Our Interview with Tim West (Part 2)

The following is part two of our interview with Libertarian reform blogger Tim West, founder of Liberty for Sale. Part one of this interview was published earlier today.

TPW: Is it more important, in your view, to reform the party’s platform or the party’s strategy?

Tim West: You can’t do one without the other. Reforming the LP simply means that if you represent yourself as a political party, you need to be able to do certain things that political parties do. The LP has not been a real political party over the years…. as many of the people who got involved in it have sadly found out. The LP contains elements of substitution worship combined with moral certitude that make the actual nuts and bolts of doing what political parties have to engage in very difficult. The LP has placed very high barriers to membership and involvement of their membership to effect any sort of change inside the Party. The LP has effectively been under the control of a sort of ‘anarchist-whateverist’ core since 1983, when about half the party left at once, and the goal since then has not really been to win elections, but to convert people into libertarians and gain membership. The political goals of the LP have always, since 1983, been subservient to the goal of gaining converts to the greater libertarian movement. They use the LP as a tool to do this. If they manage to elect some people, great…but the real goal has always first and foremost been to gain membership in the party. It is, until recently, the very first thing mentioned in every LP funding solicitation ever sent out. The goal has always been to “get more people to think as we do”, and that’s not the primary goal of a real political party. Political parties don’t exist for that reason, they exist to elect people of a certain bent to public office so that policy can be affected the way you want it to be.

The Pledge that the LP makes you take has a double meaning - to me and many others, it meant that I did not advocate the use of force (meaning violence or armed revolution) to overthrow the government. To the anarcho-whateverist person, it’s a secret oath with a double meaning - their meaning being that you renounce all use of force, i.e. the non aggression principle. Since that was not my understanding of it, I never pledged to that. The LP needs to just do away with the pledge for members. It’s just plain stupid for a political party to do, and the LP is the only one that does it. I’ve offered a different pledge for Party Officers and Candidates that is much better and does not contain any anarchist doublespeak, but we really don’t need a pledge at all.

I am also active in the Libertarian Reform Caucus, which seeks many of the same reforms I do and has a growing membership of around 150 as of now. Someday, if there is no hope for the LP and they just shut us out of the party at Convention 2006/08, it may wind up being the nucleus of a new party. I hope not. I’d much rather simply turn the LP into a viable party.

TPW: Could you briefly explain the Squyres Proposal and your personal take on it?

Tim West: The LP in the last few years has been underfunded and not able to really do any of it’s tasks well. It’s been hamstrung by the fact that it tries to be a confirmation shrine to a set of beliefs, a sort of political party, the titular head of the entire libertarian movement, and as a result it fails to actually to do well at any one of those tasks. There are about 253,000 registered libertarians in the USA according to my best info as of now. Out of that pool of people WHO ALREADY identify with you, only about 23,000 of them are actually card carrying Party members who send in dues. That’s pretty bad, and to the best of my knowledge, no one seems to have ever asked all of these poeple exactly WHY this is.

The Squyres Proposal, or “Zero Dues” proposal, is nothing less than an attempt to re-order the internal structure of the LP to be much more like the major parties in terms of who can be a member and why. It changes the basic structure of the main building block of the party from MEMBERSHIP to DONORSHIP, meaning whatever benefits you get as a person in the party accrue to you based based on the fact that you freely donate to the party to farther it’s aims instead of becoming a member. It also does away with the old Unified membership Plan, the sharing agreement between national and the state LP’s, and some other things. But the main thing is that it fundamentally changes who can be under the LP umbrella, and if the right things are done, will bring all of those other registered libertarians under the LP umbrella so they can support the LP without being forced to take a pledge they may not agree with or have some other valid point of contention that prevents them from joining as a member. It expands the possible number of donors from your membership to the larger number of registered libertarians around the country, and there’s no way you will make less money by asking 253,000 thousand people for help than you will 23,000.

The people who are against it simply dont want the membership racket to go away. Our 2004 nominee Michael Badnarik is for it, and so are many other people, because they know the LP hasn’t got the base of support it needs to keep going the way it is. There’s only so many “true believers” you can convert in a year. They stay around until they get burned out, leave the party, we attract another group the same way, they last 2 or 3 years, rinse and repeat. The membership model has to go.

TPW: Finally, how do you feel about running a Presidential candidate? Specifically, is running a credible Presidential campaign more of a priority than running credible local candidates? Or should the LP even contest the Presidential election at this stage?

