Bill of Rights Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 398, December 17, 2006

"The Great Moratorium"


Libertarian Party as Endorsing Party
by Alan R. Weiss

Credit The Libertarian Enterprise

As a longtime Libertarian (see [my Wikipedia entry]), I have a number of comments related to the direction of the Libertarian Party:

Stephen Gordon, whom I know, respect, and like, has stated that LP candidates indicate they need more money, media exposure, and a larger base of volunteers. With all due respects to Stephen, there's nothing all that new about those, but given that Michael Badnarik of Texas had a pretty good cache of all three in his bid for state house, how did he lose so badly? My point is not that Mike is a bad candidate (far from it)—its just that money, media exposure, and more volunteers aren't sufficient to win an election. What is needed is a "hot button" issue that a candidate can use to rise to power—one that his or her constituents actually care about. "Liberty" and "freedom" and "lower taxation" are clearly not winners with voter (sadly). In the absence of a hot button issue, helping to solve voter's everyday problems might give you a chance. These problems need to be clearly identified, specific, and acute—not chronic, long-term issues.

It is difficult for Libertarians to be diabolically cynical enough to resort to demogoguery, but it is quite fair—and I would argue necessary—for us to be opportunistic and seize hot-button issues, warp them to our purposes, and use them. Focusing on only one or two issues is probably the right strategy. When you win, work with others on an ecumenical basis to solve that issue, and you just might earn enough respect to get to play again. You might even impress voters that you can help solve their real problems. You will certainly gain media attention if you seize hot-button issues. Patrick Buchanan could win—easily—a seat to Congress if he picked the right district. He can't win as President, and there is a lesson in that, too: hot button issues only go so far.

It is also clear that you must either have a high enough concentration of libertarians and sympathizers to win, or you must not run as a Libertarian Party candidate. The first has a solution in the Free State Project and in the Free Wyoming Project. The second is likely heresy in the LP, but is also quite true, historically speaking.

Given that, one answer to the second point is to use the LP as an endorsing body, sort of a political arm of the Cato Institute (but, hopefully, more pure) as a source of money, talent, resources, labor, and most importantly ideas for the two duopolist parties (some would say monopolist statist party). The two main parties are bankrupt of ideas, but can be used as springboards to office. The LP has no shortage of ideas, but is a cracked diving board to obtain office. The answer is pretty obvious, if we have the courage to simply acknowledge reality. We had a terrific Presidential candidate in Michael Badnarik—hard working, dedicated, principled, erudite, witty, and photogenic. We got creamed. On the other hand, we have won local office when we have been able to focus on issues, solve them, and prove ourselves.

And by the way, ideology bores the American public. You can't win if you aren't the sort of person the average voters perceives as a leader, so be successful in your private life—then translate that success to office.

Alan R. Weiss is TLE's Editor at Large, CEO of Synchromesh Computing in Austin, Texas, and has held a local office as a Libertarian. He gave a nominating speech for Michael Badnarik at the 2004 LP Party Convention, and is a former Organizer and Vice President of the Free State Project.


Great deals on great computer hardware—Tiger Direct!
Now accepting PayPal

Help Support TLE by patronizing our advertisers and affiliates.
We cheerfully accept donations!

to advance to the next article
to return to the previous article
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 398, December 17, 2006

Big Head Press