A Reality-Based Model for the Libertarian Party
Created for the Libertarian Strategic Planning Caucus
By John D. Famularo
Why do we need a strategic plan?
Any major endeavor should have a plan and should review and revise that plan on a regular basis. The very act of planning can have value regardless of whether a particular resulting plan is optimum. Of course, strategic planning is a tool, and like any tool can be misused and/or result in a poor result.
Will a strategic plan guarantee success?
Nothing will guarantee success, but a good plan will enhance the chances of success.
Who are "we" and what is out mission?
Many people confuse Libertarian Party (LP) with the larger Libertarian Movement (LM). The LP is an integral part of the LM. Most organizations within the Libertarian Movement are public policy institutes or academic organizations such as CATO, The Institute for Humane Studies, the Foundation for Economic Education and The Advocates for Self Government. The LP is different from these LM organizations.
This strategic plan is designed as a plan for the Libertarian Party (LP) and not a general plan for the Libertarian Movement (LM). However, since the LP is part of the LM and since many LP members are also members and officers of many other Libertarian organizations, it is not possible to consider a strategy for the LP without considering the other organizations.
For the purpose of getting started, we can say that it is generally accepted that "Libertarians want to see the achievement of a Libertarian society". The exact definition of what that means exactly has been the subject of much debate over the years and we will not try to further define that for the Libertarian Movement.
It is our intention to define as best we can, the specific mission of the Libertarian Party within the mission or ultimate goal of the Libertarian Movement. . The mission of any political party is to elect people who will implement their political philosophy as public policy. The mission of the LP should be:
"To elect public officials in sufficient numbers to effectively minimize the size and scope of government while maintaining its effectiveness in its essential roles of protecting individual life, liberty and property and expanding individual personal and economic liberty."
Where do we begin?
The LP has been in existence since 1972 and has had many plans and projects adopted and executed over the last 30 years. Any strategic planning process must include an investigation and analysis of the past. There is some material available to perform some analysis.
The Libertarian Party is an political party that is totally controlled by self described "Libertarians", we should begin with the premise that the LP should organize and conduct itself according to Libertarian theories of governance.
The meaning of the word "Libertarian" is by no means a settled issue among self identified "Libertarians". If we assume that the ultimate goal of the Libertarian Movement is to achieve a Libertarian society, then where is the unambiguous definition of that society? How will we know it when we get there? How will it be maintained? Are we speaking of a society in the "libertarian quadrant" of the Nolan Chart? Are we speaking of a majority of the American voting public being 100-100 Libertarians? The worldwide voting public? Are we speaking of a Libertarian enclave within a non-libertarian world?
Unfortunately there is no comprehensive strategic discussion going on within the Libertarian Movement as a whole. This makes it harder to determine where the LP really fits within the LM.
How do we define success?
Before we can begin to change the world we must accept it without illusion". We don’t want Libertarian success to be a fleeting illusion -- perpetually perused but never attained.
This strategic vision for the LP was developed by a number of participants in the Libertarian Strategic Planning Caucus (LSPC). Among them were former LPPa. state chairman Tim Moir, who had commissioned the strategic planning project of the LP of Pennsylvania in 1995.
This document refers to several other previously- published strategic plans for the Libertarian Party. Many of these were based upon differing assumptions concerning the mission and function of the LP. These assumptions can be generally grouped into categories of "models". Throughout this document we will refer to various conceptual models for the LP. The Political Model (PM) will be contrasted to the Membership Model (MM).
One previous LP strategic proposal began with these two questions: "Does the Libertarian Party deserve to be the ‘Invisible Man’ of American politics? Do the ideas which gave birth to this country deserve to be ignored or even ridiculed as they often have been by the mainstream media?" That proposal concluded that the Libertarian Party will gain respect and become competitive with the older parties when it has the same number of "members" and "donors" that they do. It suggests that the LP recruit a large number "members" and "donors".
This is the same strategic direction that the LP has been roughly following since its inception. Its basic flaw is the assumption that all "members" are equal. Its proponents are fond of quotes such as "God is on the side of big battalions".
The development of a workable strategy for the success of the Libertarian party has been inhibited by several factors. Among these is a lack of a understanding of how the Libertarian Party's (LP's) mission should differ from that of the Libertarian movement (LM).
The LP's Mission
Again, as a working assumption, we are saying that the LP mission is to change public policy in the "Libertarian" direction by electing and re-electing Libertarians to public office. The definition of "Libertarian direction" is lesser and lesser government involvement in regulating the economy or civil liberties. Furthermore, whatever governmental power remains should be exercised from the most local level possible.
