I want the Libertarian Party to succeed, but it’s proving that it only knows how to do just the opposite. This needs to change.
It begins with an ousting of the current Libertarian National Committee incumbents, minus one person: Larry Sharpe.
Let’s forget for a moment that the presidential campaign of Gary Johnson happened. I’m sure most of you, including myself, have spent way too much time ranting profusely about it. Yes, putting up recognizably weak candidates absolutely garnered name recognition, just not the kind of recognition they wanted. Even while disregarding this undeniably atrocious candidacy, I would still make the contention that the Libertarian Party needs a lot of help.
This process begins with not making rookie mistakes on the proverbial court, and it ends with new leadership; the party needs a group of leaders who better understand what it takes to propel a third party to victory. This means understanding political strategy, understanding marketing, and most of all, understanding the message you want to convey to the people of the United States.
Let’s get to the rookie mistakes first. Most of this should be common sense, but it seems as though the Libertarian Party lacks that. If we want people to take us seriously, we can’t let people like James Weeks strip down to almost nothing on C-SPAN and allow him to continue to participate in the party’s affairs. Imagine if Newt Gingrich got up and did that at the Republican National Convention; the party would suffer immensely for not only allowing it to happen, but not bothering to condemn it and letting the person stick around and continue to be a recognizable figure in the movement, even if he’s not officially part of party leadership. Let us not forget that the Republican Party is already a major party, and would be more apt to recover from a blunder like that. The Libertarian Party can’t afford to let occurrences like this pile up.
I also fail to see how most of the board takes their personal image and the party’s image seriously. While character and image shouldn’t necessarily be an important factor, anyone who understands politics will tell you that it is a huge factor in political strategy. If Candidate A is more polished in character, image, and speaking ability than Candidate B, but equal on all other counts, then Candidate A has a better shot at winning. Gary Johnson is an example of this, and so is most of the Libertarian National Committee. Again, I don’t personally mind these things, but I’m attempting to look at this like the average voter would, and to the average voter image is key. Having bright pink hair, or having a name like “Starchild” (last name does not apply, or exist, apparently) sets you up for failure on the national stage. I know for a fact their politics and message are astounding, but a person’s ethos is negatively impacted if people don’t take you seriously. First impressions matter, because they may just be your last.
Part of the reason I feel like Regional Alternate Larry Sharpe should remain in the party is that he takes his image — and the image of the party — seriously. He’s well-articulated, well-informed, and understands who his audience is. He also seems to be the one that takes messaging and outreach the most seriously of everyone.
Regional alternates are generally bench warmers, and they typically sit on the sideline unnoticed. Sharpe, however, never has. He’s made a name for himself within the community and shown that he’s committed, knows what he’s doing, and is ready to take charge. The rest of the regional alternates may not have participated in the blunders, but they didn’t give anyone any reason to believe they’re worth keeping.
Vice Chairman Arvin Vohra was someone who I was considering on giving a pass in terms of ousting — because I felt he was close to being on the same level as Sharpe — until he came out with some awful comments, including the assertion that every person in the military is a murderer. After much backlash from people inside the party who are calling for him to step down and are considering leaving the party as a result — as well as people outside of the party scoffing at the idea of joining in on these charades — he won’t make the list for me.
Most military personnel are reservists, or work in peaceful jobs as engineers, etc., for the military. So generalizing all of them as baby killers makes his comments either pure ignorance, or just completely faulty generalization. To note, the military could be important for us, as many of them could become part of our electorate if we didn’t insult them.
Speaking of military engineers, Vohra posted this on Facebook most recently: “Sociopath (n.) – A scientist or engineer who works for a military weapons contractor. See also: gullible, weak-minded.”
Regardless of the reason he thinks this is an endeavor worth undertaking, his comments are just purely disappointing. Sharpe is the only person that’s earned a seat within the LNC. There are plenty more examples of mediocrity and absurdity when it comes to comments from other LNC members, but it’s not worth expounding on, as it would require me to compose an entire book.
Chairman Nick Sarwark doesn’t seem to be taking his job seriously, either. Unfortunately, no one has stepped up to the plate and offered to run that would do much better. Sarwark is part of the “LP Bearded Caucus.” Yes, you read that right. Whether it’s intended or not, something like that is a big joke, and not a funny one. Small things aside, what Sarwark has proven to provide as LNC chairman is poor leadership from the top.
