LNC Chair Michael Dixon held an online chat in the new Libertarian Party chat room yesterday. I had a scheduling conflict and arrived there for the last few minutes of the chat and missed most of it, but Austin Cassidy reports that the LP posted the transcript on their website. I thought I’d repost the transcript with some commentary on the important issues discussed. Actually, I agreed with Dixon on quite a few points, rebutted Dixon on some, and added additional commentary on many issues.
Michael Dixon:Good afternoon everyone, I am just setting up and welcome the chance to try out this format for communicating directly with as many of you who want to join in.
Michael Dixon:I was not present in the pre-meeting time. Was there a final pending question I should weigh in on?
eichenlaub: There was a lot of discussion about next years change to zero dues membership.
Michael Dixon:I see several interesting questions. Let’s take zero dues. The changes at national are to reorient our activity to be more grass roots developmental and to get out of the way of local organizations that are actually doing the work.
Michael Dixon:That means training and resources. Beginning with the on line classes and face to face training at national and regional gathering.
YixilTesiphon: Michael Dixon, how’s that lead to the halting of the revenue-sharing program with state parties?
Michael Dixon:Those two decisions were parallel not dependent. However, by ending the revenue sharing there are resources to be spent on developing new programs designed to equip our activists.
Stephen Gordon: The Zero Dues proposal is, IMO, the most significant issue the LP has entertained in three decades. Forcing the LP to change from a membership model to a political model could doom the party, to be sure. It will also force the party to become a political player indeed in order to survive, as opposed to appealing to a small group of financial supporters — a mechanism which has not been working well enough. If the LP can refine its message and orient it to outsiders, as opposed to insiders, we might be able to implement some meaningful political change. If not, it would be better to learn that the LP cannot be effective so we can steer our resources in other directions.
HardyMachia: The small govt conservatives are really upset with the GOP in DC. The moderate Dems are watching their party go more extreme on the left. This opens a large vacuum in the center. Does the LP have a plan to capture the voters in the center?
Michael Dixon: The LP has not one plan but thousands. The plans are the sum total of all of the actions of all of our members; first and foremost to have an impact in their local communities. Electing themselves, or those they are interested in supporting.
Stephen Gordon: Each state, district and campaign is different and differing issues and strategies need to be employed in individual cases. Appealing to the center may work in some cases, while going to the left or the right may work better in others. For the most part, this should be handled at a local level. From a national perspective, the LP should actively poll and only target national issues which work at a national level and don’t provide too much of a detriment to local or state level activities. However, it is important to keep in mind that almost anything national does will have a negative impact on some local political activity.
YixilTesiphon: Could you give some specific examples? And where are we supposed to send our former membership money, our state parties or National or both?
Michael Dixon: Concrete examples of training: The LLS which is kicking off in January with classes on a wide variety of topics as well as a special FEC training seminar for State Treasurers at the LSLA conference in Phoenix.
Stephen Gordon: Both Stephen VanDyke and I will be teaching courses at the LLS. I’ll recommend it, but will add the disclaimer that I receive monetary compensation for the course. Also, I’ll be in Phoenix for the conference, and hope to see some of you there.
Michael Dixon: As to where you should send your monetary support? I believe in individual action and decision. You should send your support to the organization that is doing the most with your funds.
Michael Dixon: OR the organization that defines the best vision of what they would do with your funds.
Stephen Gordon: Good answer, Mike!
suicidolt: Yes, what is the LLS? Could you tell us more about it?
Michael Dixon: The LLS is the online school developed by our national staff. Initially there are 12 courses which will kick off in January. Fundraising, candidate skills, FEC training, etc.
civilwrongs: What can I do at the individual level to convince more people in my community to vote or join LP?
Michael Dixon: I have always suggested that Libertarians would do more good by talking to their neighbors about the efficacy of the free market and decentralized government.
Michael Dixon: It’s the little things, like attending your local governmental body meetings, and lobbying the activists there to join you in your efforts.
