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Why The Libertarian Party Continues To Disappoint Me.

April 28th, 2009

Every time I read a new piece of news concerning the Libertarian Party and their actions I get this sick feeling deep down in the pit of my stomach, it’s the feeling of disappointment. If I didn’t know better I would swear the Libertarian Party didn’t take themselves seriously, or perhaps they just don’t want to succeed.

A small example is that GeekPolitics contacted Andrew Davis, Director of Communications for the Libertarian Party, almost five months ago and Mr. Davis told us that Bill Redpath, the Chairman of the Libertarian Party, wouldn’t mind answering a few questions for us. As of this writing, we have not heard back from Mr. Davis or Chairman Redpath. Perhaps they didn’t find our questions relevant or worth asking (I’ll tack on the questions we asked at the bottom of this post for any Libertarians out there to answer if they’d like - We’d still really like answers to those questions). That is just a small problem, the larger problem are the ’strategic decisions’ of the party at large. It shows a party with no leadership and no chance of survival and personally I think that’s a shame.

Christopher Agrella Is Running For A Seat in the U.S. House… In California…

Today, I received an update I subscribed for from the Libertarian National Committee. This email was to let me know that Christopher Agrella is running for a House seat in California’s 32nd district and to solicit both funds and time for calling voters. News Flash: California’s 32nd district is overwhelmingly democrat. This is a district that hasn’t had a republican representative since 1975. They’ve voted Democrat in presidential elections by a margin of more than 40% for the last three presidential elections. I can’t imagine what the Libertarian Party is thinking here… unless…

It turns out the seat for California’s 32nd district is currently vacant thanks to some redistricting. Perhaps the party is trying to snag this seat and hope no one notices? I think that would be great, it’s time we had a Libertarian serving in D.C. Unfortunately, I just don’t think this is a good use of resources; not mine, not yours, not the party’s. Frankly, the Party’s leadership has to look at the big picture and try to focus resources in places with a higher chance of success. A district that hasn’t been republican in 3 decades isn’t likely to support the conservatism of the Libertarian Party either.

Libertarian Party Leadership, aka The Bob Barr Wild West Rodeo Show

I planned to vote Libertarian in the 2008 Presidential Election. But honestly, who could vote for Bob Barr with a straight face? Bob Barr gave us a Libertarian candidate that spent his first moments explaining that he no longer held the beliefs shown by his voting record which were completely at odds with party platforms. This man, seemingly overnight, claimed to have changed positions on an entire slew of issues. I have friends who are card carrying members of the Libertarian Party, when Bob Barr comes up in conversations they use words like: ‘Sleeze’, ‘Disappointment’, ‘Embarrassment’, etc.

The point, however, is not only that Bob Barr is not fit to be the face of the Libertarian Party. Why did the Libertarian Party National Committee allow this to happen? Bob Barr reflects badly on them most of all and is a magnifying glass that points out their failure as party leaders. The imminent death of the Libertarian Party and all it stands for will rest squarely at their feet.

Answering Tough Questions

I’m going to tack on the questions we asked sent to Chairman Redpath. Perhaps we sent to many questions, perhaps they didn’t think they were relevant, or perhaps they were too hard. However, I think these are the types of questions that party leadership should already have thought about. They probably should have been prepared with canned responses for these questions. These are the types of questions that I believe represent some of the most pressing issues for the Libertarian Party going forward.

