It has been my observation that too many Libertarian candidates (allowing for the unequal playing field and no money) want to talk about (a) what the government has done wrong; (b) what the government should not be doing in the first place; and (c) how they will shrink the government. This is, you say, the essence of Libertarian candidacy and candidates, but I think it is a combination that--by itself--perpetually guarantees the Libertarian movement will not achieve electoral success above the range of 5-6%.
[And that's OK by a lot of anarcho-capitalists, minarchists, and others...]
But the reality is that we live in an era wherein a huge government bureaucracy exists, and is not going to be magically eliminated by the stroke of anyone's pen. So people have the right (not the mention the urge) to know not just what a candidate won't do in the government, but what he or she will do. And people have the expectation that winning candidates will understand both public policy and how to get things done in government.
Now Waldo, picking up a post about what is lacking in GOP efforts to reinvent the Republican Party, offers this from Greg Andres:
Here's the real problem. Too often Republicans begin by talking ideology as opposed to solutions. They start with cutting taxes, balancing the budget and less government, but forget to say, "why?" Instead, begin with outcomes - more jobs, affordable health care and better education. Ideology is a means to these ends - not the end itself.
Many Republican governors understand these narrative nuances. Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty has it right when he says the GOP must appeal to "Sam's Club" as opposed to "country club" voters. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said in a recent interview that his party needs to ask: "How do free markets and capitalism apply to the question 'Can I make a living?'"
Excessive "ideology-speak" particularly harms Republicans with swing voters. Research shows these Americans are more interested in solutions than philosophical debates. Promoting ideology first makes Republicans sound out of touch or even wacky to those who don't live and breathe politics.
This analysis continues to make sense to me. Paraphrasing Haley Barbour [I'm going to hate myself for this in the morning]:
How do free markets and less government apply to the question 'Can I make a living?'"
Quite frankly, Americans are scared right now, and frightened people (think Weimar) are notorious for trading in freedom for security and predictability. And in the day to day struggle for existence that the past two decades of struggle between big-government progressives and big-government conservatives has gifted to us, I don't blame them one bit.
When you are hungry or your children are sick, it is difficult to take the long view.
And, in fact, even the major political parties don't generally advertise the long view, either.
As Michael Munger points out
We don't generally ask "liberals" what their nirvana would look like. We are satisfied with a direction: more government, more redistribution. The "Libertarian Vice" only exists because people look at the reductio ad absurdum version, not the direction.
Libertarians need to begin emphasizing how short-run, freedom-oriented solutions will improve the lives of American citizens.
I believe we can do this, and over the next couple of weeks I'll try to set up that template.