Stephen Gordon: The little things are important, and local is significant. I have far greater political impact at a local level than I do at a national level, despite my work on presidential campaigns. I’ll add something important that Mike missed, though. I don’t spend my time convincing people; I spend my time showing them. Libertarians are great at one-on-one political debate, but that does not win elections. People follow a leader, and it is past time that we become the leaders (elected or non-elected) in our communities. This may come as a shock to many libertarians, but people are more likely to vote for or against their perception of a person than to base their position on political ideology.
suicidolt: Can I ask what’s being done by the LP to counter the major eminent domain breeches that the Florida courts have recently permitted?
Michael Dixon: I am not specifically aware of the FL matters, but am interested in this topic nationally. There have been efforts led by our national staff to seek out candidates who are interested in this area. If you are one of those please contact us.
Stephen Gordon: Eminent domain (ED) is a critical issue, and I’ll encourage the LP to continue to take a stand on it. This said, we aren’t likely to obtain a significant amount of credit on the issue, as Republicans are co-opting it nationwide. With their superior resources, they will likely get most of the credit — even credit we have rightfully earned. This may be an issue with which we should work with Republicans, in some instances.
ED does serve as an issue that polls well and is one which will not likely detract from local campaigns.
No one from national has contacted me about candidates interested in ED — and I just ran one and know of others. As a matter of fact, I don’t know any LP candidate that does not have ED as a campaign issue, and many of them place it on the forefront.
TheObjectivist: My experience has always been that people don’t vote LP because they don’t know what libertarianism means
Michael Dixon: And the way to combat this is to talk to more people everyday about who we are and what we believe. In reasoned tones we are our best and most inexpensive marketing effort.
ryanforcitycouncil: I agree that participating and local community events, neighborhood meetings, city council meetings and talking with neighbors helps a lot in getting awareness of your efforts and beliefs. It has worked really well for us.
Stephen Gordon: Dixon and Ryan are correct in that personal local contact is the best. Ryan provides an important tool to be used. I’ll add that one should attend community events and not libertarian events to spread the word. It doesn’t help a thing to preach to the choir other than for very limited or short-sighted fundraising efforts.
Also, the Internet is a powerful tool still significantly underutilized by the LP, and most members of the LNC seem blind to this. I’d suggest they allow Shane Cory a greater level of resources for Internet development. It is high bang-for-the-buck, and we often lead the way in the Internet anyway. To bad the LNC (collectively, not each individual member) is stuck in the archaic rut of traditional media.
YixilTesiphon says to TxLiberty: Either that, or they’re uncomfortable with “throwing away their vote.”
Michael Dixon: And to combat that argument we must provide better candidates who are competitive and can be seen as holding the office, not just campaigning annually.
Michael Dixon: The LP, in its strategic plan 5 years ago defined brand awareness as a significant issue. Since that time there has been some work done.
Michael Dixon: Currently there is a major effort underway, lead by the LNC Branding champion and a member of the LP on the west coast.
Michael Dixon: The results of that effort will be available in the first Q of 06
Stephen Gordon: Our latest HoT take on branding is here. IMO, branding is important, but there are many more important things about which we need to concentrate. Branding helps Coke and Pepsi compete for their current positions in the global marketplace, but having palatable products is what put them in the top two positions in the first place. We still need to work on the palatable product before investing a significant amount of resources on something which will only have a marginal impact. Other than the owners and two hundred loyal customers, who cares what logo the Winnemucca Sasporilla Bottling Company uses?
Leon: I think there are many people who are LP wanna be’s but don’t know they are
Michael Dixon: Obviously there are many who are but have not yet self identified. We help them by raising our profile locally in their circles of influence.
Stephen Gordon: AMEN! While I’ve clearly criticized Dixon on some issues in the past, he hits the nail on the head on this one.
JOHN: I am near Chicago, a popular radio host, who is syndicated, and very popular with young people, and says he is a libertarian, had on Mr. Badnarik before the election. It seems to me this could be cultivated to reach young voters
Michael Dixon: We are constantly looking for media contacts who will allow us to use their venues to reach our voters. If you are aware of a contact, please send the information to the national staff, Sam New has been coordinating this for some time now.
