Nearly two out of three young voters in Pennsylvania backed President Obama on Nov. 6. But very few of them, it seemed, were at the University of Pennsylvania’s Irvine Auditorium last weekend for the Students for Liberty Philadelphia Regional Conference — a gathering of budding Libertarians from across the tri-state area.
Summing up the prevailing sentiment, one grim-faced woman admitted, “I’ve been feeling, ever since the election, just despairing. I feel like there’s no way to stop this downfall.” She wondered aloud if secession might be an option. “There’s always Montana,” a student called out hopefully. “Texas is close to seceding,” someone else muttered.
Ed Hudgins — Ayn Rand acolyte, advocacy director at the Atlas Society and one of Washington’s foremost Libertarian commentators — assured students, in disappointed tones, that this was not possible. Nonetheless, he said, “America is in a civil war … between the makers and the takers.”
Hudgins’ seminar was appealingly entitled “Fighting for Freedom Against a Re-Elected Obama.” Over one hour, he laid out the situation for a crowd of about 50 students: America is on the verge of ruin. Between the “environmental nuts,” the Mayor Bloombergs of the world (one day we’ll “have a five-day waiting period to buy a Twinkie”) and the Nov. 6 win for those in favor of “looting the rich,” Hudgins said, one thing is clear: “The American ethos is changing.” Too many people are “moral children … addicted to government,” he said; or, as former Gov. Mitt Romney famously pointed out, 47 percent of us are moochers.
Those seated in the well-appointed conference room of the Ivy League university presumably considered themselves to be among what Hudgins called the “few productive people who are left.” He told them that they shouldn’t have to justify themselves or feel bound, under any circumstances, to consider the greater good over their own.
Temple University senior Mitchell Frizzell, for one, found Hudgins’ talk “refreshing.” He said his parents, who hauled themselves up from working-class beginnings, taught him that you have to help yourself to get ahead. He said he doesn’t see why the government should intervene.
His fellow Temple Students for Liberty member Aleksandr Fisher agreed. And yet, he just might have been the only guy in the room who was happy with the presidential election results. Fisher, whose family immigrated from the former Soviet Union, said history shows us that collapse is what breeds reform: “I believe [Obama’s] economic policies will lead to total ruin. But it paves the way for liberty to emerge from the fire, from the ruins. That’s the only way I see anything changing.”