Saturday, June 05, 2004

The trouble with Libertarians

My political philosophy runs, mainly, along libertarian lines. Harry Browne, the 2000 nominee for the Libertarian party, wrote an article yesterday that explains why the LP doesn't do too well on a national stage, the problem, he has it backwards.

Here's the article.

After 33 years in operation, the LP presidential candidate has never received more than 1% of the vote, the party has elected less than a thousand office-holders, and currently has no one in Congress or a state legislature.

The armchair quarterbacks inside and outside the party know just what the party needs to do to reverse its fortunes. It must focus on a particular issue to the exclusion of all other topics, stage the right kind of media events, conduct a campaign that?s more "in your face," merge campaigns with another third party, tone down the message, or find a celebrity to carry the party?s banner.

If only it were so easy.

Sorry Mr. Browne but, it is that easy.

I have yet to hear anyone say that the LP should concintrate on one issue "to the exclusion of all others". What people are saying is to claim something as your own, other than pot. There are a lot of issues that everyday people care about that neither major party touches. Take one and make it a focal point while still espousing your beliefs.

The other things he brings up are worth looking at too.

"stage the right kind of media events" Well, what's wrong with that? If you want to get your message out, you have to play to the media. That's the way it is.

"conduct a campaign that?s more "in your face," Again, if you want your message heard, people have to actually hear it.

"merge campaigns with another third party" This one I don't know about. The good thing about the LP is that it has unique ideas. Merging with another third party, who may have contradictory viewpoints, isn't a smart move.

"tone down the message" The only message I think that needs to be "toned down" is the issue of marijuana. People hear this way too much and they think that it is ALL the LP stands for. Put this one on the back burner and push more of the other issues.

"or find a celebrity to carry the party?s banner." Why not? Look, and please excuse me readers, people are rather stupid when it comes to politics today. You need someone to stand in the forefront and say "hey, this is why you should vote for us". Getting a celebrity to do it is an even better move.

He goes on to give five laws, read, excuses, of why the LP can't stand up against the two big boys.
Campaign finance limits: The $2,000-per-person donation limit (formerly $1,000) works to the advantage of Republicans and Democrats. They can promise large governmental benefits to industry leaders, who in exchange will promise to collect large numbers of $2,000 donations for the candidates. We have nothing similar to offer, and so we have to raise the money one person at a time.

It seems Mr. Browne can't remember back just a few months ago to the Dean campaign. He started as a grass roots effort and gained major party support and, at first, used only small donations.
Reporting requirements: Because virtually all campaign donations must be reported, major donors can be afraid to finance anyone who challenges the existing two-party system. (The disclosure laws also inspire many wealthy interests to donate to both Republican and Democratic candidates — so as not to be vulnerable to retribution for helping only the loser.) There is no practical, ethical, or historical reason to make the reporting of donations mandatory. Each candidate should decide for himself what his reporting policy will be. Every voter can then consider that policy when deciding whether to vote for him.

I agree with what Mr. Browne says but, it ain't how it is. We have a system and the LP can abide by it. Why doesn't the LP try and go for donations from these wealthy interests too, even if it is a smaller donation. I doubt they have even tried.
Campaign subsidies: Around $200 million of taxpayer money will go to the two major parties this year. Most third parties accept smaller sums from the government when they qualify — but Libertarians would be hypocrites if they condemned corporate and personal welfare and then accepted political welfare. I probably would have received close to a $1 million subsidy in the 2000 campaign (which would have increased the funds available by better than a third), but I obviously wouldn’t do so.

On this I agree with Mr. Browne. But, even in this, you can use to your advantage. You let people know, hey, we actually stand by what we say. Take advantage of every situation presented, it works.
The debates: The Debate Commission is comprised solely of Republicans and Democrats. Enough said.

It may just be me but, debates have never swayed my opinion. This just isn't that big of a deal. To counter this, hold small townhall meetings and explain just what it is your candidate stands for.
Ballot-access hurdles: The two old parties have placed enormous hurdles in the way of third-party candidates wanting to be on state ballots. In 2000, we raised $2.6 million. Of that $250,000 — almost 10% — was consumed just trying to get on the ballot in Pennsylvania and Arizona alone.


This is the only hurdle I think Mr. Browne makes a good point on. How to change it? Work within the system. The LP is gaining major footholds in local elections and the way to change these problems is, work from within. Get these laws changed and or updated.

The article goes on to say the good things the LP does. I won't go into them, I'll let you read it yourself and make your on decision on those.

If the Libertarian party really wants to make a difference in the politics of today, it needs to get into this day and age. This isn't the 50's where people studied the candidates and chose the one they thought was best, and this is unfortunate. They chose the one who speaks the loudest, and in a lot of cases, to their wallet.