A realistic strategy for Libertarian national politicking

Charles Stricklin posted about the ideal way to begin working Libertarians into the federal government. From his blog:

My strategy relies less on winning the presidency and more on winning seats in Congress, particularly the House.

Currently, Republicans hold a 25-seat lead in the House. Consider what would happen if, over the next, say, 6 years, Libertarians elect 25 representatives: The president, whichever the party, would have to deal with them to pass legislation. Remember that all tax legislation originates from the House.

Libertarians, although not in the majority and therefore no able to dictate which bills are considered, would still be able to wield considerable power and support Republican bills when it makes sense to do so as well as Democratic bills when it makes since to do so. Also, if their performance suits the electorate, it’ll become that much easier for them to support a Libertarian presidential candidate in 2012 or 2016.

On the other hand, if by some miracle a Libertarian were elected president without first building a base within the House, he or she would control neither the majority nor the minority parties in either chamber, and they’d have to work with the majority party to get anything accomplished. To the best of my knowledge, no president has ever served without enjoying the support of either a majority or minority party.


As a footnote: Senate seats are extremely hard to change parties, in part due to the six year term, in part due to the enormous amount of power to be wielded (1/2 of each state as opposed to a smaller percentage of any sizable state) and in part due to the inelasticity of the position. Once a senator wins his or her first reelection, they’re able to retain their seat short of poor health, scandal or resigning to run for the presidency. This is why my strategy focuses on the House. Again, the Libertarian Party should field senate candidates, just as they should governors and state elected officials, but don’t bet the farm on them.

The logic’s sound enough, I did take a few exceptions to the article though. He talked about the overwhelming power of Republican ideas among voters, which I’m not completely convinced on. Security, maybe… but not necessarily low taxes and deregulation (remember, these are Republican ideas, not what they actually do when elected). He used it to offer proof of the difficulties in electing a President, though, and that I do concur with. We’ll need a contingent in the House before anything happens.

So here’s hoping we can successfully get guys like Michael Badnarik and others in, but I still think that it’ll be a hard fight even to do that. Honestly I think we need to focus harder on local and state races still, but when we’re ready to seriously move into national politics, this is a good blueprint to follow.

Stuart Richards

Stuart Richards is a 26-year-old land surveyor based out of Portland, OR. He is a left-leaning geolibertarian and (theologically) liberal Christian, and has been blogging on HammerofTruth.com and other libertarian sites since 2004.

  1. Security is now a Democratic issue, because voters have finally noticed that they trust democrats more than republicans on natioanl security and war on Iraq issues. The difference is not yet large, but it is a difference.

  2. Sheriff’s races would be a good place to start. 25 seats in the house over 6 years sounds far-fetched without a serious sell-out. Even with a serious sell-out, it sounds far fetched, because of institutional barriers to third parties, regardless of ideology, in the winner-takes-all system.

    On the other hand, Sheriffs races could be doable, especially in small rural counties. In fact several have been won already. Sheriffs can kick the feds out of their county. This would be an excellent place to start. Instead of a free state project, how about free county projects in numerous states?

  3. Paulie:

    Can you find some serious LP sheriff’s races for me? I’d be plenty happy to blog about them and their prospects if you come across any.

  4. Don’t know off hand of any running this year.

    I think Bill Masters is still in office in Colorado, but I haven’t heard of him using his power to kick the feds out.
    He’s a “moderate libertarian” from what I’ve read.

    I did hear of a few Sheriffs dowing that, notably Nye County, Nevada, in regards to property rights, but they weren’t Big L libertarians. More like patriot constitutionalist types.

    My sister got 12% for Sheriff in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 2002
    running as a Libertarian in a two-way race, but she’s now a

  5. There is nothing realistic about getting any Libertarian elected. There is currently no visible incentive for the electorate to do such a stupid thing. The entire voting system is rigged vertically to prevent such a thing from happening as well.

    The Free State Project might very well get some Libertarians elected, if enough people participate. In any case, there is no current incentive for people to support liberty. There will be an upheaval based upon the coming fiscal collapse. All of the current excesses will have to be purged. Unfortunately, Libertarians own misunderstanding and ignorance of this does them a grave disservice. It is your obligation to survive such a situation, and preferably to profit wildly from it. He who has the gold makes the rules.

  6. There are about 3,000 counties in the US. I’d say getting a few Sheriffs elected with the promise of asserting local authority is an achievable goal, as is the promotion of fully informed juries as a separate branch of government.

    Store up all the gold and silver you want, and don’t forget the lead.

  7. Richard Mack was an LP member at one time. Not sure if he was already out of office by then? I think he’s in the IAP now.

  8. Perhaps Devious David should change his nickname to Defeatist David. ;)

    Seriously, it is doable, my point was simply that it’s unreasonable to expect to to win the presidency without first establishing a base in the House. This same model could work for states assemblies as well.

    I also disagree with George’s claim that national security is the Democrat’s issue. True, President Bush and therefore the GOP has taken some hits on the issue, and Homeland Security may well turn out to be simply ineffective, bureaucratic window dressing, but overall I’m sure most Americans who don’t strongly identify with either major party would side with a Republican administration over a Democrat administration on security.

  9. Speaking unofficially on behalf of the hundreds of Free Staters who have moved… we are making a difference NOW.

    For example, we stopped a smoking ban, a handful of activists up against the money/might of the anti-smoking lobbies. This wasn’t “We helped big money tobacco”, or “We helped XYZ”.. We were it. We were the front line, and we were unpaid.