This is a man who I hoped would run on our 2020 ticket at one point. Now I see him virtue signaling to the left in response to controversial issues, speaking before he thinks, and even trying to pick fights with the Paul family, among many other things. Rand Paul is hands down the best leader attempting to forward liberty in any federal office. For the “Party of Principle,” the LP sure doesn’t mind bucking it’s own slogan in order to do nothing productive but piss off its own devoted electorate. Speaking of which, this leads me to the biggest, most unforgivable failure.
We absolutely should not have sold our party’s 2018 slogan to the highest bidder. Putting up our slogan to the highest bidder was a poor move. While I want to know whose idea this was, the LNC refuses to provide that information. I’m left to put the blame on the entirety of the LNC, especially on Chairman Sarwark. Not only could the party have been sabotaged, but it was absolutely put on the auction block.
Not only that, but I question how serious the LNC took this process, considering that many great slogan choices were left out. While likely not the best slogan idea, one of my personal submissions to the party was “All for Liberty, and Liberty for All.” Regardless of what you may think of it, I believe we can all agree that it’s a better idea than “Am I Being Detained,” “Jazzed About Liberty,” “Rise of the Libertarians,” and “Pro-Choice on Everything.”
Ignoring the insane first three choices, the final one I mentioned is a matter of contention regarding the party’s message. As a pro-life libertarian myself, I was befuddled by the idea of ignoring the party’s platform. This wasn’t just someone attempting to sabotage the party or impose their pro-choice views on a party that isn’t declarative one way or the other, by the way; people within the LNC expressed their support for such a slogan.
The Libertarian Party platform states clearly:
Recognizing that abortion is a sensitive issue and that people can hold good-faith views on all sides, we believe that government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.”
Ultimately, “I’m THAT Libertarian!” won the bidding war. While redundant and useless for the national stage, it’s at least a nice ode to the late Dr. Feldman.
This entire slogan debacle was an irresponsible move on the part of the LNC, and they should face the consequences of this and other poor actions: we should prevent their incumbency by voting them out.
I’m not giving anyone in the acting leadership in the LNC a pass on this. The regional alternates don’t have a say in relatively all matters. For that reason, there’s essentially no reason to blame the alternates for the actual leadership’s issues, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that Larry Sharpe is the only person who’s proven himself to be a valuable asset, and he would help the party out immensely if he were given an acting leadership role.
This leads me to the strategy as a whole. The Libertarian Party struggles to adhere to its own message and platform, and struggles to know who to pander to, and it fails to do a good job conveying the message of liberty. We need people who better understand marketing to run the show. Failing to adhere to your own abortion plank is one of many issues the party struggles with, immigration being another key one. Libertarianism is a unique philosophy, in that members can advocate both sides of the immigration debate and make a case for liberty. The party needs members that understand this, and understand how to convey these principles.
Not only that, but the party seems widely uncommitted to holding a high standard for its down-ballot candidates, and they show a lack of interest in prioritizing these races. Libertarians complain about having almost zero party members in any government position — the party only holds two lower state house seats in New Hampshire (and will be gaining its third lower house seat from an upcoming party switch by a sitting state senator later in June) and one upper state house seat in Nevada. This makes up the party’s total amount of state-level representatives in the entirety of the US, and they only hold 149 locally elected offices — most of which are neighborhood boards and school boards, with some small town mayorships. However, with this little success, party members fail to blame who’s responsible for this lack of substantial growth: the party leadership.
The party seems intent on ignoring the importance of down-ballot races, while putting up awful presidential ticket after ticket. This will get us nowhere.
The party needs to focus on two things in order to progress itself: down-ballot races besides the presidency, and getting first past the post eliminated nationally.
Duverger’s Law, a staple of political theory, states that first past the post within a electoral system built on single-member districts tends to lead to a two-party system instead of multipartism. Making a push for ranked choice voting on a local, state, and national scale can effectively give the Libertarian Party the shot they need at winning down-ballot races and even the presidency. Maine successfully implemented ranked choice voting; the LP should push for this nationally.
Asking the party to take itself seriously and aim to win isn’t a particularly outlandish request. If we want a true liberty coalition in the form of a political party, party members must refuse to allow this mess to continue. Many liberty-minded folk are flocking back to the Republican Party in droves; give them a reason to come back. It’s been tough for me to sit around and watch this all take place, but I’m giving the party one last shot. If it continues to reelect its incumbents and stay on its current path, however, I can’t stick around and continue to hope that the party will eventually get it right, especially if those involved believe its in the party’s best interests to avoid a change in leadership and strategy.
Show up at the 2018 LP Convention. Make your voice heard, and help propel the LP in the right direction before it is too late. Run for a leadership position. Do what it takes. The party is running on fumes, and it has one last shot. Let’s make it count, and take the party back.