Kned54: We have a DJ here on the largest station in Central Ohio and he is pushing for our LPO Governor candidate.
Heavenly: Organizations with similar beliefs as the party, such as the chapters of Natl. Youth Rights Assoc., Students for a Sensible Drug Policy are also good to approach as well
rrandall: On the topic of radio, there are at least three radio hosts in Colorado who are Libertarian, but say that they have NEVER received any contact from LP National. Are there plans for LP Media Coordination that we can plug these guys into?
Stephen Gordon: So what does Sam do with the information once it is “coordinated”? Most of what runs through my inbox seems to be ignored by the national staff. Collecting information is not enough, but one has to do something with it. It seems that quite often the priorities (or resources allocated) for the national staff are not being properly supported by the LNC. We “plug” the aforementioned media outlets almost daily at HoT. National could do the same.
suicidolt: Speaking of brands, has the LP decided on a Nationwide ‘catch phrase’ or ‘symbol’ that the local and states could take off of?
Michael Dixon: Our only symbol is the Statue. We have historically used “Party of Principle” though that is not an official action.
YixilTesiphon: And is Yellow the official color, or is that just convenient?
Michael Dixon:Yellow has been used by some of our candidates. That is a local and highly temporal decision. The national party has historically been identified with the color blue.
Stephen Gordon: From HoT: VanDyke prefers orange, while I prefer purple. What ever the decision is to be, let’s quit debating and arrive at a conclusion so we can move on to more important things in life.
capri: what is the LP stand on city, municipal, state wide smoking bans?
Michael Dixon: Sounds like a bad idea to me. Individuals should decide these things for themselves and their own property.
Stephen Gordon: I published on my latest position on this issue just today. Too bad the national LP does not appear to the public to have a strong position on this issue. Perhaps if they spent more time on politics than in squeezing out dues payments, this question would not have needed to be asked.
HardyMachia: We should make official color be purple. A mix of red and blue. Making us the party in the center.
Michael Dixon: I have an interesting graphic on my wall that attempts to do this. I don’t remember who created it first, but it seems to have been produced out of the national office at one time.
Stephen Gordon: Geoffrey Neale has supported purple (since before the tags of red and blue states became popular), if I recall correctly. He may have been the source.
Kned54: When or how will Portland Convention packets for 2006 be communicated to membership an delegates. I need to start my vacation planning efforts.
Michael Dixon: I am not sure I follow the question. But for basic Portland info, the convention will be July 1-2 in Portland OR. The opening night reception will be on the 30th of June. More details are in the next issue of LP News and soon to be on the web site.
Stephen Gordon: It would be nice if information was provided to state officers in a more timely manner. From my state role perspective, planning state convention dates in time to allocate delegates to the national convention is important. I’ve had to be on the ball on this one. State officers with less contact and communication with the national office than I have probably have more difficulty in obtaining timely information.
erichsmith: Will the LNC ever go back to a dues program with an UMP or that issue dead?
Michael Dixon: The LNC is always free to return to a topic, but attempts to do this in the last meeting failed to reach the necessary support to be acted on.
Stephen Gordon: Let’s hope this remains to be the case. Better yet, a new bylaw passed in Portland could clarify the issue.
freelance08: I’d like to know what the LP is going to do to work with and help the presidential candidates, before the convention. I know there have been problems with this before, which seems to have led to a “hands off” policy at the national level.(Is that correct?)
Michael Dixon:The national party (staff and committee) are prohibited from being involved pre-nomination. That policy is very likely to continue. Until the Party (read Convention) has spoken, it is not proper for the leadership (staff or committee) to influence.
Stephen Gordon: From my unique perspective on this, there is one thing national could do better. Define criteria for what is considered a credible campaign (this has been done before) and provide equal promotion for the “credible” candidates. As an example, an LP News article which has the lastest mainstream media quotes from the top three candidates (considering the latest presidential battle) would be fair. The LP national staff could also use what influence it has to help arrange speaking or other public engagements for the key candidates, and provide the information to each candidate at the same time (i.e. all on the cc: line of the same e-mail notification).