Most objectively rational person would agree that the probability that the LP will achieve its goal is very low at the federal and state level without first demonstrating its ability at the county level and below. Many circumstances beyond the control of the LP and its members mitigate against achieving the political power to roll back and decentralize the federal, state governments. Are there other reasons to make the attempt? Or will we just pretend to have a political party as a basis for a membership club and/or a protest group?
One reason to continue the LP's mission may be to establish a viable shell political party mechanism. This would be ready to be put to use if and when one of the other LM organizations made a breakthrough.
Another reason would be to develop an effective political cadre which would provide credible and responsible spokespeople who would influence the general population. .
Thirdly, we could provide a model for a national organization to achieve national, regional and local goals while operating from a local control base. We can be a "role model" for the empowerment of the individual, at the local level.
"The Government" in America is very large, with a lot of local elected and appointed positions. There are many agencies, boards, commissions and authorities throughout every county. These are stepping stones for higher level elective offices. Also, many government expansion ideas are hatched at the county level. It is much easier to kill these things locally, before they get established and develop momentum.
A successful strategy for the LP does not require ALL libertarians to participate in the LP or support its candidates. There are many opportunities to participate in other LM organizations. Some individuals might decide to "do their own thing" and not be part of any specific organization at all.
Many preliminary steps that must be taken before an effective strategic planning process can be accomplished. A planner must have some idea of an objective, then evaluate various mechanisms to achieve that goal. The grander your ultimate goal, the more complex the ultimate strategy must be. Many options must be tested before an optimum strategy can be found.
Three basic things must be considered throughout the strategic planning process:
- Our past experience.
- Our current status.
- Our future plans and visions.
Studying our past experience is a large task. We must review our own actions, the actions of former LP operatives and the historical experience of similar organizations. We also must factor in general historical events, since today's headlines are already a part of history.
The planning process is continuous. It evaluates previously implemented strategies, tactics, and projects. We must perform our analysis as objectively as possible, to avoid falling into the trap of excusing or ignoring past failures, in order to keep up morale. This will only delay the eventual discarding if failed projects. We run the risk of putting the entire LP organization into a false world that recedes further from the real world each day.
We must reevaluate our strategy at regular intervals because history, and our current status, changes every single day. Of course, we can't spend all our scarce resources tinkering with the strategic plan, because we will have no resources left over to implement any plan at all. Still, some resources must be set aside for the strategic planning process. There are many ways to do this.
The standard way is to segment the strategic planning process into Long
Range, Intermediate and Short Range plans. The Short Range plan is then divided
into projects and tasks. The projects that are planned for the next year are
cumulatively called the "budget". In our context we are including all
of the available resources in the concept of "budget".
How can the LP succeed in its mission?
The voting public must respect and trust our candidates. Once elected, our LP public officials must quickly gain credibility and demonstrate expertise in order to implement and administer Libertarian policy reforms.
Before our candidates can achieve political success, they must first have the necessary prerequisites for the job. They need to have the basic personality, social and political skills.
Then, our candidates to have real, definitive solutions for the of interest to the voting public. Our candidates must make a convincing case for the implementation and administration of new policies.
The general mission of the entire Libertarian Movement (LM) is to achieve a Libertarian society. Various elements of the LM either contribute to or detract from the movement's overall success. Each organization within the LM has a particular mission and should have a sound strategy to achieve that mission, if those organizations are serious about success.
All organizations engage in similar functions such as membership recruitment, fund raising, advertising, market research, internal education, stakeholder relations, public relations, volunteer recruitment, product development, accounting, and sales. However, these functions don’t determine the strategy. Each group's mission determines its strategy. Strategy then determines the tactics. Tactics in turn determine priorities and the details of how particular functions are designed, performed and managed.
Can we outspend them in advertising? Of course not. Can we field more candidates than they do in the near future? Not likely.
Many excuses are given for the LP's general lack of political success. These excuses are now regarded by many as "truths", and the LP leadership has formulated its basic strategy upon them. These "truths" are rarely challenged or re-examined within the LP. They are convenient fictions, putting the blame for our relative lack of success on others, instead of upon ourselves. This makes them seductive and convenient to believe. Some of these LP myths posing as truths are:
Myth #1. RESTRICTIVE BALLOT ACCESS LAWS ARE HOLDING US BACK.
