Thursday, November 29, 2007

Issues, not candidates--a Libertarian strategy

I have made no secret that I am both a believer in the potential future of the Libertarian Party and the continuing disintegration of the Republican Party. I am also not a fan of fusion, which many people see as the best way for smaller parties to field candidates and gain recognition.

Tyler Nixon's response to an earlier post ("Revenge of the comic book nerds") is indicative of the traditional idea of a third party achieving meaningful political impact:

The Libertarian Party here will forever be moribund until/unless they can really get their asses in gear and achieve an organizing critical mass.

It begins with candidates. They need to learn to be less picky and arcane about self-proclaimed but barely articulated standards for selection....

The Libertarians need to start realizing the "half-a-loaf" principle and begin working with like-minded potential candidates. ...

One of the reasons I fought so hard to preserve fusion candidacies as an option in Delaware was to permit parties like the LP to remain relevant, even when they seemingly recruit no one for any races. I would be glad to try to work with them again if they can realize they need to get real about politics and realized that being a debating society is not the way to run a successful political party that achieves the real change we libertarians (yes, small 'l') want.

I respect Tyler's opinion, but I think he's wrong.

Libertarians first have to create a recognizable, state-relevant "brand" within Delaware politics, and this has to be done before the party starts fielding large numbers of candidates. People have to come to associate real, substantive stances on Delaware political issues with Libertarians.

How is this to be done?

I think there are two essential steps in the process. First, Libertarians AS LIBERTARIANS (with the identification consistently used) have to begin to speak out in pragmatic terms about specific Delaware issues. They have to do this in the Nudes-Journal, the State Rag, on the radio, in the blogosphere, at school board meetings, etc. We have to get people used to hearing the term Libertarian associated with real positions on key issues, like eminent domain in Wilmington, the Still-Venables amendment to prevent gay marriage, the internet pharmacy bill, the UD freshman mind control program, and others.

Secondly, I think the Libertarian Party needs to get into the business of publishing voter guides for state elections. We need to develop a list of issues and questions, send them out to all candidates, and then rate the candidates in terms of individual freedom and smaller, transparent government. Republican, Democrat, or (unlikely as it seems) IPOD, everybody benefits when the candidate in each election who most favors human freedom actually wings. Then, instead of running or nominating fusion candidates, Libertarians need to endorse particularly strong candidates.

Such voting guides would need to be substantive and fair. They need to be well enough done so that the Libertarian Party earns the reputation of being an honest broker in relevant information. And they need to focus attention on the issues we hold as important.

So the question I have for you is, if you could ask a few Libertarian-oriented questions of all candidates for public office in Delaware, what would those questions be?


Anonymous said...

Steve - with all due respect, are you stepping up to do all this?

Great ideas, detached from ground reality.

In other words..debating society, with the latest debate right the Libertarian Party can become more than a nominal shell... yet, as usual, no actual people step up to actually do anything about it.

Parties are artifice. Candidates who represent your values are all that matter.

No one is electing any political parties, notwithstanding the world of discredited bipolar propagandanda, and perpetual minor party rumblings in a teapot.

Anonymous said...

I find a number of bloggers that agree with the libertarian position. But I also find the LP nowhere in the "rough and tumble". They sit back at DE-LP and nothing happens. I was at the LP booth at Newark Day and I have to say I expected more.

A mere handful of motivated, politically astute people could re-invigorate the LP in DE. But then what?

I switched from LP to GOP to vote for Ron Paul. He has lit a fire that sucks the oxygen out of the LP and I still feel like the GOP does not want to hear his message.

Anonymous said...

In reading my last post I left something out.

The LP needs to start ADVOCATING! Looking at some of the crap out there that just begs to be countered and the job looks daunting to an individual. I think organizing resistance to this kind of thing is worth while:

Anonymous said...

Sorry, try this link instead:

Steven H. Newton said...

To answer your questions/observations seriatem:

(1) Starting this blog to discuss ways to move the LPD into the real realm of politics (on which you and I agree) is the first step in my trying to do something about it. Yeah, I'm going to give it a shot; that's part of the idea of putting these ideas out there, but it's only a first step.

(2) Your point: "Parties are artifice. Candidates who represent you views are all that matter." I could not disagree more. Parties are, for better or worse, the organizational mechanism for political change and influence in this society. Ennis beat Christian in the 14th because the Dems had such a superior party organization. Jesse Ventura got elected governor without a party and discovered he couldn't really govern. Schwarzenegger ran toward the political parties immediately after his election. Should Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich by some miracle become president, neither will have institutional political support, and neither will be able to implement his agenda. Who's that Socialist from Vermont in Congress and how much impact does he have? Is Joe Lieberman really an independent?