Westley: How does the LP plan on dealing with the current energy problems?
Michael Dixon: If you mean, the rising prices, probably nothing, as that is a market force. If you mean the likelihood that we are reaching the end of the petroleum economy, I would say nothing as the market will definitely react and create alternatives.
CAnderson_TX: I’d like to know why we don’t see any stories about the LP on national news programs such as NBC Nightly News, ABC’s World News Tonight, 20/20, 60 Minutes, etc. I think we can really publicize ourselves through national mainstream news programs.
Michael Dixon: We are regularly in contact with these venues. However, until they perceive that our followers are sufficient to drive their ratings it is unlikely they will regularly host us. When we have had a compelling story to tell we have gotten attention.
Michael Dixon: It really is a chicken or egg issue.
Stephen Gordon: Dixon is correct, for the most part. That is why they call it earned media. I get complaints that the press covered the D or R function, but ignored the similar L function. But when I dig into the issue, I find that the D or the R had thousands of people in attendence, and the L had a mere dozen or two.
This said, there are times (i.e. Bill O’Reilly and Badnarik campaign examples or failure of the MSM to cover the) when we do get screwed. It is imperative that libertarians maintain and control independent media outlets, which is one of the missions of HoT.
Coloradoan: How will the LP engage the “traditional” parties with regards to the Patriot Act, the spying on US citizens, etc?
Michael Dixon: I think it is best to keep in mind that engaging parties is not a good return on investment. We need to engage voters.
Michael Dixon: On this topic, any voter is likely to see that the older parties are complicit in this issue and we are not.
Stephen Gordon: I disagree with a part of Mike’s argument. In some cases, engaging parties is the best tool to use while in others it is not. To be critical of tax or spending issues, it can be highly effective to attack Repub hypocrisy on the issue. The same holds true for Dem hawks or drug warriors. Sometimes the issue should be highlighted and sometimes the party. I always try to go for the maximum political impact. He is correct, in general, that we need to better engage voters.
mshiltonj: One I think a presidential candidate trying to attend a presidential debate and getting arrested for it would be a compelling issue.
Michael Dixon:One might think that, but a quick check of the “public” that makes up the viewers of these shows indicates that they are not that taken with this as a grave injustice. Unfortunate but true.
Stephen Gordon: Dixon misses out on the incredible significance of the lack of MSM coverage of the arrest. This is clearly an example of why libertarians need their own media outlets. It also shows that Mike is not aware of just how many people actively on the Internet are aware of the issue or how much traffic the Badnarik campaign received that particular night. The history of the night cannot “be made” to disappear. It is incumbent on us to continue to expose the MSM for not covering the event. The LP should be leading the way on this issue, but I rather suspect that HoT is.
Antonios: What about addressing the election process issues that allow the republican/democrats to practically have a monopoly on the political process in this country?
Michael Dixon: The National party has turned away from solely working on direct support to ballot drives and instead is working to support opening the ballot via legislation and litigation.
Stephen Gordon: I’ll add that I spoke with Richard Winger just today, and he stated that LP members can voluntarily support national ballot access efforts with their own wallets. Simply earmark your contribution to the LP for ballot access or respond to a ballot access oriented fundraising appeal.
freelance08: But most voters also think that all qualified candidates should be allowed to debate, no?
Michael Dixon: I think that the opinion polls are clearly opposed to this view. The voters think that the candidates who are likely to lead the horserace should be in the debates. If you are aware of polls to the contrary I would be interested in seeing them.
Coloradoan: Mr Dixon, given what is transpiring within the halls of what is left of our government; do you think that venue is viable?
Michael Dixon: If I were this cynical I would certainly be using my time, talent, and treasure to find another place to call home. Instead I am using my abilities to right this ship and bring it back to what it could be.