I have yet to see the Libertarian candidate who was held back from getting on the ballot when that candidate:
If easy ballot access laws are so important, then why don't we have more candidates and elected officials in New Jersey, where only 800 signatures are required for the highest statewide offices including president? New Jersey county and local races require only 100 signatures -- a 10 man-hour job at most. In New Jersey this year, the LP has focused its hopes on the Governor’s race. He will get less than 2% of the vote. If he put the same amount of effort into a local Freeholder or city councilman race, we might have a chance of actually winning.
The LP encourages its members to run for offices many levels above their level of competence. Our current Chief Justice William Rehnquist started his political career as a poll watcher for the Phoenix Republican party at the Bethune School polling place in 1964.
Myth #2. THE MEDIA DOES NOT GIVE US THE COVERAGE WE DESERVE.
If anything, the media gives us MORE coverage than we deserve. I have yet to see any credible LP candidate with something "news worthy" to say who did not get adequate free media coverage. Of course, someone on your campaign team must schmooze with the media. Most Libertarian campaign "press secretaries", convey an air of arrogance rather than the people skills that make for good media relations.
It is our candidates that need the publicity, not the party or the press secretary
Myth #3. MONEY WILL MAKE US COMPETITIVE.
Money has NEVER made a non-competitive candidate into a competitive candidate. Money can enhance the chances of a competitive candidate, however, all political victories are determined by the final vote count, which is composed of three parts.
First is the base constituency vote which you must have by definition BEFORE the campaign begins. This can vary between 20% to 70% historically for the winning candidate, Depending on the number of competitive candidates in the race. SOME money is of course necessary to support the recruiting of volunteers and the basic campaign structure. Initial polls will indicate the potential size of this base, but only those people who actually show up on election day actually count.
Second is the regular voters who are persuaded during the campaign that the candidate "agrees with them", AND that he can implement his platform if elected, AND is perceived to have a fair chance of getting elected. This varies between 0% and 25% depending upon the candidate, the constituency and the issues of interest during the campaign..
Third group are voters who never really make up their minds. They vote for the last candidate they met personally, the campaign ad they liked best, or for the candidate seen on a flyer or sign on their way to the polls. This varies between 0% and 7%. This group is influenced the most by money spent on the campaign, This is why money is so important to candidates in competitive races, which are usually won by less than 7% of the total vote cast.
Most races are not competitive.
MYTH #4. WE WILL WIN OVER OF THE VOTERS ONCE THEY HEAR OUR MESSAGE.
This may be true among the 1% of voters who are interested in political philosophy, but the other 99% are motivated by other things. If our mission were to build an effective political philosophy club, then we could concentrate on that 1%. A philosophy club with one million dues paying members could can pay a lot of officers' salaries and put on spectacular dog and pony shows, but it will not win many elections. If our mission is to get people elected and implement libertarian policy reforms, then we need to appeal strongly to the other 99%.
It is not necessary to compromise on principle to appeal to the 99%. Compromising principles would actually negate the rationale for a separate Libertarian political party. We must learn to effectively communicate Libertarian ideals to most voters in a manner they can easily relate to. These voters must have some modicum of respect for you and your ideas, as well as some knowledge of your achievements.
Another drawback to this "money will win" attitude is the temptation to "put all our resources into a few winnable races". The problem with this strategy is that even if it would work (it won't) it only is a strategy that will be of long-term benefit if the individual gets re-elected and if money is the only reason that this individual can beat his/her opponents, then the same money will have to be raised and spent each year. The LP can't raise this level of funds on a continuous basis around the country.
The "Libertarian Party" itself cannot win an election. Only individual Libertarian candidates can do that. The credibility of the LP will rise and fall with the credibility of all elected and appointed Libertarians. If the net credibility of "Libertarians in office" is high, AND if the number of Libertarian officeholders approaches 5% nationwide (approximately 20,000 officeholders), then the other parties will begin to shift their rhetoric and platforms to a more Libertarian direction. Of course, the vast majority of those 20,000 Libertarian officeholders would hold local office in districts of less than 1,500 voters. These are the people who should control the party strategy and administration.
Getting your constituency to the polls and making sure that the votes are counted correctly is another essential factor. This is why precinct level operations are vitally important. Party support at the precinct level is essential for the success of any candidate. When the Democrats or Republicans dominate in a particular district, they also dominate each voting precinct. Substantial time and money are required for an adequate Get Out The Vote (GOTV) operation. It has been demonstrated that dedicated volunteers are far more effective than "hired help".
MYTH #5 YOU HAVE TO COMPROMISE PRINCIPLE TO RUN A COMPETITIVE RACE.
