Alex Snitker seems like a regular guy, and that can be murder on a United States Senate campaign. RedState’s Erick Erickson called Libertarianish Republican candidate Rand Paul’s Senate candidacy in Kentucky, “what happens when Joe the Butcher runs for office.” Snitker, the long-shot Libertarian candidate in the Florida race, doesn’t appear to have Paul’s verbal indiscipline (see the latest example here), but he also lacks the name recognition and buzz of a “son of Ron Paul,” or a Charlie Crist, not to mention the deep-pocketed institutional support (including from Erickson) of a Marco Rubio, or the help of a former president (which Kendrick Meek has.) But Snitker says that’s why he should be the guy Florida sends to Washington.
I spoke to Snitker by phone after emailing him to request an interview. There was no press flak to talk to, and the candidate called me back himself. (Snitker did say he has a campaign staff, including a campaign manager who worked on the Ralph Nader campaign…) Snitker, who lives near Tampa, hasn’t been included in any of the major polls the media lives by, so his campaign approached a St. Augustine telemarketing firm to obtain their own. The results earned him some ink, as some media outlets picked up on the fact that while he scored just 2.5 percent against his big-time opponents, the number jumped to around 12 percent for those who knew who he was.
“We kept trying to get the newspapers and others to include us in polls,” Snitker told me, “and they wouldn’t touch us, so we put out a call for donations to our supporters.” He said they initially “wanted $10,000 to get Zogby,” but they fell short of the mark. Sot they went with a small, unknown company “which had done some polling in the past,” then they did the leg work to go to the Division of Elections, pull 5,000 voter records by region and party affiliation, submit them to the company and get the poll done.
“We tried to do this as accurately as humanly possible,” Snitker said. We basically submitted 5,000 names and had them (the polling firm) ask four questions: familiar, approve/disappprove, who would you vote for if the election was held today, and no matter which party you’re in, what party best represents you. We got 518 responses, and we got 2.6 percent of the vote overall. But what was amazing was that of the people who knew who I am, we got 12 percent of vote, and we actually took from (Democrat Kendrick) Meek.”
I asked Snitker whether that made sense to him, and he said that from his experience with the tea party movement, of which he considers himself a member, there are “a lot more Democrats than you’d think, and “those people may be more open to me than the Republicans who may be already dead set for Rubio.” (Polls show the tea party movement is overwhelmingly Republican, but Snitker says his experience with the Florida groups he’s participated in has been different.)
The media lock-out clearly bugs Snitker, who says his campaign has reached out to mainstream media outlets (after his poll came out, those outlets asked him for the margin of error. He told them “you find the margin of error by putting us in one of your polls”); and they’ve tried to get ear of media you’d think would be friendly to him, like Fox News, Glenn Beck, and talk radio host Neal Boortz (who like Snitker is an advocate of the “Fair Tax.”) Boortz, though himself a Libertarian, is going with Rubio, Snitker says, because he (like the mainstream media who base their interest largely on a candidate’s fundraising,) doesn’t think Snitker’s campaign is viable.
Snitker said he hopes to make a virtue out of being the outsider, and made it clear that he considers Rubio to be a false prophet to the tea party movement.
“I disagree that most tea party people endorse Rubio,” he said. “I think there are vocal ones that do, but there are many tea party groups that are hesitant about Rubio. He refuses to be vetted by them and keeps them at arms length. My opinion is (that) he used the tea party movement to get ahead, then once he got ahead, he goes only to Republican events, or only to tea party events held by Republicans.”
Snitker has other problems with Rubio:
“He is not a constitutional conservative by any stretch of the imagination,” he said, citing his spending while serving as Speaker of the House, and the now infamous American Express scandal, which is under investigation by the FBI and IRS. Sntiker says Rubio saw the tea party movement growing, and “he adjusted to the moment. He’s the same career politician that Meek is, and that Crist … well I’m not even sure what Crist is at this point. They tell us one thing when they run and then they do something completely different when they get elected,” adding, “they’re all corrupt as far as I’m concerned.”
“There’s a mix in the tea party movement of constitutional conservatives and the ones who are more Republican,” he said. “I’m not here to bash the Republican Party, but what troubles me is that the same things the right was saying about Obama are the same things people are saying about Rubio, and that people on the right are giving (Rubio) a pass on. We can’t allow these people to get into office just because they look pretty and they speak well.”
Snitker blasted Rubio for not sitting down with tea party groups to answer their questions directly and for refusing to sign the tea party’s “10th Amendment Pledge,” which seeks to get politicians to promise to reduce federal power and give it to the states. He scoffed at Rubio’s vow to “fight Barack Obama in Washington” as little more than partisan politics as usual.
“Politicians maintain their power not by saying ‘vote for me because I’m gonna do this,’ they say ‘vote against that guy because he’s gonna do that. I’m giving Floridians a regular citizen to vote for instead of three career politicians. Rubio is basically saying he’d stand up against Obama because [Obama's] a Democrat.” Snitker says he’d stand up to Obama too, not because he’s a Democrat, but on the issues where they disagree on principle. Where the parties can agree, however, Snitker said there needs to be less partisan bickering. “We all should work together to come to an agreement on a solution that gets this country back to the principles it was founded on.”
