Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Libertarian Party: Failing our own candidates in new and creative ways

Let me count the ways....

We have a current national leadership ('scuze me, there was a little vomit at the back of my throat when I had to put the two words together in the context of the LP) that has become an appendage of the Bob Barr presidential campaign, to the continuing detriment of Libertarian candidates across the country. Let's have some examples:

A) The LP national website has been re-designed to mimic the Bob Barr website; at that it is static, clunky, and user-unfriendly.

B) Said website provides only a single page on Liberty Candidates '08 that does nothing beyond posting the names (and sometimes photos) of candidates in no apparent order, with no context, and no meaningful links. [Three examples: Mike Munger in North Carolina, Scotty Boman in Michigan, and Allen Buckley in Georgia have obviously put time and effort into the design of their campaign websites; unfortunately, the LP page doesn't link to any of them, but links to static pages on the NC, MI, and GA state LP pages.]

C) There is absolutely NO COVERAGE of the hundreds of Libertarian candidates running around the nation. No coverage of Munger's successful fight to get into the NC gubernatorial debates. No coverage of the Texas GOP trying to con Libertarians off the ballot in the Lone Star State. No coverage of the unprecedented coverage that Georgia newspapers are giving Allen Buckley.

D) No fundraising by the essentially defunct Libertarian National Congressional Committee, which is supposed to be out there raising and disbursing funds to our candidates.

E) No policy stands or useful positions, or even discussion of the Libertarian platform. Instead, we have this idiotic pseudo-blog by Andrew Davis whose two most recent posts are (I swear): an abortive idea about using Craigslist to sign up campaign volunteers and a brief recitation of the ways in which Bob Barr differs from John McCain and Barack Obama.

F) And meanwhile, we have Shane Corey sending out suggestions to Barr supporters that they defraud talk radio hosts around the country to get plugs for The Man with the Mustache. That'll really build up local media enthusiasm for covering our candidates, right?

I'm going to piss off the people who have supposedly put together this abortion of an operation by sending them this post. Don't get me wrong: there are good people on the LNC, and you certainly can't hold Mike Jingozian or Mary Ruwart responsible for the current state of affairs. Nor can you do anything but admire Angela Keaton for her lonely fight for some kind of responsibility or accountability in LP operations.

The rest of you: are you just frauds, or what the hell are you thinking? It doesn't even take a lot of money to provide rudimentary support to our candidates. Here's how you could have started--if you were really interested:

1) You could have provided leadership in helping to identify four or five major unifying campaign themes (maybe even have thought up some useful sound bite names for them) like energy policy, jobs, foreign policy, etc., and actually commissioned some thoughtful position pieces by Libertarian thinkers out there for use by all of our candidates. You know that Mary Ruwart would have written on education and the FDA, that Steve Kubby would have written on the drug war, and so on. Then there could have been an issues bank with facts, figures, arguments, and talking points available to any Libertarian candidate who needed them.

2) You could have actually gotten together a list of candidates, with up to date linking information, assigned an aggressive information coordinator, and actually started covering our f**king candidates. We could have had lists of appearances, You-Tube URLs, links to local press coverage. Unfortunately, since you didn't actually seem to give a crap about our State candidates, we had to wait until August when George Donnelly did your damn job for you.

3) You could have gotten a competent website designer (and there are plenty of them in the LP) to create a simple website template for our candidates to use. With an issues bank in place, with decent news coverage of LP candidates across the nation, and this template, it would have been easy for our candidates to have attractive, professional-looking, consistent websites operating in support of their campaigns around the country. Hell, you could even have taken a little of that pocket money the LNCC supposedly raised and used it to purchase server space for those candidates who couldn't get access to it any other way. But you didn't.

4) You could have actually created working fundraising mechanisms (or at least provided guidance on the site) for local and State candidates instead of attempting to pull all the money out of the atmosphere to do ballot access for Bob Barr.

5) You could have insisted that the Barr campaign actually link its activities and press releases to more of our down-ticket candidates. [The Barr-on-Iraq/Iran foreign policy press release could have been--in these days of word-processing--have been sent out to different States with different down-ticket candidates' names attached: "That's why you need to think about voting Libertarian this year, for the Barr/Root Presidential ticket, and for Chris Cole as your Senator from North Carolina." See they've got this neat feature called "find and replace"...]

If you haven't gotten the point yet, it's this:

We're not going to elect Bob Barr as President this year, and we will potentially waste the largest Libertarian voter turn-out ever because the national party has not lifted a damn finger to help out our State and local candidates.

I'm sure that there are some factual errors in this rant. Maybe Bob Barr actually has sent out tailored press releases and I missed it. Maybe the LNCC actually raised a few hundred bucks for somebody and sent out a check by midnight runner.


But the substance of this post is grimly, dismally accurate: the Libertarian Party currently does not have a national leadership organization that is either willing or able to do what needs to be done to gain electoral success.

The Libertarian movement, such as it is, currently resides in the leadership of active State affiliates, each of whom is struggling without resources to reinvent the wheel every week because the people we actually pay salaries to have failed.

Yeah. That means you.


Arthur Torrey said...