Tim West: It’s a double edged sword. The support of the LP is very deep but also very shallow at the same time. By this I mean that those LP candidates on the local level are really hamstrung by the Party platform, which is a wonderful document of philosophical consistency, but as you know, that’s not what a political party platform is all about.

How the hell can you run a LP candidate for the local School Board when your party platform declares to the world (and to your political opponents) that the party you are involved with would end all publicly funded education in America? Likewise, how can you run for a county executive type position or alderman or what have you when your platform clearly states that it is better for state and local government to default on it’s debts rather than raise taxes? The platform is used by our political opponents to beat our candidates over the head with every single election cycle, and it was used against me in 2000. It’s a tragedy that it even exists as it does, and it goes to show you that the LP just does not understand how politics works in the world. They call it being principled, and I call it being just plain dumb.

As far as the Presidential ticket goes, we only raised a million bucks for Badnarik in 2004, which frankly is damn near nothing in the big scheme of things. The Presidential candidate does net us some benefits, but not lasting ones. The LP tries REALLY HARD to prove itself to be a national party that it does dumb things, like chase after 50 state ballot access and spend large amounts of money on states that frankly are just big losers for the LP like Oklahoma. That money could be put to much better use: fixing the ridiculous platform, getting LP.org changed into a superior party building web portal that works for the LP as a total online community functioning in both directions up to national and back down to the individual member, building a Libertarian Media Fund so we can self report and do our own video production in support of the party because the media ignores us every cycle, so if they won’t cover us, we’ll cover ourselves on LP.org.

We need high horse power video web-casting, so that our Candidates can participate in the debates they are always excluded from in real time. There’s so many ways we can get better at being a real political party. I think the current HQ staff under the leadership of Joe Seehausen and Mike Dixon has finally figured out the big picture after 25 years, and have elected to go more outward in direction and scope. If they get the support of the Libertarian National Committee in doing so, there are great things ahead in 2005 and beyond. If they go back into the “we are the party of principled people who are truer than thou” mode, I think a lot of people are finally gonna bail.

The US is riding on a debt bubble that has to burst at some point, and we dont have the luxury of futzing around while the country goes down the tubes. If they stop the progress, I bet there will be a new freedom based party that will frankly plow the old LP under in a very short amount of time. There’s too many good people who know how the game works in the LP, and if they stuff the genie back in the bottle, they are gonna lose a lot of people. There’s a huge hole in american politics right now caused by the major parties abandoning elements of their core support on both sides, the middle right and the middle left, and the Independents are really up for grabs along with the Perot minded voters who are looking for a party to attach themselves to. The LP could do that with very few actual concessions to principle, just changes in methodology and rearrangement of the message. I’d rather they spend a million bucks doing that than running a person who has zero chance at getting higher than 1% of the vote.

Of course, if we manage to get a top tier candidate like Gary Johnston or Bob Barr as our nominee, it may be worth it then, becuase they would gain instant credibility in a way that someone like Badnarik, or me for that matter, simply would not have.

To find out more about Tim West, visit Liberty For Sale!

8 Responses to “Our Interview with Tim West (Part 2)”

  1. Douglas E. Says:

    Great interview, I agree with 95% of what was said.

  2. NewFederalist Says:

    Great interview. Keep them coming, Austin!

  3. Tim West Says:

    I want to mention that the last paragraph should not be interpreted as a slag on Michael in anyway, except that he, like me, has no prior elected position experience - I was contrasting “regular joes” like Michael and myself to established political professionals like former Governors, Congresspersons, etc.

    Thats the only meaning that was intended. The LP needs top drawer candidates with real world political and governing experience as it’s candidates.

  4. Otto Kerner Says:

    “The US is riding on a debt bubble that has to burst at some point, and we dont have the luxury of futzing around while the country goes down the tubes.”

  5. Alex Peak Says:

    I still think it’s important for the LP to run presidential candidates. That’s pretty much the only time the mainstream media even mentions the LP. Many people first learn about it from the election.

    If the media doesn’t take the LP seriously now, they will take the LP even less seriously when it doesn’t even run presidential campaigns. At least that’s my opinion.

  6. Josh Ondich Says:

    I agree with Tim West’s Interview. We need to spend the money on things he mentioned instead of ballot access because Tim West’s plans would be 100 times more effective. we need presidential candidates, but don’t put your money in all in one thing. I agree with George Squyare’s zero dues proposal. The Platform needs a adjustment to appeal to the mainstream, but the great majority of the issues are great.

  7. Alex Peak Says:

    QUOTE: “I agree with George Squyare’s zero dues proposal.”

    Likewise.

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    Good observation, your ideas are right on.

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