A paradox faces any third-party candidate for office: People don't take you seriously because not enough people take you seriously.
So I feel some empathy for Alex Snitker, a Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida this year.
Snitker showed up the other day at a meeting of the Florida Society of News Editors, which was hearing from the "legitimate" Senate candidates, and even we wouldn't let him talk. He isn't high enough in the polls.
So I called Snitker up and said, okay, I got a few hundred words; what are you for?
Alexander Snitker is 34 years old, grew up and attended public school in Pasco County, and served eight years in the Marines, mostly as a supply and logistics clerk, with an honorable discharge. He works in sales for an office equipment company, has been married for 10 years and has a son just shy of 2 years old.
In general, the Libertarian Party, a real, long-established party, is about limiting government power over individual freedom. That means truly limited government, unlike the kind that Republicans and Democrats practice.
We went through Snitker's major policy points:
• Replacing the federal income tax with a sales tax (that is, a tax on consumption), with no loopholes or favors. People under the poverty line would not pay the tax; everybody else would.
• A balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, although allowing a deficit by a 60 percent vote of Congress in times of war or emergency.
• An "enumerated powers" law that would basically put an expiration date on the federal government, requiring a review of whether each function is truly within the powers of Congress as listed in the Constitution. For starters, he would abolish the departments of Education, Energy and maybe Commerce.
• Term limits of 12 years total for service in the House and Senate. You could serve three two-year House terms and still run for a six-year Senate term, but that would be it — you couldn't serve longer in the House and then run for a six-year Senate term.
• An audit or even abolition of the Federal Reserve.
• Withdrawal of most overseas U.S. forces, except for bases essential to protecting shipping lanes. "I would finish up in Iraq and not leave any bases there," he said. "I would find Osama bin Laden and then come home." His rule for military intervention: when Congress declares war.
• Addressing the problem of illegal immigrants by cracking down on employers who hire them. That crackdown, along with his tax on spending instead of an income tax that can be dodged, will have a major effect, Snitker argues.
Of course, Snitker is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and in fine libertarian tradition, does not believe most social issues are any business of the government — certainly not the federal government. This includes same-sex marriage and the "war on drugs."
I asked Snitker whether he would support tougher regulation in areas such as oil drilling, given the current disaster.
He replied that the ultimate cause of the BP catastrophe was a monetary cap on overall damages. Absent such a cap, the insurers would have served as a free-market, external check and balance, forcing the oil drillers to operate more safely.
Naturally I disagree with some of Snitker's platform and am sure you do; not even two Libertarians agree with each other all the time.
The big stars of the Senate race are Marco Rubio the Republican, Gov. Charlie Crist the independent, and the Democrats Kendrick Meek and Jeff Greene. Even the least of these dwarfs Snitker in money, name recognition and all the trappings of a statewide campaign.
"But if I had $2 million," Snitker says confidently, "I'd win hands down." And given the mood of voters this year, who knows?
For more information, check out Snitker's website at www.snitker2010.com. You also can find him via a search on Facebook and Twitter, or at his mail address: P.O. Box 5411, Spring Hill, FL 34611. There's no public phone number; the campaign phone number rings on the cell phone in his pocket.
As members of his party like to say to each other in closing: Yours in liberty . . .