Regime Change in the LP? How About Any Change?

Give us LibertariansStephen Gordon, the former Communications Director of the Badnarik campaign and political strategist for the Libertarian Party of Alabama, is calling for an upheaval of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC), primarily because they don’t have any mention of opposition to the Iraq War on their site and seems to have been silent on the issue altogether.

I back Gordon, but I’m still skeptical of how this can be pulled off. For one it’s easy to say “we need change” without saying how to get to step two, and it’s not clear exactly what he thinks should be changed, or what the priorities are for getting things changed.

There’s been a lot of conjecture floating around recently about the future of the LP (myself included) and a lot of the finger pointing is directed at the top brass for being part of what I like to personally call the Washington consulting class. However, one of the biggest hurdles has been publicity (earned and free media coverage) for the causes of the LP.

One of my major concerns is that the LP doesn’t actively work to get libertarian policies into the national discourse on “off years” between presidential elections, and instead tries to use their money and efforts to increasing membership totals and occasionally reply to a policy issue with a press release. Instead of being the typical libertarian who complains about the status quo, yet offers no tangible solutions, I have come up with a five-point plan that the LP can work towards to accomplish higher media visibility while also increasing membership and donations:

  1. MARKETING – Start a strategic marketing program designed to put topical libertarian response ads on the television, the radio, on billboards and in newspapers. Show supporters that their donations are actually being used to respond to bad policies in the public forum. Ads should be professional and on relevant issues in the current political discourse. “Viral” Internet advertising can also be used to push smaller issues that can be directed at specific groups.
  2. COMMUNITY – Redesign the website to be a portal for libertarian information and activism. The site should have the tools to link all the state parties into the national party so that a visitor can put in his zip code and get information on what’s going on from the city level all the way up to the national level (right now regionalization does not work). Blogging should be an integral part of the site, as well as RSS feeds and forums. Include a special section for dissemination of information to the press. Utilize email campaigns more effectively and more targetted for needs.
  3. FUNDRAISING – Set donation goals for certain media/advertising campaigns, build excitement for reaching these goals but be sure to have backup plans (print advertising instead of television) if they aren’t met. Realistically we should be running one national ad campaign per month at a minimum and funnelling leftover money to states that effectively use it to run advertising on a local scale.
  4. MEMBERSHIP – Distribute membership enrollment responsibility to the state parties, create a competitive atmosphere by showing new memberships in the last 30 days as a percentage of state population. Create postcard template brochures for targetted mailings and do away with the large information packets.
  5. PLATFORM – Create a simplified version of the libertarian platform for people who are curious and do not want a detailed explanation of every facet of the platform. Link to a detailed explanation for those who would like more detail on certain issues. Explain what the end goal is for a certain policy, and what intermediary steps would be used to get there. Offer competitive answers on national policies, push these hardest when the topics are already in the national debate.

Most importantly, we must learn from the strategies of the other parties and adapt and innovate as necessary. We are always one or two steps behind our competition in terms of technology and implementation and we have so many intelligent people in the Internet community who could catapult us to the forefront. We need to take advantage of the resources we have.

I hope the LP can start to move in this direction, and I hope either the current leadership or a future team will be able to tackle these issues in a manner that would truly bring the LP into being a party that is a real contender for votes and a loud voice in the national debate.

UPDATE: Here’s the guy who should have a strong hand in writing the foreign policy and War on Terror doctrine for the Libertarian Party.

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

  1. I like it. Overall it sounds like a good and solid plan. I especially like points 2 and 1 (in that order). With the LP website, activism aid at local levels would be fantastic. With so few people caring about local politics, and only coming out to vote once every four years, local politics is where we can make the biggest impact. I could go rooting through my local news to find an issue to act on, but to have those local issues given with a Libertarian viewpoint it would make it much easier to actually get off my duff and do something and helps point out which are the most anti-liberty issues and what just sounds scary, but shouldn’t be the highest priority. The LP website right now doesn’t have anything like that. Even clicking on “Get Involved” link on the main page gives me the option to donate, become a member, refer someone to become a member, or to buy stuff.

    And as for point 2, I’m currently giving them the 25 bucks a year, and I really don’t feel they are doing much with it and that doesn’t give me any incentive to give more. But if they started doing things like you suggested, I would be much more likely to donate more.

    All the points are good, and I hope they do follow that path, or one similar, but it was those two that spoke to me the most. Not too sound too much like I’m preparing to prepare, or planning to plan, but what could we (I) do now to try and help steer the LP into this direction? Or any direction away from the current slump it is in?

  2. I would add that we need to develop a reasonable political plan and concentrate on a small number of viable political issues.

  3. Ryan, Gordon and myself have a little game where we like to email the LP HQ and see if we can get a response (not one to date, awesome customer service, no?). If you want, you can send an email to (or for direct addresses, see this) and ask that they implement any or all of these points. If anyone gets any response at all, post it here, but don’t hold your breath. I’m sure someone is reading them though, so fire away and at the very least we can get them talking internally.

