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Profile of a Conservative Libertarian

This is a rather lengthy profile of socially conservative Libertarian John Cobin, candidate for Congress in South Carolina’s Fourth District. From The Greenville News...

The black Volvo of Libertarian congressional candidate John Cobin carries a campaign placard strung up with PVC pipe and galvanized wire that’s packed with seven different campaign themes.

The first thing you see: “No Planned Parenthood Funding.”

Not unlike much of Cobin’s literature and his own, growling style of speech, it’s fraught with hot-and-heavy criticism of Republican incumbent Bob Inglis and thin on graphic design or misty-eyed slogans.

Cobin, 43, thrives on contrarianism.

“No candidate in the past has made an issue out of abortion as I have,” he said.

He’s an admitted long shot, an anti-abortion Baptist and a financial planner with a large leather chair. He’s also a third-party candidate with a disparate pack of fervent supporters who show up at festivals with a toilet (for flushing the incumbent), and print lengthy support pamphlets that he’s not entirely comfortable with.

The way Cobin sees it, he’s hit the nerve of the most staunchly conservative segment of the populace, the kind of people who prize the right to own guns, who don’t buy into “left-wing environmentalist ideologies” and who despise federal forays into free trade, the United Nations and eminent domain.

This is what he terms a Christian worldview.

Not a Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell view, mind you, but a belief that the world can’t end through a man-made natural disaster.

That man can’t decide on matters of life—who lives and for how long.

That government shouldn’t intervene in private lives, whether it’s helmet requirements, seat-belt laws or regulations that mandate office fire extinguishers.

This is also why Cobin opposes the Iraq war. It went beyond self-defense, he said, to the killing of innocents.

The self-styled “coalition builder” proves it by rattling off a list of “very, very serious activists” who, he said, are more typically “at each other’s throats” but are united in supporting him.

Among them, he cites the League of the South, a pro-secession group; Christian Exodus, which has targeted South Carolina as a Christian Promised Land; and the unofficial Friends of Cobin for Congress.

Also included are Republican Party defectors, he said, Constitution Party members, the John Birch Society, which opposes world government while supporting individual rights, and The Patriot Network, which he calls “Jeffersonian radicals” who are involved in tax resistance, among other issues.

“They will do anything they can to elect me,” Cobin says, “even if they have to hold their nose on one or two issues.”

One of those would likely be the federal amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, which Cobin says he would oppose. If the federal government ventured into defining marriage, he said, it could just as easily make marriage about “an old man, a little girl and a pony.”

His range is one of a former radio talk-show host with a doctorate in public policy and whose travels have taken him to 40 countries.

For five years in the 1990s, Cobin took his family to Chile, where he taught economics in Spanish. It was a sort of experiment in freedom-seeking during the Clinton presidency.

What he found was a country that he says is freer than America in some ways—lower taxes and privatized Social Security—but without the fierce individuality that Americans prize.

Chileans, he said, all vacation in the same place.

Cobin now flies to New York once a week to teach economics at The King’s College in the Empire State Building, which says it aims to produce graduates who “command the important intellectual traditions” and “write with force and flair.”

Where most political candidates step gingerly, Cobin barrels through with a frank, rapid speaking style that’s heavy on historical analogies and unflinching judgments.

In a cozy office in the city’s historic Pettigru District, he rocks back in his desk chair and spins a cell phone around on his desktop. There are paintings of Stonewall Jackson and a man with a garden hoe on the wall and photos of his seven children perched on the flat surfaces.

A small table is stacked with newspapers and magazines.

“There’s a part of me that’s only satisfied when I’m in the fray, so to speak,” Cobin says. He adds later, “I actually like campaigning.”

When he stumps for votes at gun shows, Cobin said, nine out of 10 people he speaks with support him.

He once told his wife that if he could make $100,000 a year and was faced with the decision to make another $100,000 or make a mark in public policy activism, he would choose the latter. With a salary that “sometimes” reaches six figures, that’s essentially what Cobin is doing—indulging his affinity for the fray.

Much of it is of his own making.

Asked if the way to beat Inglis was to attack him, Cobin said he’s aiming at his voting record.

It was a single vote, for H.R. 3010, that Cobin said proves Inglis is pro-abortion.

The bill funded the annual budgets in the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, which included Planned Parenthood. That, Cobin said, “indirectly” funded abortion.

