Libertarian State Leadership Alliance
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Talking Politics : Lessons from Libertarian Tax Protests"
The secrets of white space and color
The candidate's brochure is the backbone of your publicity effort. Therefore, it must be versatile and calculated to reach the lowest common denominator, simple and striking.
It is not a position paper, or a Statement of Principles, or a condensation of the LP Platform. If you feel you need these, fine. But don't include them in the candidate's brochure.
The Standard Brochure
Most political brochures look alike; this is no accident. A standard, three-fold brochure fits into a standard envelope, can be carried in a pocket or purse, and is familiar to most voters. It is no more complicated than an 8" x 11" piece of paper folded twice, with print on both sides. It can be printed in large quantities at low cost. Unless you have some overriding reason to do it differently, or have more money than you know what to do with, stay with the standard brochure format.
Many brochures can be "self-mailers" -- that is, the back panel has enough space for a stamp and address, so that it can be dropped into the mail. Make allowances for this when you design your brochure, if you are planning to do any mass mailings.
Unless your budget is so tight it squeaks, have the type-setting done professionally -- either by a competent desktop publisher, or at a quick print / design store. The more you do professionally, the better. Voters do not respond to material that looks as if it were designed and pasted together on the kitchen table, because it looks as if "you don't have a chance." Voters won't vote for people who don't have a chance, even if they agree with you.
People know that it takes a lot of money to run a campaign, so anything you put out should look fairly expensive, whether it is or not. The added legitimacy of professional work heightens the willingness to listen to your message many times over.
This means selecting a paper that feels nice; having lots of white space around your printing; using good quality photographs; and choosing a pleasant type face.
It also means, if you can afford it, using two colors or even three, instead of just one.
In general, bright colors and color combinations are preferable to the more subtle and aesthetically pleasing. You can, however, make effective use of the "screen" -- that is, using a solid color, like deep blue, but reducing the tone in certain areas of the brochure. The same color then appears to be two or three different colors. (With desktop publishing, there should be no difference in price for using screens.)
Some colors reproduce well, which is why you see them all the time. Blue is probably the best. Getting into pastels and light browns is great if it works, but disaster if it doesn't, so be very careful.
Also, try a "reverse." This is the technique of printing white (or whatever is the color of your paper) letters on a dark background. This also creates the illusion of more than one color.
To repeat, white space is precious. Margins can be used to frame islands of print. They should not be used for cramming in afterthoughts, diagrams, or symbols.
You can create imaginary "frames" around specific paragraphs in your brochure not only with white space, but also with "boxes" (lines around a paragraph), and the use of a reverse print or a screen to highlight specific items. Some words or paragraphs can be printed in bold or italic type, to set them off further.
Nothing turns a reader off faster than to be confronted with a wall of small print, called "gray area." Psychologically, gray areas are death. They say, "Don't read me." The voter won't read your brochure unless he wants to, so give him every incentive.
Use them.They create interest, and allow the voter to picture you as a member of the human race. Posed shots are OK if you look natural. Candid shots are always good, especially if they relate to a specific point in your brochure. Captions should not be necessary, unless there are several people in one photo whom you wish to identify.
Quality counts for photos, too. If you don't have a good camera, borrow one, plus a photographer who knows what he's doing. Always use black-and-white film, and never use Polaroid or instamatic cameras. Best of all: Pay a professional photographer to do it right. The extra money is usually well worth it.
Tell the voter who you are, in pictures and in words: Your background, your qualifications, and your political party.
Stress the two or three most important issues in your campaign, and hit them hard -- explain the problem and the libertarian solution. It is usually a bad idea to go after your opponents in your brochure, unless you can cite chapter and verse and their offenses are truly horrible. If you do take this approach, set the relevant paragraphs apart in some way.
You are the candidate. The Libertarian Party is not. Neither is John Galt. So, unless your name happens to be John Galt, don't tell the voters who he is. Tell them who you are, and relate your specific solutions to their specific problems.
Before You Go To Press
Make absolutely sure that there are no spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors, and that the copy is laid out straight on the page, and that photos are cropped properly with no wavy edges. Ask the printer for a proof before the final brochure is run.
Since every word counts, every word that is garbled will take away points in the mind of the voter, who expects you to be perfect. So be perfect, at least where the brochure is concerned
BY RON CRICKENBERGER
LP Political Director
The long term goal of the Libertarian Party is to win a majority of elections at all levels of office from dog catcher to president, and thereby bring about a Libertarian society. But at this stage of the party's development, there is value in campaigns that do not stand a realistic chance of victory in this election cycle, but are intended to achieve other goals. Libertarian campaigns currently fall into the following categories.
- Paper: The candidate agrees to have his name placed on the ballot, answer media calls, attend candidate forums, perhaps issue a press release, but not much else. These campaigns are valuable in offering voters a choice on election day, by increasing the party's overall presence, and showing that we have a broad base of people who are willing to put their principles into action.