I am arguing for a non-traditional approach to building a Libertarian Party in Delaware precisely because the two major parties have locked out others not only from realistic ballot access but from meaningful political discourse.

I would point out--with all due deferrence to your years in state politics--that I've put in my time in public policy and public service, but that I've only just started working on this particular issue. So your comment, "yet, as usual, no actual people step up to actually do anything about it," reflects more your own bitterness with the LPD's failure to endorse you than having anything to do with what I am advocating.

Anonymous said...

No need to be defensive Steve, nor offensive either.

Feel free to counter punch away at anything I write. But there is no need to get nasty or personal.

You are not right to speculate or characterize how I feel about anything.

You don't know me but from a few offhanded comments about my experience with the LPD last year, along with some blunt observations from a nuts and bolts politics perspective. I was a bit flip in stating my experience. But it was not meant as a challenge to your own experience. You are quite obviously well-read and well-thought and know your stuff.

I would very much like to see a vigorous, active, visible Libertarian Party in Delaware. I think your ideas are excellent for revving it up. If the LPD can have any impact it is a good thing.

I am unabashed about wanting to get more people involved in the process especially as candidates, no matter what their party or persuasion. There is a serious dearth of choices for voters in too many elections, many with incumbents going unchallenged. More candidates mean more people engaged and more options for the public.

I sought the LPD's nomination in the hope of bringing the party visibility through the course of the election campaign.

There was no gain for me, except perhaps the task of having to constantly explain cross-nominations to voters, as well as what the Libertarian Party is about.

At the outset I told the LPD leadership I expected no assistance from the party if nominated.

I didn't even expect them to consider it at all if it was too much trouble. It was absolutely no skin off my nose that they declined.

Your comments about "bitterness" are off base and unnecessary.

I was, though, taken aback or perhaps disappointed that the decision was made without an opportunity even just to introduce myself to the folks on the committee and thank them for considering me.

No big deal, I figured there might be party policy considerations against a nomination and thus no need to consider my candidacy in the first place.

When I was informed that the decision was in fact based on a cursory review of a few bullet points from my website I was again pretty disappointed I was not offered any chance to elaborate or answer questions.

The summary nature of the decision didn't trouble me as much as that the cursory evaluation seemed to misconstrue my positions as written. Water under the bridge.

Getting back to my original point, it would be regrettable if the LP's best ideas and ideals were not represented in the political marketplace as voter choices.

One thing is for sure. Delaware is rife with layers upon layers of governmental bloat with a ravenous appetite for self-perpetuation at any cost. All libertarians have our work cut out for us.

(I dropped almost $600 yesterday at DMV, for the privilege of having paperwork shuffled around in front of me at double what it cost just a couple months ago. It is truly Being forced to pay fee on top of fee, into 100s of $s, for no more than 5 minutes of computer time and a printout to justify making you come in person to be fleeced.)

Anonymous said...

This is the second time I have tried to leave this comment, but my airport misfired and thus a brilliant and incisive commentary was lost forever. This is its sorry replacement. (OK, so you only have my word that it would have been brilliant, but I'm trustworthy.)

First, I apologize for the remarks that offended you.

I suspect that your comments would have struck me differently if heard rather than read. But I got the impression of a lot of anger at your treatment by the LPD, and over-characterized it as bitterness.

As far as getting defensive, possibly you are right, but you legitimized your arguments on the basis of personal experience, so it seemed reasonable to reply in kind.

Nonetheless I suspect we are far closer than this prolonged exchange (counting from other posts) would lead anyone to suspect.

For the record I am not part of the hierarchy, such as it is, of the LPD, and have (or had) nothing to do with either the process or the outcome of its decisions. If the case was as you described, I agree that the decision was not a good one.

Moreover, I think that if you HAD received the LPD nomination or endorsement then it SHOULD have resulted in the LPD doing work on your behalf. It is one of the functions of a political party to make its support of candidates physically real. There should have been some people ringing doorbells.

That's my point about parties rather than candidates. My own experience and research suggest that it is the organization strength of political parties (and machines) that give them their power. That's why I see Perot, Ventura, and (unfortunately) Paul as phenomena rather than change agents in American politics. Like it or not, to reform American and Delaware politics we are going to have to change them at their organizational bases.

Duffy said...

The problem, as I see it with the Libertarian "brand" is that they're known as the party of legal drugs and legal prostitution instead of the party of low taxation and strong property rights.

I've not been involved with the party so I can't speak to it, but it seems that winning spots in State Senate and/or Assembly would be the place to start rather than Mayor or Governor et al.

Just my $.02