Could the Libertarian Party, which in 2012 and 2016 nominated former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson for president, try to send another man with New Mexico roots to the White House?
Former Santa Fe resident Adam Kokesh says he is working to make that happen. Kokesh, 35, now living in northwestern Arizona, said in an interview that he’s seeking the 2020 Libertarian presidential nomination.
Kokesh’s long-shot campaign could be entertaining. His history as an anti-war, pro-gun, pro-drug activist means he is bound to bring controversial statements and loads of unusual ideas to a presidential race. Kokesh also will supply his critics with plenty of ammunition, given that he has felony convictions on firearms and drug charges.
Asked whether he believes that he or any other Libertarian can win the presidency, Kokesh said, “When we apply our philosophy properly it’s inevitable we are going to win.”
But then he added, “We’re not going to be president. … The platform is get sworn in, and go sign an executive order immediately in which I resign to no longer be president of the United States but [become] custodian of the federal government.”
Then he said, he would oversee dissolution of the federal government, determining which agencies would be abolished and which would be moved to local governments.
A reporter argued that the U.S. Constitution contains nothing about a president resigning and naming himself “custodian” of the federal government. Kokesh replied: “There’s a preceding and superior document to the constitution, which is the Declaration of Independence.”
Kokesh comes from a family that has waged high-profile battles with the government.
His father, former Santa Fe venture capitalist Charles Kokesh, last month broke a losing streak in his confrontations with authority. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that the elder Kokesh couldn’t be forced by the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay it nearly $35 million for misappropriating money from tens of thousands of investors.
Adam Kokesh has both menaced the government and tried to become part of it.
He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010, losing a Republican primary to Tom Mullins of Farmington. Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who twice sought the Republican presidential nomination, endorsed Kokesh. Mullins went on to lose the general election to Democrat Ben Ray Luján.
Even before his congressional race, Kokesh had received national attention for his anti-war activities. Kokesh, who had served in Iraq as a Marine, was detained by police at the 2008 Republican National Convention for heckling presidential nominee John McCain.
Kokesh in 2011 began hosting a talk radio program called Adam vs. The Man on KIVA AM in Albuquerque. That year he was offered a spot as a regular panelist on a KNME television news program. But that invitation was rescinded after a dispute about whether Kokesh could bring a concealed gun to the studio.
A bigger audience awaited Kokesh. In the spring of 2011, Russia Today, a television network known as a propaganda tool of the Russian government, asked Kokesh to bring Adam vs. The Man to its airwaves. He moved to Washington, D.C., to do his daily program for Russia Today.
Critics lambasted Kokesh for allowing himself to be used by the Russians to bash America. “RT was the Russian government poking the American government in the eye,” Kokesh said. “For me it was an opportunity to spread my message of peace and love and freedom.”
The gig only lasted about four months. Politico and other publications reported that Russia Today canceled the show after a conservative political committee called America’s Survival filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission claiming that Kokesh’s on-air fundraising for Ron Paul broke rules against foreign campaign contributions. Kokesh says it was canceled because he was critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Kokesh began producing the show independently as a podcast and YouTube series. Controversy followed him. On one show in 2012, he read a letter from a fellow Paul supporter who asked whether it would be ethical to assassinate Mitt Romney to help Paul get the Republican presidential nomination. Kokesh in the video stresses that he did not endorse the idea of killing Romney. But, he said, “I cannot deny that the thought hasn’t crossed my mind.”
Though he had been arrested before at protests, Kokesh faced serious legal trouble after posting a video of himself loading a shotgun in Freedom Plaza, just blocks from the White House, on July 4, 2013. “We are the final American revolution,” he said in the video.
U.S. Park Police raided Kokesh’s house in Herndon, Va., bringing a search warrant for the shotgun and raw footage of the video. He pleaded guilty to a felony count of carrying a shotgun outside of his home, and misdemeanor charges of possession of an unregistered firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition and marijuana possession.
He later was convicted in a Virginia court of a felony gun charge as well as a charge of possessing psychedelic mushrooms, which police had found when they raided his home.
After being released from jail, Kokesh left Washington, D.C., and eventually settled in Arizona. Now, he says, he follows a philosophy he outlined in a 103-page book titled Freedom! that he wrote in 2014.
“The book has become the focus of my activism because it’s a philosophical manifesto that is applying ethics and the concept of non-violence and individual rights to politics in a way that fundamentally alters the world view of everyone who reads it,” he said.
He would need to change a lot of minds to emerge as the Libertarian presidential nominee and gain any momentum nationally. Johnson, a two-term governor, last year received just over 3 percent of the national vote, the best any Libertarian presidential candidate has ever done.
Contact Steve Terrell at 505-986-3037 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at http://www.santafenewmexican.com/roundhouse_roundup.