Exclusive: Spike Cohen on pandemic lockdowns, masks, and the definition of victory

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I had the opportunity to speak with Libertarian vice-presidential nominee Jeremy “Spike” Cohen yesterday following a campaign appearance in North Texas. A lightly edited transcript is below.

Taylor Millard: Happy to be in Texas?

Spike Cohen: Oh, I love being in Texas. So, this is my…what is it…fifth or sixth campaign stop in Texas. First, I was in Lubbock back in August. Since then I’ve been in Houston, Conroe, Brenham, Dallas, and now here in Fort Worth. I’ll be in Dallas, later tonight, and I love Texas.

Millard: So, what is the, when you sit there and look at the discussions you’ve had in Texas, and we’ll get to the other discussions you’ve had across the country, what is it you’ve run into in talking with people and what are they saying to you? Is it a Q&A and a discussion or are you just giving speeches? What’s kind of going on with your appearances?

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Spike Cohen: At pretty much all of my events, I do…possibly I do a speech, sometimes I don’t even do a speech, but I almost always do a Q&A. I try to take at least five or six questions, there have been times I’ve spent two hours answering questions. It’s what I prefer to do. It’s one thing for me to show up and say what I think and what I think people want to hear. My most important thing is that I want people to share with me what they think and what their questions are and what their concerns are and to be able to give the answer.

There’s so many people even within this movement and especially those who show up at our events just out of curiosity and there’s been a lot of that, a thousand people who show up just to hear what we have to say ‘cause we’re the only one showing up. And they have questions: Well, how does this Libertarian society work, how do your policies work, how would it play out if Libertarians were in charge instead of Republicrats. I savor the opportunity to be able to answer those.

Millard: The narrative that’s been going on this year is that it’s the most important election of our time.

Spike Cohen: Yeah.

Millard: Which is of course the narrative that happened in 2016 and in 2012.

Spike Cohen: It’s always the narrative.

Millard: How do you explain that and how do you sit there, and you tell people: Hey instead of voting for a Republican or a Democrat…consider third party?

Spike Cohen: Well, the first thing I say is that this election is far too important to keep voting for the people who put us in this mess. That’s the shorthand of what I do. If we have opportunity for a longer conversation, I talk about the fact that the reason this election is so important, the reason that we’re in a constant state of crises, is because of the bad policies that have been put in place by Republicans and Democrats working together for the past several decades to make our lives increasingly difficult for the benefit of them and the cronies and bureaucrat class that they’ve created. That is why the problems that we’re facing are going on and the only way that we’re going to get out of this constant state of crisis is to get these people out of office, to dismantle the systems they’ve created, and to take the power and the freedom and the wealth that they have robbed from the American people and put it back in your hands where it always belonged.

Millard: What’s it like campaigning during a pandemic?

Spike Cohen: It involves a lot of masks. It involves a lot of creativity from our planning department and where we can do venues ‘cause you can’t do an indoor event with thousands of people right now. Or at least not responsibly. I mean, in most places, it’s illegal. Even in the places where it’s legal it wouldn’t really be responsible to do that. So, it means a lot of outdoor events…it means a lot of rolling with the punches and it means sometimes doing some illegal stuff like anti-lockdown protests like we did in Miami last week.

Millard: What was that like?

Spike Cohen: That was really what I would like us to focus on moving forward which is showing direct action that we refuse to cow-tow to the diktat of the state especially when we have been doing it legally up to that point. What happened in Miami is that we got all of the permission needed to have a legal, indoors event with about 50 to 100 people at a place called CubaOcho…and we were going to have a regular rally-type of event with a Q&A followed by a salsa party that was going to last three or four hours. And when we got there, we found out that the city manager found out that we were going to be there and so they shut the event down.

They shut the venue down under the most flimsy of pretenses. They told the owner, Roberto, that he was violating covid restrictions, even though when they came there to issue the violation notice he was there alone – with no one else there. Which would mean it was impossible for him to be violating anything. So, when we got there and we were told that he had just been shut down we had one of two options. We could either just pack up and leave…or we could talk to the 100+ people who showed up and were being told that they weren’t allowed to peaceably assemble.

