Libertarian State Leadership Alliance
The Libertarian Volunteer
Is your state or local newsletter helping your party's success -- or undermining it?
Lying on his deathbed in 1959, the story goes, actor Edmund Gwenn was asked how he felt about his imminent demise.
"Dying is easy," he rasped. "Comedy is difficult."
Gwenn was wrong. Comedy is easy -- newsletters are difficult.
Especially Libertarian Party newsletters.
Around the nation, while hard-working LP activists struggle to build the influence and credibility of their state organizations, some newsletters are subtly working to undermine that progress.
Not intentionally. But through a series of inappropriate articles, vitriolic essays, personal obsessions, inept "humor," and flawed strategy proposals, some Libertarian newsletters have become actual roadblocks to progress.
Unthinkingly, these newsletters can paint pictures of Libertarian organizations that are corrupt, obsessed with peripheral issues, resigned to failure, wracked with internal strife, and confused about the merits of political action.
Don't believe it? Here are real examples from Libertarian newsletters across the country. To avoid any finger-pointing, we won't mention names. It isn't necessary -- and besides, it would be cruel. These authors didn't sit down to write stories to harm the LP. But, unfortunately, that's what they may have accomplished.
We'll print a direct quote from an LP newsletter and then explain the destructive (and unintended) "message" that is conveyed to the reader. Then we'll suggest a more positive alternative.
Remember: Comedy is easy. Newsletters are difficult.
Here's proof . . .
EXAMPLE:A newsletter promoted a speaker for an upcoming LP meeting. The topic: "An Argument Against Political Action: Why You Shouldn't Vote." The article smirked: "Only Libertarians would schedule this talk right before an election."
MESSAGE:The Libertarian Party -- a partisan political organization specifically devoted to getting people elected to public office -- has not yet decided if voting is a virtue. Indeed, they are so ambivalent about voting that they invite guest experts to argue against it.
SUGGESTION:LP newsletters should relentlessly encourage people to vote for Libertarian candidates. The party is long past the point where the merits of voting is an appropriate topic for debate.
EXAMPLE:In a section on "Culture," a newsletter reviewed "a Gothic dance club," which featured a style of music "sometimes known as death-rock." Typical bands, we were helpfully informed, included Dead Can Dance, Nine Inch Nails, and Sisters of Mercy. This dance club, the article concluded, is a way "to experience things differently from what the official media dictates."
MESSAGE:Libertarians belong to some "alternative" culture with a morbid preoccupation with death. Libertarians, like the psychedelic counterculture of the 1960's, are looking for ways to experience life "differently," and are revolting against some vague conformity dictated by the "official media."
SUGGESTION:The LP takes no political position on dance clubs or musical genres. The party takes no political position on the merits of experiencing life "differently." Cultural issues have no place in an LP newsletter unless they comment on, or explain, Libertarian political positions or goals.
EXAMPLE:A newsletter reported that the syndicated Gene Burns radio program had been picked up in a local city. The instructions: "Listen in, then we can all get together and debate his positions."
MESSAGE:The LP is a debating society. It exists to discuss and debate the political philosophy of radio talk show hosts.
SUGGESTION:LP newsletters should not encourage aimless debate; they should advocate political action. A better suggestion would have been: "Listen in, and then we can all get together and discuss how to use the Gene Burns show to advance the LP's political agenda."
EXAMPLE:A party member was annoyed by the state Executive Committee. So he wrote: "The state committee has a history of inactivism. Several members have not deigned to appear for months at a time. Some show up, eat, and leave. This is the Libertarian Party, not a dinner party. [One officer] is not a Libertarian, has no interest in politics, and is apparently incapable of hearing and understanding simple English statements. [The newsletter editor] did not produce a single issue in six months. Or maybe it was just being printed in invisible ink on weightless, transparent paper."
MESSAGE:The LP has utterly incompetent leaders, dooming it to failure. Worse, there exists no method to solve this problem, so members must resort to public name-calling and withering sarcasm to register their protests.
SUGGESTION:Don't air your dirty laundry in public; LP newsletters are not forums to insult other Libertarians. Instead, use your newsletter to paint a positive, optimistic picture of your organization. If party leaders are ineffective, recruit better leaders, or run for office yourself. Or, if individuals are not doing their jobs well, discuss this at a private meeting, and work towards a positive solution.
