This story was written by Nick Hasty, Iowa State Daily
High-fives and cheers of excitement erupted among a house full of Libertarians on election night in November.
Eric Cooper, associate professor of psychology and adviser for Iowa State University Libertarians, pulled in 25 percent of the vote in Story County for Iowa House District 46. He received a total of 21 percent of the vote overall when the votes for Boone County were added in.
At the party, we were all jumping around, high-fiving each other, Cooper said. We were very, very excited.
The ISU Libertarians, along with the chairman and vice president of the Iowa Libertarian Party, watched the results pour in on television.
It was kind of the Libertarian headquarters on election night, Cooper said.
Cooper was pleased to see the number rise to 20 percent and said he was very happy to see the results top off at 25 percent. The show of support was a personal record for him.
First, it said 18 percent, and I was really happy because 15 percent was my goal, Cooper said. Then it went up to 25 percent and we were all just jumping around and high-fiving each other after that, so it was a lot of fun.
The race was Coopers fifth time running for state representative. It was his most successful election.
It was almost twice as many votes as Ive ever received before, Cooper said.
Why be Libertarian?
Cooper said he continues running as a Libertarian because he wants to give people more of an option.
I want to give people who care about liberty somebody they can vote for, Cooper said. Its very disheartening to believe no one in the world agrees with you.
Cooper first started running for the House seat in 2000 because of his past experiences of finding no candidate to vote for.
In the 1996 election, I just walked in, looked at the ballot and walked out without filling anything in, Cooper said. Its awful to go into the voting booth and have no one to vote for.
Cooper said he first joined the Libertarian Party when he was in high school, in part as a result of reading Ayn Rand books.
I read Ayn Rands novels in high school and was impressed, Cooper said. Atlas Shrugged influenced me the most, I would say.
Cooper said the political aspects of Rands objectivist philosophy align with Libertarianism.
Another book Cooper cited as an influence was Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater, which was available at the home he grew up in.
My father was technically a Republican, but he was a Libertarian Republican, Cooper said. He supported Barry Goldwater.
Cooper said he didnt really have any politicians he could support or get excited about while growing up because they didnt support his view of what the government is supposed to be.
Most politicians want to make the government bigger, Ive found for the major parties, Cooper said. It was hard to find any inspiration.
Cooper said people should consider voting for Libertarian candidates because having them involved in the government will be beneficial.
Just having a few third party candidates in Congress or in the legislature can actually improve lawmaking, Cooper said. Because the Republicans and the Democrats have to defend themselves now against not just one another but against other views as well.
Olson said voters should consider voting for Libertarian candidates because the Libertarian party has been consistent, unlike other parties, Olson said.
The Libertarian party is strictly based on basic principles, Olson said. They want a consistent party and we havent changed any of our plaforms.
Having people open to the idea of third party candidates is important for Cooper.
I really think people should at least consider what some third party candidates are saying, Cooper said. They should realize there are more than two sides to every issue.
Getting involved in the party
While teaching psychology at Iowa State, Cooper found reason to get inspired. David Davis, a student at the time, asked Cooper to be the adviser for the ISU Libertarians.
There were only two official members of the Libertarian party on campus, he said.
As the new adviser of the ISU Libertarians, Cooper and the club started to mobilize.
We would go to the state conventions for the Libertarian party, Cooper said. I became more involved with the state party, and now Im a member of the executive committee of the state party.
Becoming a candidate for the Libertarian party was not an option for Cooper, he felt an obligation to run.
As an official of the party I feel like I should be running every election cycle, Cooper said. I think its important, if Libertarians want to have a presence in the state of Iowa, that we have candidates running for office.
Cooper finances all of his campaigns by himself and receives help from the ISU Libertarians.
I like to teach a class during the summer and use that money to fund my campaign, Cooper said. I usually make one of the Iowa State Libertarians my campaign manager and have them do a lot of the grunt work for the campaign.
Some of the grunt work includes setting up the bank account for the campaign and finding out advertising rates.
David Olson, president of ISU Libertarians and junior in economics, worked on Coopers campaign and said the groups effort showed this year.
He was one of the most successful Libertarian candidates in the country, Olson said. I think our efforts definitely paid off this year.
Olson said Cooper has many qualities which make him an effective candidate.
Hes a very likable public speaker, he said. Being a psychology professor, I think he has a lot of good ideas of how to get his name out there.
Having members of the ISU Libertarians help out with his campaign gives Cooper time to focus on his priorities as a candidate.
My responsibility, as a candidate, is to go to the interviews, go to the forums and make some decisions about advertising, Cooper said.
Coopers campaign advertising was themed after people of the Revolutionary War. He said people today dont hold freedom to such high esteem as those people did.
Those people were citizens who cared a lot about their liberty, Cooper said. I want people today to start thinking like those people who lived at the time of the Revolutionary War.
He said people today have the wrong idea of what power the government should have.
I think they dont have a good philosophy of what the government is supposed to do, Cooper said. I think they have a vague notion that the government should be trying to make the world better, rather than the specific notion that the people of the Revolutionary War had, which is the government has a few, specific things that we need it to do and its not supposed to do anything beyond that or tax people beyond whats necessary to perform those functions.
Education is the biggest issue for Cooper.
Privatizing education would do the most for the state, in terms of both saving money for the state and making education better, Cooper said. The most important thing for me is to get some competition in education in the state of Iowa.
Cooper would promote competition in the Iowa education system by attaching money to each child to use for schools.
They can use it at home school, parochial school or even the current public schools if they want, Cooper said. But the public schools will be funded on exactly the same basis as their competitors.
Youth and the Libertarian Party
One of the reasons Cooper runs is to communicate his Libertarian platform to the youth.
It gives me a chance to talk to people, particularly young people, about Libertarianism, Cooper said. I hope I provide a good role model, someone who looks intelligent and thoughtful.
Cooper said he pulls in support mostly from the youth and elderly voters.
I think you see high school- and college-aged people are extremely Libertarian, Cooper said. Some of the very oldest people are very Libertarian because they remember when the Republican party was more Libertarian than it is now.
Cooper was impressed with all the young people he met while working for Rep. Ron Pauls, R-Texas., presidential campaign. He said in the very near future the Libertarian party will gain popularity.
Were not going to be a major player on the scene, Cooper said, But as more and more college-aged, high school-aged people start growing up and getting more interested in politics, I think Libertarianism is going to take off.
It is no accident that college-aged people are playing a big role in the Libertarian partys success, Olson said.
College campuses have historically been breeding grounds for new political movements, Olson said. A lot of people are looking for a third option.
Cooper would like to run for governor the next time around.
Id like to try and get the partys nomination to run for governor, Cooper said. If I dont, ld like to run for either senate or house again.
Running for governor would help bring the Libertarian party more exposure, Cooper said.
I think its important that Libertarians have people in statewide offices because that increases our exposure to everybody in the state, Cooper said. Im looking for new challenges.