by George Phillies
Sometimes it is necessary to step back and see the forest without looking separately at each tree. It is all too easy to get tangled up in minute details, and forget that we actually do have long-term objectives.
Here I lay out where our Libertarian Party needs to go. It is a long journey. We may not all live to reach our destination. In other articles, you will hear members of the New Path for Libertarian Revival write about the simple practical steps that we clearly can put into place. Those steps will be obvious and sensible ways to start our party moving in the right direction. Let’s consider where the journey will finally take us.
Our objective is to create a Libertarian future for America. There is no issue on which all Libertarians agree, but our general direction is clear: We offer the true road to peace, freedom, and opportunity for every American.
What do we need to reach our objective?
We’re a political party. The purposes of a political party are to place candidates on the ballot, to elect them to office, and to use its elected officials and other parts of the political process to put its platform into place.
To bring the Libertarian future to the United States, we need to become the majority party, with regular control of Congress, the White House, state legislatures, and state houses across America. We don’t need to reach a one-party state such as the one now found in Massachusetts — that would be bad for us as well as for our country. We do need to be the political movement that sets the agenda, our Libertarian agenda in which private Americans are able to choose their own futures.
Clearly, we are not going to become the majority party overnight. We are not going to become the majority party during the terms of office of the next National Committee. However, we should never lose sight of the ultimate objective, becoming the political majority party, for if we do we will wander lost in political fever-swamps.
What do we need to reach the Libertarian political majority?
On one hand, there are the factors that will make clear that we are the majority party. On the other hand, there are the social structures and groups of people that will win us our majorities. Finally, there are the methods and tools that will start moving us in the right directions.
We do not have an electoral majority. Your National Committee is not by itself the social groups and individuals who will win us majority status. What today’s LNC can do is to lay the foundation for the great political engine that will move us from small minority to political majority.
What do we need to do?
First, what are the factors that will cause us to be the political majority? The factors include:
*an incumbent pool
*strong candidates for every office at every level
*a large, supportive voter base
*concrete Libertarian policies that actually work and are widely believed to work.
Second, which social structures will create and sustain our Libertarian majority?
*Effective political party groups: National Party State Parties Local political groups
*Libertarian affinity groups
*Libertarian think tanks
*Libertarian political consulting and polling houses
*Libertarian main-stream media
*Libertarian litigators and journalists
*Libertarian political action committees, 527 groups, and other organizations.
Finally, what are the tools and methods the National Committee can start creating *now*? That’s how we’ll begin this very long march. We start taking small steps that get us moving in the right direction. The steps include:
*Candidate recruitment, support, and training
*Group formation and development
*Vibrant, active parties in every state, D.C., Puerto Rico, and wherever else our flag flies
*Outreach and Advertising
*Web and internet mobilization
*Literature and web templates
*Sound resource investment
*Short-term Libertarian policies
Let’s go back and look at these needs in more detail. First, what are the factors that define us as:
*Incumbent Pool. In America, the most effective way to be elected is to be a candidate for re-election, to the same or a different office. As an incumbent, your years in office and successful policies give you name recognition, and recognition for competency, that your challengers find it difficult to match. When we approach majority status, it will be our candidates who have the advantage of their incumbency, and their candidates who are little-known challengers.
*Strong candidates for every office. As that great Massachusetts politician Tip O’Neill explained fifty years ago, if you want to elect people to office, there’s no substitute to having someone on the ballot. He correctly went further than that. The Democrats took control of the Massachusetts State Legislature by making sure that there was a Democrat running for every single office, great and small, including races offering scant chances for a Democratic victory, because every candidate brought his friends and neighbors to the polls. When we run credible candidates up and down the ballot, we send loud and clear that we have the most important strength a party can have: we are the party that you can trust.
*A large, supportive voter base. Most Americans vote by party. They do so because most of the time most candidates of their party are good enough on their key issues. Instead of asking whether Candidate C is exactly right, they trust their party to select good candidates. Our voter base is the people we can be sure will vote Libertarian. With enough habitual Libertarian voters, we will win almost every election. Furthermore, most Americans only choose a political party once or twice in their whole life. Once they have chosen a party, they stay with it for decades. That’s why youth recruitment is so important. Each teenager we recruit will cast tens or hundreds of Libertarian votes.