    Give us another 500 people here in New Hampshire and watch out. Someone new the other day watched, and within hours, he was convinced… “You really don’t need 20K here, do you? Just a few thousand…. Wow.”

    If you don’t believe me… come & visit. We’ll convince you.

    National Swastional… we need LOCAL and State Level changes first… and we’re making it happen here.

  10. I agree with most all of this post. I would, however, add one other element: it is possible to use other elections as platforms for name-recognition.

    I think the biggest thing M. Badnarik has going for him right now is the simple fact that, two years ago, he got a great deal of name recognition for running for president. I’m certain he is now getting national aid & funding.

  11. Quote:
    Seriously, it is doable, my point was simply that it’s unreasonable to expect to to win the presidency without first establishing a base in the House. This same model could work for states assemblies as well.
    Comment by Charles Stricklin — 2006-04-09 @ 7:36 pm
    End quote

    Which is why dramatic measures are needed to overcome the electoral barriers, such as an “Impeach Bush” based publicity generating plank I recently asked congressional candidates about. Not that impeaching Bush is such a generally palatable idea, but generating publicity is an extremely difficult task for Libertarians.
    The general populace shuns self-righteous publicity depicting Democrats and Republicans as villains ‘in theory’, but hot-button events which both fail to address are natural attractions for keen journalists.

    In the absence of taking news-worthy stances, most media will continue to ignore Libertarians, deliberately.

  12. I strongly disagree with Paul. Exposure and publicity are one thing, but an “Impeach Bush” campaign will only backfire on you.

    You should always strive to win elections by touting what’s positive about your position, not by driving your opponent’s negatives up. It make you look petty and mean, it indicates that you’re playing establishment politics, and in some cases, for example Clinton, it can create a sort of “underdog encampment” mentality where voters actually support the one being attacked.

    For another thing, in 2008 Bush won’t be running, someone else will. Better to point out the failures of an administration leaving office than kick one when it’s poll numbers are down.

  13. PA

    I like the impeach Bush idea. I’m looking for help with the language of an actual resolution that libertarians can endorse. So far I’ve just taken what I’ve found on the web and stripped whatever egregious UN references I could find.

    Would you help us out with this? I’d like something we can present to candidates, local and state parties, national, etc.

    If we can generate fundimg to pay petitioners, we can circulate it as a contact list and maybe team up with voter reg deals to make some real money which can be put to good use – as can the list.

    Here’s what I have so far.


    Really need some help on this ASAP.

    If we could be for impeaching Clinton, why not Bush?

  14. MG,

    Pretty good ideas. I’m passing it on to a few lists, attributed to you of course.

    Elaborate a little – your writing is very economical and to the point, but people may miss some of your points because you are throwing out so many ideas so quickly.

    Maybe throw in some links, names, anecdotes, case studies, etc.

    Sounds like a great outline, but needs filler.

    What do you think of Gonzales running as a Democrat this year? Do you think his chances are any better than as an L?

  15. Certainly there is quite a bit to be said for effective organization of campaigns, and coordination within the state. Right now we have two models of LP success… Florida and Indiana. Florida’s strength seems to lie in organization and niceness; they’re the one state where the purist model is actually working that I am aware of. Indiana, however, seems to be doing very well with the pragmatist model.

    Ultimately, it’s just about figuring out what will work. If the purist model ends up being more successful, I want that. But I confess some skepticism, and I do think that a one-size-fits-all approach is a bad idea. What works in one state may not work in another.

  16. It’s a false dichotomy. A purist can be pragmatic. And a sell-out can be ineffective. If it works in Florida, why wouldn’t it work anywhere else?

  17. Because local cultures vary from state to state?

    Purist views seem to be far more successful in Latin America than here, take the old Movimiento Libertario in Costa Rica for instance. Well, there’s far more Latin American culture present in Florida than Indiana, so what works will be changed accordingly. That’s just the most obvious difference, too. Rural states will vote differently than urban states, one religion will vote differently than another, etc.

  18. Movmiento Libertario went to all pramatist, and ran off the purists and now there is no point in there being a movmiento at all. Oh and their election results were worse when they went pragmatic too.

  19. Movmiento Libertario went to all pragmatist, and ran off the purists and now there is no point in there being a movmiento at all. Oh and their election results were worse when they went pragmatic too.

    The election results were flat, not worse. They maintained the same number of seats in the legislature.

    Also, the purists took their ball and went home. While there may have been pressure on them to leave, you should be very careful about listening to only one side.

    If they get the same results without the purists, that tells me that the purists had no net positive effect on election results. That’s the real lesson to take away fro the ML results.

  20. Another point is that people respect sincerity.
    An electorate confused by those who run as Libertarians
    while passively supporting (=tolerating) current regime
    agenda will never vote Libertarian.
    “I do what I say, and, I say what I do” speaks louder
    than “I am a libertarian, except for ___________”.
    Being wishy-washy about principles is what got Amerika
    to where it is today.

    Yet another point:
    Libertarians who push the pragmatism/gradualist agenda
    are actually working harder to gradually eliminate
    the core of the ideals we bought into.
    Gradualism means gradually surrendering our principles,
    because as the Gradualists attract more Authoritarians
    into the Party ranks, the fundamental principles
    will be, by democratic means, abandoned.

    Be real, or get lost,
    but do not pretend to be fair-weather Libertarians.

    An ardent core membership coherent to the idea of Liberty
    can do far more than some watered-down carnival-tent act.