There are some good insights here from Dan Sullivan and Susan Hogarth that seem worth passing along. I'd be curious to hear any reactions people may have.
Love & Liberty,
<<< starchild >>>
> It captures something I've tried to put into words before by
> saying that elections are a lagging, not leading, indicator of
> public opinion. By this I mean that the winning of an election
> should be viewed not primarily as a means of getting power,
> but as an indication that people are already on our side. This
> explains my concern with the current Libertarian Party
> leadership's emphasis on winning elections - I feel that it
> is in large part an instance of putting the cart before the
This sums up view on the matter exactly. Being preoccupied with
winning elections is not merely an inept way to advance
libertarianism, but is an inept way to win elections.
If you look at people who win local elections generally, and especially
those who do so without the support of the dominant party's
apparatus, they do so by establishing themselves as community
leaders before they ever run for anything. They might champion
public issues or they might just demonstrate that they are "all-around
good guys" to others in their church, their social clubs, their their
business groups, etc. They listen more than they talk, and they appear
to take other people's perspectives as seriously as they take their own.
Most of all, they show humility (feigned or real), and indicate a
respect for the people from whom they are asking employment. Some
of them have visions of how things could be better, but they sell those
visions to the voters long before they announce themselves as
candidates. The most successful politicians of all do not appear to be
seeking office, but make it seem as if they were pressed into service
by other members of the community who recognized and appreciated
Like all bureaucracies, the LP's bureaucracy suffers from "mission
creep," Underlying that is a tendency of "teaching for the test." What I
mean is that indicators of success (test scores) become substitutes for
actual success, and people redefine the mission to improve the test
The most pathetic example of this is probably my state of
Pennsylvania. If you look at the national LP's list of elected
libertarians, we have far more than any other state. But when you look
closer, you find that most of them are extremely minor offices with no
policy-making function, such as inspector of elections, etc. We have a
total of four people who sit on four municipal councils, and the total
population of the people in those municipalities is about 8,000.
In contrast, Ohio lists zero elected officials, but Ohio has a relatively
dynamic and spirited LP, and their candidate for Governor helped
shape the debate there. Issue organizations are now getting inquiries
from Ohio legislators about issues that this LP candidate advanced.
> I think that in two significant ways the attempt to copy the electoral
> strategy of the power parties (DP and RP) is a mistake.
> First, [we lose our soul in order to gain the world -
> abbreviated interpretation by DS]
> Second, in a strictly practical sense, American politics is
> not so constructed that an ideological party can capture the
> segment of the voter population which is most closely
> ideologically aligned with it. Instead, the system here
> encourages the vast majority of voters to adopt the 'lesser
> of two evils' approach - and this will not change simply by
> having the LP shift a few ideological-points in one direction
> or another (vaguely 'rightward' seems to be the trend right
> now, though that can always change). The best chance such a
> strategy has of working is that the LP assumes the largely
> non-ideological place of one of the existent power parties.
> And how would this make things better?
This is what the narrow-thinkers miss. When the socialists parties
were in their heyday, both the Democrats and Republicans shifted
toward socialism to compete for the "new center" of the political
spectrum. Conversely, when the LP was in its heyday, the major
parties shifted toward libertarianism. Nationally, leaders like LBJ and
Richard Nixon gave way to leaders like Jimmy Carter and Ronald
This happened at the state level as well. Our legislators passed
excellent "home rule" legislation giving local municipalities power
over local policies (subject to voter referenda) while reducing state aid
to local jurisdictions.
> I am not here saying that participating in elections is a bad
Nobody is. That's a straw man set up to discredit people who take a
broader view of the mission. Even running to win is not a bad thing
where winning is actually feasible, and where you aren't passing a
huge opportunity to change the social agenda in order to win a trivial
Another straw man used by narrow-mission minded is that people
who are not running to win are "running to lose." It doesn't occur to
people that these candidates might have a purpose in mind that
transcends winning and losing an election.
Consider that Ron Paul's spectacular success began with his statement
that he was running because certain things needed to be said, and
acknowledging that his chances of winning were extremely slim. Even
today, when asked about whether he thinks his phenomenal growth
will take him to the Presidency, he answers, "You never know, but
there is something much bigger at stake than whether I win."
> There are many advantages to Libertarians participating
> in the electoral system as an ideological party - this is why
> so many anti-state activists have joined and stay active with
> the LP. It is, in my opinion, the reason the LP continues to
> function at a reasonably high level for an ideological party
> in America even after 35 years. My point is that our focus as
> a political party cannot be the same focus that the DP and RP
> have, because we do not want the same thing they want.
The two major parties will always want power and control. Indeed, the
biggest reason a major-party candidate has to portray himself as able
to win is so potential graft-seekers will seek bribe his campaign with
contributions. Graft-seekers would never support a genuine libertarian
no matter how likely he was to win, so that whole aspect is irrelevant.
Libertarians who allow the LP to become preoccupied with winning
power and control just don't get it. One of the great buttons of the anti-
Viet Nam era said, "Fighting for peace is like f--king for chastity."
Grasping for power in the name of liberty is also like that.
> Libertarians want Americans to agree that individual freedom
> is the answer, not that particular Libertarians will enact or
> implement any particular five-year-plan for liberty.
In the above sentence, I would replace "not" with "far more than," but
I agree with the thrust of this.
> Republicans and Democrats want, fundamentally, to rule others.
> Libertarians want, fundamentally, to be left to rule
> themselves. The way this will happen is when a significant
> number of our neighbors both understand and share this desire.
That is certainly the first step, and one that cannot be skipped over.
> Kindling and cultivating understanding of and desire for
> freedom should therefore be our first task. We should not
> whine that 35 years have passed and things have, in many ways,
> grown worse. This was, after all, precisely the situation in
> the decade before the first American revolution.
To my thinking, we have only backslid as a party (and as a country)
since the 1990s when mission creep began to take hold.
By the way, the Greens suffered from exactly the same fate, and now
find that their key values are constantly eroded by leftist pragmatism.
What is stated below is strategy. I don't disagree with it per se, but I
think that strategy needs to be flexible with regard to time and place. I
would be inclined to say that we should engage vigorously in both
politics and education, leaving the details up to each group.