Pathetic Showing By Badnarik

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As of ten minutes ago, 316,008 votes, for a 0.3 percent popular take, leaving him in fourth place, well behind Nader, who wasn't even on the ballot in any states with electricity.

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  1. Clearly, the backlash against the Amish begins.

    (See comment to Jesse Walker’s post below.)

    Anon.

  2. You expected any less?

    Hold on, let me climb back up on the soapbox: the LP will never, never, never become a “legitimate” party with viable candidates on a national level (or even gubernatorial level) as long it maintains its obsession with legalizing drugs.

    OK, I’ll climb back down now.

  3. You sound disappointed.

    Personally, if my local cubscout master walked off with 300,000 votes I’d be pleasantly surprised.

  4. But the LP faithful can take solace in the fact that they’ll only have his 1040 when they pry it from his cold, dead hands.

  5. david,

    How many of the 99.7% of voters who did not vote Libertarian are even aware of the LP’s stance on drug legalization?

    I think the biggest barrier facing the LP is that few people know what they’re about. I’m sure that far more than 0.3% of Americans are willing to consider drug legalization.

  6. I keep hearing this line. It’s silly. Welcome to 2004: The drug war was barely a blip on Badnarik’s radar. The drug position is not some massive albatross holding the LP down from the massive vote tallies it’d otherwise be garnering.

  7. As a marketer, I’ll say this:

    The LP suffers from a lack of brand awareness and a lack of an esteemed brand image. Even so, the system is so stacked for the 2 big parties, most folks who would entertain voting for an LP candidate, would consider an LP vote to be “thrown away”.

    I agree with much more of the LP platfomr than the Bush one, yet I still completed the Bush arrow on the bllaot because of the latter reason.

  8. […]LP will never, never, never become a “legitimate” party with viable candidates on a national level (or even gubernatorial level) as long it maintains its obsession with legalizing drugs.

    I agree completely. The LP needs to take on mainstream issues, but with the libertarian viewpoint. They can maintain the issue from a philosophical viewpoint, but as a major campaign issue- it’s dead for the time being.

    Paul

  9. 300k-400k is a great result for Badnarik considering his budget of 1 million dollars — very well run campaign…he has nothing to be ashamed of

  10. Crimethink:

    It doesn’t matter. To be talked about, you have to get notice of the press, who are as a group, aware of those issues. The LP must get the press’ attention first. Until then, they’re just some 3rd party like the Revolutionary Communist Party.

    Paul

  11. Well so what to anyone who thinks it really matters. The world goes on.
    What can you expext in an electaion where even many “libertarians” decided they had to vote for the “lesser” of two evils.
    The main argument is over which is the lesser evil.

  12. Paul,

    So what issues can the LP emphasize to get attention, while remaining true to principle? All the ones that distinguish them from Dems and Repubs are highly controversial.

  13. Nader’s relatively libertarian views on some issues of the Drug War haven’t hurt him, nor have more “conservative” third parties with many somewhat libertarian positions, except the supposedly taboo “social” issues such as drug legalization, do better than the LP.

    The LP’s problem is not the issues Badnarik, Browne, or any other presidential candidate has happened to stress.

  14. Here in Georgia, Allen Buckley, the Lib candidate for Senate, got more voters than Badnarik by a 4-1 margin. I think Badnarik’s poor showing is a result of two things.

    1. The presidential race was hotly contested.
    2. He’s a kook.

  15. The Drug War is a mainstream issue, folks. It’s not mainstream enough to win, but the LP doesn’t run presidential candidates to win.

    Claiming the income tax is voluntary, on the other hand, is cranky.

  16. ok, I’ll say it again:

    Run a Libertarian Gov. or Sen. for president.

    Don’t have any?! Then run for, and win, one of those offices first before you spend a single dime on a waste-of-oxygen national campaign. Stop grumbling about the BIG TWO and start thinking about how many political neophytes have won national office from either major party in the past half century. Sobering.

    You all remind me of pimply-faced fan fiction writers who think that Gene Rodenberry’s going to rise from the dead to annoint them the next head writer on a series. (Sorry for the analogy, but it seemed like the only one that would get through.)

    Grow the fuck up and earn what you want.

  17. Here in NY the lib senate candidate also got double the votes of Badnarik. Of course, there were also about 2 million more votes for Senate than for Prez.

  18. crimethink:
    So what issues can the LP emphasize to get attention, while remaining true to principle?

    Good question. My vision for the LP has (as of the last couple of election cycles) is to start engaging in more political gamesmanship. This would undoubtedly alienate some core (base) LP members- but might bring in more moderate swing voters from the 2 major parties looking for a new home. The LP should review all of its principles, see which ones have some following between both major parties and emphasize those. Basically, in a way, do the opposite of distinguishing themselves- start out by showing where they’re LIKE the two major parties. ONce the press starts to talk about the LP, they can start distinguishing themselves on the details.

    The LP party should possibly become more hawkish regarding the military. Like it or not, America is a nation of hawkish voters. It should emphasize tax cuts- and some form of ‘easy to swallow’ tax reform- but sell it to dems by leaning hard on corporate tax evasion/cuts/welfare. Quit haranguing about the IRS being unconstitutional. Start marginalizing the nut-cases (even if I agree with some of them- another discussion). And perhaps bring up some new issues that neither party talks about, such as property rights– bring those to the forefront. If the LP did that, they’d probably garner a lot of western state denizens who feel the DEMS have walked all over property rights over the last few years.

  19. Prohibition with a Libertarian take….riiiiight.

  20. The purpose is not to “win office”, but to change the way people believe. Winning office is about being what people already believe.

  21. Anthony Gregory:

    No, it may not be issues that Badnarik, Browne et al has pushed, but it’s issues that the LP in general has pushed. The party has set the tone, not any individual candidate. The LP (like many 3rd parties) is still a landing zone for political ‘lost souls’. So individuals within the party have a wide ranging set of issues that are personal to them, even if the PARTY has an identifiable set. The LP has pushed the drug legalization issue too hard in previous years, and done too much damage. It doesn’t matter what you or I say or KNOW the LP is about, it only matters what everyone else thinks.

    Paul

  22. Tim, I think you’re leaving out the fact that Nader was also on the ballot in New York (i.e., a place with electricity), where he beat Badnarik by about 80,000 votes.