But don't you remember? Back in the days leading up to Denver, Barr publically announced on talk radio that one of his main reasons for running was to help downticket REPUBLICAN candidates.... (see

There are some issues where Barr keeps his promises, he only flip-flops on Libertarian items where principles are involved...

LP Presidential Elector, NOT voting for Barr!

George Phillies said...

Several of your proposals are ones I offered when I ran for National Chair. You phrased them better than I did. I am delighted to see someone else picking up the banner.

I note that this is the same Libertarian National Committee that, through its political director, demanded that the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts burn nominating papers carrying several thousand signatures for which the Phillies 2008 campaign had recently paid.

At some point, one should realize that LNC, Inc. is not capable of being fixed.

As a first step, why not invest your donations in your state party or in the campaign for any of the wonderful candidates Mr. Donnelly has listed for us.

tom said...

Hell, you could even have taken a little of that pocket money the LNCC supposedly raised and used it to purchase server space for those candidates who couldn't get access to it any other way.

OK, I will pick up the slack here and donate web server space to any Libertarian candidates who can't get access to it any other way. (they will have to pay for anything that costs me actual money (eg. Domain Name registration, SSL Certificate and/or Credit Card acceptance, if desired) and they will have to convince me that they are worthy of my support, but neither of those are insurmountable hurdles).

I'll also provide a very limited amount of free technical support and content management assistance on a FCFS basis, and try to find someone to donate an attractive site template.

George Donnelly said...

Actually there is a service that provides websites for LP candidates for free:

And seriously, these days you can get an account with someone like dreamhost for less than $10/mo and run WordPress which is a very easy to use CMS with lots of free designs available.

If a candidate is committed, they can spare $60-$100 for a website for the duration of the campaign.

John said...

You said: “The Libertarian Party currently does not have a national leadership organization that is either willing or able to do what needs to be done to gain electoral success.”

You are assuming that electoral success is supposed to be the mission of the LP. I agree that it should be, but it is not. The LP as an organization has never come to that conclusion. Ever since it’s founding the LP has been unable to articulate a clear mission statement. The so-called “Dallas accord” in 1974 and the adoption of the current “statement of principles” have made the LP a schizophrenic organization. Minarchists want to elect people to change public policy, Anarchists only want to run candidates but not elect them. Some only want to be candidates for narcissistic reasons. Some see the LP as a moneymaking opportunity. Various factions vie for “LP leadership” and paid staff positions. Whichever faction wins a majority or an effective plurality on the LNC tilts the LP in their direction. While the volunteer and the donor base are constantly losing and gaining members, the LP maintains a certain stable dynamic equilibrium among the factions.

Without an unambiguous mission statement you cannot do effective long range strategic planning. Without a long range strategic plan you cannot settle on a short-range plan. Without a short-range plan you cannot do day-to-day operational management. The LP will never do any of this.

The national LP operates from a series of perceived axioms laid down by Dave Nolan in his omniscience and they are never really questioned or evaluated. These perceived axioms are:
We need a top down organizational model.
We need a national platform.
We need to run a presidential candidate.
We need 50 state ballot access.
We need a national office with paid staff.

Steve Newton said...

For kicks, grins, and future debate, you have asked a question that has been niggling at me for some time: What would an LP organized from the "bottom up"look like?

I start with one major assumption: it would not be so fixated on presidential elections.

John Famularo said...

Steve Newton said...
What would an LP organized from the "bottom up” look like?

That can only be answered if one knows what the mission is.
Assuming for the moment that the mission is to change public policy by electing “libertarians” to office, one way would be to organize at the PRECINCT LEVEL only where there are libertarians willing to be run for, be elected to and serve in local office for a number of terms. Each such candidate would need a local support team. A local PAC if you will. It wouldn’t matter if the PAC was created first and a candidate sought, or if a potential candidate sought to form a local PAC. These PACs would cooperate as they saw fit to support a credible candidate for higher office such as borough, town or city ward level. “Conventions” at the city, state or national level would only be held by or attended by “the willing” and any determinations made at such conventions would be enforced only the voluntary cooperation of the “convinced”. It would take a number of years for a cadre of experienced local elected libertarians to select from among themselves candidates for higher office that they could support and who could be credible and competitive.

Of course there are and would be a myriad of details and problems to work through and I can’t list them all and don’t know them all. But assuming that this non-hierarchical, decentralized, matrix organization was successful at the local and county level, there might not be any need to go further. It would be time to reevaluate the strategy. Maybe the Democrat and Republican parties would have been sufficiently transformed towards free market limited government that further debate and reformation could take place within the “reformed” parties. A firm libertarian base at the county level would be an inhibiting factor against the natural tendency for government bureaucracy to grow.

This organization would not necessarily be known as the "Libertarian Party" in all states and would not purport to be the sole arbiter of what is or is not libertarian. Other ideological organizations or individuals can claim/dispute that authority.

Simon Girty said...

Some of the LP operatives in my area have made overtures to the Barr Campaign to see if he would come to campaign here with our candidates. We have active candidates and organizations and have made progress over the years with the local media.

Well, the answer was that Barr would only stop here if we could promise donations of over 5 figures. It is obvious that he has no interest in helping downticked libertarians but instead wants to suck the life out of local organizations to feed his own campaign.