- Party-Building: The candidate has evaluated the race, and does not feel that there is a realistic chance of electoral victory this time. The campaign is run with the intention of building a base of support for future success.
- Ballot Access: The campaign's goal is to achieve or retain ballot access for the Libertarian Party in a state or district. The need for ballot access campaigns is determined by the needs of each state party.
- Winnable: The candidate has evaluated the race and determined that there is a reasonable likelihood of electoral victory in this election.
The choice between a "paper" or a party-building campaign will be determined by the individual candidate's time-and-effort commitment. But how do you tell if you should be running to win, or if you should run a campaign designed to help other Libertarians win in the future?
To determine if your race is winnable, ask the following questions.
1 Can I raise enough money?And, how much is enough? Money is what wins elections. While financial underdogs do occasionally pull off upsets, money is the single dominating factor in the vast majority of campaigns. In virtually every race that Libertarians have won they have outspent the competition.
You will need to raise at least as much as the typical winner does in the race you are running. You find this amount by examining the previous campaign disclosure reports on file with either the Secretary of State's office, or your local voter registrar. Winning congressional campaigns usually start out at the half-million dollar range. State house seats can cost anywhere from $2,000 to a quarter million or more, depending on the state and how hotly the race is contested. Plus, as a Libertarian, you are likely to need more than the usual amount of funds to overcome the inherent advantages of running as a major party candidate. Can you raise this much money in the time it is needed?
2 How does my history of community involvement compare to my opponent's?If your opponent is chairman of the Kiwanas Club, president of the Chamber of Commerce, serves on the Zoning Commission, and is a leader in the PTA, your chat room on the Internet is not likely to equal out in terms of the number of votes that can be delivered. Though it is possible to overcome a previous lack of civic involvement, it puts you one more step behind the opposition.
3 What is my name ID?If you run a service business where you deal with many customers on a first-name basis, that helps. If you are a real estate agent, with your name on signs all over the district, that will help. Just having run for office before helps. But barring true celebrity status, the incumbent officeholder almost always has the edge in name ID.
4 Does anybody care if you win?Can you mobilize a strong team who will go out and work really hard to get you elected? Can you get perhaps as much as two percent of the voters to volunteer for some aspect of your campaign? Can you get endorsements from community leaders?
5 Is the incumbent vulnerable?In general, all a sitting officeholder has to do to get re-elected is to not screw up. Open seats usually offer the best shot, but they also tend to be the races where the most money is spent.
Analyzing the results
If you can answer "yes" to the above questions, and can make the time commitment necessary, you should probably run to win this election. If not, you should probably set goals with an eye toward building a base of support for future electoral success.
If you have decided that yours will be a party-building campaign, you should still have firm goals -- tangible goals, which can be quantified as much as possible. "Reaching as many people as I can and telling them the Libertarian message" isn't sufficiently specific for the purpose of goal setting, but one or more of the following may be:
- Number of votes
- Percent of the total vote
- Number of news stories
- Number of new Libertarian Party members
- Inclusion in debates or candidates' forums
- Reaching "balance of power" status in the vote
- Raising a targeted amount of money
- Registering a certain number of Libertarian voters.
All of these are quantifiable. You'll know for certain whether or not you've reached them by the end of the campaign. And that should give you and your campaign team the motivation to set forth and follow a detailed game plan to achieve them. Therefore, the first thing you should do after deciding to become a candidate is to put specific goals down on paper.
Which of your goals should take precedence? If after careful evaluation you have determined you may have a shot at victory in this election, then your clear goal is to achieve the majority or plurality necessary to win.
If you have determined that you should be running a party-building campaign, then do those things which will have lasting benefit after the campaign is over.
This would include:
- Voter Identification: Canvassing the voters to determine who the Libertarian supporters are, and retaining the list of supporters for future elections. This gives an early base of support for the next Libertarian campaigner in your area -- a base which can be easily contacted for donations, volunteers, and placement of yard signs.
- Generating inquiries about your campaign and the Libertarian Party. This gives you a list which can be used for fundraising during the campaign, and provides prospects for membership recruitment as well.
- Registration of voters as Libertarians. When done on a one-on-one basis, or with outreach booths, registration drives can be very effective in developing and identifying a support base.
- Recruiting LP members. This is perhaps most important for long-term success. Dues-paying members of the party have made a commitment which is likely to last for years. For party building, it is more important to recruit a supporter for life than it is to recruit five more votes for this election.
What do all these have in common? They provide you with a list of supporters for future elections -- something the older parties have been collecting for decades.
How high should your goals be? Not an easy question to answer. Obviously, goals which are either too easy or outrageously difficult are not good. But they should certainly reflect what you hope to gain in this campaign, over and above what was accomplished in the previous election. If the previous Libertarian vote total was 1,000 for the district, then perhaps your goal should be 2,000. . . or much higher.