    Badnarik is going to finish about 35,000 behind Nader, so if Nader was in fact only on ballots in states without electricity, then Badnarik would have beaten him.

    Badnarik obviously had a bad showing even his own standards (see New Mexico), but no need to exaggerate his defeat.

  23. Jesse:

    The drug war is a mainstream issue from what point? I’m not going to dispute its IMPORTANCE, but how much time did either Kerry, Bush or the mainstream media spend on the drug war in this last election? I admit that I tried to ignore this election as much as possible, but I don’t remember any of it coming up in any serious way (aside from Bush’s odd reference to illegal steroid use- which no one’s figured out yet)

    Paul

  24. Look at the numbers… it looks like Iowa is going to be this election’s florida. Nader could break that state.

    Paul

  25. It’s just one man’s opinion, but I think people do, in fact, know about libertarians and libertainism but simply like the statist parties (and the government loot they deliver) more. Generations have now been raised on the idea that government should provide you with damn near everything, with the list increasing all the while. Idividualists are now far, far outnumbered by collectivists. Lets face it, the vast majority of people seem to like big government. It sucks, but I don’t see a change anytime soon.

  26. The LP does badly because people like government. It cannot be more obviously true.

  27. It’s not the war on drugs issue. It’s the polarization of America via chicken little politics. The LP would not see any change in its numbers by de-emphasizing the illegal drug issue.
    On the other hand, the war on drugs has been such an expensive fiasco, that it is necessary to point that out to the public whenever possible.

    Change takes time, oh ye of little patience.

  28. Matt,

    You and I may agree in principle, but life is politics- and to get the ship to turn around, the LP needs to start looking at incremental wins with some serious compromising. Either that, or the LP is going to just have to settle for being a spoiler party which brings issues to the table for the big two to discuss, then bow out once the discussion gets going.

    Paul

  29. Actually, polls have hound that a majority of citizens think the government is too big. But the libertarian party can’t win, so few will “waste their vote” on it. And I think it obvious that many, if not most, voters are casting negative votes.

  30. During a thread last week, I proposed the LP take up a platform resembling the following if it wanted to get serious about winning votes without completely selling out:

    1. A flat income tax, with no exemptions or deductions
    2. A balanced-budget amendment
    3. SS privatization, with the long-term goal of making it optional
    4. Cuts in entitlement spending
    5. Phase-out of all farm subsidies and corporate welfare
    6. Reduce the regulatory powers of the FCC, SEC, FDA, EPA, etc.
    7. Support for abortion rights, gay marriage, and euthanasia.
    9. Legalization of marijuana and other soft drugs, oppose prison sentencing for any recreational drug use.
    10. Strong but rational support for private gun ownership
    11. Reduce drinking age to 18, oppose DUI law excesses
    12. Support civil liberties against the machinations of both the right (certain Patriot Act provisions, Drug War laws) and the left (campaign finance laws, seat belt laws)
    13. Liberal but rational immigration policies
    14. A moderate foreign policy that avoids foreign conflicts and entanglements whenever possible, but eschews head-in-the-sand isolationism

    As I noted then, I think an agenda along those lines, if promoted by respectable candidates, could be good enough for the support of 10-15% of the populace, with demographic trends making further gains possible over the long run. At least unless the Republicans responded by seriously altering their agenda, both in theory and practice.

  31. I actually think the drug issue is not perceived as all that looney. Abolishing the IRS, abolishing all the departments of this and that, those are perceived as wacko.

    “Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal.” That’s a winning position, and slogan. Stick to that message and the LP could start to succeed. Be vague, don’t get down to specifics about abolishing elevator inspectors (actual issue discussed on Letterman by LP candidate back in the 90s, sheesh). Don’t talk about legalizing all drugs- talk about reforming the War on Drugs, maybe legalizing small amounts of marijuana, and with prescription drugs stick to pain medication. Stick to the broad message and if specifics come up talk up positions that die-hard LP-ers would consider minor progress. I think there are enough people who sympathize with the broad ideology of Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal that support could be built. It gives a way of drawing people in with terms they understand; hitting people over the head with lectures about personal liberty and the gold standard puts people off.

    That, and finding the right personalities.

  32. Looking at the Lib votes in the California assembly races, vote %ages seem to be up.
    http://vote2004.ss.ca.gov/Returns/stasm/all.htm

  33. Like almost every self-described libertarian, I have my pet plan for how the LP could best focus its energies.

    Like almost every self-described libertarian, I have my theories on where Badnarik erred.

    Thing is, the guy was so obscure that it’s not clear that his kookiness got enough play to be the deciding factor in his miserable performance. Maybe his kookiness caused his obscurity. Or maybe his kookiness was a non-issue because he’s too obscure for anybody to realize he’s a nut. (Quick show of hands: How many people here know anything about my crazy uncle? That’s what I thought.) In that case he did so poorly because of some other problem.

    All I do know right now is that he did miserably. What I don’t know is what it would take to do better. I have my theories, but I’m not convinced of them. I’m not even convinced that moderation is the right way to crack the 1% threshold, because doing so might alienate a base of volunteers and donors.

    Aw, hell, I’m just depressed right now about this. I guess I’m incoherent.

  34. “Actually, polls have found that a majority of citizens think the government is too big.”

    But then ask them what programs or spending should be cut. It’s easy to say “govenrment is too big, cut it down to size.” But when it comes down to gutting programs that benefit you or that you see as valuable, I suspect it’s a bit harder to convince people that that particular program is bad. Since most everyone has a different opinion of what is a “good” government program and a “bad” one, I think a reduction in the overall size of government is highly unlikely.

    In general, I think that electoral politics will never work in achieving liberty. It might be good for converting a few folks here and there, but not much else. Ultimately, if it comes from anywhere, I think liberty will come from free market innovation. At this point I’m not sure how exactly, but I have more faith in it than any government solution.

  35. Build the party, build the party, build the party.
    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    It’s very difficult running against members of the political class. They can spend a lot of time campaigning and they can collect a lot of lupens from prospective beneficiaries.

    The typical LP campaign is run on a shoestring.
    That just won’t cut it.

    Build the party, raise a lot of money.

  36. Moderating itself is not the LP’s best path to victory, much less to victory for freedom.

    James Gray was quite moderate, and got a poor showing in a state that wasn’t even close in the Senate race.

