Libertarian Party Correspondent
DENVER, COLORADO, JUNE 15-18, 1973
It all began Wednesday night when Dave Nolan, chairman Pro Tem of the Libertarian Party, said, "Well. I think the libertarian position on issues has been pretty well codified."
He had set up a two bedroom suite at the Radisson Hotel (our convention center) to greet early arrivals and several delegates were present.
I immediately took issue with Dave's remark, pointing out the myriad of "schools" within the libertarian spectrum and resulting interpretations of "Thou shalt not initiate force."
As it turned out, the 100 or so conference representatives were a combination of students of Objectivism, praxiologists, anarcho-capitalists, variations of the above, a bircher or two, a few Christian libertarians, a Friedmanite, and a couple non-classified (Old right isolationist, I think.)
On Thursday morning the conference opened quietly in the Radisson's Vail Room with the open platform committee hearings. Discussion was orderly, a few speeches were given, and the revision of the platform took place step-by-step. It was a good atmosphere, and people enjoyed getting acquainted by means of exchanging ideas.
No immediate conclusion could be reached on the preamble to the party platform because of the differences of opinion as to what it should contain. Some thought that philosophy and ethics should be explicitly presented and others pointed out that we were a political party, not a philosophical organization. No style for wording found favor. The preamble was submitted to a subcommittee.
Work on the specific planks continued at a fairly even pace with lots of discussion and some argumentation.
The constitution, rules and by-laws committee upstairs worked at a rapid and smooth pace and, as it turned out, did an excellent job. The convention accepted their work with very little revision.
The preamble subcommittee could not agree and Thursday evening the preamble was handed back to the platform committee for further action. Dr. John Hospers was present and everyone was excited about the ideas he offered.
At this evening session the foreign policy section was revised—and badly. Contradictions were obvious, and the lack of study in this area by all concerned was evident. The crisis was in its seedling stage.
By Friday morning one thing had become clear. Everyone knew what they wanted to say, but there was very little agreement on how to say it. The pace of work increased to meet the 12:30 deadline for submitting the working copy of the platform to the printers.
The domestic section of the platform ranged from fair to excellent and revision would be minimal. The foreign policy section was a laughter and the Vietnam war plank was a joke. "We favor total and immediate withdrawal from Vietnam. We will offer sanctuary to all those who desire it."
I had visions of hundreds of boatloads of Vietnamese being dropped off in Los Angeles harbor, and heading straight for my luxury apartment in Long Beach to plant rice in my flower pots. The plank was quickly revised.
There is a saying that goes "a giraffe is a zebra created by a committee." Such was the preamble. It was ponderous, wordy, with semicolon upon comma and completely devoid of style. It said what we wanted it to say, but no one could understand it.
The 12:30 Friday deadline was met and the platform was printed up in the rough.
In the afternoon the constitution, rules, and by-laws session proceeded smoothly.
When we received the copies of the rough platform at the cocktail party in the evening, some serious discussion took place to determine a course of action for correcting the preamble. More work than partying took place at the party.
That night, thirteen versions of a preamble were submitted to the platform committee chairman, Pipp Boyles. We would pick five based on content and style and they would be presented to the convention for vote. It was the only way integrity of style could be kept.
Saturday morning the convention members agreed to the platform adoption procedure. Revision and adoption of the domestic section of the platform proceeded beautifully. There was some nit-picking and context dropping but chairman Dave Nolan provided some good leadership to get things moving when they were faltering.
Out of the five preambles presented to the conference, three—by Mark Fraizer, John Hospers, and Paul Hodgson—were chosen for the second round of votes. All three were excellent. Now it was a matter of style.
Another vote after more discussion. Mark Fraizer and John Hospers' versions left. More discussion—another vote. Hosper's version is selected. After very minor revisions, the Libertarian Party adopts a preamble. Hospers is given a standing ovation.
Willis E. Stone, author of the Liberty Amendment, addressed the convention. In a moving and eloquent speech, the old political warhorse saluted us and compared our gathering with the signers of the Declaration of Independence. He seemed to have a deep understanding and comprehension of what we were attempting to achieve—much more so than anyone else there. I hope he is right.
By late Saturday afternoon we were way behind schedule. After dinner, the domestic portion of the platform was finished. Overall, it is excellent.
About 10:00 PM we started on the foreign policy section. It went from bad to worse. Contradictions were flagrant, inconsistency characterized several planks, and violent arguments raged among the delegates. At 1:30 AM we reached the Vietnam war plank and the contradictions were obvious to everyone. There were deep divisions between the delegates and the party was in danger of collapse. Dave Nolan addressed the delegates.
He pointed out the problems and left the course of action up to us. We could strike the whole foreign policy section to save the party, we could take an inconsistent stand on issues and alienate a large block of delegates, or we could work it out. The crisis was at hand.
Frank Robinson, the parliamentarian, provided the solution. Submit the section to a committee of the whole for reconsideration. We did and voted to strike the whole foreign policy section and start all over.
For three hours 50 to 70 delegates determinedly ground out a foreign policy section. When we hit specific planks we could not agree on, they were struck from the platform. What remained was more general, but solid. We had done it. We were tired, but feeling good. Under the platform is a good wide base, but it needs to be worked on extensively. At the very least, we bought the time needed to work on it.
Sunday morning we adopted the platform. We planned to have additional planks submitted after the elections and nominations.
Dr. John Hospers of California and James Bryan of Oregon contested the presidential candidate nominations. Both were excellent choices. Dr. Hospers won the nomination by better than a two to one margin. Jim was later elected to the Executive Committee.
Tonie Nathan of Oregon and Diane Amsden of New Mexico competed for the running mate position. Tonie Nathan won and Diane was later elected as the National Secretary.
Susan Nolan of Colorado was elected as National Chairman and Ed Clark of New York became the Vice Chairman. Pipp Boyles of Colorado was elected Treasurer.
By late Sunday afternoon an executive committee had been elected. It was a good section of delegates.
Time ran out and people were scurrying to catch planes. No more platform planks could be submitted.
The convention officially ended after Diane Amsdens' eloquent speech honoring Ayn Rand. Miss Rand was accorded a standing ovation as a small tribute to her magnificent achievements which inspired us all in varying degrees.
Many thousands of words will have to be written about the convention to detail the personal experience, the emotional moments, the hundreds of important incidents, and the many legends that will spring up from future reminiscences. I hope other writers will enthusiastically accomplish this task.
Perhaps history will someday tell us of the significance of the convention. But for the present we have only forged the platform from which the intellectual missiles can be launched.
We have a chance to issue a call to arms to the world. Let's hope we do it properly.
State Chairman Pro-Tem,
California Libertarian Party