Inglis has devoted more than 1,700 words to a rebuttal on his Web site, and says the bill stated for the first time that none of the funds could be used for abortions themselves. The exception was Medicaid funding, which allows for abortions in case of rape, incest or the life of the mother.

Inglis said he supports the exception for the life of the mother and “accepts” exceptions for rape and incest.

“John would watch the house burn with 99 children on the porch and one inside rather than directing the 99 to safety,” he said. “I say grab the 99 from the porch and go in for the other one if you can develop support.”

Inglis said 165 House abortion opponents who have 100 percent voting records from the National Right to Life Committee—including himself—supported the bill.

Cobin calls the committee “traitorous” to the pro-life cause, and stated emphatically that he would have voted against the entire appropriations bill.

“It’s certainly not ethically acceptable to kill some to save others,” he said.

Inglis said he’s doing the moral opposite by saving as many children as possible.

Asked about the impact of the spirited campaign on his family, Cobin says he lacks time at home, where he helps school his children. The older ones make up for it, however, by holding signs and selling books at campaign events, some of them bringing their friends.

He calls the process “very wholesome” for them, a laissez-faire approach and an eye-opening experience.

“I do not run a pragmatic campaign,” he said.

Asked who in Congress would be an ally, Cobin spits out “Ron Paul” without a moment’s hesitation, then adds, “By far.”

Paul is a Texas Republican who “never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution,” according to his Web site.

In this race, Cobin said he finds himself more closely aligned with Democrat William Griffith, disagreeing with only 80 percent of his positions. Cobin calls him the second most conservative candidate on voters’ plates.

At a recent Baptist church debate at which Inglis was not present, Cobin said he found himself in agreement with Griffith on the evils of the Patriot Act.

Cobin got up, moved Inglis’ empty chair to the far left of the stage, then shifted his own so it was next to Griffith.

“I try to be colorful,” Cobin says, with wry understatement.

Inglis said, “I think my voting record shows that I am a conservative in a Ronald Reagan rather than a Pat Buchanan way,” which he described as a “venomous” attack on “everybody and everything.”

Cobin said he is “certainly not” a Buchanan supporter.

The role of Libertarians, Cobin said, is most often to expand the debate. In this race, he said, the goal is to win.

Cobin won’t end up spending any more than $30,000 on his campaign, but he calls it one of the most concerted efforts by a third-party candidate ever in the Upstate.

At one point in a relaxed, staccato conversation, he muses about the possibility of pulling off an upset and the Democrats picking up enough seats nationwide for a deadlocked House.

It would make him immediately powerful, he says, as a clear-thinking Libertarian in a hamstrung Congress.

“That would be fun,” he says, cracking a grin. “I have to admit, most people would like that as much as George Mason going to the Final Four.”

If elected, he said a stint in Congress most likely wouldn’t have as much to do with winning votes as with putting into play academic, free-market ideas and letting public policy institutes polish and improve them.

It would be like a third-party candidacy, in other words, on a bigger stage.

“I would be one of the most creative people in Congress,” he said.

He added, “If I get up there and figure out that no one’s willing to play … at least I would have a public voice at a national level to put out the idea.”

10 Responses to “Profile of a Conservative Libertarian”

  1. undercover_anarchist Says:

    It’s shit like this that keeps me from getting involved in the LP.

    What happened to being “Pro-Choice on Everything?”

    I am ashamed to have ever called myself a libertarian.

  2. torah Says:

    You should be ashamed. You support the murder of innocent children. I’d be ashamed too.

    It’s about time a Libertarian is pro-life, but even the “exceptions” rule is a cop-out.

    Still, you guys are shooting yourselves in the foot by running pro-choice Libertarians against a pro-life Republican and pro-choice Democrat; that splits much of the vote between the liberals…Ron Paul has been pro-life and still, the Libertarians love him.

    I wouldn’t trust a Libertarian Supreme Court nominee if the Libertarian president picking him was pro-choice. There are certain matters of life, liberty and property that Libertarians get, but the biggest one is being pro-choice on the “life” end …

  3. Chris Bennett Says:

    I’m a pro-life libertarian as well but I wouldn’t call myself a conservative libertarian either. I am also anti-death penalty which is an oxymoron within the conservative realm. I am also for gays to be able to enter into a union of whatever they choose but I am against government mandated marriage as well.