    If the LP moderates to get 5% of the votes, how much will it have to water down liberty to get 15%? 34%?

    The LP will probably never take power, stay principled, AND effectively reduce government. If voting in that sense could change anything, it _would_ be illegal.

    The LP’s function should be to promote pure libertarianism, using the media attention that third party candidates can sometimes get. That’s what brought many people to libertarianism.

    The LP won’t win the presidency and bring liberty to America. But it might help teach enough people about liberty to refuse to ever vote Republicrat again.

  37. “I’m not even convinced that moderation is the right way to crack the 1% threshold, because doing so might alienate a base of volunteers and donors.”

    Possibly. Or it might be just what’s needed to significantly expand the base of volunteers and donors.

    I think you have a point about the lack of public awareness affecting public support. But again, I think the general “kookiness” of both the candidates and the Party’s official agenda has something to do with the lack of media attention. Consider how Ross Perot was able to come out of nowhere in ’92 and draw considerable media attention due to a combination of money and an agenda that much of the public found to be in the mainstream.

  38. If the LP moderates to get 5% of the votes, how much will it have to water down liberty to get 15%? 34%?

    Anthony, an excellent comment, and one that now bears the ‘glass is half full/empty’ allegory.

    I don’t see it as watering down liberty, I see it as watering down statism. The lp isn’t going to turn this country into an LP paradise in a CENTURY at the rate it’s going. Liberty is already watered down and is quickly becoming statism. We’re careening toward a European style government of cradle to grave entitlements and government intervention. Let’s start watering that down.

    Paul

  39. Eric II:

    The Ross Perot candidacy is a great point. Perot was a man who ran on a liberarian(ish) platform with a folksy/populist approach. He spoke in generalities of smaller government- usually by reducing entitlement programs by eliminating benefits for the wealthy (social security was one of those issues). He talked of simplifying government- reducing the wackiness of bureaucracy- doing the will of the people (ill defined as usual).

    Point being, as a third party candidate he was wildly successful. The LP needs to garner that but without the baggage of the cult of personality that Perot like 3rd party candidates often carry. That way the issues will transfer from candidate to candidate and election to election- where once Perot was marginalized, so was his ‘party’.

  40. Matt
    I don’t disagree with you, but it might be possible to persuade people if they weren’t so caught up in the chicken little politics that dominates the electoral process.

  41. Breakdown of the libertarian vote:

    25%- voted for Bush, afraid of Kerry winning the election.

    25%- voted for Kerry, afraid of Bush winning the election.

    25%- did not vote in order to send some sort of assinine message that no one will understand.

    25%- voted Libertarian

  42. I’m not sure Badnarik did so bad compared to Nader considering the miniscule fraction of Nader’s news coverage he got.

  43. so, everyone always bitches about the LP, about how they have no chance, are crazy, ETC. My question then is what would the LP have to do to win LIBERTARIAN votes to begin with. I am just baffled by the fact that so many libertarians dislike the LP. I’d be incredibly interested to see an article in Reason outlining what they believe the LP can and should do to become a legitimate party in the US. What would you have done differently this election if you were in charge of the LP?

    Please, I dont want to hear bitching, I want to hear solutions!

  44. After tonight, my mind’s made up; I’m running for a local/state position in 2006.

    I’m a graphic designer of the better half of a decade, and knowledgeable enough in marketing to make me somewhat dangerous, so it’s worth a shot to inject some real credibility our local LP races and demonstrate not all of us are kooks, Republican pot smokers, or [insert pejorative nouns here].

    I’ve been involved with the LP in various capacities [mostly as a voter/supporter] since 1996, and this party has an image and branding problem — I couldn’t agree more with that standpoint. However, I strongly [and respectfully] disagree that this party is beyond repair, especially on the local and state levels.

    Wish me luck.

  45. Paul: There’s substantial intellectual support for some sort of legalization, and there’s popular support for milder measures like medical marijuana and civil forfeiture reform. In the last decade, two governors have been elected despite opposing the Drug War (though they didn’t push the issue in office), as have some legislators.

    It wasn’t part of the presidential race, but a sane, articulate candidate could inject it and not be laughed off the stage.

  46. I’d also like to add, it’s not the message, it’s the delivery. How the hell do you think the Republicans have been so good at delivering radical ideas [such as banning gay marriage] so efficiently to what was becoming a more liberal society for the better half of a decade?

    Fear, that’s how, and the right targetted delivery to the right people.

    That said, the LP’s message of Liberty does *not* have to be watered down. We have to do the footwork to determine those that would be best served the message, plant the seeds by determining what issues resonate best [rather than picking them from the air on a whim], and let the people spread the message amongst themselves by way of common interest. It can be done, and we’ve seen how efficiently it can be done. Not by way of fear, but of Liberty itself — a message nobody should fear.

  47. Jesse: Operative words: ‘didn’t push the issue’. You and I may agree on the drug war as an issue, but what I’m saying is that it should be sidelined, or seriously marginalized by the LP. It can be a stated principle, but they should be talking about things like:

    terrorism/bin laden- et. al.
    the war in iraq.
    ss privatization.
    (some type of)tax reform.
    patriot act.
    school vouchers.
    federal involvement in local schools.
    abortion (but not abortion on demand).

    Oh, and one more thing– substantial intellectual support doesn’t always translate easily to popular support. Yes, some states are squeaking some ‘medical marijuana’ laws past. I still say that hardly amounts to drug legalization. To wit: if drug legalization was popular, we wouldn’t be seeing ‘medical marijuana’ laws, we’d be seeing ‘legaize marijuana use’ laws.

  48. Look folks, to paraphrase a supreme court judge, joining the LP shouldn’t be a suicide pact. Look at almost any candidate that YOU personally liked, and actually WON some significant political battles, and look objectively– what do you find? You find uncomfortable compromises. Everyone from FDR, to Ronald Reagan, to Bill Clinton.

    FDR made major compromises with his New Deal, and even snubbed some hard left candidates which were shoe-in’s for his endorsement so key governors would support the New Deal in their state. Reagan strategically raised taxes (despite being a smaller government/anti-tax president). Clinton embraced welfare reform and many free-market ideals (like garlic to a vampire with many democrats– yet Dems have a blind love of this man I’ll never understand).

