The Libertarian National Convention, this year taking place in Orlando, Florida, is an irrepressibly exciting and interesting place to be.
With nearby picturesque Disney castles looming as monuments to capitalism and entrepreneurship, an air of magic and wonder hangs firmly over the proceedings. While the Democrats and Republicans have their presumptive nominees, here the spirit of possibility reigns.
John McAfee strolls around, apparently unperturbed by the camera crew that follows him wherever he goes, smoking a cigarette and generally acting as if he owns the place. Austin Petersen is generating buzz with young voters, and Gary Johnson, the smart money’s pick for the nomination, remains the favorite of those who see 2016 as the best opportunity to expand libertarianism’s brand among disaffected voters of both parties.
While Johnson is indisputably the favorite for the nomination, his vice-presidential pick, Bill Weld, was not well received at the vice presidential debate, leading to widespread speculation that an upset might be in the works. Rumors abound, and it remains unclear what the final ticket will look like. The uncertainty, contrasted with the fatalism of the two major parties, is thrilling.
Adding to the surreality of the event are the other conventions happening simultaneously within the same, gargantuan convention hall. An improbably large troupe of preteens tapdancers fills the space with the raucous clattering of metal on wood in a way that might be charming for one or two dancers, but is nothing but cacophonous for 50. But even more conspicuous are the comic book convention participants, dressed in all manner of elaborate costumes celebrating a wide variety of pop culture phenomena.
Wookies, catgirls, Sailors Moon, stormtroopers, superheroes and heroines, officers of the Starship Enterprise, and unidentifiable blobs of foam and PVC intersperse the Libertarian candidates, delegates, and observers as if they all belong together.
And in a way, they do.
After all, what are comic book enthusiasts, anime nerds, and cosplayers other than radical individualists, who ask only the freedom to express themselves, to pursue happiness as they see fit, even if broader society may see them as freaks and weirdos? What sort of person dresses up in an intricately constructed costume who cares about conformity?
The libertarians and cosplayers share a love and respect for the things that make people different from one another, the immense variety of human experience and subjective preferences that leave room, not only for suit-and-tie political junkies, but also for greasepaint representations of ancient Greek mythology. There’s a beauty and cohesion to it all that, in a way, just makes sense.
Collectivism, at its heart, is defined by a desire to make everyone the same, in spite of the glorious diversity of nature. Progressives want us to all eat the same way, think the same way, and vote the same way. They want their priorities to be our priorities. They want their preferences to be our preferences. In a progressive’s world, an imperial stormtrooper and a Nozickian monarchist could never even hold a civil conversation, much less be friends. Not so at the Libertarian convention, where all people are free to flaunt their eccentricities, to express their personalities, and to wallow in their own crapulence.
There remain a lot of interesting things to be seen this weekend, not the least of which is the actual selection process of the Libertarian nominees for president and vice president. But right from the outset, the spirit of freedom blows sweetly through the air inside the convention hall, and hangs unmistakably in the Florida heat outside.
Be sure to stay tuned for more coverage of the convention as it develops, and check out our live blog for up-to-the-minute updates, photos, and more. Libertarianism may be a relatively new force on the American political scene, but you can say this for it: it’s never boring.
This article originally appeared on Conservative Review.