  4. Austin Cassidy Says:

    I mostly used the word Conservative because it fit in the allowed headline space. :) If I had more room I’d have called him a “Social Conservative” – as I did in the introduction sentence. :)

  5. Eric Dondero Says:

    UA, I’m with ya man. I too am “Pro-Choice on Everything.”

    Hell, the Libertarian Party’s best bumper sticker ever said:

    Vote Libertarian Party: We’re Pro-Choice on Everything.

    Why they discontinued that is beyond me?? I was recruited into the Libertarian Party in 1985 straight out of the Navy for my Pro-Choice activism. That was my issue back then. I’m dissapointed that the movement has drifted away from that. We’ve lost a great deal of support for that move, particularly amongst 20s something females.

    And nowadays the Islamo-Fascists are beefing up the Christian Right on this issue. They are more stridently Pro-Life than the Jerry Falwells of the world.

  6. Lenny Zimmermann Says:

    It hasn’t been discontinued:

  7. SteveHoodjer Says:

    What about: The Libertarian Party – We’re pro-life on everything!? Pro-life on the Iraq War and pro-you living your life without permission or interference from the government.

  8. undercover_anarchist Says:

    I don’t support the murder of INNOCENT children. I only support the murder of CHRISTIAN babies, who are, after all, born with original sin, right?

    Torah signs with Communists like Nicolae Ceau┼čescu on the issue. He banned reproductive choice in Romania with the explanation that a woman’s woman was state property. People like Hate Text, I mean “Torah”, are similarly Ovarian Marxists. A woman doesn’t own her own body – hell, women can’t own property at all! The STATE owns a woman’s uterus, and that’s why the STATE can pass laws governing a woman’s medical care.

    As my good friend Mr. Dondero points out, HateText also shares Osama bin Laden’s view of reproductive freedom.

    To socialist hatemongers like Torah, it isn’t the abortion that offends them. It’s the CHOICE. It’s the fact that the woman is making the choice. They, like Hitler and their other heroes, want CONTROL.

    Fascists like HateText are pro-death. Pro death to despearate women who turn to back alley abortions. They are also pro-rapist, and pro-incestuous pedophile (from which most of them are born).

    I think we should deport people like this as a matter of national security.

  9. Chris Campbell Says:

    Talked to him, he was unwilling to move to a real Pro-life Party-the Constitution Party. INstead he gave me long attack note why he prefers to stay with a Party(LP) that does not care about Pro-life or its small, minority Pro-life wing.

    ANARCHIST again proves what an ignorant ass he is, it is like listening to a 1 yr old babble, but the 1 yr old cannot help himself.

  10. Chris Campbell Says:

    Candidate says he’s innocent

    Published: Sunday, November 5, 2006 – 10:48 pm
    Last updated: Monday, November 6, 2006 – 12:00 Am

    By Paul Alongi

    What’s your view? Click here to add your comment to this story.

    The Libertarian candidate in the race to unseat U.S. House member Bob Inglis said he was “innocent of all charges” on Sunday, a day after he was accused of shoving his wife and causing bruises.

    John Cobin, 43, couldn’t be reached for comment but sent out a two-paragraph statement that he appreciated his supporters and expressed confidence that he would be exonerated.

    “Our campaign continues to move forward vigorously,” Cobin said in the statement.

    Cobin, who lives at 140 Sun Meadow Road in Greer, pushed his wife and grabbed her neck, according to a warrant. It happened at Thornblade Park Apartments at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, according an incident report from the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office.

    He was arrested at a CVS store on Batesville Road without incident, the report said.

    In the statement, Cobin said, “We’ve all worked hard to overcome obstacles. We are now in the final stage of the campaign and we can win.”

    Also challenging Inglis for the 4th District seat on Tuesday are William “Griff” Griffith, a Democrat, and Green Party candidate Faye Walters.

    At the time of the arrest, Cobin had the couple’s 6-month-old son, who was taken by his wife, Lesle Cobin, the report said.

    The couple separated in July and appeared to have been arguing over their son, according to the report.

    Lesle Cobin appeared to have a bruised right shin and right arm and a swollen and bruised ankle, the report said.

    Cobin posted a $2,500 bond and was released from the Greenville County Detention Center, said Lt. Shea Smith of the sheriff’s office.

    Paul Alongi can be

    reached at 298-4746.

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