Thankfully, there was a nice alley there and a new sidewalk area and good acoustics…so we went out there with bullhorns and we held an anti-lockdown protest/rally/salsa social. And in doing that, not only were we able to show the government there in Miami and governments around the country that we’re not going to sit there and simply sit back and let them treat us however they want to. Not only we were able to show the voters that we were not going to simply just cower whenever the government told us what to do, but we were also able to reach far more people because by having it outside, everyone was able to hear us. Thousands of people we were able to interact with – including all the people…who wanted to be part of our outdoor salsa party ‘cause salsa events have been shut down for some time. And we did it safely, we had hand sanitizer, we had masks, we did it in a safe and responsible way. But we were able to show people that we need to be able to live our lives. That we cannot continue living under lockdown and fear. Nothing less than the World Health Organization has said that these lockdowns have accomplished nothing other than increasing poverty, increasing child malnutrition, increasing homelessness, increasing untreated depression, increasing all these other terrible things that have a far higher rate of fatality that covid-19 itself. We need to treat this disease seriously, but we also need to live our lives.

Millard: All right, so let’s talk about treating this disease seriously because I know that it’s an important thing to talk about. We’re in an outdoor event right now. I happen to be wearing a mask, you’re not wearing a mask. I know I’m going to have friends who are not libertarians – they’re kind of libertarian curious – but maybe they don’t completely agree with every single bit of the philosophy and the political stances. However, they’re going to sit there and say, “Why is Spike Cohen, the libertarian vice-presidential nominee, why is he not wearing a mask? And why is Taylor wearing a mask and why is Taylor being responsible, but Spike isn’t?” Now…you and I would have a different opinion than everyone else…What do you say to someone who’s going to sit there and say, “Why are you not wearing a mask?”?

Spike Cohen: I would say that I have traveled to something like 35 states and interacted with tens of thousands of people over the course of this campaign. In-person…sometimes wearing masks, especially if we’re indoors or we’re in a closer, more crowded conditions. But very often not wearing masks when we are outdoors and it’s not as crowded. There have been no outbreak events that have been traced to our events. I and my team are routinely tested, and each test comes out negative. We are being responsible. Being responsible doesn’t mean just doing what the government tells you to do. Being responsible doesn’t mean just living in fear. It means looking at the data that we have and making grown adult conscientious decisions on how we are to live our lives.

This campaign and the way that we’ve conducted it is just proof that we don’t have to live like this. If people want to wear masks – we can wear masks. When someone asks me to wear a mask because it makes them more comfortable, I’m happy to do so. But what I’m not going to do is to continue to live in fear and to continue to contribute to lockdowns that have destroyed the U.S. economically and destroyed entire households, not just economically but in many other ways. I have talked to people who are unable to get cancer screenings because their hospital isn’t allowed to treat anyone but covid patients. I’ve talked to people whose hospitals were shut down because they couldn’t afford to continue operating just by treating covid patients because respiratory care therapy operates at a loss. I’ve talked to people whose lives have been destroyed because of these lockdowns. And many people whose lives have been lost due to these lockdowns. And guess what? It didn’t slow the spread of covid-19. We’re still seeing spikes in the increasing covid-19 even amidst lockdowns and mask mandates and all of this stuff. It is proof positive that this isn’t working. Again, the World Health Organization has said that it is not working. These ideas are not just tyrannical and infringing upon our rights they are anti-science and they are not working.

What would work is if the CDC and FDA had allowed medical professionals to test covid patients for the first two months that the virus was here. Now we can decide whether that was intentional or not but the reality is by allowing during that time that this could have been contained…instead making that medical professionals were not able to do their jobs and save lives and to this day continue to make it difficult for medical professionals to save lives and to be able to health people…That is why the pandemic’s going so poorly here. That’s why things are going badly. Not because people are trying to live their lives not because people are trying to provide for their families. It’s because the government is trying to tell medical professionals how to do their job when they themselves don’t know how to do it.

Millard: You were hooked up with Vermin Supreme in the primary. Now you’re hooked up with Jo Jorgensen. What is the difference between campaigning with Jo Jorgensen versus campaigning with Vermin Supreme? Are you a little bit more serious or has anything really changed, at all?

Spike Cohen: I haven’t really changed. I was really the…overwhelmingly serious but with some humor and satire candidate. I still am that. I still am a serious candidate who does not take himself too seriously and recognizes that humor is a great way to reach people. Now, obviously, the difference is in how I’m complementing my running mate. With Vermin he was the satire candidate and I was the one who when he would bring people in with satire, I would sell them on the liberty message. With Jo…she is able to reach certain audiences and I’m able to reach others. We’re bringing them into the same policies and the same message. But in doing this and in complementing each other that way, we’re able to make sure that we don’t leave a single chip on the table at the end of the day. No matter where you are on the political spectrum. No matter how old you are. No matter your race, your income level, your creed or color, or anything in between. And, depending on how much you even take this system seriously, you still are being reached by the Libertarian message.