Kned54: Some states though are making it possible for alternative candidates to be in statewide debates on cable: ie: Indiana and Georgia.
Michael Dixon: Correct, and we should encourage that, and remind voters that they are only getting to see (on the major networks) the politically acceptable candidates.
Michael Dixon:I am not suggesting that this is not an issue, it is. But it is an issue in our one on one communications with voters, not in our demanding to receive redress from the media elite.
Michael Dixon: We will get redress from the media, when the voters demand it from them.
Michael Dixon:This is a big issue, and one that could really vault our local activists. We need to be networking with the activists in this area. Though many of them are socialists, it is a great place to make a name for ourselves, and maybe even convert some of them.
Stephen Gordon: I don’t know what polls Mike was reading, but the ones I run or look at generally state the opposite. The absolute worst poll number on the topic I’ve seen is here, while this one and this one are more reflective of the norm. I’ve polled extensively on the issue, and the answers are generally consistent, but variables such as the heat of the political news cycle or the poll methodology are important. With a straight-up question and little political heat, the number I get is that roughly 2/3s of Americans generally support open debates.
Mike does provide my ammo for my point, which is that we need our own media outlets.
Coloradoan: The reason I asked how we can engage the traditional parties is because I see a phenomenon in the American voter which I call the “pendulum” effect. They go from one party to the other. We need to stop that pendulum.
Michael Dixon: We need to provide alternative. That will shift the axis of the pendulum, or stop its swinging altogether.
Michael Dixon: Remember I am not always interested in creating libertarians. I am interested in creating libertarian voters!
Stephen Gordon: I agree with Dixon on this one.
JOHN: Don’t you think Ross Perot was a disenchanted voter vote getter?
Michael Dixon: Absolutely. And we (our predecessors) failed to gain enough of those voters to our cause.
Stephen Gordon: Although I know many Libertarians who try, one can’t reasonable argue Dixon’s point here.
JayHandlerLPOCFL: I agree with the idea of providing an alternative…I just think we need a National voice to market Libertarianism to the public.
Michael Dixon: You are on the same page as the national strategic plan. The national party needs to create viable national brand awareness and stay out of the way of local candidates and efforts.
Stephen Gordon: Jay, the role of the LP is not to market libertarianism, but to move public policy in a more libertarian direction. That means winning elections, in this context. Let CATO and von Mises and Reason do their job as educators. The role of the LP is to win.
Branding, schmanding. There are many WINNING R/D campaigns with which I’ve been associated where they don’t use their pretty party logo. While it will help with some candidates, for most viable candidates the “L” brand may be more of a liability than an attribute. Again, it is a misplaced priority, IMO. Americans will vote for winners, but not for a prettier Statue of Liberty emblem.
YixilTesiphon: Which is why we need a national ad campaign.
Michael Dixon:And we are ready to have one, as soon as the donors step forward and fund it.
While my political contributions over the years have been significant, I won’t pledge to the LP unless I first see some major changes. I’ll provide one time donations for issues which seem worthwhile. Otherwise, I’ll continue as I have and place my money where I see it will actually make America a more libertarian place.
pavel: What voter is the party trying to woo, the disenchanted Small Gov rightist or the lost their party leftist?
Michael Dixon: Yes
Michael Dixon:I don’t care what voters I attract. This is not a philosophical quest. It is a street fight for voters. Whether they agree with us in whole or in part. We need them to pull the lever (old world technology) to put us in a position of strength
Stephen Gordon: Dixon is generally correct. I’ll add that there are not enough voters from either the traditional right, left or even middle to win most races. However, effective message targeting for most races could bring about a high enough total percentage to win. I’ll add that effective message targeting is not using the entire LP platform for a campaign platform. Poll the issues, pick three or so, and run with them. Simple Politics 101 sort of stuff.
civilwrongs: $10? I’m in. Do all donations go to advertising?
Michael Dixon: Call the office, make the pledge and tell them that it is for the branding project. We will work out the back room accounting details for you.