If you want to build party membership to double its current size in your district, then set a goal of generating 10 inquiries about your campaign for every member needed, and send the inquiry names to the national office. We'll send them membership information packages for you, and we typically convert 10% or more of inquiries into dues-paying members.
What if you fail to achieve some or all of your goals? Who doesn't? Don't hesitate to set ambitious goals at the beginning, and let your supporters know what they are -- then adjust them downwards (or upwards) as the campaign progresses. Even if you do fall short of your goals, what you learned in the process of trying to reach them should be a valuable lesson for you or anyone else who campaigns in the future. But if you don't set goals, there will be no standard by which to measure your achievements, and little solid evidence for application in future campaigns.
From the Editor: What you can do to help in Campaign '98
Bill Winter, Editor
If you're a candidate, you already know what to do in the last few days before November 3rd. If you don't, LP Political Director Ron Crickenberger explains how to squeeze the most success into the final 10 days of your campaign (see his article on page 3, "Top 10 things for the last 10 days.")
But if you're not a candidate there are still ways that you can help. Here's a few suggestions:
1) Vote!Earlier this year, an LP candidate in New Mexico lost a race for City Council by one vote. How would you like to have been a local Libertarian who didn't bother to go to the polls that day? How would you like to know that you cost a Libertarian an election? Don't let it happen again! Get out and vote on November 3rd!
2) Work the polls.As Ron Crickenberger points out, more than 10% of the electorate makes up their mind about who to vote for on Election Day. Your presence at the polling station -- handing out a brochure, waving a sign, or talking to voters -- can sway those undecideds to vote Libertarian. It's not too late: Call your local LP candidate and volunteer to work on Election Day.
3) Send in a last-minute contribution.It will help, either to buy last-minute ads, or print a batch of Election Day hand-outs. Our candidates need your financial support to make that final push.
4) On November 4th, start building the size and strength of the Libertarian Party.Yes, Election '00 is just 729 days away! What we do during those 729 days will determine how well we do in the first election of the New Millennium. What are you waiting for? Let's get busy!
Here's how Tennessee LP member Jerry Phillips spreads the word about the Libertarian Party: He uses his van as a "rolling billboard" -- complete with the party's toll free phone number for information.
Does it work? "It's surprising how often I am approached in parking lots," he said. "I carry several pamphlets with me and when asked about my signs, or when an opening is made, I present the written word of Libertarian ideas."
Planning a ballot access petition drive -- but frustrated by indifference, a lack of good places to petition, and a dearth of registered voters?
LP activist Scott Kjar of Alabama suggests how to fix that: "We can petition at the Democratic and GOP primaries." This is, he says, "petitioning the easy way, the way that is guaranteed to get us lots of signatures, and high verification rates. The people who show up at the primary are registered voters. Since they are voting anyway, they are already expressing an interest in both the process and the outcome. They are the perfect target audience for a petition drive.
"Remember, you are standing outside the polling place for the Democrat or Republican primary. Everyone who passes you is a registered voter, so every signature you gather will count toward your petition requirement.
"And since a lot of people will go past you on Election Day, a small fraction of them is all you need to meet your petition requirements
10 crucially important things that every candidate should do in the last 10 days of the campaign to increase vote totals
BY RON CRICKENBERGER
LP Political Director
Election Day -- and the few days before it -- are the most important of the entire campaign. Whether you have invested 10 or 1,000 hours in your campaign so far, your efforts in the last 10 days can as much as double your votes -- and in a close race can mean the difference in victory or defeat. While you have been thinking heavily about the election for months, many voters are just now beginning to pay attention to their electoral choices.
Strange as it may seem to someone who is interested in politics enough to become a candidate, 10% or more of the electorate makes up their mind on whom to vote for for President on Election Day. As you go down the ballot, the percentage increases dramatically. In a city council or similar race that has received little publicity, the percent that make their decision on Election Day can be as much as 50% or more. Your job as a candidate is to swing as many of those last-minute deciders as possible into the Libertarian camp.
Campaigns with differing levels of activity will have different end game strategies. But the following final-stretch campaign activities can be done on even the tiniest of shoestring budgets, and should be done by all Libertarian Party candidates.
Letters to the Editor:
Encourage your supporters to write one last letter to their bcal papers, mentioning you and the Libertarian Party by name, along with some good reasons to vote Libertarian.
Letter kits are the ideal thing to hand to someone you meet who says, "Is there something I can do to help your campaign?"
A letter kit consists of 20 small, personal correspondence-style envelopes, stationary to go with them, 20 of your brochures, three sample letters encouraging votes for you, and an instruction sheet. Tell your letter kit volunteers to draft a one-page letter to their friends who live in the district, using the sample 1etters as a guide, or simply copying the letters if they desire.
