The Libertarian Party (LP) elected Gov. Gary Johnson and Gov. Bill Weld to carry the banner in the 2016 November Presidential election. It seeks to persuade American voters it can best represent their interests and values.
The mood at the nominating Convention in Orlando was dynamic, emotional and hopeful. After 40 years, the LP seems to have found a firm pathway to success. Delegates undertook important consensus-building dialogue and expressed some strong disagreements, not unlike other groups seeking political change. However, it managed to achieve a difficult ideological balance of its two polarities. On the one hand, there was the strident, emotional and, to be sure, righteous call to remain true to the principle of individual sovereignty. It was cogently and effectively expressed through the voice of Darryl Perry. It inspired many in attendance and gave pause to Convention participants who may have gotten comfortable in their status as system critics instead of principled activists. On the other, there was the voice of the steadfast and plodding pragmatists embodied by the voice of Gary Johnson and, his strategic pick for Vice-President, Bill Weld. They fought valiantly to find the right mix of ideas that would provide the party an effective opportunity to move, the shared values of all Libertarians, forward.
It took two ballots. The first ballot acknowledged the roots of the Libertarian Party as the Convention of Fighters for Liberty and expressed solidarity with all voices within the LP. The second ballot acknowledged the importance of a pragmatic approach to forge ahead and entrusted Gary Johnson to carry the banner. Shortly, thereafter, the Convention gave Gov. Johnson the support he requested relative to a running mate.
In retrospect, it was the best possible outcome for a Party of Americans that believe in individual sovereignty, the right to private property, privacy, self-defense, responsibility for one’s actions and respect for others, often styled, the Principle of Non-Aggression.
Now, the Johnson-Weld campaign has some important decisions to make. It must prioritize the platform in a manner that makes sense to voters. At the same time, it must signal a pragmatic and inexorable path forward to the many libertarians across the land awaiting instructions. To be sure, the campaign has already selected some excellent organizers and regional coordinators.
There is one issue that bears closer inspection. The way in which supporters organize may well determine the success or failure of the current effort to bring the LP to the mainstream of American political life.
Many of the ideas articulated by Darryl Perry, John McAfee, Austin Peterson and Gary Johnson are worthy of deeper analysis. All have a great deal to offer the LP in this key evolutionary moment. But, it was McAfee that brought the issue to a poignant moment at the Convention. He posed a simple query: Should the LP organize by race or ethnicity or religion?
Fascinatingly (for me), the Libertarian delegates did not have a ready answer. More importantly, there did not seem to be any appetite to discuss the matter more openly or more fully.
The Johnson-Weld campaign must answer this question forthrightly and signal their supporters relative to “how” to best communicate with emerging constituencies for Libertarian ideas and the Libertarian Party.
Individual is Sovereign
The Johson-Weld campaign should prioritize its message. If, for example, a key belief of the campaign is that taxation is theft, then Tax-payers for Gary makes sense, Working People for Gary makes sense, Homeowners for Gary makes sense. If it believes smaller government is better, then anarchists for Gary makes sense. Never mind what the political opposition says or does.
Moreover, once this signal is broadcast by the campaign, it must respect people’s choices relative to how to organize. However, it must exert a discipline to kindly request those that are organizing in a contrarian fashion to respect the adopted approach. A national campaign is about organizing the development of a strong constituency to achieve clear and specific goals. The examples presented here are only for illustrative purposes.
The goal, beyond the current election, is to build future constituencies for Libertarian ideas and the Libertarian Party. Thus, it behooves the banner carriers to organize constituencies around key beliefs; their platform; our platform.