EXAMPLE:A newsletter editor printed his own (non-political) sex poems. Readers were regaled with the following doggerel:
"Lifelike orgasmic presence
to vigorous pleasuring
panting from desire fulfilled
MESSAGE:The Libertarian Party is not a political organization, but some kind of bohemian poetry circle, preoccupied with sex. Or, alternately, there is so little political activity and news that the newsletter must fill up space with verse.
SUGGESTION:LP newsletters are not poetry magazines. There are a hundred publications people can buy if they want to read poetry. There is only one publication on the planet exclusively devoted to news about your state LP. Libertarian newsletters should feature stories about political activities, progress, and accomplishments. If there is little "hard" news to report, feature inspiring profiles of party leaders, candidates, or Libertarians in office, or discuss a local political problem and present the Libertarian solution.
EXAMPLE:A newsletter printed an article entitled: "The Frugal Psychotic: How to Assemble a Street-Legal Assault Rifle for Under $300." In it, the author explained how to use the "gray market" to bring legal weapons up to "full automatic status." After disparaging one weapon because it wasn't lethal enough ("What use do you have for a .22 rifle that won't kill anybody?"), the author also ruled out the Heckler & Koch HK9 because it was too expensive: "After your rampage against society, your expensive gun will probably be confiscated. This can put a big dent in your pocketbook when you will need every penny to purchase the aid of a good lawyer and a psychiatrist that will testify that you are insane, but essentially harmless."
MESSAGE:Libertarians have, at best, a ghoulish sense of humor, and, at worst, utter indifference for human life. Further, Libertarians support the Second Amendment because it gives them access to powerful weapons for their planned "rampage against society."
SUGGESTION:There is no place in the LP for murdering psychotics -- or for people who think that chortling about bloodshed makes for "clever," satirical writing. Any defense of the right to keep and bear arms -- like the defense of any other basic civil liberty -- should be presented in a reasoned, sensible tone. It should also stress the advantages of any civil liberty . . . not any possible nightmarish worst-case scenarios.
EXAMPLE:A newsletter editorialized: "Why join [the Libertarian Party]? Actually, it doesn't matter to me if you join or not. You may have some very good reasons for not joining."
MESSAGE:The LP -- an organization substantially funded by membership dues and energized by the committed volunteers who join the party -- does not think people should bother joining the party.
SUGGESTION:A growing membership base is the cornerstone of LP success. LP newsletters should strongly, persistently, and persuasively encourage people to join the party.
EXAMPLE:A newsletter printed a report of a recent Executive Committee meeting: "[The State Chair] brought up allegations (with little evidence to date) . . . that moneys spent [by members of an affiliated Libertarian organization] were deliberately recorded in inappropriate budget categories."
MESSAGE:The Libertarian Party is rife with corruption and dishonesty. Indeed, the situation is so bad, and Libertarians are presumed to be so dishonest, that there is an immediate presumption of guilt -- even if there is "little evidence" of wrongdoing.
SUGGESTION:LP newsletters should not be forums for printing unsubstantiated gossip about other Libertarians -- especially if "little evidence" of wrongdoing exists. Genuine suspicions of wrongdoing should be reported to the appropriate body for investigation and action.
EXAMPLE:A newsletter printed an essay defending the First Amendment and objecting to pornography laws. The author wrote: ". . . In the last half decade or so I have viewed dozens of X-rated programs [and] I have produced a small variety of pornographic works of my own . . ."
MESSAGE:Libertarians oppose "victimless crime" laws because they wallow in vice. They are less interested in defending civil liberties than they are in protecting their supply of smut.
SUGGESTION:The LP, as a political entity, does not condone pornography, or endorse it, or take a position on its merits. The party merely argues that the government has no right to prohibit it. Arguments to explain this political position are not generally enhanced by first-hand accounts of what many readers might consider to be "morally objectionable" activities.
EXAMPLE:A newsletter publicized the launch of another political party which shares some Libertarian beliefs. The author gushed: "The bad news (for the LP) is that [this rival party] is off to a booming start. Since its launching . . . [this rival party] has been inundated with 'thousands and thousands' of phone calls and requests for information . . . [soon], the LP's standing as 'America's third largest party' could be in for a serious challenge."
MESSAGE:If you're thinking about joining the Libertarian Party -- don't. Another party has come along that's better. Indeed, this rival party is so impressive that the LP is devoting space in its newsletters to publicize it.