While there will always be a "purist" versus "pragmatist" platform debate within any ideological organization, and such debate is healthy. In fact, if a Libertarian candidate believes it is necessary to abandon principle in pursuit of high office, then that candidate is in the wrong race. He should be running for a much lower level office where his support base can transcend any ideological divergence between the candidate and the average voter in his constituency. In order to implement incremental Libertarian reforms over the long haul, elected Libertarians need the trust of their constituency. Getting elected by pretending to be something you are not, will make it almost impossible to ever introduce and implement Libertarian reforms, no matter how limited in scope.
MYTH #6 WE CAN BUILD A MEMBERSHIP ORGANIZATION NOW AND A POLITICAL CADRE LATER.
Easy stuff now, hard stuff later makes a lot of people feel better but if we do not LEARN how to do the hard stuff we will never be competitive with the other political parties. The older parties have legions of battle hardened campaign veterans with a full cadre of precinct level operators backing them up.
MYTH #7 WE CAN FIGHT FOR LIBERTY AT A PROFIT
This myth is promoted by people who want to make a profession out of what should be a civic duty. They propose that we need a hierarchy of headquarters offices populated by paid staff from a national headquarters through 50 state party offices each with an executive director and staff down to county party offices. These permanent paid staffs will do all the candidate recruiting, fund raising and administration and hire consultants and contractors to do things like voter registration drives, ballot access signature drives, campaign management, campaign finance reporting, media and public relations. The "membership" then can contribute financially to this organization and sit back and wait for liberty to be delivered to them.
Many Libertarians are drawn to this model because many harbor the secret desire to abandon their uninteresting and/or unrewarding jobs and make a living working for liberty. On the other hand there are others who have more disposable income than the time or inclination to get involved in retail politics. They would like to pay others to protect their liberty for them. "Eternal vigilance" it is replaced by a $100 monthly pledge as the price of liberty.
This scheme fails to consider the lack of oversight in such an organization and the eventual "mission drift" of the cadre of paid staff. Their personal financial interests will eventually conflict with the mission of the organization. Projects, whether real or ephemeral, may be implemented on the basis of how much money their corresponding fund raising letters might yield.
MYTH #8. WE NEED STATE AND NATIONAL PARTY OFFICES TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF "THE ECONOMIES OF SCALE".
This has been tried over and over again at the state level and has been a continuous excuse for the national office from the inception of the party. A careful examination of the historical record and the cost per member, of ballot access, or elected Libertarian, or more importantly re-elected Libertarian, will confirm that there is a DISECONOMY of scale. Furthermore, what usually happens with the state party offices and the paid staff is that the operating overhead begins to consume more and more of the gross income and the staff who then have become dependent on this income must spend more and more of their time doing fund raising. This "Mission Creep" continues until the party can no longer afford the staff, or there is some financial mismanagement scandal and the whole thing is scrubbed until all those who remember the problem have left the party. Then someone comes up with the idea and starts the process all over again. .
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There area below contains ideas in a more unedited and finalized condidtion. Peruse it if you want. It will be updated in future revisions.
DICHOTOMIES BOTH REAL AND FALSE
The Nolan Chart of over 30 years ago showed that the conventional view of political positions as a one-dimensional gradient radiating without limit from left and right of center was more correctly considered as a two-dimensional plane with limits and units of measure.
Purists vs. Pragmatists
Similarly the constant tug of war between the "Purists" and "Pragmatists" within the LP is a false dichotomy. The underlying problem that manifests itself into this continuing controversy is real none the less.
This concept that has been a basis of most of the LP strategic plans to date if not explicitly, it is implicit in the planned allocation of resources and selection and prioritization of projects. This strategy is only reasonable when.
Lets do something for everyone.
Stated mission as opposed to the real mission or function
As in many organizations, especially non-profit organizations run by full time employees with volunteer amateur boards of directors or trustees, it is quite possible for the publicly expressed organizational mission to be subverted by a unexpressed but real mission held by the full time employees of the organization. It is natural that they put their personal interests ahead of the interests of the organization. If they take over both the setting and implementing or organizational policy it is not hard to see how a hidden mission of expanding the income, influence and control of the staff could be cast in the light of being the best method of achieving the stated mission.
"Elected Libs lose sight of objective"
This ridiculous denigration of the value of elected libertarians can be found in the vision document labeled Operation Everywhere written by Perry Willis to justify "Project Archimedes", a project from which he benefited financially for a number of sources, some legitimate and others fraudulently.
Club model versus political power base
Strategic moves made by those in power to minimize any threat to the status quo. They _will_ come from within and without, and we might already be looking at some of them (or their preliminaries).
