Meet the Michigan Libertarian who strip-teased at the convention

Jun 22, 2016 at 11:05 am
click to enlarge James Weeks - Courtesy James Weeks, Libertarian for Sheriff
Courtesy James Weeks, Libertarian for Sheriff
James Weeks

When James Weeks strip-teased at the Libertarian convention last month, he did it in hopes of drawing attention to the (usually ignored) party. Well, he got his wish, because we pounced on the story, telling our readers that the guy who stripped down to a G-string was from Michigan. In fact, he's from Livingston County, where he's making a run for sheriff.

Which made us wonder, what's up with the Libertarian candidate? What animates the 48-year-old Livingston County resident, and what would he hope to accomplish as sheriff? He gave us an earful.

Metro Times: You sure got a reaction at the convention.
James Weeks: It was funny seeing a lot of the reaction to it. The Libertarian Party has always been one of free speech, so some of the reactions within the party have shocked me actually. There were a lot of people who showed support, but it was actually quite surprising to see negative responses from fellow Libertarians.

MT: Well, it took some guts to do what you did in Florida in front of an unsympathetic audience.
Weeks: [laughs] Well, some people were supportive. But, yeah, there were a lot of “pearl clutchers” out there.

MT: You said that it was a dare for a friend. Want to share the story behind it?
Weeks: It was a political demonstration. I was having a discussion with a group of people about different things that could be done to bring publicity to the Libertarian Party and get the message out there. We don’t really get press attention at all. A couple days before the convention, somebody had actually suggested that Libertarians strip naked and run through the streets to get attention. So we were having this discussion and I was like, ‘Well, what if I stripped for my chairman’s speech?’ But there was a message behind it. With performance art, I don’t really think that you should spoon-feed the audience the message. I’d rather leave what my message was that I was trying to get out ambiguous so people can put their own meaning to it. And I’ve noticed a lot of people have come pretty close to what I was thinking when I was doing it. I noticed that on Facebook a lot of people were actually pretty spot-on.

MT: And what did it mean?
Weeks: To me it meant that our government is so corrupt that it needs to be stripped down. You know the story, “The Emperor Has No Clothes”? That was always a childhood favorite story of mine.

MT: The state of our government is an open secret that nobody dares broach?
Weeks: Yeah.

MT: OK, I don’t want to dwell on your strip-tease too much. You’re running for sheriff of Livingston County?
Weeks: Yes.

MT: What's your platform?
Weeks: The state of our law enforcement has gone bad in our country, and we need to stop that. We had over a thousand people killed by police officers last year. It’s absolutely crazy, the state of our law enforcement in America. Last year, there was a gentleman who got pulled over with an out taillight and shot dead in the street over it. That’s just an example of how far the law enforcement has gone in our country. That kind of shoot-first, ask-questions-later law enforcement, that’s not right.

MT: Do you have any particular issues with regard to the incumbent sheriff in Livingston County?
Weeks: Well, the Livingston County Sheriff's Department has become heavily militarized over the past few years here. They used to wear the traditional sheriff uniforms with dress shoes, and now they’re wearing black combat BDUs driving around in black cars where you can hardly even see the word sheriff painted on them. They got a MRAP tank they’re driving around. In a really low-crime county, I can’t see any legitimate purpose for them to have a tank. When they got that tank, that was one of the things that made me say, “OK, I’m running for sheriff.” What do they need a tank for here? There’s no purpose for a sheriff’s department to have military equipment. And then there's civil asset forfeiture. That’s a blatant violation of people's rights. There’s absolutely no due process for that. I’d like to halt that whole aspect of the law enforcement in my county immediately.

MT: Any other issues driving you? Anything else to the platform?
Weeks: The Sheriff’s dept. here has been arresting a ton of people for victimless crimes. Focusing their efforts on busting kids smoking dope in a field instead of actually solving real crimes to the point where jails become so overcrowded in Livingston County they decided to build a new jail. Hey, maybe we should not focus so much time busting people for victimless crimes. If it doesn’t have a victim, it’s not really a true crime. That’s a maxim of the law: a crime needs a victim. And smoking a joint in a field has no victim. Who’s the victim in that?

MT: Libertarianism is usually perceived as being a Republican anti-tax, pro-business political philosophy—
Weeks: I think I kind of busted that: I bet you won’t see a Republican strip at the Republican National Convention. [laughs] I know there’s been 40 years of propaganda trying to tell you the Libertarian Party is an arm of the Republican Party, but it’s completely false. We are anti-tax, but it’s not pro-big business. The big part of the Libertarian philosophy is not ending taxation, it’s eliminating corporate privileges. When you form a corporation in America, you’re granted a lot of favors and privileges that aren’t really granted to individuals, such as limited liability. When people say Libertarians are against regulations, they think we’re trying to make business free to do whatever it wants, really it’s not. Because regulations a lot of times serve to protect the existing corporations against competition in the market. That’s really what regulation boils down to: corporate privilege. Obamacare regulations, for example, were actually a Republican idea. The Heritage Foundation came up with it. That was a regulation that Republicans thought of but a Democrat implemented that benefited insurance companies by mandating you to now purchase health insurance from these companies, and it keeps people from being able to do a lot of mutual aid health insurance programs and stuff like that. One thing that Libertarians are big on is mutual aid.

MT: Have you ever heard the idea expressed that the right wing and the left wing bend back around and meet in the middle?
Weeks: It’s the truth. Two sides of the same coin.