SUGGESTION:Republicans don't publicize Democrats. Chrysler doesn't promote General Motors. The LP should not champion other rival, partisan political parties. Individuals are active in the LP because they believe it presents the best political hope for America's future. If they no longer think that -- or if they think that role has been assumed by a different political party -- they should join that party, and write for its newsletter.
EXAMPLE:A newsletter printed a rating guide to political radio talk show hosts. Not objectionable -- until the author decided that it would be helpful for readers to understand the phenomenon of AM radio wave "skip." Pointing to an accompanying illustration, the author lectured: ". . . But to reach C the ray would have to encounter the E layer at too high an angle to be bent back sufficiently; instead it escapes to outer space (S). C is too close to R to receive its sky wave . . . "
MESSAGE:The Libertarian Party is some sort of high school science club, and if you join the party, you will be expected to be interested in such scientific ephemera. Or, alternately, there is so little political activity and news that the newsletter must fill up space with leftover articles from Science magazine.
SUGGESTION:LP newsletters should not bombard people with useless information unrelated to the political goals of the party.
EXAMPLE:A newsletter editorialized about Howard Stern running for governor [in New York in 1994]: "Regardless of how you feel about Stern, the last time the LP made the news was Ron Paul's campaign embezzlement scandal, so relatively speaking this is good coverage." [For those who missed that "scandal," a member of the Ron Paul campaign staff was accused of misappropriating funds in 1988.]
MESSAGE:The LP is an organization so riddled with scandal that every new scandal must be ranked on a "scandal-intensity scale," and compared to previous scandals. Or, alternately, the LP receives so little publicity that the media only pays attention to it when yet another crooked Libertarian is exposed.
SUGGESTION:LP newsletters should not dredge up old "scandals." Instead, newsletters should focus on current, positive news.
EXAMPLE:A state party Chairman wrote: "I don't believe our immediate political future success should be sought in the political arena." Instead, the party decided to "have an essay contest for high school seniors" and "get involved in [the state's] 'Adopt-a-Highway' program."
MESSAGE:The LP, a partisan political party, has given up on succeeding politically, and has decided to spend its time, money, and energy on non-political activities.
SUGGESTION:The LP should be long past any uncertainty about its partisan political mission. The LP exists to do politics. This means getting on the ballot, running candidates, getting people elected, educating voters, legislative lobbying, and so on. Newsletters should explain and promote that agenda. (Yes, there is a place for occasional non-political activities in the LP's arsenal of tactics -- but only if it supports the principal, ongoing political goals of the party.)
EXAMPLE:A newsletter editor wrote about an LP candidate of whom he disapproved. During this person's campaign, he wrote, voters would come into contact with " . . . a grimacing wild man, complete with waving arms and a saliva shower, hollering at the top of his lungs that he's a 'Libertarian' and wants you to vote for him!"
MESSAGE:The LP runs freaks for public office. No one in their right mind would ever vote for a Libertarian candidate.
SUGGESTION:Don't insult Libertarian candidates in print. Inappropriate or ineffective candidates should be counseled in private, sent to campaign workshops, or gently steered away from active campaigning.
EXAMPLE:A newsletter wrote about an upcoming Tax Day rally and listed the first goal of the event: "Raise the consciousness of the 'sheeple' who have never thought about the issue."
MESSAGE:Libertarians have utter contempt for most Americans, considering them a pathetic hybrid of docile sheep and ignorant people. Clearly, anyone who does not yet share Libertarian beliefs is stupid, and deserves to be scorned.
SUGGESTION:Treat -- and write about -- voters with respect. Unless you make a sincere effort to understand why people don't agree with us on certain issues, or why they may not have thought about certain political issues, you will not be able to persuade them of the merits of our positions. Every American, even the most uninformed, is a potential future LP voter or member.
Summary:Libertarian newsletters can be a positive force for growth, outreach, explaining Libertarian ideas, and progress -- or a negative force for divisiveness, strife, confusion, and despair.
Remember: Every article, every choice of subject matter, every choice of words, sends a message to members and prospects about the culture, organization, people, and goals of your state Libertarian Party.
Choose them carefully.
OK, now you know how to create damaging, counter-productive Libertarian newsletters. But how do you produce an effective newsletter?
Here are seven tips:
- Publish on a regular schedule.