The general themes I have to add are that we in PA have shown that voters WILL elect and appoint Libertarians to public office and that in such offices, Libertarians can begin to effect public policy TODAY and that we don't have to wait until some unspecified time in the future "when we are bigger and stronger". Even without being elected or appointed, Libertarians can attend local citizen and government meetings to learn what is going on and to testify before and lobby the individuals who are controlling public policy.
In PA, as in most states, there are open records and "sunshine" laws that mandate that all meetings of government agencies, boards, commissions and authorities must be open to the public. I know from personal experience that after a few appearances at any of these meetings, members of the public are allowed to comment and testify for the record concerning matters before these assemblies.
It will only be from this seasoned cadre of local elected, appointed and community active Libertarians will come those who are destined for higher office and greater scope of influence. Within the general Libertarian movement, we must recognize the difference in value and tactics between the "protesters" and the "practical politicians".
The very close national election in Nov 2000 and the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001, will have a long range effect on the general public any may be reluctant to vote for alternative party candidates especially for the higher state and federal offices.
WHERE DO WE START?
Clarification of the mission.
The mission of the LP is to change public policy by electing and re-electing Libertarians to public office so that they can implement Libertarian reforms in public policy. Libertarian being defined as holding the purpose of government is to secure individual liberty and justly acquired property with the least level of coercion possible and at the most local level practical.
In one way it would be easier to start a new party from scratch and organize and structure it from the bottom up, the reality is that the LP has been in existence for 30 years and has amassed a large number of members who have bought into the membership model of the LP. We have to address the large number of LP members, some who have been with the party for over 20 years that have no real interest in retail politics and may not really believe in the mission of the party.
However, since the true base of any political party is the precinct level organizations, this is where we have to start and where we must initially direct the preponderance of the current LP resources.
It should be made a priority that ALL party members get SOME experience at their local polling place at the next opportunity. These opportunities are normally available twice a year in every precinct in the nation. It is not necessary for everyone to attempt to become a precinct official but they should at least VISIT and the polling place at each election even if there are no Libertarians running for office (as in most primaries and special elections).
We should encourage all LP members to at least get a poll watchers certificate for each election day and spend at least one hour poll watching when the polls open and one hour when the polls close and the votes are tabulated. As many members as possible should attempt to be elected or appointed precinct election board officials for at least one election cycle.
The Judges and Inspectors of elections in Pennsylvania have broad powers and are subject to harsh penalties for infractions of the rules. Each polling place is run by a locally elected election board (A Judge of Elections and two Inspectors of elections), there is even a form of patronage involved since one or more clerks can be appointed by the elections board. Decisions of the local election board may be appealed to County board of elections and the Court of Common Pleas. These positions are much sought after positions by both the Democrat and Republican parties. They are among the few offices specifically mandated by the state constitution ( Article VII Section 11) and are elected to office in the same manner as any other elected office. Candidates must get petition signatures, file candidate affidavits and seek the votes of individual voters in their election divisions. These offices and offices similar to them in other states form the foundation for any real or potential political power base. When vacancies occur in these offices there can be special "curbstone" elections of registered voters present at the polling place at 7:30 am on election day, or a petition can be made to the Court of Common Pleas to appoint a replacement prior to election day. The Strategic Planning project of the LP of PA has established a training program for potential Election Officers and Poll Watchers.
In addition to getting a basic training in electoral politics and experience in serving in public office, each election board officer gets to meet and greet EVERY VOTER in the precinct at least twice a year while getting paid for the opportunity. While is against the law to electioneer within the polling place on election day, the familiarity with the voters and them with you can be used to advantage in the other 363 days of the year.
We should concentrate on getting as many wins within our precincts as possible.
The following pieces and thoughts are considered rough notes to be inserted into the body of the plan document.
.You can win an election as a Libertarian now. There is no need to wait until the party reaches some magic number of members or amasses some magic amount of cash. Winning is a catalyst for more and greater wins. You can win without compromising principles or committing more resources than you can afford. You can win by being prepared and choosing the contest for which you are best equipped.
In order to determine what a winning strategy might be we first must determine what we will define as success. If as Thomas Jefferson said "That Government is the best that governs least", then we want to begin the process of reducing government. In order to do that we need to be winning political races and affecting the ways and means of government. Why should we wait for some future time of event to begin winning? Why can't we begin to win now? Over the years member and "leaders" of the Libertarian party have lamented over the tough road we have because we are new and small and not treated equally by the major parties that control the reins of government. Ballot access laws make it too difficult to get on the ballot, the Media doesn't give us equal coverage for our ideas, we don't have the money to compete with the other parties, etc. etc. etc. Each of these excuses are false as we commented earlier.