Stephen Gordon: This should be front page and not back office stuff. But thanks for the contribution.
Coloradoan: And then sir, you would work on keeping these voters?
Michael Dixon: The elected libertarian would earn the continued support, and the media response would reinforce the validity of the choice.
Stephen Gordon: “Elected” being the operative word.
erichsmith: I would do a $10 a month pledge.
Kned54: Cheap, I can kick in more than that, as long as we see some results.
civilwrongs: Results ARE the key to continued donations.
Michael Dixon: No doubt. So is a compelling plan that the donor agrees to.
Stephen Gordon: Again, thanks for the contributions.
There is nothing compelling about a consistent lact of results. I’ll certainly personally share the heat with you, Mike. My point is that ALL of us have been obtaining less than optimal results, and it is time to try something different — even if it fails. What we are currently doing is not working.
civilwrongs: I definitely agree with brand strategy.
D-Rock: What of those of us who already pledge? What more would you suggest we do?
Michael Dixon: We have talked about ways to allow the current pledgers to designate their contributions to specific projects (like branding or ballot access). If that is important to you, please contact the office and speak with one of the customer service people.
Michael Dixon: They can help figure out he best way to target your contributions.
civilwrongs: perhaps guerrilla marketing techniques.
Shane Cory: WeÃ¯Â¿Â½ll be wrapping this chat up in about five minutes. If we missed a response to your question, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org and weÃ¯Â¿Â½ll get an answer.
Michael Dixon: In order for them to be guerrilla don’t they have to be spontaneous and not top down organized?
Michael Dixon: Just having a little fun now.
Stephen Gordon: Dixon is right on this one. And guerrilla advertising is something each of us can do. There are a million ways, ranging from taking advantage of Simon Jester techniques to placing your own $10 blogad somewhere to commenting on Internet blogs and fora.
Coloradoan: I’ve convinced family members…I’m now working on coworkers (having been called a “crazy” Libertarian).
Michael Dixon: That is where it has to start. I am constantly amazed as how many libertarians I meet who have not yet gotten base level support from the people in their own extended family. How many R and D activists would say the same?
vojen: I’m libertarian because of a teacher I had. Is there any way to secure a presence on university campuses? Maybe an endowed LP chair or something?
Michael Dixon: The LNC has a structure to support campus groups, and this is better done through faculty than through students (turnover kills the efforts). We are always seeking local groups who will work with campus organizations.
Stephen Gordon: While Mike is generally correct in his assertion that “turnover kills the efforts”, he should be aware that perhaps the most active Libertarian campus organization has recently had such turnover and is still thriving and growing. Really good student leadership can also provide for continuity — but such examples are few and far between. It is imperative that significant recuiting drives be conducted each and every year, though.
griggs930: Can donations be auto-debited monthly?
Michael Dixon: Happy to do it, it’
Michael Dixon: It’s called the pledge program and being a part of it, gets you invited to a cool reception at the national convention.
freelance08: BTW, Michael, OpenDeabtes.org is claiming that polls showed support for non-mainstream candidate inclusion in debates in 1996, 2000, and 2004
Michael Dixon: I stand corrected and will seek out the reference
tris: What, exactly, is the function of the LP? Is it only to provide the framework needed to get candidates elected under the party label? Are there better avenues for those of us who wish to donate to evangelistic efforts? What is the LP’s vision?
Michael Dixon:The function of the LP is to Move public policy in a libertarian direction by electing libertarians to office.
Michael Dixon:The function of the National LP is to help our affiliates and their activists and candidates to achieve this goal.
Stephen Gordon: Right answer! Now let’s see the LNC provide the proper direction and resources to the national staff to make this happen. And let’s see a bit more of Mike Dixon, too.
Shane Cory:Thanks for taking the time to join us today. WeÃ¯Â¿Â½ll let our chairman get back to work by wrapping it up.
Shane Cory:Next week weÃ¯Â¿Â½ll have LNC Representative Mark Rutherford. Additionally, a transcript of this chat will be posted later today at LP.org.