2) Decide on the purpose of your newsletter. One good suggestion: To convince prospects to join the party, and to convince members to become more active. How? By portraying your party as an active, successful, professional political organization.
3) Report the news. Stress the positive political activities and accomplishments of your state party. Avoid boring philosophical debates, internal disputes, whining about lack of progress, etc.
4) Make it interesting! Play up human interest angles, interviews, and personalities. Consider including some humor, regular columns, and so on. Use photographs.
5) Make it easy to read. Avoid tiny print, crummy xeroxes, and dot matrix printers. Leave generous amounts of "white space" -- don't fill up every page with blocks of dense, gray text.
6) Write as professionally as possible. Report news in a journalistic style. Avoid obscenity, shrill extremism, and rambling, stream-of-consciousness writing.
7) Make it look professional. Imitate the design of professional publications like newspapers and magazines.
Remember: We are competing in the marketplace of ideas. The better newsletters Libertarians produce, the more effectively we will communicate our ideas, and the more successful we will be.
This issue of the Libertarian Volunteer is a month late. That's the bad news. The good news is that we have the best excuse in the world: Too darn much media attention. (It's exciting, yes, but time-consuming!) Since April, when this issue was scheduled to be published, the National LP headquarters has been bombarded by media calls.
In fact, the amount of media coverage the LP has received is staggering -- we've been on CNN, the CBS Radio Network, NewsTalk Cable TV, the New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, Paul Harvey News, Rolling Stone, C-SPAN, the Montel Williams Show . . . the list goes on and on.
What does it mean? Just this: That the LP is inexorably climbing towards the Big Time in American politics. It's exciting, yes, but dangerous. Why? Because as we grow, and get more Libertarians elected -- we will come under increasing scrutiny as a political party. Are we prepared? Are we ready for the media's microscope? Is the LP ready for political "prime time?"
In 1995, that's one of the most profound questions facing the LP. And it's a question we'll examine in several articles in this issue of the Libertarian Volunteer. (See the front-page article on newsletters, and Perry's comments on our "oddball" image.)
After all, if this issue of the Volunteer is a little late, we can catch up next month. But if the LP is not ready for our moment when it comes, if we haven't smoothed off our rough edges, and tempered our adolescent quirks . . . what will our excuse be?
Does your state have silly laws about margarine, shingles, or showmen?
One of the jobs of the Libertarian Party is to change bad laws -- stupid, pointless, irritating governmental rules and regulations that restrict people's freedom.
And, as an added bonus, doing that job can bring your state or local party positive publicity.
At least, that's the experience of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, which used a list of the state's "stupidest laws" to garner favorable articles and newspaper editorials last year -- almost accidentally.
The project was the brainchild of long-time LPNH activist Brad Dorsey. He explained: "[The plan was to] identify the stupidest law on the books in New Hampshire and try to get it repealed."
What kind of stupid law? "I didn't want to find laws that Libertarians would find stupid; I wanted to find laws that everyone (or at least 95%) would find ridiculous," he explained. "I realized that the laws we came up with probably wouldn't be terribly significant in the overall scheme; they would probably just be stupid little things.
"Now in New Hampshire," he continued, "this idea has the additional attractiveness that we have Libertarians in the legislature, so we can introduce bills to repeal laws. My thought was to come up with a bill that a Libertarian could sponsor that would actually pass."
After deciding to embark on this project, Dorsey started his research: "Sets of NH statute books are readily available in many libraries, municipal offices, etc. The total verbiage is equivalent to a small encyclopedia, so actually reading every law was clearly out of the question.
"So how do we find the dumbest law? My strategy, confirmed by a phone call to a Libertarian attorney, was to read through the index to the statutes, looking for strange entries that would make one stop and wonder, 'Now, why would there be a law about that?' and look up the statute referred to in the index," he said.
The scope of the job initially daunted him, Dorsey admitted, but he persevered. "The index alone is almost 1200 pages long, two columns to a page. It took about 20 hours to go through it."
But the research paid off, with an impressive list of preposterous, or outdated, or persnickety laws.
"Some of the candidates for the stupidest law we came up with were: a law making it illegal for restaurants (among other businesses) to open on Sundays; a prohibition on the serving of colored oleomargarine; a requirement that all shingles be four inches wide (not four inches or wider -- four inches!); a law requiring that people walk on the right hand side of crosswalks; and a law requiring the licensing of ventriloquists, rope dancers (!) and other showmen," he said.