Can we win now? Yes we can. We have already have over 50 elected or appointed Libertarians in Pennsylvania and we are running 50 more this year with real chances of getting into office, Some other states have also done this to a similar of lesser degree. We have won before and can win again in greater numbers.
We can also win without winning an election by becoming the second party instead of a third party, by significantly beating the Republican or Democrat in a three way race.
We can also win by coming in first or second in a respectable number of precincts.
A political campaign for office centers around the candidate. A ballot question or proposition centers around the spokesman. It takes more than one person to make a successful campaign. It takes a campaign team. Even a race for the smallest elected office should be conducted by a campaign team. A successful political party is defined as an assemblage of successful campaigns.
A campaign team can be constructed in many ways and a few people can share multiple functions, but a political campaign is a committee that includes at least the following elements or functions:
Candidate or Spokesperson
Fund raising Chairman
Election Day coordinator
Not everyone is cut out to be a candidate but everyone can be a successful campaign team member. Certain political tasks can be undertaken by team members to augment the political clout of the campaign team like serving on local boards and commissions, or even just attending town council of school board meetings and registering your presence and concern.
Each campaign team will have to develop its own strategy and tactics depending on the office being sought and the available resources that can be devoted to the campaign. A major consideration will be fashioning a plan that will allow the campaign team to operate continuously, year in and year out. Whatever pace that is selected, it should be such that no element of the campaign team will be taxed beyond its ability to sustain indefinitely. In other words, no burnout.
Back to some of the myths that have plagued the LP since its inception:
1. Ballot access requirements are too severe
Not in Pennsylvania and most other states. State Assembly races rarely require more than 500 signature of registered voters, even with a margin for bad signatures. Borough council, city council races are usually much less. We have from the middle of March to the end of July to collect the signatures which is less than 4 per day. A modest effort by a campaign team should collect 100 signatures per day! If we are running for those races we can win instead of races in which we can only get 1% of the vote, then ballot access is no problem.
2. The media doesn't give us the coverage that we deserve
A candidate gets the media they work for and earn. We have proven that in the Leon Williams campaign, the John Featherman campaign, the Bob Selles campaign and many others. If a candidate has something relevant to his or her campaign AND is of interest to the general public, the media will cover the story. Many of our candidates in the past have tried to promote specific Libertarian issues in political races where those issues were not relevant. A candidate need to develop a message that resonates with the voters while still maintaining a libertarian flavor. "More Jobs, less crime, better schools" can be the headlines with a libertarian method of implementation.
3. We don't have enough money to compete with the other parties.
While money can always be utilized in a political campaign, it is not what wins elections. Money only helps a candidate that already has a significant base of support to attract a few more uncommitted voters in a close race. The more credible a candidate is, the more money that candidate can raise. Credibility comes from having a base campaign that demonstrates competence, knowledge of the issues and some history of community involvement.
The LP of Pennsylvania has been developing and implementing a strategic plan for the last 5 years. The first formal planning session was held in 1994 by our current chairman Tim Moir who was then the party Secretary. We have emphasized a policy of decentralization and concentration on local races. The Strategic Planning Project now has participation by Libertarians throughout the country. You can visit the web site at WWW.LP2000.COM and see the list of participants.
The LP of PA has benefited from our emphasis on local races by electing more Libertarians to office than any other state while still running statewide campaigns for the purpose of "showing the flag" and gaining and maintain statewide recognition as an official party. We have also maintained our status as the state with the second highest membership totals.
The Strategic planning project has also developed a series of training seminars for potential candidates and candidate campaign teams. We started with the most basic element of any political campaign which is the individual polling precinct workers and poll watchers. We held a few training sessions last year and trained about 50 people.
You can be a winner now if you choose the right contest, the right message, and are better prepared than your opposition.
Our goal is to provide sufficient information and training for ANY person who wants to participate in a winning campaign regardless of the level of commitment of time and/or money that individual can afford. For example, if you can devote 10 hours per YEAR to assist in a political campaign and trained to be an official Poll Watcher/Worker, you can greatly enhance the chances of one or more of our candidates winning that particular precinct. In addition, as a trained poll worker you are eligible to replace one of the existing elected members of a precinct election board and end up getting paid to work the polls for a day.
The people conducting these training sessions are people who have succeeded in getting elected, getting media coverage, and getting the endorsement of the leading newspapers of record. They have succeeded in affecting government as elected and appointed officials, and in beating one of the major parties in a contested election, and succeeded in winning over both major parties in one or more precincts.