    From where I see it, the LP must make some compromises- the only question remaining is what and how much.

    Paul

  49. I think people do, in fact, know about libertarians and libertarianism but simply like the statist parties (and the government loot they deliver) more.

    Four years ago I was explaining to some friends why I was voting for Harry Browne, and their first question was, “Well, what’s he going to do for us?”

    That’s what people want. They want to know “What he’s going to do for us.” Liberty? Freedom? Wasn’t on their mind. It was all about what they were going to get.

    A pity…

  50. Here is what I don’t understand:

    a) Americans vote.
    b) Presumably they might know something about the parties standing and their policies.
    c) Therefore why do Reason readers say they are rejecting the LP, rather than simply not knowing about it?

  51. “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.”

    In other words, you have to live in the real world. “Watering down” some of the more “extreme” positions of the LP would, in fact, broaden the appeal of the party and the ideals.

  52. You can chalk that up to the LP doing a lousy job of letting people know they had a candidate.

    A friend of mine, a senior producer at Fox, told me he hadn’t even heard the name “Badnarik” until two weeks ago.

    That’s sad.

  53. It’s pretty sad that the LP couldn’t do better in a year with such poor major party candidates. We can sit here and quibble about what’s wrong (or deny that there’s anything wrong with the LP at all), but the fact remains that the LP isn’t going to win anything the way it’s going. Perhaps moderating the message to something more Cato-like and focusing on getting members more than on running pointless campaigns would be helpful. Zeus knows voters are frustrated enough to be open to switching parties. Heck, just getting an accurate message out at all might help, even if it isn’t moderated!

    A GOP friend of mine called last night to tell me he’d voted LP. However, he did so because of frustration with the status quo, not because of any particular respect for the LP. He’s thinking about joining the party, but he’s hesitant because he thinks they’re “whacked out about drugs”. And, now that I think about it, we went to a local LP meeting a few years ago, where both of us were rolling our eyes a few times too many.

  54. What Paul is suggesting is that the LP become the JR (“Junior Republican”) Party. I suspect there’s a lack of understanding of the purpose and function of a minor party in what is, regrettably, a “two-party” system (namely to inject new ideas). Becoming the JRs wouldn’t work, since not only would new ideas not be injected, but as a minor party everyone in the “circus” would still be free to ignore it; more so, in fact, as there would be no “unique selling proposition.”

    It would probably be more effective to pull a Ron Paul, but, as I’ve pointed out before, the Big Two won’t let you into the festivities unless you have your “hand stamped” (and let’s face it, Dr. P as a party-crasher is very much an anomoly).

    JMJ

  55. I agree with the person who said it was amazing that so many self-described libertarians seemed to hate the LP. The self-satisfied smugness and even outright glee in this thead is rather pungent. I think the same impulse that causes the internecine wars within the LP impels those scoffers outside the LP to pooh-pooh the party and dance on its alleged grave every four years. When you do, you disrespect the effort and resources of a good many people. The Badnarik campaign raised over $1M through nickel-and-dime individual contributions for the most part. This is significant, and so many here seem to spit at that. Very, very sad.

    I also agree with the person who said that Badnarik ran a very good $1M campaign. When all the votes are counted, I think he will exceed Browne’s 2000 vote total, yielding a decent vote-per-dollar ratio.

    Finally, I agree that the third-party/alternative vote this year was way down in general, according to C-SPAN, about 1.5M out of 115M cast (i.e., approximately 1.3% in total). Nader was your bellwether. Even giving him a 50% handicap due to poor ballot access, his vote total was wretched. I doubt that even the great Nader, on ballots in all 50 states, could have cracked a million this year.

    Given the larger perspective, I think it is silly for people to beat themselves up, or to beat up the LP, for Badnarik’s showing this time. I most emphatically believe that calls to “moderate” and “compromise” are off-base. Why? One reason is that I saw this year, as in no previous year since 1980, a willingness of people in my own area and among my own circle of acquaintances to entertain the libertarian positions — “radical” stances and all — and to seriously consider or even commit to voting for Libertarian candidates. I’m talking about people who, even recently, would have joined you all in bashing Badnarik and the LP here. I stuck to my guns, interacting with them over the years, but all I did was continue to point out the basic good sense of libertarian positions against actual events and developments in reality, as they unfolded. These people convinced themselves not to be afraid or automatically dismissive of libertarianism, and in many cases, even to embrace the philosophy, as well as the LP and its candidates.

    The one thing I find disturbing about the campaign season was the relatively poor showing of James Gray for Senate in California. His opponents (especially Boxer) wouldn’t give him a debate. For the most part, the media actively shunned him (I have first hand evidence of this, having drafted and circulated press releases, and heard the stories from my wife, who personally followed-up with media organizations — all of whom couldn’t be bothered to mention, much less send a reporter to cover, Gray’s appearance at a local high school). Solid funding eluded him. All this despite the fact that he was one of the best qualified, most reasonable, most professional and serious candidates ever fielded by the LP for any office, anywhere. More than that, his time in the justice system (most recently, as a sitting Superior Court Judge in southern CA) gave him unique qualifications to argue authoritatively against both the Drug War and the PATRIOT act. Finally, he had been GOP most of his life and career, so nobody could have accused him of being a political wallflower or hermit. He was about as personable as you would expect a judge to be, though that was considerably less charismatic than, say, Governer Schwarzenegger. All in all, he was a solid, stand-up guy, fitting the description of the candidate that the “get real, LP” throng seems to believe the LP should run in order to be successful.

    It would have been heartbreaking, but encouraging, for Gray to pull 7-10% and lose nobly: this would have validated the “get real, LP” faction, and signaled that a big push and more money might make the difference next time. To have him draw only 1-2% of the vote, and in many cases come in second to the Peace and Freedom candidate (who, to be fair to her, sounded pretty good in radio interviews I heard), is just baffling, even demoralizing. The biggest conundrum to me: Gray as much as stated that every vote for him would be seen as a vote against the War on Drugs. So tell me: did people not hear his challenge, because Boxer was incredibly safe for re-election, and Demo/indie voters who wanted to end the drug war could have gone for Gray without harming the Senator one bit? Or did they indeed hear his challenge, and by staying away from Gray, instead voting overwhelmingly for candidates who will pretty much maintain the Drug War status quo, did they endorse the prevailing policy concerning drugs? I don’t know if such questions can ever be answered, from pondering the 2004 election and its results, but I think we need to get a handle on the answers, however we can, before the next electoral test.

