Tough Love for the Libertarian Party

Before I start here, I’d just like to say that I don’t dislike the Libertarian Party. In fact, I openly admit that I voted for Harry Browne in 2000… and I live in Florida!

I don’t agree with the party on everything, but I think a lot of their platform does make sense. However, it’s my opinion that they’ve done a miserable job of communicating their message to the people…

Here are eight things I believe the Libertarian Party needs to do:

1. Run serious candidates and win meaningful races! Funnel the majority of party efforts into running community leaders, successful small business people, and already elected officials for State House and State Senate seats. Winning these races is essential to providing the LP with a crop of candidates who can be taken seriously when running for higher offices like Congress or even state-wide offices. For example, it was a good idea to run an experienced mayor with established name recognition for governor of Wisconsin. (Ed Thompson)

2. Tuck in your shirt! This goes along with number 1. It is essential that you insist that candidates conduct themselves in a professional and serious manner. For example, it’s a bad idea to run a guy for Vice-President of the United States who touts a fake PhD he bought online. (“Dr.” Richard Campagna)

3. It’s hard enough as it is… Following along with number 2, it’s important to remember that getting people to take a third party seriously is hard enough work without self-inflicted embarrassment. The party’s 2004 VP nominee, Richard Campagna, regularly touts a diploma-mill PhD from the American College of Metaphysical Theology. What’s worse is that most of the party, when confronted with this fact, defended Campagna as exercising “educational choice” or some such nonsense.

4. You want a tent, not an umbrella! It’s a bad idea for a party as small as the LP to push people away who might agree with 90% of your platform, but not on certain issues. Try to avoid driving your only elected state representative out of the party when he votes with you almost all the time, and against you on one issue.

5. The Presidential Race. Run a candidate who has some elected political experience or who can successfully raise substantial amounts of money. The 2004 LP Presidential nominee was Michael Badnarik. He won a fairly unimpressive 2% of the vote in a 2002 race for State House. The Vice-Presidential nominee, Richard Campagna, won 1.2% of the vote for Lt. Governor in 2002. Not exactly excellent electoral track records.

6. Getting into the debates… Just appearing on the ballot in a lot of states does not give your Presidential nominee a right to appear in the debates… and you don’t want it to! I know this goes against conventional wisdom, but hear me out. If being on the ballot in enough states to win would guarantee you a spot in the debates, then the requirements to get on the ballot in many states would increase to prevent you from getting on the ballot so that you can’t participate. Work on convincing people to vote for you in order to increase your poll numbers… debate participation will follow.

7. Be moderate radicals. Ok, so you want to eliminate the IRS? That sounds good to me. Let’s do things in steps. Move to a flat tax and then over a decade cut that tax rate back to nothing. Don’t just say: “We’re going to totally eliminate the IRS!” In practice, a radical and uncompromising Libertarian President would cause total chaos in this country if he/she tried to enact the entire party’s platform in the first weekend… which is how Libertarians seem to think things would go. Right now, everyone just thinks you want to smoke pot and avoid the income tax, but don’t have any clear plans on how to do it. Create a plan for gradual change that people will actually take seriously, because right now no one is listening.

and finally…

8. Consider a new name. Libertarian sounds weird and fringey. People are not sure if it’s a “liberal” party (like the Greens), or perhaps some sort of authoritarian or Marxist word. No one wants to be a “tarian” anything. Notice how most other modern minor political parties have chosen names that reflect and communicate their platform to even the most casual observer. So take a lesson from the Constitution Party, Green Party, America First Party, Socialist Workers Party, and Reform Party. My suggestion: The Liberty Party.

11 Responses to “Tough Love for the Libertarian Party”

  1. Says:

    I especially agree with 1, 2, 7, and definitely 8. I don’t think it’s as much a communication problem as it is a problem with them taking their platform too far. Be true to what you believe, but understand that politics is about compromise, and that you’re not going to win any elections by saying that the federal gov’t shouldn’t even be providing roads and schools.

  2. es Says:

    I agree with that 100%, especially the part about not throwing out people who agree with 90% of the platform. That’s really just a different sort of compromise…but if they can’t even learn compromise within the party, how are we to trust them in the legislature?

  3. es Says:

    I occasionally hear the LP referred to as “those people who want to legalize marijuana, but not the Greens…those other people.” lol

  4. Mikey Says:

    Before all others, #4 is the key. Third-parties should never tell people “go away” if the person is interested in supporting your beliefs. Third-parties need to start off with one or two key near-term goals, with a track of where they would like to be in 10 years. That way, people who believe with the one or two key goals will come in and support your cause. Having differing opinions on minor topics within the party is healthy, since it will help determine how and where the party will grow and evolve into. Things like legalizing drugs, abortion, and stem cells research should not be tackled from the beginning. If they want to focus on the IRS and fiscal restraint . . . then focus on them. Let the individual party members decide for themselves how they view the other issues out there. It will show that the party is not trying to cookie-cutter itself and the voter population like the Democrats and Republicans have over the decades.