  4. Centering your plan on opposition to the war in Iraq may not be the best move. It’s not all that different from what the LP has done many times in the past – pick an agenda associated with radical leftists and emphasize it. Apparently the hope is to convert far left Democratsm but conservative Republicans are still the two party players most likely to support Libertarian candidates and libertarian ideals. (Bob Barr, Ron Paul, Barry Goldwater). It risks further marginalizing Libertarians rather than building support, as you aren’t going to convert a lot of socialist leaning Democrats just by opposing the war.

    On the other hand, what you are doing is supporting a position, at a time when American volunteers are dying in the field, that is all about the pocket book. There is no draft so that’s a nonstarter for principled libertarian opposition. The Hussein regime was an outlaw regime that had already initiated the use of force in 1991 and failed to abide the terms of the cease fire including continuing to fire on American and British aircraft on a regular basis, so there’s no principled libertarian reason in terms of initiation of force for not toppling the regime. Those of libertarian bent may also argue about whom force must be initiated against to justify war. Certainly if what matters is simply that force is initiated and not against whom, then the mass graves eliminate any argument that the Hussein regime was somehow immune to being attacked on libertarian grounds.

    You’re left with two libertarian principles on which to oppose the war. One is the extremist view that any collateral damage makes a war ‘unlibertarian’. Given the extreme and unprecedented care that American troops have used to avoid civilian casualties, taking this view really reveals that you believe any war even strictly defensive is by nature unlibertarian. If you espouse that view, it’s tantamount to pacifism and many (most) of your natural allies are going to reject it.

    The second place for principled opposition is on the basis of cost, that American taxpayers shouldn’t have to spend $200 billion to attack and then rebuilid another country. While that’s certainly a valid point, at a time when American volunteer soldiers are on the battlefield, it’s politically inept to be raising it. To have brought up cost before the war started would have been sensible and would likely have seen support and even made a few converts. To do it while troops are in harms way is a typical Libertarian Party response, nothing new at all.

  5. Tom, I’m not opposed to toppling Saddam on ideological grounds, I’m opposed to our government’s stupidity in erecting these dictators all around the world in the first place. It’s a simple cause and effect that we’re forced to endure again and again, and it boils down to one thing:

    We need to make our government stop supporting and building up undemocratic governments and tyrants in the first place.

    If we had not given billions of dollars in weapons and aid to Saddam in the 1980s, it is inconceivable that he would have become such a strong-arm tyrant and could have been toppled peacefully through his own government. Instead, we took a lesser of two evils view of Iraq and Iran at the time and later faced a predicament where two evils had become larger than anticipated.

    These same types of policies are still in effect when we openly embrace undemocratic regimes such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, building up tyrants who we will eventually have to butt heads with in our global quest to spread liberty.

    The libertarian principle is one largely of non-interventionalism, which says that our foreign policy is to stay out of the rest of the world’s affairs and let them remain sovereign. And while I think some exceptions should be made in cases such as Nazi Germany and imperialistic invasions by rogue nations, by and large I agree we should keep our nose out of another country’s affairs.

    We need to stop the cycle of building up our future enemies before we can lay claim to the moral superiority in defeating them later down the line, and that’s my stand.

  6. While I think it the hot potato issue, I am not suggesting that the LP focus entirely on ending the war in Iraq. But any polical campaign should pick a few (contemporary wisdom is three) winnable issues to concentrate upon. The Republican Party did well when they picked ten issues for a party – hence Newt’s Contract with America. No matter how one feels about the terms of the contract, the reality is that it was an effective political campaign for a political party.

    Where is the LP campaign?

  7. I don’t disagree with you at all in terms of foreign policy goals. Hey, what you said sounds a lot like a recent major speech by a noted Republican politician – and the one thing I look to the LP to do is to hold the GOPs feet to the fire when somene says the right things. Your plan of attack is great. I just hate to see you undermine it by focusing on the same Libertarian “strategy” of appealing to statists who happen to oppose war (or statists who want to smoke pot they buy with their welfare check or statists who want socialized medicine but want to get a prescription for poison when it finally fails them or statists who happen to agree with whatever position the LP decides to push today) instead of focusing on the simple thing that most Americans would agree on – Government is too intrusive in all areas of our life; we can argue about how much to reduce it and later we can argue whether to keep reducing, but we all agree that starting in that direction is a good thing and, all other things being equal, more liberty is preferable to less. That’s not a particularly eloquent way of putting it, but it’s a proposition most Americans would agree with.

  8. LNC is just a paycheck for some and for others it?Äôs a networking marketing scheme!

    For a few, the Libertarian party has become a paycheck but for many others the Libertarian membership became a list of names that could be sold and used to market ?Äúfreedom oriented material?Äù for a nice profit.

    Wait a minute! Aren?Äôt the Libertarian suppose to be working towards freedom? Hell no, why do that and ruin a good market of paranoid folks who will buy books, CD?Äôs, videos and attend overpriced workshops on activism.

    Sorry folks, the truth needs to be told about what has happened to the LNC and many of the State Parties. The scumbags have moved in because the membership is asleep