  56. The electorate of the US has, over the years, been groomed by the Asses and Elephants (with the complicity of the press), that the elections are a “Bud Bowl” battle between… the Asses and Elephants. Because of this, barring a big-time campaign by a big-time “cult of personality” candidate, the odds of significant results by a minor party candidate are slim to none, and the only attention they may get (a la Ralph Nader) is as “one ‘a’dem rotten bastard spoilers” (with a sinister undertone of “doing something” about such in the future, e.g. still more ballot access restrictions).

    It’s unfortunate, but (in my experience anyway), people vote much in the same way as they support the Red Sox as opposed to the Yankees (or vice versa). In the rare occasion they give any thought to the issues, the thought they give is “Where’s mine???”

    JMJ (the ever cynical)

  57. How many of the 99.7% of voters who did not vote Libertarian are even aware of the LP’s stance on drug legalization?
    Quite a few, judging from the number of people I’ve heard say “Oh, Libertarians are just Republicans who want to smoke pot.”

    What Paul is suggesting is that the LP become the JR (“Junior Republican”) Party.
    Not necessarily the worst idea — a libertarian party that moderated its economic positions a bit, pushed the social security issue a bit harder (Bush keeps promising, and never delivering!), supported moderate legalization (e.g. medical marijuana), and opposed the FMA … I would think you could draw a fair amount of support from the fiscal, non-fundie conservatives in the Republican party.

    Perot was a man who ran on a liberarian(ish) platform with a folksy/populist approach…. Point being, as a third party candidate he was wildly successful. The LP needs to garner that but without the baggage of the cult of personality that Perot like 3rd party candidates often carry
    I agree!

    Run a Libertarian Gov. or Sen. for president. Don’t have any?! Then run for, and win, one of those offices first before you spend a single dime on a waste-of-oxygen national campaign. Stop grumbling about the BIG TWO and start thinking about how many political neophytes have won national office from either major party in the past half century. Sobering.
    Gotta agree completely, there.

  58. Agree with the poster who said that the party platform should be “Fiscally Conservative, Socially Liberal”.

    This is immediately understandable to people, and it seems reasonable – people already wonder why that is not a choice.

    In computer science we have a saying: KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. People need simplicity. It’s all the better when the simple message is also true and sensible.

  59. You want solutions? Jimbo offered the best one: run for local and state offices first. Forget about the presidential race.

  60. Megan says, “In computer science we have a saying: KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

    Elsewhere, too. As a computer scientist of a quarter century of practice, I only wish to point out that, despite its correctness and effectiveness, this principle seems to be honored more in the breach than the observance, as far as I have seen. (Look at Microsoft, for only the most egregious of many examples.) KISS appears to be for textbooks, as, I note sadly, libertarian principles also seem to be.

  61. Steve says, “…run for local and state offices first.”

    Where’ve you been, Steve? You speak as if the LP hasn’t been doing that. In fact, the LP has been its most successful in running for local and state offices. This year, we have a great many of the near-600 Libertarians in office running for RE-election; for some it won’t be their first re-election bid, either. The party has had state legislators in the past (Alaska and New Hampshire), but not currently. What has yet to happen, is for an established LP local elected official to make the jump (via election) to the state capital or Washington DC. We need to put in place an effective transition/promotion strategy to get that to happen with acceptable regularity.

    Steve also says, “Forget about the presidential race.” Unfortunately, that isn’t wise, and it may not even be possible, for two reasons:

    1. Ballot access laws (written by GOP and Demos!) often require a party to run federal candidates (usually President or Senator) as one task that must be completed to earn statewide recognition as an “official” party, a stats that usually includes some measure of automatic ballot qualification. Ballot qualification is expensive and time-consuming, so running a Presidential candidate is often the least expensive way of clearing that particular hurdle.

    2. As much as the national media seem to shut out alternative Presidential candidates, local media outlets are fairly accommodating: it is always news when a real Presidential candidate comes to town. Savvy state and local LP campaigns can work with the national LP and the campaign organization, to coordinate such media appearances, as to get publicity for candidates running for state and local office, as well. Such events help establish the LP as a “real party,” and acquaint voters with the real candidates, whose names they will encounter on their ballots. As Michael Badnarik reminded questioners during his campaign interviews, this is some of the cheapest but most effective advertising tht local LP organizations and candidates can get. As long as the Presidential candidate has an active media schedule and actively works to propel the state and local candidates into the spotlight also, you can consider the expense of the Presidential campaign as advertising money, well spent.

  62. I can speak from experience – I have run for local office. Even in a small town, and even with a modicum of local press coverage (and yes, they are considerably more accomodating to local minor party candidates), and being invited to the debates (which I was, and any minor party local candidate would likely be, too)… people have been SO conditioned now to think Coke/Pepsi, er, Bud/Miller, er, Republican/Democratic, that it’s INCREDIBLY hard to overcome, at least without being some kind of big-time local personality who can harness voter discontent over some local hot-button issue.

    (The last time we had a minor party First Selectman here, he was a well-known gadfly who rode to election on his status of whistleblower on a school construction project – and that only after both serious cost overruns and construction flaws, i.e. the walls literally fell down. He was only able to pull this off because we were in the middle of the recession of the late 80s/early 90s and people were PISSED. Both major parties have become even more PR savvy since then, and – even on a local level – would likely be able to “spin” the issue as to be some other poor bastard’s fault, while THEY’d save the day.)

    Compare/contrast with my campaign, where we did everything right – the press coverages, the debates, the precinct-walking, the mailings, … – only, on election day, to meet Joe Voter at the polls, introduce myself and hear in reply, “Who?” (And let’s face it, my name isn’t exactly easy to forget.)

    MInor party successes beyond very local and very inconsequential offices are almost always celebs, for the reasons I’ve already cited.

    JMJ

  63. “So what issues can the LP emphasize to get attention, while remaining true to principle? All the ones that distinguish them from Dems and Repubs are highly controversial.”

    Medical marijuana. Get me in a debate with Bush and Kerry. I will eat them for breakfast. Well, anyone could eat Bush for breakfast. So get me in a debate with…any Republican. Bob Barr. John Ashcroft. Take your pick.