Among those principles, according to Snitker:
Taxes – Snitker wants to see the “Fair Tax” implemented, which would place a consumption tax on all new goods, and give every American a “prebate” on all sales taxes they pay up to a defined poverty threshold, say $24,000. Every American would get the prebate, and corporate taxes would be eliminated. Snitker says ending the current tax structure would boost jobs and the economy, by making America a manufacturing and “tax haven”;
The Federal Reserve – Like Ron Paul and his supporters, Snitker wants to see the fed audited, and eventually dismantled, “returning the power to Congress.”
Social Security – Snitker would like to see it made optional for younger workers, and eventually phased out, though he said “it’s taken generations for us to get where we are, and it’s going to take a couple of generations” to back out of such a system. “The government made deals with people” that it has to honor, he added. Asked how getting rid of Social Security would prevent millions of seniors from falling into poverty, Snitker, a 34-year-old born in Iowa, but who has lived in Florida since he was 8, said there should be stipulations on how the money people currently pay in Social Security taxes would be redirected — perhaps into gold or stocks — but he quickly shifted the conversation to an argument that many younger opponents of the system (including Rubio, who supports raising the retirement age to 70, and phasing out Social Security for people under age 55) make: that younger workers will never benefit from Social Secuirty, because the government isn’t saving it, it’s frittering it away.
“Everyone in my generation is not gonna see any of this money because it’s not directly attached to the individual,” he said. “We need a compromise on this issue. The lie the government told you is that they’re not gonna spend this money. I don’t want people to be hurt, but it’s the government that has stolen our money to advance their political careers.”
It’s that intergenerational argument, and a similar one on Medicare, that is fueling a large part of the Paulite wing of the tea party movement, which ironically, is tethered to both evangelicals, who fundamentally disagree with Libertarians like Snitker on social issues, and senior citizens who for a number of reasons, are fearful of Barack Obama and anxious about losing their Social Security and Medicare — the very things tea party Libertarians like Snitker want to eliminate.
Snitker is unphased by the irony, and said he believes his message would be attractive to liberals and conservatives alike. Even on deregulation and how it relates to disasters like the one in the Gulf or the Massey mine in West Virginia, he says his belief in deregulation is not the same as “defending corporations.”
“It’s been crony capitalism that has been [at] fault” in those tragedies, he said. “It’s the influence that the corporations have when it comes to the government that is truly the problem now, not deregulation.” Regarding the oil spilling across the Gulf, Snitker said “the first thing we should do is make sure there is no cap on damages. It was the cap that caused moral hazard for the mess in the Gulf. BP had no fear because they were in the pocket of the government. Obama campaigned on this and did nothing to fix it. New boss, same as the old boss on this one. This is reason Democrats are gonna come my way because they see no matter who they put put there, Democrat or Republican, they’re both bought and paid for by industry.”
“If you want financial regulatory reform, quit bailing out corporations. If corporations do bad things, corporations should be allowed to fail.”
Snitker says he’s no fan of George W. Bush, and that Bush was a textbook example of why conservatives shouldn’t allow themselves to be fooled again.
“Bush doubled size of the federal government, impeded on our civil liberties; he talked like he was going to be a constitutional conservative but he didn’t govern like that. People should not be defending Bush. Bush said ‘I had to suspend the free market in order to save the free market.’ It’s not the free market’s fault, it’s corporatism’s fault. (Libertarians) would not want any corporate influence in what happens at the govt level. We don’t want them to get a handout or a penalty.”
And while he said the media is “fanning the flames” on issues like race and the tea party movement, and on Kentucky Senate candidate (and sort of Libertarian) Rand Paul’s statements about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Snitker disagreed with Paul’s view that the Act’s outlawing of discrimination in public accommodations was “anti-liberty.”
“I don’t really get what he was trying to explain,” Snitker said. “At the time the Civil Rights Act was passed it was needed. I hope we can get to the point in this country where laws like that are not needed. I hope we can get there through the principles that founders intended for this country to be — for everyone to be an individual.” Of course, the founders also allowed slavery, to which Snitker said, “the founders looked at slavery (and saw the contradiction,) and were taking incremental steps to get rid of it. No country is perfect, and you can always look back at every country’s evolution, but it’s our diversity (today) that makes us strong. We need to get past looking at each other as being with a group and start looking at each other as individuals. And we shouldn’t be afraid to have conversations across group, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. for us to advance as a society.”
Snitker, who served eight years in the Marines, extends that belief to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” rule for gays serving in the military.
“It’s about time” the rule was repealed, he said. “If somebody’s gonna be honorable enough to serve in the military, it shouldn’t matter what sexual orientation they are.” As for those who argue that allowing gays to serve openly will make showering uncomfortable for straight troops, Snitker said, “Don’t ask, don’t tell doesn’t fix the showering issue, it just hides it,” and that each member of the military is responsible for their own behavior.
“Again, I think we’ve got to start looking at each other as individuals.”
Snitker’s campaign strategy is bare-bones. Without a lot of money, though he says they’re working on fundraising, he said he’s relying on social media and the Internet to get the word out. Whatever happens, having paid the $10,000 qualifying fee, his name will appear on the November ballot, ironically enough, ahead of “unaffiliated” candidate Charlie Crist.
In the meantime, he hopes to get the chance to actually debate his opponents. But he’s not necessarily counting on it.
“They don’t dare to debate me because there’s no way they could hold up to an actual citizen and give an honest answer, not the expedient answer,” he said, turning his fire again on Marco Rubio.
“He was only willing to debate Crist on Fox News. (They can) debate me anywhere, anytime.”