If they want to do more, or if they say they do not have 20 friends in the district, ask them to write to 20 people on their street. Tell your volunteers that they may stamp the envelopes themselves, or let the campaign stamp them -- but they should not mail them. You want to pick up the letters from your volunteers to time the mailing for best effectiveness -- as well as to ensure that the letters actually get written.
The power of this tactic is that very few people get personal letters anymore. Getting a personally addressed and apparently personally written letter from a friend or neighbor makes a strong impact.
Raise last-minute money for last-minute ads:
Call all of the previous donors to your campaign and thank them for their support of your campaign -- and mention those last-minute ads you'd like to run with their help. Your previous donors are most likely to give you an additional donation right before the election. They already have an interest in seeing your campaign do well.
Work the Phones!
Make get-out-the-vote phone calls to your key supporters, reminding them to go vote for you on Election Day. Call all the Libertarian Party members in your district. Even they need reminding to go vote. Then call all the past members and LP inquiries in your district as well. Plus all of your personal friends and family. Increase your effectiveness by asking all of your core supporters to call 20 of their neighbors, and have a quick script ready to fax or email to those who agree to do so.
Walk your district:
Doorbelling is time-consuming, but highly effective. Increase your effectiveness as a candidate by having three volunteers accompany you on your walks, and "leapfrog" each other from house to house. Having a volunteer distribute your literature door-to-door while also walking their strollers can be a good touch.
Issue a final press release (or two, or three):
If you have campaign activities to report on, make sure you let the press know. Inform them of what precincts you'll be walking prior to E-day. Your last release before the election should let the media know where and when you will be voting. Do it early and make a show of it. Vote with a local minister that supports you, or with your family. You could show up on the noon news with a reminder for your supporters to go vote.
Go by the local senior centers for lunch or breakfast in the days preceding the election. There is near 100% voter "turnout" in group homes. Stop by the local factory at shift change and greet voters on the way in and out.
Do an election eve literature drop:
Doorhangers or flyers distributed door-to-door in the early morning hours before the polls open can be very effective. Make sure that as many voters as possible see your literature the first thing when they leave for work on the morning of the election. Hint: You may want to skip the neighborhoods with lots of automatic garage doors -- you won't be able to get your flyer where it will be noticed.
Work The Polls:
Assuming that your state's election law lets you get close enough to the polls for effective campaigning, this is the most important Election Day activity for you and your volunteers. Have signs to wave and literature to give to the voters on their way in to the polls. The candidate should shake every possible hand all day from the opening of the polls 'til they close. Even if the law requires you to be a good distance from the polls for campaigning, you may find precincts where voters must park away from the polling entrance, and be able to greet them there.
Thank your supporters with an election night party:
Make sure they feel appreciated, and that their efforts were valuable.
Besides, you still need their help to take down all those signs after Election Day.
Friendship, good listening skills and shared values -- those are the tools required to effectively "sell" Libertanan ideas to other people, according to communications expert Charles Ehrenpreis, Ph.D.
Speaking to a meeting of the LP of New Hampshire, Ehrenpreis said that "conversion by personal contact is an effective approach," but works best when Libertarians are armed with some basic communications skills.
Ehrenpreis, who has given workshops on communication to many groups, gave numerous suggestions to increase the success rate of Libertarian 'salesmen."
First, Ehrenpreis said Libertarians should be selective in whom they choose as their prospect. "Pick people if you enjoy their company," he said, and warned, "You are not going to convert somebody who holds a radically different [political] viewpoint." Also, he said, "Pick people who you will have access to over a period of time, because this isn't a one-shot sell."
When a prospect has been selected, establish "real rapport," said Ehrenpreis. "Your major concern in the first meeting is to pass what I call the friend or foe filter. You want to make sure the person lights up when they see you coming the second time."
One way to maintain that rapport is by not starting arguments -- a bad habit many Libertarians are guilty of, he said.
"In my view, if you set out to win an argument with somebody, you make the task that much harder," he said.
Since people can sense when a person has selfish motives, Ehrenpreis suggested that Libertarians should have a genuine attitude that you "have something of great value" to bring to the prospect.
In subsequent meetings, advised Ehrenpreis, demonstrate your friendship. "Cooperate with them for the purpose of helping them to attain some of their goals," he said.
Careful listening is required to discover the issues that they are most concerned about, he said. "Once you have this common ground, now you're ready to get down to the real discussion."
To introduce Libertarianism, you should "give them a fresh view on some area of belief they have" from a Libertarian perspective, he said.
For example, he suggested, if they think that a minimum wage law is good, you should present it as a racist law that increases unemployment among black men.
"You're agreeing with them on basic values," said Ehrenpreis -- but also showing that Libertarianism is the way to really help people.
"Once you know what the person's values are, you start dropping seeds," he said. "The object is not to carry every discussion to a conclusion, but to drop a seed, which then will sprout in this person's mind."