    Medical marijuana is a slam dunk winning issue for any Libertarian presidential candidate. Both the Democrat and Republican candidates can be crushed by pointing out how immoral it is to punish sick people. (Most people have at least one relative or friend who has had cancer, for example. Speaking as one of those people, if it came to the point where a person *I* love needed marijuana for nausea or pain management, if a federal official got in the way of that necessary marijuana, I would very seriously think of buying a gun, and shooting whoever came to take that medication away.)

    And Republicans can also be crushed for ignoring the Tenth Amendment’s prohibition against government involvement in drugs. (Democrats can’t really be crushed on this issue, because no Democrat even pretends to follow the Tenth Amendment.)

    A well-spoken Libertarian presidential candidate could destroy the Republican and Democratic candidates on medical marijuana. (That’s merely 1 of 100+ reasons why the Republicans and Democrats will never allow a Libertarian presidential candidate into any debate.)

  64. the lp is currently the third largest party in america, and my guess is that there are even more people who are libertarians who just don’t really know about the lp. so libertarianism definitely has appeal.

    there are a lot of problems facing the lp or any third party for that matter. one is the ballot access restrictions. the lp had to waste a lot of money just to get on the ballots in a lot of states. in hindsight it probably wasn’t such a great idea to be on the ballot in 48 states, when we all know that badnarik wasn’t going to do all that well in most of them. the other problem is the idea that “your just wasting your vote” if you vote for a third party candidate. but how many people who voted for bush or kerry are actually happy with their choice? my guess is most of the eloctorate votes for the lesser of two evils. if libertarians actually decided not to vote for the lesser of two evils, and voted for the candidate they really wanted to vote for, i think an lp candidate could get at least 10% of the vote.

    the other thing maybe the lp should start doing is going local, and start endorsing candidates from the two major parties the way the liberal and conservative parties did here in new york. i think libertarinism has major appeal, but there are so many obstacles in the lp’s way.

  65. “Breakdown of the libertarian vote:

    25%- voted for Bush, afraid of Kerry winning the election.

    25%- voted for Kerry, afraid of Bush winning the election.

    25%- did not vote in order to send some sort of assinine message that no one will understand.

    25%- voted Libertarian”

    You need to put “libertarian” in quotes for the first 75 percent. I’ll say this again…no REAL libertarian voted for anyone but Michael Badnarik.

  66. “All I do know right now is that he did miserably. What I don’t know is what it would take to do better. I have my theories, but I’m not convinced of them.”

    This is my theory: “celebrity” candidate. Such a candidate would have to be enough of a libertarian to actually credibly run as a Libertarian.

    Think Larry Elder. Or Deroy Murdock.

    Also, I don’t know enough about Clint Eastwood to know whether he is a real libertarian, but he’d be off the charts on the celebrity scale.

  67. At this late date in my life I have changed my mind about the effect that voter ignorance and media yawning have on the success of the LP.

    I have concluded that America finds the LP irrelevant. While any given individual might appear shocked at the LP drug stance or even the threat to abolish income tax, the entire culture is so immersed in the status quo that people are mostly content with the way things are done and the degree of government involvement in our personal lives currently existing.

    Once you walk away from this forum or your liberty minded friends you realize just how far outside the mainstream we libertarians really are.

    Barbara Boxer (god I despise that woman) refers to ordinary conservatives as extremists and nobody even disputes that moniker. How do you think she and the non-disputers view us?

  68. You know, I mention that the LP should moderate its more non-mainstream positions- but doing so would alienate the true believers (base) and I think it’s pretty obvious who the true believers are on this blog.

    While I respect their opinions, I respectfully insist that this is where the LP has gone wrong. I don’t want the LP to become the Jr Republican party, but if someone puts that label to it, that’s their right. Depending on where your leanings are, one might call it the Jr Democrats, as well. One could argue it’s already got that label: What are lp’s called: Republicans that smoke pot, or democrats who took at least on econ class.

    What I’m suggesting is that the LP consolidate its views on all the mainstream issues that find strong followings in the two major parties, and start emphasizing those– then sideline or marginalize the LP issues which repel the larger body politic.

    And to the poster that suggested that all we need is an articulate candidate and the LP would blow the other parties away– I say have at it. If it’s simply that easy, I guess we’ll see you running in 2008 and heading to the whitehouse shortly thereafter. To suggest that the only problem the LP has had is a lack of articulate candidates is dubious, at best.

    And for everyone who insists that the LP needs to stick to its guns and stay the course, my response is:

    How’s that workin’ out for ya?

    I think it’s time for the LP to work smarter, not harder.

    Paul

  69. Ok, I’m back because you’re still not getting it.

    You can win all the debates in the world about medical marijuana against Bush or anyone else…won’t matter. How many people do you think leave their home on election day to send those damn cancer-ridden pot heads a message? None? 3 guys who just saw Reefer Madness?

    Think for 2 minutes about issues that actually matter to massive amounts of people and attract them to a candidate or a party (which is usually what it takes to win).

    Taxes? Yes, good subject, but not obscure, nutcase tax disputes. Try saving average people a specific amount of money.

    FDA/Prescription drugs? Yes, but think in terms of improving people’s health instead of consiracy theories.

    Foreign policy? Worry about that one once you’ve become governor or senator. Try not to sound like Pat Buchanan.

    Jobs/Economy? Here’s a great one. Think of a great simplistic slogan instead of invoking Hayek. I don’t know, how about: “My Job, My Life, My Candidate. Joe Blow for Governor of [a small but still important state]” Repeat. Repeat.

    Civil Liberties? Foul, disgusting, immoral people who’ve been wronged by Gubmint make good law suits, but terrible campaign issues. Pick some good folks who have been screwed over, but who could easily be your neighbor, and take up their cause. See IJ.org for a perfect example.

    Hopefully you see where I’m going with this.

    In addition, I think the celebrity tip is a good one, but please try to get someone who would actually stopped on the street…and not by the police. Howard Stern? No, but maybe good for an endorsement. Drew Carey? Getting closer, but he’s on The WB. Sports stars? Astronauts? CEOs of multi-billion dollar empires? I’m sure there’s someone.

    In other words, look in the mirror, take off the spock ears, and get a freakin’ life people.

