Lew Rockwell just beat up on the Libertarian Party. The main thrust of his article is about changes to the platform at the Libertarian National Convention, but I’ll leave that issue alone. Brian Dougherty covered the issue for Reason magazine — and he was actually in Portland, unlike Rockwell. Additionally, George Squyres, who chairs the Platform Committee, has provided his perspective twice (1, 2) about the issue. Here’s the point by Rockwell which bothers me:
But you know what? The LP was not founded to get people elected to office. It was founded to oppose the regime and educate the public, and use elections as the vehicle to do so. The American system of government and elections is set up and managed to accommodate two parties. The idea of becoming a third party was only to underscore the evil and trickery of the system.
The last time I checked, the Libertarian Party was a political party. Sure, education (and opposing the regime) are necessary parts of politics. But so are supporting political campaigns and organizing affiliated parties at a state and local level. The pertinent portion of the mission statement of the Libertarian
Educational Organization Party provides that the purpose of the LP is to move “public policy in a libertarian direction by building a political party that elects Libertarians to public office.”
Rockwell may not agree with this portion of the LP bylaws, but it exists, nonetheless. If the role of the Libertarian Party is to merely be an educational organization, perhaps we should reorganize as a 501C3 and change our name. It’s more honest this way.
If we call ourselves a political party, raise funds for our candidates and to try to obtain votes on Election Day without actually intending (and trying) to become elected then we’ve misled the public and violated their trust. To intentionally misrepresent our motivation while obtaining donations, volunteer time or votes is tantamount to fraud.
I’m in it to win elections using the tools (like databases, GOTV efforts, mailing lists, websites, party organization and networking, professional staffs, surveys and polling, commercial advertising, door knocking, etc.) Republicans and Democrats use to win their races. Before the accusations start flying, I’m not suggesting watering down the message — merely targeting portions of the message effectively in order to increase vote totals on Election Day.
Many people cast votes (as well as donating time and money) for our candidates in hopes that we do well or actually win elections. What I am suggesting is that if we call ourselves the Libertarian Party and run candidates in elections merely for the purpose of education, we are being less than honest. The last time I checked, such actions were pretty non-libertarian.