Finally, he said, "Let them draw the conclusion. Lead them up to the last step and then change the topic. Make sure the position the person takes at the end belongs to them."
Libertarians who follow these suggestions will have a better chance of changing the way people view the freedom philosophy, said Ehrenpreis
When it comes to politics, America's other so-called "third parties" are a lot of talk, but not much action -- in California, at least.
According to figures compiled by Ted Brown, the Libertarian Party in California is running more candidates this year than the Natural Law Party, the Peace & Freedom Party, the Reform Party, and the Green party . . . combined.
The LP has 95 candidates on the ballot this year, compared to 44 candidates who levitated onto the ballot for the Natural Law Party; 25 for the California-based Peace & Freedom Party; 14 for Ross Perot's sputtering Reform Party; and 11 for the chronically disorganized Green Party.
The disparity is widest for the State Senate (20 seats), where the Libertarians are running 11 candidates, compared to two for the Peace & Freedom Party and one for the Natural Law Party; and the State Assembly (80 seats), where the 39 Libertarian candidates trounce the 11 candidates that the Natural Law Party got on the ballot; the Peace & Freedom's five; the Reform Party's five; and the Green Party's two candidates.
"The other third parties seem to be giving up the ghost," said Brown, the LP of California's candidate recruiter
Fundraising, competition, and the importance of wearing suits
BY DAVID KAMIONER
Professional campaign consultant
What's the best way to raise money?
One on one. The people who are going to give you large amounts are going to want to look into the candidate's eyes and see him/her ask them for it.
Now, is this fun for the candidate? Of course not. But it is a necessary evil. Events, PACS, direct mail, etc., can get you part of the way there. But there is no substitute for just plain asking for it face-to-face from those who have it.
How much of my personal money should I kick in to my own campaign?
Depends on the race. But you can't expect others to follow you over the top of the trenches if you're back at headquarters sitting fat and happy. At the very least, perhaps enough money to get going, about $1,000-$2,000. But that number could be much lower or higher, depending on the race.
Who do we compete for votes with more, the Republicans or the Democrats?
No question, the Republicans. The national Democrats are so far off the American mainstream that they might as well be living in North Korea. (Some of them might enjoy that. I mean, it's so hard to throw a good famine these days, what with rock stars butting in and all.) But the Dems appeal to one thing well: venality. Not a department we do well in, thankfully.
The problem with the GOP is that many times they're just plain tactically stupid. But ideologically many Republicans, if they thought we were a viable alternative to the GOP, especially the younger ones, would switch. Our job is to give them that sense of momentum and viability.
How do you organize Election Day activities?
Carefully.Many a campaign has been won or lost on Election Day. First, get a list of polling places and then get the last pertinent election results in your district. Assign your people to cover the the highest turnout polls. Duh.
Make sure your people are dressed and comport themselves in keeping with local bias and custom. Many voters are political point-of-sale shoppers. They will make a decision on the basis of the last impression they get.
Cover your polls the first two-and-a-half hours they are open, from 11:00 am - 1:30 pm and from 4:00 pm until close. Have regular contact with your people to gauge turnout, and then move them around if turnout patterns are very different from what you anticipated. Keep someone constantly in a car roving from poll to poll, putting out brushfires and minor problems. HQ should be in touch with that person through cell phone. Get lunch and refreshments on a regular basis (the refreshments, not the lunch) for poll workers if they are going to cover polls all day. And for God's sake, thank everybody with a party afterwards.
Is a write-in campaign worth the effort?
The lower the office, the more it is. If the incumbent is unopposed in the general, the more it is. The higher the office, thus the more hassles getting on the ballot, the less it is. But if it's going to be a stiletto fight in a dark alley between the status quo parties, think long and hard, given the logistical nightmares possible, before getting into the fight in the first place.
How effective are billboards?
For name recognition, if you've got the cash to buy them, great. But be careful, a dumb ad, blown up to the size of a house, is a really dumb ad.
Do I have to actually wear some suit while I'm campaigning? Are people that shallow?
Yes. And yes.
How can Libertarians capitalize on the Clinton scandal(s)?
By stressing that this stuff -- not intern sex (although there is a fair amount of that) -- but abuses of office and the corruption of power is business-as-usual for the status quo parties. The only way, just like in the market, to clean out the sclerosis and keep them honest is by competition from a party that is not mesmerized by the cult of government and the trappings of authority. Namely, us.
Have questions about politics or campaigns? Mail to: David Komioner, 1251 Green Street, Reading, PA 19604. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions will be answered, although not necessarily in print.
One of the toughest issues for Libertarians to address is the environment. Here are two web sites that feature extensive information about free-market environmentalism and the dangers of government regulations. Both sites provide useful information for LP spokespeople or candidates.
