Who is Cliff Hyra?

Normally, when I talk about politics, I try to stick to national issues because they’re more relevant to a larger portion of our audience. However, I would like to make an exception here to talk about the Virginia gubernatorial race and Cliff Hyra. Who is Cliff Hyra? He’s not John Galt. He’s the Libertarian Party candidate for Virginia governor.

Not a Virginia resident? Please stick with me, as I’ll eventually bring this back around to national issues.

Cliff Hyra Libertarian for Governor logo

Why Virginians should consider Cliff Hyra

Robert Sarvis
The Sarvis campaigns pulled in impressive numbers for a third party in Virginia

First, a little history. In the past few statewide elections, Virginia libertarians have been lucky to have a qualified candidate that they could be proud to vote for. Robert Sarvis is an attorney, businessman and software developer who ran for Governor in 2013 and then for the U.S. Senate in 2014. While he lost both elections, he did receive record high vote totals and seemed to re-energize the state party. He managed to attract more attention to his campaign than most non-Presidential third party candidates get. His polling success even had some party members hoping that he could break 10% to get the Libertarian Party major party status in Virginia, saving them the time and money wasted every election cycle on ballot access.

Cliff Hyra potraitI recently had the pleasure of meeting Cliff Hyra in person at a Northern Virginia meet-and-greet. I was impressed by how thoroughly knowledgeable and articulate he was. In his prepared remarks, he clearly and concisely laid out his vision for Virginia’s future. And when it came to the Q&A section, he answered every question thoughtfully and in great detail. While Gillespie and Northam are trading barbs over white supremacy and restoring rights to felons, Hyra made it a point to say he didn’t want to get involved in that kind of negative campaigning and instead wanted to focus on the issues.

Many of those issues are ones that have long been ignored by the two major parties in Virginia. Instead of solely focusing on the never-ending debate over abortion and taxes and education spending, Hyra tackles issues that few other people seem to be addressing. A full listing of his stances on the issues can be found on the issues page on his website, but here is the TLDR of his stances that I found most interesting:

Food and Beverage Law Reform – Privatizing ABC stores and loosening up regulations on breweries, happy hours and food trucks.

Tax Cuts – Exempting the first $60,000 of household income from state tax.

Criminal Justice Reform – Legalizing marijuana and ending civil asset forfeiture abuse.

Education – Introducing more competition and choice by expanding the charter school program.

Health Care – Repealing certificate of public need regulations and allowing purchase of insurance across state lines.

Accountable Government – Ending gerrymandering, prohibiting the spending of campaign funds for personal use, and establishing instant runoff voting.

Intrigued? Want to see how well your opinions match up with Hyra’s (and the other candidates)? Give the quiz on this website a try. If you’re socially liberal and fiscally conservative, then I’m confident Hyra will top your results. Still not sure? No problem! All that I ask is for you to get informed on all of the candidates. The election is November 7th, so now is the perfect time to do a little research before voting.

Why non-Virginians should care about Cliff Hyra

So why should a non-Virginian care about a third party candidate polling in the single digits in the Virginia governor’s race? Because as much as I believe in Cliff Hyra and the Libertarian Party, what I believe even more is that it is time for the two-party system to end.

For starters, the past decade should put to rest any ideas that the two major parties stand for any kind of principle anymore. As a presidential candidate, Obama rode the wave of anti-Republican sentiment by railing against expansive presidential power, reckless wars, and civil liberties violations. As President, he expanded presidential power further, got the US involved in more military conflicts around the globe, and renewed the Patriot Act. Not only are these not traditional positions for a Democratic politician, they’re in many ways indistinguishable from the positions of the Presidency of George W. Bush that Obama expressly ran as a repudiation of. Hillary Clinton was perhaps even worse than Obama on these issues, being more hawkish than most of her Republican counterparts and just as big of a cheerleader of NSA surveillance. With this and half of Democrats supporting a ban on hate speech, it doesn’t seem like there is still a party in America that is anti-war and supports freedom of speech and civil liberties.

What we essentially have are two parties whose rhetoric is different, but whose behavior once in office is virtually the same.

It’s not just Democrats, though. Republicans talked a big game about smaller government and deficits while Obama was in office, but as soon as they regained the reigns of power all that talk evaporated like it had during the Bush administration. The rise of Donald Trump as the party’s standard-bearer has muddied the waters even more. It used to be that the Republican party would at least pay lip service to supporting the free market and free trade. With Trump’s constant threats of trade wars and history of crony capitalism, it can’t be said that the Republican party supports free markets and trade, even in rhetoric. With the Republican party’s current state of complete disarray, it’s virtually impossible to tell what the party stands for at all, and I’m not even sure its leaders know.

What we essentially have are two parties whose rhetoric is different, but whose behavior once in office is virtually the same. Neither party believes in the free market. Both parties are filled with crony capitalists who are all too eager to craft regulations to aid their favored business / organization / constituents. Both parties are interventionist and support the United States getting involved in any conflicts around the world that they’ve heard of, and even some they haven’t. Neither party believes in fiscal responsibility, cutting government spending or dealing with the debt and deficit.

The lack of any meaningful difference in how the parties behave is problematic, even beyond the obvious ways. The parties start to take their voters for granted. Obama benefited a lot from the minority and gay vote despite not supporting gay marriage and his administration having set a record for most deportations. Republicans are supposedly the party for smaller government, but only when that government is headed by a Democrat. Once the Republicans get control they have no trouble massively increasing spending.

I believe that the more choices there are and more competition there is, the better outcomes we experience.

The two party system also leads to tribalism, which increases the rancor in politics. When the population believes there are only two legitimate choices, it can be just as effective to tear down the opposing party instead of making a compelling case for your own party. Instead of an intelligent and informed debate about the issues, our political discourse is reduced to attacks on the “other” group. Republicans try to whip voters into a frenzy about the media’s “fake news” or spoiled athletes disrespecting the flag. Democrats try to shut down disagreement by calling it “hate speech” and slandering opponents as racists and sexists.

On the rare occasion when the issues actually do come in, it tends to be niche issues (i.e., Confederate monuments) or the same lightning rod issue over and over. I can’t remember a local election where the majority of the Democratic candidate’s ads weren’t focused on abortion and warning that their Republican opponent wanted to make it illegal.

The two party system is like going to a restaurant where the only drink options are Coke and Pepsi but all you want is iced tea.

As with most things, I believe that the more choices there are and more competition there is, the better outcomes we experience. To me, the two party system is like going to a restaurant where the only drink options are Coke and Pepsi but all you want is iced tea. I don’t accept that we should be content with just two options and I hope that Americans are ready to wake up and demand more. Cliff Hyra probably won’t be the next governor of Virginia. He might not even get to the 10% threshold to obtain major party status for the Libertarian Party in Virginia. But he has been heard and I think people are becoming more and more receptive to not only the libertarian message, but the message that the two-party system is obsolete.

Who is Cliff Hyra? To me, he’s a symbol of hope; hope that his candidacy, regardless of outcome, represents an additional weakening of the two party system and one step closer to its demise.

Disclosure: I went to the same high school and college as Cliff Hyra (one year apart).

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Paul Essen
Founder and Chief Discourse Officer at Rampant Discourse

Proud geek. Trekkie. Browncoat. Entil’Zha. First human spectre. Hokie. Black belt. Invests Foolishly. Loves games of all types and never has enough time to play as many as he wants. Libertarian who looks forward to the day he votes for a winning presidential candidate. Father to two beautiful daughters.


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