As part of the decentralist strategy, we must destroy the myth that all knowledge comes down form the party hierarchy. Those of us who are on the county, state, and national committees may have more time in the party than some others but we don’t have and can’t have all the best answers and strategies. The LP will only be politically successful when the average member is politically successful.
We would like to consider people members of the LP when they contribute to its general success. This does not mean only monetary contributions, but contribution s of time and commitment. Without a dedicated cadre of political activists as the basis of the party, money alone will not provide success. As has been seen many times excess money without sufficient oversight at the grass roots leads to waste, fraud and abuse.
Similarly all LP members should be encouraged to consider running for, or getting appointed to the lowest level elective office available to them and for which they are qualified and will be able to devote the necessary time to do a good job. These offices should NOT be used for launching protests or just to run up the numbers of "Libertarians in Office". Those LP members who do not or can not meet the minimum qualifications should at least attend their local borough, township or city committee meetings, sub-committee meetings and/or meetings of the various agencies, boards, commissions and authorities. It is quite possible to affect the outcome of the decisions of these bodies without being a voting member of those bodies. All that is necessary is that you know the issues and can present you views either by formal testimony, written proposals and reports or by informal lobbying. There are approximately 100,000 voting precincts in the United State. There are approximately 500.000 elected offices and about twice that many positions on all public agencies, boards, commissions and authorities.
For those LP members who can’t do any of the above for some reason, they can provide research and the equivalent of staff support for the Libertarians in public office or those non-elected and appointed activists who are attending the official meetings.
A typical local elected Libertarian may not have any additional time to attend LP party meetings or LP/LM social events or LP/LM debates and lectures. Between their full time jobs and their official duties and their obligations to their families, they may not have any time left over. However, since they do represent the future of the LP and embody the total LP expertise in trying to get Libertarian reform enacted, implemented and maintained, the rest of us who have the time and inclination should do what ever we can to get their expert opinion and to provide them with whatever support they deem necessary.
Those LP members who are the least interested in true LP activities should be channeled to LM activities that provide education, out reach, entertainment and social interaction for the LP. However, these auxiliary activities should always be evaluated in light of the LP mission and the effect on the LIO’s (Libertarians in Office) and the CLC. (Credible Libertarian Candidates and Political Cadre).
Those LIO’s and CLC’s should strive to have a basic campaign committee that performs all the basic political and organizational functions required by a political campaign. There is nothing that is done at the state or national committee level that is different than that is required by the most basic elected office.
These functions are:
These county committee should be formed by and controlled by candidate committees. The county committees function should only be to perform those tasks that the campaign committees absolutely can not perform for themselves, or as mandated by law. Any campaign committee chair should be able to step in as County chair on a moments notice. The state committees should be formed by and controlled by the county committee. The state committees should form and control the national committee for the same limited purposes. This structure does not mean that one or more candidate, county or state committees can not voluntarily associate to perform certain projects and or to share information or tasks. For example, a national conference of urban Libertarian committees could be formed, or a conference of Libertarian committee treasurers, et cetera.
SPECIFIC ISSUES FOR LOCAL CANDIDATES
When the press asks a set up question like "are you in favor of drug legalization" you must remember that you are not debating with the press, you are addressing the people in the audience. In order to make your point with the audience, who you don't know and who don't know you, you must establish yourself and your Bona Fides each time. Because of the net effect of the Government propaganda in general, and the DEA and others in particular, the public have been conditioned to think that "drug legalization" means that drug pushers will be allowed to sell drug to children and that the government will subsidize drugs for all addicts. The public must be educated to the real problem, but you can not do that if they don't know you and trust you
So it is imperative that you don't fall for the bait and say "Yes". Remember they don't hear what is in your mind but what is in their minds. We need a definite strategy for this issue.
You must go through your introduction process to the audience and not provide "gotcha" sound bites that the press or an opponent can use against you in the future. Here is an off the cuff example of a "political Akido" response. Akido is a martial art where you use your opponents strength against him and to your advantage. It is more than just a form of Ju Jitsu but a mental process of putting yourself in your opponents mind. Here goes:
Press to you: "Are you in favor of drug legalization"
You to the audience:
"This is an important question that is being raised by more people every day. Rampant drug abuse is a major problem in society today, but simple "legalization" is not the answer. My husband is a physician and he and I see these problems every day. Along with the actual problem of drug and substance abuse, the street battles among drug gangs and the local, state and national police often involve harm to many innocent bystanders. While are jails are filled to overflowing, and the cost of the war on drugs is escalating, the problem seems to be getting worse. I certainly don't want my two children to grow up in such a chaotic society.