  70. Paul,

    If the LP becomes the Junior Republicans – and, remember, the point would be to become more successfull electorially – then the question is begged, “Why should I join the JRs (LP) – or, more’s the point, run on their ticket – when I’d do better to run as a Republican?”

    Being a “JR” candidate would give you the worst of both worlds: you’d be compromising your positions, while still fighting the uphill battle minor-partydom brings.

    Incidentally, back in 1999 when I ran for First Selectman, I had several conversations with key leadership of each of the town’s major parties. The conversation went the same way each time:

    “You know, if you’d just switch to our party, you’d be elected for sure!”

    “Oh?”

    “Oh, absolutely. But we’d need to talk about a few of your positions on some issues…”

    I mean, why would I want to be elected, if I’m going to be no better than the people we have in office now? What would be the point, other than to inflict on myself two (or however many) years of indigestion?

    JMJ

  71. Money talks. Until the LP can spend 200 million on a campaign it has no hope.

  72. Thank you Jimbo! I’m available if you want to put together a consulting firm!

    Now you’re talking.

    People are muddling the point of my posts and are painting my comments as though I suggest the LP should CHANGE its views. Poppycock. The LP can maintain its views, but put mainstream views front and center, while sidelining the views which tend to cause the LP to get marginalized.

    JMJ: I understand your passion about this. But this is where the LP weakens itself. And again you suggest I’m saying the LP should make wholesale changes to its views. I’m not. The lp can discuss ANY mainstream issue with the two major parties and have a viewpoint on it that could arguably get the party noticed. Or, they can continue to harangue issues that the Press(tm), and the two parties aren’t even discussing, and wonder why they get no traction.

    The LP could do very well in spending more time on foreign policy. Because of the ‘foreign entanglements viewpoint’ of the LP party (which I agree with- again, not the point) foreign policy tends to not be discussed by the LP. And realistically, what’s to discuss? Lp: Avoid foreign entanglements, don’t get involved. Next. Ok, fine. But guess what, we’re involved. And the U.S. is the major superpower. So the LP needs to craft a position recognizing this involvement, and produce some ideas on dealing with existing involvements, and how it would deal with future involvements when unavoidable. Both major parties have ‘let’s not get involved doctrines’ which evaporate when an issue comes up that’s close to their hearts. To wit, Dems poo-pooed vietnam- u.s. isn’t the world cop. Next: Republicans taking a page from the Dems, Kosovo: We’re not the world cop. Fast forward: Dems on Iraq, middle-east democracy, heavy unilateral interventionism “We’re not the world cop”. Point being, there always seems to be room for interventionism and room for non-interventionism. Respect it, figure out where it’s appropriate, when it’s not- from the Libertarian viewpoint. What’s that you say? The LP already has discussed this issue? Then why is it so unknown? Why does every non-lp person in the world think of the LP as the medical marijuana party? The message isn’t getting out. sideline the pot smoking, move toward foreign policy, domestic issues with regard to ‘bigger picture’ items.

  73. Money talks. Until the LP can spend 200 million on a campaign it has no hope.

    Chilly,

    You’re only half right. Money is not the only thing in the world. Plenty of candidates have outspent their rivals by ten fold and not gotten elected. And secondly, to raise money, people have to take notice of you. If everytime a fundraiser starts babbling about medical marijuana, you tend to alienate a large swath of your donors.

    Stop with the pot-smoking. I’m a long time ‘l’ibertarian- was part of the LP party for a while, and got tired of the conversations always veering toward dope- so I stopped paying my dues. More out of fatigue than any moral stand.

    I’m sure y’all love your weed. I mean, I understand that baking the chronic may be front and center in some peoples lives– but that isn’t making the world go ’round. A white kid in dreadlocks in a pot leaf tee-shirt with ‘Legalize it, Man’ emblazened across the front is not going to run the world. So can we finally agree to sideline this whole dope issue?

    Paul

  74. EVEN IF the LP could raise and spend $200 million – hell, even if it could raise and spend $400 million – the odds of even placing the the Presidential race are slim to none. Why? Because the game is rigged, and people seem content to keep it that way.

    Not to mention… odds are, if the LP somehow were to become a new major party, it wouldn’t take long for it to become just like the Ass and Elephant Parties.

    The LP and its supporters need to understand that, in the old parlance of keeping one’s “eyes on the prize,” the “prize” ain’t necessarily electoral success. I mean, let’s face it, how many of us REALLY WANT to hold public office? (I have – and do – and it’s a drag, a “duty.”)

    So what’s the “prize” then? Ummm… dunno, seeing public attitudes, and, thus, public policy change in a freer direction, maybe? It really doesn’t matter if it’s done by guys “wearing our armbands” or someone else’s. We’re not summer campers playing color wars here. But the only way to get people’s attitudes and beliefs and (mis)conceptions and perceptions to change is to be part of the public discourse, and means using the available sets of tools in a (urgh!) “democratic” society. One of those happens to be running candidates for office – during their campaigns, they have the opportunity to speak on these issues, and offer viewpoints that might not have been heard. If they DON’T run, though, they WON’T be heard.

    The catch: running a minor party campaign is like fielding the Podunkville Pop Warner team against the New York Jets. You’d better have a LOT of splints and bandages handy. If you’re playing, be prepared: you WILL, in all probability, get hurt. It really sucks to work your ass off for months, raise and spend a lot of money (including a goodly chunk of your own), and only pull single digits on Election Day (as, odds are, you’ll do). The only thing is – cliche though it may be – “if not you… then who?” NOT running means your ideas will NEVER be a part of the public discourse.

    So what does this mean for the LP? Well, I’m convinced that its longevity is due to its principled position on the issues, even if it’s those very principled positions causing electoral grief. Hey, somebody needs to present them (and not a watered-down version). And human nature being what it is, people expect a group of people advancing an agenda to have a “standard-bearer,” so I don’t know that dropping the race for the White House would be wise.

    The LP has a history of taking a very “hands-off” approach when it comes to local races, which isn’t such a bad thing. But it sure would be nice, going into battle knowing you’re going to be coming out VERY bloodied, to know that there’s someone standing by with the bandages. While the LP does provide some resources to locals, (at least when I was running) it wasn’t much. Knowing you’re on the battlefield very much alone makes for a lot of battle fatigue (read: activist burnout). And activist burnout means a guy who isn’t going to run, next time around, and the ranks are thin enough already.