At the same time, Libertarian House leader Don Gorman decided to follow-up on the idea, too.
"[Gorman] liked the idea, and asked the legislative services office in the state house to give him a list of the stupidest laws," recounted Dorsey. "But . . . the office didn't know how to handle Gorman's request, and while he was waiting for their response the deadline for filing bills passed."
Dorsey put the project on hold, and decided to wait until the next legislative session before doing anything.
But fate intervened at an LPNH monthly meeting in mid-1994, when Dorsey presented his preliminary list to the assembled Libertarians -- and a reporter from the state's largest newspaper, the Manchester Union Leader, who was there to report on the guest speaker.
The law requiring that "show-men" be registered sparked the reporter's interest, and led to several newspaper articles, including one about a professional magician who had been performing for 20 years without the required license.
In the articles, Dorsey was extensively quoted: "To have too many laws, especially stupid little laws like these, is simply . . . well, stupid."
The newspaper's editorial board also weighed in on the matter, agreeing that such "outrageously silly laws" deserved to be repealed.
In all, it was a small bonanza of positive publicity for the LP, said Dorsey later.
Could other state party garner the same publicity with the same project?
Certainly, said Dorsey.
"Any state's LP could gain media exposure by publicizing what it came up with as the dumbest law, or maybe the top ten or whatever, and thereby demonstrating how stupid gov-ernment can be," he said.
Good news -- the National LP office wants to send money to your state party!
Why? "It's part of a new program we've just implemented to give state parties a percentage of the money we receive from people who join the National LP through one of our brochures," explained National Director Perry Willis.
"For years, our state and local parties (and individual activists) have been distributing literature with a response form addressed to the National LP. We sent them all the prospect names we got, of course, but we kept the entire membership payment," said Willis. "That's changed now. We are now sending state parties a check for one-half of all the money we get from new members from their state -- if they join via our literature. It's our way of saying 'thank-you' for buying and distributing our literature."
According to Willis, the first "refund" checks were mailed to state parties in April, and future checks will be mailed out automatically every three months.
"Of course, if no one from a state joins the National LP via a brochure during that three-month period, no check will be sent," he said.
The following literature will earn "refunds:"
- "Is This the New Political Party You've Been Looking For?" brochure
- "Working to Cut Your Taxes!" brochure
- "What Happened To Your Family Budget?" brochure
- "Solving the Health Care Crisis" brochure
- "Equal Rights for America's Gun Owners" brochure
- "Making Your Neighborhood Safe Again" brochure
- "Towards A More Sensible Drug Policy" brochure
- "Which Political Party Is 100% Pro-Gun Rights?" flyer
The following literature is not part of this new program.
"We send these items out in our information packages, so we have no way of knowing if we recruited the new members, or if you did," said Willis.
- The "Slick" brochure (three-color introductory piece)
- Liberty Today newspaper
- 1994 LP Program
"We hope LP activists like this new program," said Willis. "Again, it's our way of saying thanks for all your efforts to recruit new members
Richard Winger, the nationally renowned ballot access expert, thinks the Libertarian Party has a unique political opportunity in 1996 -- and he's urging state parties across the country to take advantage of it.
His suggestion: Run at least 218 candidates for Congress -- a majority of seats -- and have them sign a Libertarian "Contract with America."
"We need to have at least 218 candidates, so that we can call on the American voters to elect a Libertarian majority to the U.S. House," said Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News. "It's a theoretical barrier which we must surmount, to have any logic in our appeal. In theory, if we don't even have 218 candidates, it is literally impossible for the voters to vote in a Libertarian majority into the U.S. House."
On a historical note, Winger said that since 1920 no third party has had candidates for the U.S. House on the ballot in even half the districts.
To draw attention to the Libertarian "Contract," Winger recommended taking a tip from the Republicans.
"Remember, the Republicans launched their own "Contract" by having about 320 of their congressional candidates on the U.S. Capitol steps, on September 27, 1994," he said. "They all signed an enormous piece of paper on which were their 10 promises, if they got a majority.
"We are having our national convention in July 1996 in Washington, D.C. We could also have our U.S. House candidates on the steps of the Capitol, at that time.