Something must be done. The current "War on Drugs" does not seem to be working and more of the innocent bystanders are being harmed by errors and excesses of the police and the legal system. Individual rights guaranteed by the constitution are being ignored in order to interdict drug traffic and incarcerate drug users. Asset forfeiture and unrestricted search and seizure are two area that are harming more innocent citizens that drug traffickers. In addition, the very police forces we are depending on to execute this war are being disillusioned and corrupted by this long war with many defeats and too few victories. Further escalation of the war with further erosions of civil liberties and increased number of people in jail for longer mandatory sentences doesn't seem to be the proper course of action. We currently have the largest percentage of people in jail than any other free nation. We need to thoroughly reevaluate the current effect of drug prohibition and the policies and procedures we are currently employing.
Most of the actual drug abuse today is caused by the misuse of legal prescription drugs. We are creating a larger and larger population who are taught that drugs can solve physical and emotional problems. Children are given Ritalin the elderly are treated symptomatically with all manner of drugs.
We need to stop sending mixed messages to our youth that there is a drug to solve all problems. etc. etc.
As County Commissioner I will not have the power to change Federal law, but I will see to it that the citizens of Blair County are informed about the efficacy of those things that are under my control and to exercise my duties in their best interest. They in turn will elect state and federal legislators who may look into this problem and come up with better solutions. etc. etc.
Remember, you are not running this campaign to show other libertarians how good a libertarian you are, but to show the voters of Blair County how good a public official you can be. If they trust you and listen to you, you will be advancing the Libertarian cause regardless of whether you win this time or not.
This one example of why we need to evaluate the entire Libertarian Party strategy of outreach and party building mechanisms. Are we trying to recruit intellectuals or the average voter? If we are going after the average voter, we can not do it with a faceless economic and social policy. It must be sold by Libertarian politicians who are known by and trusted by their neighbors. We must have implementable transitional solutions that as elected Libertarians we can demonstrate on a small scale. Further credibility will be gained as more Libertarians are successful at local races and offices. The "Atlas Shrugged" model has not worked in the 20th century, and will not work in the 21st century.
I would comment further that philosophical purity may be good for an individual, "above all else, to thine own self be true".
But it is paralysis to a political party because it is impossible to agree upon. Only in a religious context is it possible to have a "pure" philosophy because it does not come from consensus but from an "infallible source" such as God or a Prophet ordained by God.
If you are an atheist or agnostic you are SOL when it comes to an "infallible source", unless you consider yourself an infallible source in which case you really are in trouble.
It is an unfortunate fact that the LP is populated with many people who consider themselves infallible sources and who feel that their pontifications do not need to be periodically re calibrated against current reality. It is probably our greatest impediment to success.
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ballot questions - primary
>> What is the most efficient path to a freer society?
No one knows the absolute answer to that. The question is unanswerable and is the very reason why a decentralist market model always comes up with a more consistently better solution that the command and control model. If put we put all our resources into the "best guess" path and are wrong, we lose the ranch. If we guess right we live another day until the world changes and we have to make another guess. Eventually we guess wrong and lose. It took the Soviet Union 70 years, but they eventually lost. It is just plain hubris that that lesson was not instructive to all central planners.
My answer is that we should do it all concomitantly and invest some resources in each type of organization, but structure and administer each organization to most efficaciously achieve its mission. The Libertarian Party (LP) is only one facet of the Libertarian Movement (LM). The LP is not a strategic alternative to the LM, it is an element of the LM, just as CATO, the REASON foundation, the Future of Freedom Foundation, et cetera are elements of the LM.
The ultimate mission of the LM is the achievement of a libertarian society. The very definition of what would constitute a libertarian society is not unanimously agreed to by all people who call themselves libertarians. Politics and Education are not separable. You can't effectively do one without engaging in the other. Each individual must determine how to most effectively invest their resources in the advancement of liberty. It is not only what is best but at what you are best and most comfortable doing. The LP should narrowly focus on electing Libertarians to office to directly implement libertarian reforms in public policy. This can not be done without some form of educating the public. LP candidates and office holders can be in strategic alliance with the more narrowly focused educational organizations in the LM such as CATO or the Heartland Institute. CATO's mission is not to directly influence the general public but to influence the opinion leaders and the people currently holding governmental power. The more credible the LP is as a political force, the more effective CATO can be as an educational force. This can be done without any formal tactical alliance or coordination with CATO.
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