    JMJ

  75. Paul,

    Best I can recall, the drugs issue came up a grand total of once any of the times I was running, and even then it was during a private conversation with a sitting Republican state rep.

    In local politics, the issues are things like the proposed high school, or taxes, or charter changes or zoning. Rarely – in my experience, anyway – does anyone spend much time interjecting largely irrelevent “national” issues (I didn’t at least). If there’s a local candidate beating the drum for ending the war on drugs when everyone else in the race is talking about the new highway project, maybe that’s the time his friends on his Libertarian Town Committee need to take him out for a drink, and offer a little friendly guidance. But, once again, we’re back to that “support” thing.

    JMJ

  76. In local politics, the issues are things like the proposed high school, or taxes, or charter changes or zoning. Rarely – in my experience, anyway – does anyone spend much time interjecting largely irrelevent “national” issues (I didn’t at least).

    JMJ:

    Apologies, I’m still really talking about the national positioning of the LP. Local politics is always a little trickier, and the LP has a better chance at getting elected in smaller, localized races where partisainship becomes diminished. Ie, who really cares what party the ‘insurance commissioner’ or ‘county auditor’ comes from. (Yes, I know one can make strained arguments, but really). But does it advance the party at large? I argue not.

    Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the top-down approach is misguided. But I also come from a lefty-loony district (much like Berkely) where the locals want to know what the county auditor’s position on abortion is. So who knows.

    Look, I respect you guys that have run, and got wrung out trying. And it does tend to come down to a chicken and egg thing. Do we support the party as is and hope it will get bigger, or do we court a ‘bigger tent’ and garner more support?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m very tentative about ‘big tent’ theories. Moderate republicans have whined about needing to move to the center, and become the party of Ford and Rockefeller. Shyeah, right. What did Ford and Rockefeller ever win? So there are always arguments about a ‘bigger tent’. But I’m trying to be cautious and not suggest making wholesale changes to viewpoints, but re-arrange the viewpoints, and reassess priorities. First highlight the areas we agree with major parties, then define the differences after we get noticed. Sideline our marijuana stash (ok, I’m repeating myself, I promise I’ll stop).

  77. You’d be surprised just how politicized ANY race for office becomes, not because it really matters (as you point out), but because it’s a Crips vs. Bloods turfwar.

    Years ago, my (unaffiliated) mother was on the local library board (at the time, an apolitical volunteer sort of thing). The town’s growing, so next thing you know she’s told she’ll have to join a party if she wishes to stay on – it didn’t really matter which party, so long as it had one of those familiar and oh-so-cute critters on its buttons. That’s when she left the library board… and that was – what? – 1975, maybe? (Why couldn’t a party simply endorse her, and let her keep the little “U” next to her name on the registrar’s list? Probably the same reason they kept begging me to join their party, and not endorse me unless I did.)

    JMJ

  78. You misunderstand. I didn’t say the LP would win if it spent that much money, just that it would take a sum close to that to even register on the national consciousness. I’m 38 have lived all over the country, watch too much tv and never in my life have I seen an ad on there for an LP candidate. Spending 1 million in a presidential race is like trying to bail out the Titanic with a spoon, fruitless.

  79. People here have made a very good point. To me, reducing taxes massively, cutting defence, eradicating corporate welfare, removing 99% of laws, privitizing social security, etc, are totally normal views.

    It gets “extreme” when we look at Rothbard.

    But most people do not think like us. We are totally outside the mainstream, but perhaps we assume that our views are conventional?

  80. “…and I think it’s pretty obvious who the true believers are on this blog.”

    Oh? Care to name any names? 🙂

    “And to the poster that suggested that all we need is an articulate candidate and the LP would blow the other parties away…”

    As far as I know, no one suggested that. *I* suggested that an articulate candidate ****who gets into a Presidential Debate with Republicans and Democrats**** could blow them away.

    I also suggested that medical marijuana is one of 100+ reasons why Republicans and Democrats will NEVER let a Libertarian into a Presidential debate.

    So the absolute key is getting into a Presidential debate with the two main parties, when BOTH parties are absolutely opposed to that happening.

    To do that, the Libertarian Party needs a Ross Perot-type candidate. Someone who is soooooo well known that the mainstream media–who are also opposed to Libertarians gaining office–are forced to cover that candidate. A good example would be Clint Eastwood.

    Or Jimbo mentioned Drew Carey. If he ran with a slogan, “I’m not kidding!” he’d be great.

  81. To do that, the Libertarian Party needs a Ross Perot-type candidate. Someone who is soooooo well known that the mainstream media–who are also opposed to Libertarians gaining office–are forced to cover that candidate. A good example would be Clint Eastwood.

    Damn, you said it first. I was waiting for the right moment to say that the LP might be brought to the forefront by having a nationally known and popular figure run- but I was fearing it would contradict my ‘cult of personality’ statements. Eh well.

    On your other remarks… yes, the system is rigged. But the two parties aren’t allowing the LP to debate because of their stance on drugs. The two parties aren’t simply afraid that the LP would rock the world with its position- no, it’s much simpler than that: The two parties don’t want to waste time and energy fighting off gnat attacks and having small numbers of potential swing voters drained off (if an election is razor close) by insignificant candidates. It’s easier to point all your guns at one target, than to have to coordinate different sets of guns at different targets.

    Paul

  82. Paul,

    You’re on to to something there. When Title IX started to make a dent in wrestling programs, many responded by actively recruiting women. Given that there were (initially, anyway) not enough women (especially at the high school level) to compete on a women’s team, many guys were faced with the “grappling with a girl” dilemma: if they had a female opponent and won, their victory would be minimized, since “you ONLY beat a GIRL” but if they lost… “holy CRAP – a GIRL beat you!” Same could be said of the major party candidates debating the minors.

    WRT the drugs issue: I still think you’re overestimating it. But, for the record: the reason it resonates as it does amongst LPers is that, the moment the point is conceded that anyone, incluing the state, can dictate what one can and cannot do with one’s person, all else is a matter of inches and degrees.

    JMJ

    P.S. Somewhat OT: I’ve personally had the pleasure of watching this young lady take apart some rather cocky accomplished (male) wrestlers; they usually didn’t handle it well.

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