Political Economy Research Center (PERC)
PERC was an early pioneer in "free market environmentalism." Their primary goal is to provide market solutions to environmental problems. (Location: Bozeman, MT)
Competitive Enterprise Institute Environmental Studies Program
One of the most important policy areas of the Competitive Enterprise Institute is their Environmental Studies Program. Look here for links to a wealth of policy reports, articles, and essays on free-market environmentalism. (Location: Washington, DC)
Reprinted from the May-June 1998 Minnesota Libertarian.
Getting ready to do a radio interview?Here are some tips from the LP's Press Secretary, George Getz:
If you get the sense that your listeners don't know anything about the LP, be prepared to talk about Libertarianism in general. Charles Murray's book, What It Means to Be a Libertarian, is extremely helpful in suggesting ways to present our views to beginners; so is David Bergland's Libertarianism in One Lesson.
If you feel that the audience already knows what we stand for, choose an issue that will immediately differentiate us from the R's and D's. I believe our two best issues are taxes and the drug war. Of course, the tax issue is inextricably linked to the GOP betrayals, so there are a lot of Republican-bashing points you can make.
Are you a Libertarian candidate, getting ready to crank up your media operations?Here's some advice from North Carolina LP member Tom Bailey, specifically designed for a fledgling candidate's first press release:
"Be sure to include some sound-bite type quotes. 'I am running because . . .' Or: 'You should support me because . . .' Or: 'I expect to win because. . .' These statements should be no more than twenty or at most thirty words.
"If you are in a small community you have a better chance of being reported on sooner. Don't get discouraged if there is no [early] report. The reporters will read your stuff. They will come around if it looks like you have staying power. They will often wait to see if you are just a flash in the pan. They only want to report on serious news.
(Reprinted from the January/February 1998 issue of the Tarheel Libertarian)
Need to know where your opponents stand on the issues?Here's a suggestion from Dirk Deardorff, LP candidate for State Assemby in California: "A good site to get your opponents' positions is www.vote-smart.org. We all got questionnaires from Project Vote Smart and the results are online. I found at least one area (education) where the Dem and Rep hold the same statist positions -- and probably aren't even aware of it. This information could come in handy at upcoming debates and forums."
Are we really the 3rd-largest party?
By Bill Winter
I'm making the following claim in a news release: "The Libertarian . . . today is America's third-largest and fastest growing political party." Is this true?
-- J.M., Connecticut
Both those claims are difficult to quantify. Do you measure "largest" by vote totals, people in office, number of candidates, or registered voters? If you measure by vote totals, which votes: Presidential? Total?
That said, we are arguably the "third largest" party by:
1) The number of people we have in public office.
2) The number of candidates we run each election cycle.
3) The cumulative vote totals of our candidates at all levels.
On the other hand, the Reform Party supposedly has more registered voters now (thanks to their massive voter registration drive in 1996), and has certainly won more votes at the presidential level.
However, I think it is fair to say that, based on total votes, total candidates, and total number of elected officials, we are the largest and most successful third party now.
As far as "fastest growing," again, it depends on how you measure it. I don't think the other minor parties have the kind of dues-paying membership we do (if they do, I've never seen membership numbers). So, it's hard to compare on that basis. And updated voter registration numbers won't be out until after the 1998 election. (And even that number can fluctuate wildly, based on the states in which you have ballot status or the right to register.)
So, I'm not sure we can claim that we are the "fastest growing third party," and back it up with any kind of firm evidence. On the other hand, I don't think any other party can make that claim either.
A column of random political news, statistics, quotes, opinions, advice, and suggestions.
The one issue in every campaign:
"There is only one issue in every campaign -- who can do the best job,"says Jerry Russell, president, Campaign Consultants. What he means by that, says LP Political Director Ron Crickenberger: "Voters are looking for the candidate who can be most effective once in office. They look for someone who has a track record of accomplishment They look for someone who is 'like them.' Your job as a candidate is to position yourself as that someone. You use your stand on issues as part of your positioning, but remember that issues and principles are what you win for. Organization, money, and manpower are what you win with."
Interested in the early days of the Libertarian Party? A new book by John Kelly, Bringing the Market Back In, examines the history of the libertarian movement in the USA from the end of World War II to the present. Included in that account: The story of the LP, focusing especially on the late '70s and early '80s. The book -- published by New York University Press -- is available from Laissez Faire Books (800-326-0996).
First it was the Republicans -- now it's the Citizens for an Alternative Tax System (CATS): Both organizations have stolen the "$1,000,000 Bill" idea from the Libertarian Party, and used it to publicize themselves. The latest theft was reported in a CATS publication, which noted that Austin, Texas-area CATS members handed out the phony money on Tax Day to promote their campaign to replace the income tax with a national sales tax. "In fairness to CATS, at least they gave credit to the LP for the idea," said LP Communications Director Bill Winter. "When the Republican Party stole the idea, they didn't acknowledge us at all -- which is typical of them."