  1. Currently the Libertarian party has no members serving in a national office:
    1. What do you see as the primary issue keeping Libertarian’s from gaining support on the national stage?
    2. Given this would you consider the 36 year life of the party to have been a success?
    3. Fundraising appears to be a key problem for Libertarian Party candidates. Can you explain your thoughts on campaign finance reform? Does the Libertarian Party
      view campaign finance reform as a free market issue?
  1. The Future:
    1. What issues will be most important in promoting libertarian ideals in future elections?
    2. Can you provide some detail on the future strategy of the Libertarian Party?
  1. This election cycle we saw the Internet play a larger role than ever before in terms of organizing, fundraising, etc.
    1. Does this pose a problem in terms of election oversight for things such as campaign contributors?
    2. What role does the Libertarian Party see the Internet playing in future elections, both for the Libertarian Party and for the mainstream parties?
  1. Obama’s Presidency:
    1. What issues should libertarian leaning citizens be most concerned about during Barack Obama’s
      tenure as president?
    2. Are there any areas in which you find yourself, or the Libertarian Party, in agreement with President Elect Obama’s Administration?
  1. Ron Paul:
    1. Ron Paul has garnered a lot of national fame over the past year and a half. Has this helped or hurt the Libertarian Party?
    2. What is the current relationship, if any, between the Libertarian Party and Congressman
      Ron Paul?
What do you think about the future of the Libertarian Party? What are your answers to these questions? Let us know.
  1. Nathan Skirvin
    April 29th, 2009 at 09:28 | #1

    Great article, T.J.

  2. Daniel
    May 3rd, 2009 at 20:38 | #2

    Regarding the 32nd District: Currently being an odd election year there are few races going on. In the intervening time this provides an excellent opportunity to cultivate volunteer campaigning skills and organization. Most importantly, a party member has chosen to stand up to run on the ballot. This is not a negligible factor in this decision. Absence only serves to marginalize the party and presence is part of long term branding development. I’m curious as to your thoughts on where resources would be better served (other than electing candidates? is there a particular district that should be focused on? almost all have a history of dominance by the rep/dems) but even so there is no reason the party can’t multitask and support candidates across the nation in addition to pursuing other aims.

  3. May 4th, 2009 at 06:36 | #3

    they should absolutely be focused on getting people in Washington. I just don’t think this is a district where they can pull it off. Surely focusing their efforts on states with more libertarian policies / citizens would be a better use a funds? I think Tennessee would be a good candidate (Full Disclosure: I live in TN). TN has a fair number of libertarian minded people. Some of the people in charge of getting the national ‘Tea Party’ idea started live right here in TN. TN is a state where people fight taxes (We don’t have state or local income taxes just a slightly higher sales tax a la Fair Tax) - are expanding gun freedoms - and want small government.

    Montana just passed a resolution trying to restrict the federal governments control on them. Sure - California fights for states rights when it comes to things like drugs… But I don’t see a snowball’s chance that a libertarian or republican takes the 32nd district. Maybe I’m wrong…

  4. Daniel
    May 4th, 2009 at 09:36 | #4

    I certainly hope that you run for office in TN.

    Is it a good use of funds? Remember, it was a request by National for help. The individual members could decide if it is a good use of THEIR funds…that’s the libertarian way! AFAIK National isn’t directing any funds directly to the campaign.

    Since there aren’t any other congressional races going on right now (conversation might be different in 2010) this seems like an excellent use of time.

    There are other benefits without winning: if a large chunk of voters are weened away from the small republican population then it would be NEWS(considering the media’s perspective on the GOP).

  5. May 4th, 2009 at 12:23 | #5

    Well, I have been mostly disappointed by the Libertarian party, most recently with Bob Barr. While I agree with TJ that I don’t think there is any chance of him winning in California, I do think the party needs to start having people in every election.

    Funnel more money to the places with the best chance like TN, but put somebody on as many ballots as possible. They need to start treating themselves like a real party and acting like a real national party. If they start showing up on every ballot, people that didn’t know they exist might get curious and see what they are about.

    I wouldn’t waste lots of money in California’s 32nd district, but having someone on the ballot is a good thing imo.

  6. John Famularo
    May 6th, 2009 at 01:58 | #6

    The LP has no clear, concise, unambiguous, measurable and achievable mission, and they have no desire to articulate one in the form of a mission statement. When asked, they refer to the purposes paragraph of the LP bylaws which includes by reference the Statement of Principles. This montage is designed to have something in it for everyone who considers themselves to be “libertarian”. The LP’s true purpose is to exist as a debating society and a playground for political dilletants . In that it is successful. If you expect anything else, then more the fool are you.

