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Robert Burke of the town of Hudson enjoys an exchange of ideas with caucus members about the new Libertarian Party and how to build the party's infrastructure so it becomes credible with area voters. Burke, 43, was laid off last year as a financial services wholesaler with Genworth Financial. He is now a stay-at-home dad with two daughters, ages 10 and 12. His wife, Sandy (Kerr) Burke, graduated from UW-River Falls in 1997 and teaches English at Hudson High School. <i>Phil Pfuehler photos</i>

Birth of a party: Libertarians say come join us

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Birth of a party: Libertarians say come join us
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Are you so fed up you've given up on politics?

Are you frustrated during elections that there's no real choice besides voting Republican or Democrat?

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Welcome to the world of the Libertarian Party Pierce-St. Croix.

The area party was born Saturday morning, Feb. 23. Delivery came at the UW-River Falls campus with the party's first-ever caucus.

Founder and first elected chairman of the Libertarians, Robert Burke of Hudson, was emphatic about the current political failures.

"First, let's stop calling the two parties Republicans and Democrats," he said. "Neither party represents a set of values even remotely close to those words.

"This is about our children and grandchildren's future. I have tried to speak with our elected officials about my concerns. But the system is such that they are unaware of the consequences ahead and unwilling to try."

Burke, formerly active in the Republican Party, including on the UWRF campus where he graduated in 1997 with a marketing communications degree and political science minor, said Libertarians are for real.

"As to what we represent, people would be hard pressed to call a party that wants to end the war on drugs and our foreign wars, a far-right 'Republican Extension.'

"As for allowing Democrats to ascend to power, you are assuming we won't win elections. We're here to mess things up for both parties."

Some 20 people showed up Feb. 23 to establish the new Libertarian Party, elect officers and approve a Statement of Principles.

Part of the latter read:

...The members of the Libertarian Party challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual...where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual, namely, 1) the right to life -- accordingly, we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others; 2) the right to liberty of speech and action -- accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge freedom of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and 3) the right to property -- accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.

Saturday's Libertarian caucus had a decidedly Ron Paul tone. Burke said Paul's "liberty and freedom" presidential message resonated last year, especially on college campuses. He said Republicans and Democrats better take note.

"In all my experiences promoting the caucus, I will tell you there is an undercurrent that concerns the Red-and-Blue teams deeply. If it doesn't, it should."

Libertarian caucus members Saturday spoke about reaching out to groups that would benefit from less government interference and likely "embrace a free-market system."

They mentioned the home-school movement and co-ops, small family daycares, small and organic farmers, small business and shop owners, 'the faith community' and college students.

They talked about relying more on "local-based solutions" and the work of charities, also doing away with the burdensome, unfair income tax code and instead relying on sales taxes as a fairer way to finance government -- the way it was set up by the nation's founders.

For the complete story, please see the Feb. 28 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

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Phil Pfuehler
Phil Pfuehler has been editor of the River Falls Journal since 1991.
(715) 426-1050
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