*Concrete Libertarian policies that actually work and are seen as working. This is the most challenging piece of the puzzle to craft and put into place. It’s very easy to say that when a complete set of Libertarian policies have been in place for a long time, we will be better off. In the real world, some of our policies will have unexpected consequences we do not like, consequences that move us away from liberty. A Libertarian majority party will be sufficiently agile to notice when matters are turning sour and correct our policies so that we keep moving in Libertarian directions.
In order to create the Libertarian future, we need to create the social structures that take us there. Some of them will appear spontaneously. Some need a bit of encouragement. The National party can’t become all of these structures. It can work to ensure that these structures appear.
*Effective political party groups: We need effective Libertarian party groups on every level, Federal, state and local. In particular, we need the effective local groups that we do not yet have in most places. Of course, we also need effective state parties and a national party, but state and national groups are not nearly enough. There are important tasks for a national party, for state parties, and for local parties, discussed in earlier chapters. To carry them out, we need strong, vibrant Libertarian parties in every state, D.C., Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and everywhere else our flag flies.
*Libertarian affinity groups: A Libertarian affinity group will contain people with a common interest, and people in leadership roles who show how those concerns will be solved with our sound Libertarian policies. A Libertarian affinity group may contain lots of people who are not Libertarians. One affinity group objective is to generate public support for its solutions. A second affinity group objective is to persuade its members to support the Libertarian solution and someday to support our Libertarian Party. The other political parties are each surrounded by a swarm of their affinity groups, many nominally nonpartisan but in practice very highly partisan.
*Libertarian think tanks: Think tanks are not political parties. They advocate for ideas, not for the election of particular candidates. Because people see think tanks as rising above politics, they trust think tanks more than they trust politicians. Think tanks do the important policy studies that help candidates defend their stands with facts and pointed sound bites. We need Libertarian think tanks. Those are think tanks like AntiWar.com that support Libertarian ideas, not right wing warmonger or right wing racist think tanks. By definition, our National Committee cannot be a think tank, but it can bring together the Libertarian thinkers and financiers who can create the think tanks we need.
*Libertarian political consulting and polling houses. In the real world, most political consultants only work for one party. They only work for Democrats, or they only work for Republicans. A few houses, notably petitioning houses, are willing to work with Libertarian candidates; we should treasure and support them. As our party develops, as our candidates have more and more money, natural market forces will create Libertarian political consultants. In the short term, when neither the money no the consultants are yet available, the National Committee needs to do activist support and training to help our volunteers with critical work.
*Libertarian main-stream media: Do we want our candidates’ statements to be reported accurately to the public? Do we want the local television station to organize a candidate debate, and announce in advance that the Libertarian candidate will indeed be included as a debater? If so, we need Libertarian main-stream media, newspapers, television, magazines, and internet outlets, places that present honest news and sensible opinions while creating a Libertarian cultural and political climate. The Democrats and Republicans have them, and so do we.
*Libertarian litigators: Do you need to sue for ballot access? Do you need news coverage that represents our stands well? We will reach those goals when we are educating large numbers of Libertarians as attorneys and journalists, people who will support our legal needs and present our views. Yes, a good attorney of any political inclination will do a first-rate job for his Libertarian client. However, the conservative movement has spent decades pushing the Federalist Society, for very good reason, and we should do the same.
Finally, there are the tools and methods the National Committee can start creating *now*. That’s how we’ll begin this very long march. We start taking small steps and after not too long realize that we have started moving in the desired directions. We’ll be discussing these tools and methods separately. This article discusses the long term view–where we want to end up.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion of long term goals and objectives. You’re seeing what the New Path for Libertarian Revival is offering the Libertarian Party, namely thoughtful analysis and serious planning.
George Phillies is a candidate for LP National Chair