  7. Daniel
    May 6th, 2009 at 10:44 | #7

    clarky: I didn’t like Bob Barr either…time to become a delegate!
    John: Do you have a recommendation for a mission statement? From looking at the purposes paragraph chartering affiliates is measurable…do we have 50+ or not (the answer is no)? I’m not sure what metric you would use for “supporting candidates for office”. This conversation derives from National helping at the state level. #volunteer hours / candidate? As for electing Libertarians to office, I’m also not sure what a good metric is as clarky was saying we should be trying to field a candidate at every level. Perhaps we should make a strategic drive for council/school board/mayor across the nation? Set a goal to win 5% of elections? I’d be curious as to your thoughts.

  8. John Famularo
    May 6th, 2009 at 12:45 | #8

    My proposed mission statement would be,
    “The purpose of the Party is to nominate and/or endorse candidates for election and appointment to public office who will reduce the size, scope, and centralization of government while securing the individual rights of life, liberty, and property.

  9. May 6th, 2009 at 16:00 | #9

    Daniel, I feel like going for local offices first is the wrong strategy. The LP needs to focus on the national scene and putting people in D.C. I think these types of elections will garner more publicity and media attention for the party resulting in more campaign contributions. The biggest problem the LP has right now is not it’s lack of a unifying message it’s simply one of money. That’s why I’m so frustrated by seeing the LP attempt to raise money for the 32nd district in CA. Contributions / fund raising for the LP is already so thin they can’t afford to spend even a single dollar somewhere with such a low chance of success.

  10. Daniel
    May 6th, 2009 at 21:05 | #10

    I definitely see the argument of strategic allocation of resources. For instance, they could have mentioned the existence of the campaign as news without a call for donations. They could also throw all their resources behind John Monds at the exclusion of other races. It would likely result in positive reinforcement (from better success due to scale) and higher morale. Though, it also puts all your eggs in one basket.
    I completely disagree with your statement about local offices for the following reasons: they are a great mechanism for climbing the political ladder, they provide a significant amount of sway in “real” change, they are easier to compete in money wise (ratio of $s/voters), consumes local resources (people, time, and $) and not national ones (done autonomously at the local level), and you can take advantage of a two-party election if it would have otherwise been unopposed.

  11. May 6th, 2009 at 23:51 | #11

    I agree with Daniel on the local elections. They are easier to win with less money. Also, if people start seeing more Libertarians on the ballot and winning, they are going to be more likely to vote for them in the national elections. The idea is to become a standard on the ballot. Get rid of the 2 party system by getting people used to seeing 3 parties in every election.

  12. TJ
    May 7th, 2009 at 06:35 | #12

    I see the argument for local offices… and there is definitely some truth to it. So maybe Clarky has a point here. Perhaps we don’t direct money towards a lot of these local elections but simply have someone on every ballot with “Libertarian” next to their name Just spend the 50$ (or whatever the base amount is in any given location to put in the application) and get the X number of signatures (Or get enough signatures in the state so that the part can put someone on every ballot). Just get people used to the idea.

  13. October 26th, 2010 at 22:26 | #13

    I am chairman of the Libertarian party in Nashville, TN and a candidate for Tennessee House 53. This article brings up some very valid points. It is a catch 22 to be a Libertarian candidate. Even if you are trying to run a serious campaign, no one takes serious action (donations or volunteering). Thus you end up not being able to do what a campaign should do, and your success is limited. I will know how successful I am in about a week. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Part of the problem is that the Libertarian individualism is at odds with the collective nature of politics. Also most Libertarians do not know what it takes to run a real campaign. Tennessee may get to see two good examples in District 53 and 57.

  14. October 28th, 2010 at 11:52 | #14

    Good luck next week. Hope things go well for you.