In the name of tyranny:
It's good to remind ourselves on occasion that, no matter how bad the U.S. government gets, other countries are worse. For example, the World Press Review (July 1998) reported that Peru has passed a new law outlawing names for children that are "extravagant, irreverent, contrary to public order, or foreign." Employees at the National Register of Identification and Martial Status were given the power to review and veto children's names.
Why You Should Join The Libertarian Party
If you generally favor the Republican Party because it seems to support freedom of enterprise, you may be concerned because Republican policies also support many who stand for repression of personal liberty.
They support censorship, an interventionist foreign policy, involuntary servitude through conscription, subsidies for favored corporations, government secrecy, and arbitrary police powers.
If you generally support Democratic policies because they seem to favor personal freedoms, you may be concerned because the Democratic Party also is home for many who work to erode private property rights.
They support high taxes, arbitrary and unrestrained interference with the market place, welfare for favored voting blocs, and welfare for favored corporations.
If you are an independent voter you may swing back and forth between the two major parties. You may have wished that there could be a third party to reflect your concern both for freedom of the individual and for freedom of enterprise. You may believe that only a world of free people can be a world at peace.
There is one and only one political party that is founded upon an uncompromising belief that personal freedom and responsibility, the free market, and peace all go together. It's the third largest party in the land. It's the Libertarian Party.
Only the Libertarian Party, of all organized political parties in the United States, stands for and acts for personal liberty and responsibility, private property, and the free market.
Only the Libertarian Party is pledged to the proposition that force should never be initiated to advance a political or personal cause.
Only the Libertarian Party has stuck steadfastly to its basic principles.
Only the Libertarian Party offers the opportunity to run for public office on principles that call for shrinking rather than extending state power.
Only the Libertarian Party offers the chance to use the political system to protect against the political system itself.
Only the Libertarian Party stands for the individual against the coercion, the conquests, and the collectivism of arbitrary authority and institutions.
If you want to make your own way in the world... If you want to be free to practice charity rather than being forced to support government welfare... If you want to live in a society of free and volitional communities rather than an ant-heap world of government compounds... If you want to be fully responsible for your own actions... If you reject the initiation of force... If you're that kind of person you're already a libertarian in spirit. If you want to be politically active as well, then the Libertarian Party is your party.
Party Membership: What's In It for Me?
Libertarianism, by its nature, encourages individuals to have deep respect for themselves and to act in their own best self-interests.
It is reasonable then for anyone considering joining the Libertarian Party to ask "what's in it for me?" If a person's goal is to save the world but to sacrifice themselves (and others) in the process, it is likely that they would be happier in another sort of social action than the Libertarian Party. If a person's goal is personal freedom -- and if they do not wish to deny freedom to anyone else -- then the Libertarian Party may have great appeal.
And indeed, there are answers to the question of what's in it for you, you personally, and not some abstract you.
The Libertarian Party represents an active and substantial information network in which you may discover practical ways to increase your personal freedom. Equitably, of course, you may want to share with others information that you generate on the same subject. The give and take, ebb and flow of information in this network also includes ongoing discussions that will help you hone your own ideas about liberty -- and the ways people may behave in a free society. Through this network also flow data regarding specific and possible threats to personal liberty. As a warning system, such a network could be worth its weight in gold to anyone interested in preserving what freedom they enjoy.
At a time when media events have become such powerful levers of social action, and strong delineators of the material and limits of public debate, access to public forums becomes a valuable protector of existing freedoms and a tool with which to enlarge the possibilities of future freedom. The Libertarian Party, as the third largest political party in the country, automatically assures greater access to public forums than single voices. All Libertarians, knowing that the single voice is the authentic voice of liberty, regret this -- but also, knowing the facts of the case, members of the Libertarian Party have opted to seek access to public forums from a position of greater numbers. Libertarian ideas are in and of themselves powerful and convincing. The more who hear them, the more who join the cause of liberty.
In general, it is felt by members of the Libertarian Party, the existence of an organization with a substantial number of members and with access to public forums, provides a sort of public legitimization for ideas which otherwise might be heard as merely idiosyncratic. Libertarians, of course, know that the idiosyncratic, also, represents the authentic accent of freedom but, just as access to forums is aided by a publicly recognizable base of numbers of people, so are the arguments in those public forums made more propagandistically substantial by issuance from a movement of substance.
If, therefore, you regard it as useful to be able to speak of your own libertarian ideas to more people, and to have that conversation more firmly founded, joining with others in the Libertarian Party may be seen as providing actual value for your own personal participation in public forums.
Those of your neighbors who might regard you as a lone crank, alas, may be more eager to listen to you because you are speaking within the context of a familiar activity -- partisan political activity. It is quite consistent with libertarian interpretations of the state of world affairs to regret the transformation of public debate (debate between sovereign individuals) into debate between institutions. It is also consistent, for many libertarians, to take whatever advantage they can of the situation in order to rectify it on behalf of individuals.