"For those candidates who couldn't be there, surely each non-attendee candidate could designate someone from his state who could serve as his or her proxy."
Because of the LP's strong ballot access position coming out of the 1994 elections, Winger said it wouldn't present any great additional logistical hurdles for the party to get 218 Congressional candidates on the ballot.
"We can do this with no extra petitioning except for some minimum petitions -- [and] I define 150 or fewer signatures to be minimum," he said. "Our biggest hurdle will be to find people willing to be candidates.
"Remember, anyone who runs for Congress who raises less than $5,000, and spends less than $5,000, need not report campaign finance information to the FEC. Paper candidates are OK for this purpose."
Winger's recommendation for Libertarians: "Let's try for this! We need something new. If you agree, pass the idea on, [and] start now to find candidates."
The previous high for Libertarians running for U.S. House was 154, in 1982.
Is he (or she) already in local office today?
Want to start getting Libertarians elected tomorrow to Congress, the U.S. Senate, and eventually even the presidency?
Start working today on city and town races, county offices, and state legislative races.
One man's opinion? No -- the advice of experts, and the lessons of American history.
In a recent fundraising letter to party members, Ron Crickenberger, chairman of the LP's Campaign Committee, revealed Step One in the party's long-range strategy to get partisan Libertarians elected to high office: "Continue to expand our 'Farm Team' of local elected Libertarians."
Crickenberger went on to explain: "I was talking to a Republican 'insider' the other day, and he explained how the Republican Party grooms their candidates for Congress. His surprising secret: They start 10 to 15 years early! [This Republican] explained: 'We help promising candidates run for local office -- school boards and City Council. We then send them to candidate's schools, to smooth off the rough edges. Next, we encourage them to run for County Commissioner, and, a few years later, for State House and State Senate. Finally, after 10 or 15 years, they are ready for Congress.'
But don't take the word of a Republican! Look at the record.
According to an article in the March 1995 issue of Campaigns & Elections, out of the 99 first-time U.S. House and U.S. Senate members of the 104th Congress, 38 are former state legislators. All told, 48% of the entire House and Senate are former legislators (256 out of 535).
Every state has at least one former state lawmaker serving in the House or Senate. In fact, 100% of the Wyoming Congressional delegation are former state legislators; 88% of the Colorado delegation are.
"State legislatures are incubators for statewide and national leaders. Today's state legislators are tomorrow's Congressmen and U.S. Senators," notes Campaigns & Election.
American political history confirms this strategy.
And author Robert Heinlein, in his 1946 "how-to" book on American politics, Take Back Your Government, offers the irrefutable proof.
He writes: "Minor elections [at the city and county level] are a major part of the process which produces a president each four years . . .
" 'Minor' candidates have a way of becoming presidents. Fourteen of our presidents started in the state legislature, from John Adams to Franklin D. Roosevelt. [Others started out in elected and appointed city offices.] Rutherford B. Hayes was a city solicitor; Grover Cleveland and Taft were assistant prosecutors; Abraham Lincoln was a village postmaster; Calvin Coolidge was a city councilman; Harry Truman was a county judge; Benjamin Harrison was a court reporter, and Andrew Johnson started as an Alderman.
"Nor is the time from 'minor' office to the pres-idency very long; par for the course seems to be 26 years -- some made it in less than 20."
Heinlein concludes with some advice that applies to Libertarians: "The president 20 years from now may be in your district; you may urge him to run for his first political office.
"In any case the chances are better than one in two that any future president will make his start in one of the minor, local offices which the politically naive hold in contempt."
Noted Crickenberger: "We've got more than 140 Libertarians already in office, learning the ropes, building credibility, and moving up through the political ranks."
And the more Libertarians in local and state office, the greater chance that in five, or 10, or 20 years, one of them will get elected to Congress, the U.S. Senate . . . and maybe even the presidency
When, where, who, and how
Deadlines for the 1996 convention may be coming quicker than you expect
Yes, it's already time to start thinking about our 1996 Presidential nominating convention, which will be held over the July 4th weekend in 1996 in Washington, DC.
Two early warnings for all state parties:
First, The delegate allocation deadline is December 31, 1995. This is several months earlier than usual, due to the convention being in July, not September. [See related article on page nine.]
This means that the number of National LP members in your state as of December 31, 1995, will determine the number of convention delegates your state gets.
