Target G.O.P.: At Last, a Libertarian Party Strategy

by L. Neil Smith
Patronize Me!

Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

Reprinted from Issue Number 29, June 1, 1997

Americans could have a free country again — starting within less than two years — if Libertarians show enough intelligence, courage, and integrity.

Since its inception 26 years ago, the Libertarian Party has never had anything resembling an overall, long-range strategy. During that time, argument has raged over whether the LP’s first priority should be educating the public or getting its candidates elected (and whether either of those alternatives excludes the other), and whether — assuming the latter of the two were chosen — state parties should attempt to fill every slot on the ballot or focus all their limited resources on a single “winnable” race.

Through all those years, it’s occurred to very nearly nobody to question the staggering amount of time, energy, and money expended without significant result on seven presidential campaigns that educated nobody, got nobody elected, and, unforgivably, squandered limited LP resources on the single least winnable race in American politics.

Even more unforgivably, with each year wasted this way by the so-called “party of principle” (a salutary expression we seem to hear less and less these days), America has come more and more to resemble the very police state that the LP was created to prevent.

The hour has passed for further examination of this failure. It’s crucial now — for the first time — to produce a real strategy which will not only make America free within a reasonable amount of time, but quickly engender enough easily-seen improvement to forestall the violent reaction which the major parties appear suicidally determined to foment.

Such a strategy already exists and has proven successful — so far mostly by accident — in the recent past. Although a majority of Libertarians appears unaware of its profound significance, it’s something the LP has demonstrated on at least three occasions it can do — almost without trying — in Oregon, Georgia, and California.

“He who can destroy a thing controls a thing.” — Frank Herbert, Dune

The strategy is simple: identify Republican office holders who won their last election by a margin of five percent or less. Ignore every other position on the ballot. Run Libertarians against these Republican five-percenters, the object being to deny them their five percent and put Democrats in office in their place.

If the prospect of handing Democrats control, not only of the White House, but of both houses of Congress and many more state legislatures, alarms you, then you haven’t been paying attention the last five years: Republicans “gave” us RICO and the War on Drugs; “gave” us the Brady Bill and a ban on semiautomatic weapons; “gave” us a national ID card.

At worst, electing Democrats instead of Republicans will merely accelerate this country’s race toward fascist authoritarianism — and the inevitable reaction — and get the whole thing over with that much sooner. At worst, history will have been wiped clean of a gang that claims to favor liberty, but never does anything consistently but undermine it.

Certain observers have always maintained that (for some reason they never get around to specifying) America is inherently a two-party nation. Fact is, what the Founders really wanted was a no party nation — but fine. The LP isn’t going to go away; that means one of the others has to go. At worst, Libertarians can always say afterwards that they had to destroy the GOP in order to save it.

But if the five-percenter strategy works as it’s intended to, Republicans will eventually notice what’s being done to them, or — if this essay is spread far and wide enough — even anticipate it. (Readers are urged to pass this on to all Republican office-holders.)

Understand clearly: there can be no selectivity, there can be no exception. Libertarians mustn’t argue among themselves over individual cases. If a Republican won by five percent or less last time, he’s fair game. Promises don’t count; we should be well beyond that by now. Introducing “good” bills, or even voting for them doesn’t count.

They know how to fake that one, too.

Even repealing bad laws doesn’t count, and it’s important to understand why. The only way Republicans can be allowed to save themselves is to be better than Libertarians on important issues. For this to work — and keep on working — Libertarians must keep the pressure up relentlessly. Republicans must genuinely change, not just as individuals, but as a party. If a Republican congressman protests that he’s really a “good-guy”, he must be told that he’s a member, by his own choice, of an evil collective that has to change as a whole.

He has to make it change, or he’s out of work.

It’s the “good” Republican who’s likeliest to engineer the needed changes anyway. He must be given an “incentive” equal to that given any “bad” Republican. He must know that it’s in his hands: if he and his party genuinely change for the better, then nobody will vote for Libertarians, because there’ll be no need to.

To survive, Republicans must restore the rule of law, the highest law of the land, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. They must come to see it, not as a list of taboos to be gotten around, but as the Ten Commandments of American politics.

They must enforce the Bill of Rights.

Libertarians will know it’s time to stop taking the GOP’s five percent away (and this is the only measure to go by) because they won’t be able to.

The best part is that once Democrats and the media catch on that Libertarians are out to destroy the Republican Party, Libertarian candidates will suddenly find themselves invited to all the debates and receiving all the air-time and column inches they could possibly desire. They may even suddenly find campaign contributions a little easier to come by.

As this is written, there’s a congressional election seventeen months away. If Libertarian state parties begin preparing now to employ this strategy — consistently and to the exclusion of all others — America could turn a corner within those seventeen months, on its way back to being a free country.

And about damned time.