Millard: What’s been the most interesting thing you’ve run into during this campaign/pandemic?

Spike Cohen: Besides just getting to see so many different parts of the U.S. in such a relatively short period of time. I’m in a different state almost every single day…Being able to look back over just the course of just a few months and really have seen almost all of the country (chuckles) or at least almost all of the states. I would say that the most interesting thing has been the consistency of the concerns of the American people. And the fact that what people are saying they are concerned about are almost completely removed from what the media tells us what people are concerned about. Do you know what people are concerned about? Making ends meet. And that’s almost never talked about in the media.

They talk about almost anything else but the fact that an increasing number of Americans don’t know how they’re going to be able to make ends meet. That was a problem before these lockdowns and before this pandemic and it’s just become even more as a result of it…We are the party that recognizes that Republicrat monetary policy, Republicrat regulatory policy, Republicrat labor and environmental policy has led to a situation where an increasing number of Americans are unable to afford just a basic cost of living. They’re having to- even with subsidization of their health care in many cases, even with subsidization of food and houses, even with so-called help that they’ve been taxed to pay for being given back to them…they still can’t afford things. Even with running up debt, even with this government at the federal and state level running up debt, they can’t afford to live. And we know why that is. It’s because a system was developed by cronies and Republicrats to rob all of us to enrich them. To rob us of their power, to rob us of our freedom, and, of course, to rob us of our money. And the time has come for us to dismantle that, to kick those bums out of office, to take that power and that money back and give it back to the American people.

Millard: What’s a victory for the Libertarians on Election Day?

Spike Cohen: I am running and Jo is running…We are running to win this election. I have never undertaken any kind of undertaking in the 20+ years that I’ve been in business or in politics with the idea of trying to fail well. I always try to win. With that said, we understand what our odds are. We know the uphill battle that we face. Winning is what winning has always been for Libertarians: doing better in this election than we’ve done in previous ones. And we’ve been doing that steadily for many decades now. Not just doing better and better in terms of the percentage we get running for president but arguably, more importantly, increasing the number of Libertarians who get elected at the city and state level. Right now, we have around 250 elected Libertarians. That number goes up every single election cycle…that is a type of victory just having more Libertarians in it. That is why I focus so much on using my national platform and Jo using her national platform to promote the down-ballot races that have a higher chance of winning. But, at the end of the day, we’re trying to win.

Millard: One final question. A friend of mine made kind of a snarky comment on Facebook saying, “Oh…this poll shows Jo Jorgensen is polling about as well as Kanye West. Are you guys even going to beat Kanye West?” I kind of ignored it. However, I want to ask you…what do you think about the comment about someone showing a poll showing Jorgensen polling around the same of Kanye West? It’s pretty much an outlier because y’all tend to be doing better than Kanye.

Spike Cohen: Yeah, I’m not sure which poll they’re citing – it may have been a statewide poll or something. Or they may have just made it up. I honestly don’t know, I haven’t seen that poll.

Here’s what I will say…by virtue of the fact we’re on all 50 state ballots we’re going to do better than Kanye West because he’s only on seven or eight. What I will also say that Kanye West is experienc[ing] a very interesting thing in American politics. Even though he is a billionaire, even though he is one of the most well-known people on the planet, easily, probably Top 10 most well-known people on the planet. Because he’s not running as a Republican or Democrat he didn’t realize just how difficult it is to get on the ballot. There’s a reason why Libertarian Party is the only party was the only party to be able to earn our spot on all 50 state ballots, plus DC, even during a pandemic. Because we’re the only ones who have the wherewithal and the infrastructure and the dedication of our activists to be able to do so. But more importantly, it shouldn’t have to be that way. Whatever qualifications that it takes for Republicans and Democrats to get on the ballot – it should be that way for everyone else. However high or low that threshold is it should be for everyone else. It…completely goes against the idea of a representative republic that we’re supposed to have and the democratic system that we’re supposed to be under. To have it where two parties, who are in control, have one set of standards for them and a much higher set of standards for anyone else who wants to run. Kanye West has experienced that firsthand.

Millard: Spike, thank you. This is why I let you answer these questions.

Spike Cohen (smiling): Hey, thank you. I appreciate that.

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