The system is explained in the National LP Bylaws, Section 13:
4. Affiliate Party Delegate Entitlements:
Each affiliate party shall be entitled to send delegates to each Regular Convention on the following basis:
a. one delegate for each 20 members or fraction thereof, of the National Party (at least one such delegate must be a resident of that state); plus
- one additional delegate for each one percent (1%) (rounded) of the total vote cast for President in that state or district which was received by the Party's most recent candidate for President.
6. Delegate Allocation:
In order to be counted for delegate allocation, membership applications must be sent to the National Headquarters by either the individual member or the affiliate party and received or postmarked no later than the last day of the seventh month prior to the Regular Convention.
The Secretary shall make a count of the members qualified under the requirements set forth here and shall compute the delegate allocations for the affiliate parties. Notification of the membership totals and allocation totals shall be sent by the Secretary to the Chair of each affiliate party no later than the last day of the sixth month prior to a Regular Convention.
Second, the list of your delegates must be received by the National LP Secretary John Famularo one month prior to the start of the first Convention business session. (This is important, since it may affect your 1996 state convention dates.) The Bylaws state:
6. Delegate Allocation:
A list of the names and addresses of all delegates and alternates chosen by each affiliate party shall be sent to the Secretary no later than one month prior to start of the first general session of the Regular Convention.
Amendments to such lists may be made by the affiliate parties until the close of the Credentials Committee meeting preceding the Convention. The number of alternates' names submitted shall not exceed the greater of 50 or the number of delegates allocated.
Failure to submit a listing of delegate/alternate names and addresses, as prescribed within these Bylaws, shall cause no delegation to be registered from that affiliate party.
Of course, we will send every state further reminders of this as the Convention gets closer," said LP Director of Communications Bill Winter. "And if you have any questions about this procedure, please feel free to give John Famularo a call at (215) 735-6426."
Who can be a state delegate, and how should your state party select them? The Bylaws explain:
ARTICLE 13: CONVENTIONS. Section 3. Delegates:
a. Delegates shall be required to be members of either the Party or an affiliate party. At all Regular Conventions delegates shall be those so accredited who have registered at the Convention. At all Non-Regular Conventions, any person who wishes to attend may do so.
b. Any federal or state law to the contrary notwithstanding, delegates to a Regular Convention shall be selected by a method adopted by each affiliate party; provided however, that only members of the Party as defined in these Bylaws, or members of the affiliate party as defined in the constitution or bylaws of such affiliate party, shall be eligible to vote for the selection of delegates to a Regular Convention.
In the February 1995 issue of Modern Gun magazine, executive editor Jim Schults, in his editorial column, wrote the following advice to the Libertarian Party. It was in response to letters he received after a previous column, urging readers not to "waste their vote" in national elections on third parties.
"The Libertarians need to go after grassroots offices to prove their worth and then set up a chain of promotion for national office. Until Libertarians prove themselves by winning mayoral, city council, state representative and senatorial offices, they will never be taken seriously for national office. In this country, whether it's business, education, or life in general, you have to begin at the beginning, and it's never too late. So quit your bitching; let's see what you can offer at local office first."
In a recent issue of the Libertarian Volunteer, we reported that in US House races, the person who spends the most money almost always wins. But the 1994 elections seemed to contradict that; many Republicans beat Democrats who outspent them. Is the "money = victory" rule no longer valid? Not completely.
According to the April 1995 Campaigns & Elections, the 74 winning Republican Congressional candidates still spent considerable money -- an average of $591,000 per race (compared to the Democrats' average of $711,000). More importantly, in the final 20 days before the elections, surging Republicans spend a total of $14.2 million in those 74 races, compared to $14.1 for the Democrats.
The lesson:Even during times of political realignment, with public opinion swinging in your party's direction, you still need more than half a million dollars to be competitive in a Congressional race -- and you need to achieve fiscal parity during the last three weeks of the campaign if you plan to win. For most Libertarian candidates, those are goals that are still out of reach.
Some "Tactical Reflections" on politics from L. Neil Smith, noted science fiction author and head of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus:
- "Conservatives are accustomed to being called fascists and are well prepared to defend themselves on that ground. Liberals are used to being called socialists. These labels can be switched, however, and remain valid and instructive. It also catches them completely unprepared."
- "You may never convince the other guy, but it's often worthwhile to keep arguing for the effect it has on bystanders, especially his allies."