LP Platform emerges almost unchanged
The Libertarian Party platform was subjected to 17 hours of committee discussion and a dozen hours of convention floor debate -- but emerged "substantially" unchanged from the 1998 National Convention.
Minor changes -- primarily stylistic and with little effect on actual content -- were made to planks about the economy, trade, freedom of association, freedom and responsibility, health care, transportation, American Indian rights, crime, and sexual rights, but no major positions were altered.
Overall, the party's guiding policy document was "substantially" unchanged, said Tim O'Brien, a member of the Platform Committee.
A proposal to remove the controversial phrase "cult of the omnipotent state" from the LP Statement of Principles was considered on the first day of convention business, but failed to gain enough votes.
The effort to purge the "cult" won the support of 84% of the delegates -- just shy of the seven-eighths vote (87.5%) required to alter the Statement of Principles.
Several proposals that would have significantly changed the platform were passed by the Platform Committee:
* On a 12-6 vote, the committee endorsed adding a Children's Rights section -- six paragraphs outlining the rights and responsibilities of children and parents -- to the "Family Life" plank. It did not come up for a floor vote because of time constraints.
* The committee voted to add an anti-death penalty section to the "Safeguards for the Criminally Accused" plank. The proposed language stated: "Because life cannot be restored to a person who is wrongly executed, we oppose the death penalty in all cases." The proposal did not make it to the floor for debate.
* The committee voted, 12-7, to make the Libertarian Party neutral on the question of abortion. The proposal, spearheaded by West Virginia State Chair John Brown, would have replaced the current "Women's Rights and Abortion" plank with the statement: "We take no position as a party on this issue." Efforts to bring the issue to the floor failed.
Heated debate, especially in committee, arose over the issue of whether to simplify the platform to make it a more compact and "positive" document -- or to maintain it in its current form, with position statements on as many issues as possible, according to committee members.
Platform Committee Secretary Steve Givot proposed a complete rewrite of the platform with the goal of making it easier to read, removing redundancies and errors, and approaching issues from a "positive, rather than negative," point of view.
"Many [prospects] ask for our platform or find it on our Internet web site," Givot said. "It is often their first introduction to Libertarianism. It should be a document which is positive and upbeat in tone -- telling people why our policies will improve their lives and the lives of those they care about."
But the proposal ran into opposition from Libertarians who argued that it might "water down the Libertarian message."
During the convention, a number of delegates complained that the current method of amending the platform is "clumsy and time-consuming" -- a charge that Platform Committee Chair John Buttrick acknowledged.
"We really do not have a mechanism in place to effect wholesale changes or rewrites of the platform," he said. "Depending on what you think of the existing platform and its purpose, this is either a healthy protection of our basic principles...or a stultifying procedure which stops us from substantially improving an unwieldy and user-unfriendly document."