  5. Otto M. Kerner Says:

    Good points. I have to believe, though, that there’s a deeper problem here than the LP needing advice. Some of these things should be obvious to anybody who’s thinking about them clearly. The small part of me that still cares about the LP’s fortunes was banging its share of my head against the wall repeatedly as I watched what the national party was doing in last year’s election. Mike Badnarik? Why was he even running for the nomination to begin with? Personally, I think Aaron Russo would have been the best candidate—as far as I can see, the only legitimate criticism of him is that he’s a loose cannon who sometimes puts his foot in his mouth. So what? He had an off-chance of becoming a high-profile alternative candidate. Yes, there was a chance he would make a fool of himself and embarrass the party, but this assumes that the Libertarian Party is something so important that you can’t risk its good name, which is ridiculous. In any event, even a child would know that either Russo or Gary Nolan would have been a better candidate than Badnarik. I’d imagine most libertarians know that, too, but apparently not the ones who were at the convention. And choosing Campagna over … well, over anybody, just somebody non-embarrassing who might have been standing around would have been better … was twice as dumb. I’m sure most of the delegates didn’t know about his fake degree when they voted for him, but, that’s their own fault.

    So, it would be nice if LP activists would slap their hands on their foreheads after reading your suggestions and get their acts together, but I don’t see it happening. For whatever reason, the LP has always attracted an odd group of people who have proven themselves ineffectual at running a political party. For example, on your 8th point: they wouldn’t need to change their name now if they had picked a different one to begin with. Back in 1971, the party’s founders considered “New Liberty Party”, but, no, they decided “Libertarian” sounded better.

    That said, some of your suggestions are easier said than done, even when you have the right idea. Your point #2 for instance, reminds me of when I was running for local office a few years ago. The election required two candidates to run as a slate, so I recruited another LPster who lived near me as my running mate. He proved to be a terrible candidate, refusing to “tuck in his shirt”, so to speak, or answer reporters’ phone calls, etc. But, there was no one better I could get to run. Should I have just cancelled the campaign? Maybe.

    By the same token, I’m sure the LP would love a presidental candidate “who has some elected political experience or who can successfully raise substantial amounts of money.” But those are really hard to find: they’ve been seeking one for 30-some years and still haven’t found one willing to run.

    I’m not sure how consistently your suggestions 4 and 7 can be carried out by someone who is a True Believer. If you really think the IRS should be abolished immediately, isn’t it kind of disingenuous to say, “We’ll think about abolishing it 10 years from now”? Anyway, political plans in Washington almost never get carried out over the course of 10 years. One presidential term is usually the practical limit on how far ahead the president can plan. That said, I was pissed off when they drove Neil Randall out of the party, and I wrote a nasty e-mail to the Vermont party chair at the time.

  6. Chris Bennett Says:

    As a long time LP activist I understand some of the frustrations of the LP. I don’t necessary agree with 100 percent of our platform as well but the LP is much closer to my thinking than any other party.

    I was Aaron Russo’s Scheduling Cordinator while he was running for the LP Presidential nomination. To this day I still feel that the LP kicked themselves in the rear for not choosing Russo. Now there was 2 better candidates for VP who because of Campagna’s lies, they got shafted. Millay and Jameson would have been better than Campagna and I supported Millay wholeheartedly. I must say for my first National Convention it was a wild one. Of course I still believe that Nolan and Badnarik had a secret deal going in case one of them had fallen first. I didnt trust Nolan, he looked too much of a neo-con to me.

    To solve some of the points that were discussed, after the election I started a group to help elect and groom LP candidates.

    For all you who would like to see better LP candidates come visit my group and run for office yourself. I have tons of campaign experience and can offer candidates much help!

  7. NewFederalist Says:

    As a former LP member and activist (Dec 1974 through Aug 1985) my perspective is the party will never become a true third party. It will perpetually be a minor party and may last as long as the Prohibition Party and for many of the same reasons. As long as the LP remains a narrowly focused ideological party it will always attract some level of fanatical (not intended to sound negative) support. These “true believers” will leave at the first significant compromise of principle to gain electoral success. When they go the party dies when it compromises itself into Republican-Lite or Democratic-Lite for there will be no reason to differentiate among the alternatives. It is a very thorny problem for all alternative parties regardless of ideology. By the way, I believe the last true third party we have had in America is the People’s Party (Populists) of the late 19th and very early 20th centuries. They had broad appeal; elected members to Congress (both House and Senate); elected governors and other statewide officials as well as actually having control of some state legislatures. AND…they were not a splinter of either major party. That was impressive and has not been replicated since.

  8. Right Democrat Says:

    I would like to see a political party formed that would be the opposite of the Libertarian Party. We need a party that will be an advocate for working people and restrain the greed of the marketplace. We need a party that will stand for traditional family values and law and order. Voters who are economic populists and conservative to moderate on social issues have been overlooked by the elitists who have long dominated our two major parties.

  9. MN_Bulldog Says:

    Right, check out and click on “political parties”. There are dozens of them. I’m sure one would fit your description. Whether you want to join/build is up to you…

  10. John Dibble Says:

    I’m a Libertarian, and I agree with a lot of what has been said here. The Libertarian Party needs serious reform.

  11. Pamala Paul Says:


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