing. The charges stemmed from the two third party candidates attempt to serve the Commission on Presidential Debates an Order to Show Cause forcing the Commission to accept third party candidates.5 The Commission organized the debate and did not include third party candidates. The attempt to disrupt the presidential debate brought attention to the fact that only the major parties were allowed to participate in the debates. This disruption reflected one of Badnarik’s election goals: to bring attention to the fact that third party candidates, like himself were forced to work harder to be on ballots. Badnarik explained: “Today, the Libertarian Party — and other third parties, of course — have to fight to get on the ballot. In some states, we have to gather enormous numbers of signatures. In others, we have to drag the state to court” The Libertarian Party ended up on the ballot in 48 states, with only New Hampshire and Oklahoma leaving the party off for failing to get the necessary number of signatures.6

In the run up to the general election, the Libertarian Party raised roughly 1 million dollars for their campaign, in comparison, the George Bush reelection campaign raised 272.5 million dollars and John Kerry’s campaign raised a little over 249 million dollars7. The Libertarian Party ultimately garnered 397 thousand votes in the 48 states that it was on the ballot. As a point of comparison, George W. Bush received roughly 62 million votes and John Kerry 59 million. While Badnarik received more votes than any other third party candidates outside of the independent Ralph Nader, the Libertarian Party, according to a press release by the party released shortly after the election, failed to achieve its goal of impacting the race between George W. Bush and John Kerry.8

Badnarik continued his work in politics after the 2004 election, running for Texas’s 10th congressional district in Austin in 2006, again as a Libertarian. He came in a distant third place. As of May 2014, Badnarik continues to travel and lecture on the Constitution and libertarian issues, mainly on college campuses, at small events, and through irregularly released podcasts.

1Ron Storm. “Libertarians unite to elect Badnarik.” WND Online. http://www.wnd.com/2004/07/25556/ (accessed May 1, 2014).

2“Libertarian Party.” Archives of the Libertarian Party-election of 2004. http://www.lp.org/archives/lpnatconv2004.pdf (accessed May 3, 2014).

3Storm, “Libertarians Unite.”

4Slashdot: News for Nerds, “Libertarian Presidential Candidate Michael Badnarik Answers,” http://beta.slashdot.org/story/49834 (accessed May 30, 2014).

5“Badnarik Arrested.” Badnarik for President Campaign 2004. http://web.archive.org/web/20041009213011/http://badnarik.org/ supporters/blog/2004/10/08/michael-badnarik-arrested/ (accessed May 10, 2014).

6Slashdot, “Libertarian Presidential Candidate Michael Badnarik Answers.”

7CNN, “The Money/Total Raised” http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/special/president/fec/total.raise.html.

8“Michael Badnarik–2004 Libertarian Candidate for President.” Michael Badnarik–2004 Libertarian Candidate for President. http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/badnarik/badnarik.html (accessed May 30, 2014).