There may be times when you want to join an alliance formed between dissimilar people united only in regard only to a specific issue. In such an alliance there may be advantages for you in being a member of the Libertarian Party. As a lone individual in an alliance you run the risk always of being engulfed by the energy and zeal of others who bring with them a larger constituency.
By joining an alliance from the base of substantial organization such as the Libertarian Party, your position in the alliance becomes stronger and you can better resist perversion of the alliance's specific purpose toward other purposes. For instance, in joining an alliance to oppose some particular act of state imperialist foreign policy, the Libertarian will be alert to the perversion of the specific opposition into a special pleading for, to cite just one example, those whose actual purpose is to support the imperialism of some other power.
Ad hoc alliances actually may be very valuable in advancing the cause of liberty or, at least, thwarting further encroachments on it. The substantial constituency represented by the Libertarian Party will, in any alliance you wish to join, give you an advantage in keeping the alliance on course and away from the special pleadings of hidden agendas.
Finally, there is the sense of community that many find in the Libertarian Party, the excitement and warmth of sharing with others on a regular basis the work toward a free society, toward free markets, and toward free individuals. Strengths, resources, skills, information, and knowledge can all be shared in this community -- all voluntarily and all for the purpose of advancing not just a theoretical proposition but in concretely advancing your own freedom.
Those are some of the reasons why it might be profitable for you to join the Libertarian Party.
By Bob Bennett
The annual Libertarian Party tax protest provides perhaps the greatest opportunity we have to reach sympathetic people. Even more important than the media attention we receive is the chance to meet people who, at least for the time being, are genuinely fed up with the State. The last-minute taxpayer is especially irritated and bothered by the whole tax-paying process, and is ripe for the libertarian message.
I can personally attest to the effectiveness of tax protest. I first met members of the Vermont Libertarian Party during the 1982 event, and joined on the spot. But I have also noticed that during tax protest, people are much more receptive than usual, and are actually interested in our ideas and solutions. Of course, in Vermont, it seems that people are unusually receptive to new political ideas anyway. We have give major political parties (i.e., with major party ballot status), including the LP, and if the entire third-party vote total were combined for many offices, the Democrats or the Republicans might be in a tight battle for second place. But I suspect April 15th brings about an openness toward our views almost anywhere.
Over the years we Vermonters have tried many different ways of organizing the tax protest, but I believe the simple methods work best. Handing out literature and party platforms, carrying signs, and just taking the time to talk with people is all that is really necessary for a successful protest.
The tax protest also gives those who participate the chance to learn more about presenting libertarian ideas. No matter how receptive people are to an anti-tax message, they will be skeptical of plans for the elimination or even the drastic reduction of taxes. Many people also wonder what will happen to various governmental programs under such a situation.
Interestingly enough, a group of state socialists indirectly provided us with a way to alleviate the many fears people have about eliminating taxes. These socialists participated in a past tax protest, along with our Party, in front of the IRS offices. Actually, they were not protesting taxes so much as they were protesting where the tax money went. They set up a group of glass jars, each labeled with a different federal program, and gave onlookers jellybeans or love beads or something. The object was to place the beads in the jar of your choice and thereby "vote" with your tax dollars for your favorite federal programs; they suggested a vote for social programs rather than the military, of course. We libertarians, however, wouldn't stand for anything as silly as that, and when given our beads, we promptly informed the socialists that since the beads were ours, we were going to keep them.
Yet, the socialists hit upon an important point. If taxes were repealed and people were placed in full control of their incomes, people would simply choose to support the government programs they desired, and stop supporting those which they would rather do without. It is also persuasive to argue that individuals in full control of their income would shop around for alternative suppliers of services. And entrepreneurs and voluntary groups would work to meet the demand for services, in the absence of their provision by government.
There are also people who will accuse you of being unpatriotic for carrying signs with messages such as "taxation is theft." I think a proper answer to these people would be along the lines of a quote from the 19th Century Vermont-born libertarian, Stephen T. Byington. Byington said, "It must never be unpatriotic to support your country against your government. It must always be unpatriotic to support your government against your country." Together with this quote, you might explain why taxes must be repealed, so that we can have a free country, instead of a powerful and demanding government.
Participating in "tax protest day" is also a great deal of fun. Part of that fun comes from watching IRS officials in action. At one protest, we witnessed a group of IRS yes-men writing down the messages on our signs ("Honk if you hate taxes" is truly subversive, isn't it). And at another, a few cold and unsmiling bureaucrats informed us that if we moved two inches from the sidewalk into the entrance of the Federal Building, we would be duly arrested for violating federal law. These experiences also served to reinforce our view of the whole tax system. And they provided us with even greater determination to do away with the madness that the system has produced.