Libertarian Party

Libertarian Party Wars in D.C.: The "Take Who We Can Get" Folk vs. the Neo-Professionals


The Washington, D.C., Libertarian Party gets the kind of detailed in-fighting reporting in Washington City Paper that third parties (and indeed even local and state branches of major parties) rarely get, with news about how a Party with newfound ballot access in D.C. sees conflict between those who are happy to get the Party rolling with anyone and those said to be seeking a higher level of professionalism.

Thanks to Bruce Majors winning the L.P. relatively trouble-free ballot access by earning 6 percent in the 2012 election for D.C.'s non-voting House member (Eleanor Holmes Norton kept the gig), the L.P. needs to collect merely a couple of signatures to get candidates on the ballot for local elections–literally just a couple, representing one percent of the number of registered Libertarians in D.C.

Now Majors is working hard to get other Libertarians to run for local office:

So far, his candidate slate—all white men and [Sara] Panfil, a white woman—doesn't do much to disprove the stereotype of Libertarians as a party for nerdy white people. Majors has had trouble convincing people of color to take a trip to the Board of Elections, even when, in an attempt just to get another candidate on the ballot, he promises that their campaign work would be limited to signing a few papers and appearing on the ballot.

In other words, Majors had to promise potential candidates they would not win.

Still, Majors hopes to find a more diverse roster before his party's primary. "Not that I think of these people in that way, but the media and the electorate will, so I have to also," he says.

Conveniently for his plans, he's setting the bar low. When out trawling Libertarian gatherings for candidates, Majors says he's just looking for someone intelligent and presentable—and, of course, willing to run for office.

But casting a wide net has its downsides, especially with a party known for dislike of being told what to do. Before meeting his candidates at the Board of Elections, Majors sent out a press release declaring that [Frederick] Steiner would be running for Council chairman; he decided to run for the at-large seat instead.

Steiner's on to something. Because of Home Rule Act requirements, two of the Council's four at-large seats have to go to a candidate who's not a member of the District's majority party—in other words, now and forever, the Democrats….

The significance of the set-aside seat isn't lost on John Vaught LaBeaume, another would-be Libertarian candidate recruiter. While Majors will sign anyone with a copy of The Road to Serfdom and a pulse, LaBeaume is trying to recruit local business owners to run for the at-large spot. If he succeeds, his candidate will be going up against Majors'.

"Just me personally, I'm not going to work without a really solid candidate," LaBeaume says….

And like the old saying goes, find two Libertarians and you'll find at least two factions:

In a nod to their cantankerous party, Majors and LaBeaume give each other a wide berth. Majors described LaBeaume to LL [Loose Lips, the columnist writing this] as "my parallel person," but declined to give LL his rival's name. (Fortunately, the paucity of Libertarians in D.C. politics meant LL didn't have to look far.)

Majors contrasts his candidate-heavy approach with LaBeaume's criteria, which he describes as "anybody more famous than me." He says he has only occasional contact with LaBeaume—an impressive feat, since, as Steiner jokes, you could accommodate the District's entire Libertarian Party membership at a very large dinner party.

LaBeaume spoke in my feature on the Sarvis campaign aftermath, and wrote his own Reason piece on the L.P.'s future.

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  1. Reminds me of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. God tells Lot he’ll spare the two cities if he can find 10 righteous men.

    Well here we are with DC and the search for 10 libertarians.

    1. Some days I swear I can’t find 10 libertarians among Reason’s staff.

  2. you could accommodate the District’s entire Libertarian Party membership at a very large dinner party.

    Clearly this columnist did not get the memo about the kind of DC Partiez Libertarians like to attend.

    1. Would it really be that large?

      1. I believe the expression used to be “could fit in a phone booth”. But these days there ain’t no phone booths.

  3. Majors has had trouble convincing people of color to take a trip to the Board of Elections

    That fact that Majors is giving even one microsecond of neural activity toward the general amount of melanin present in a potential candidate’s melanocytes is his first problem.

    1. “Not that I think of these people in that way, but the media and the electorate will, so I have to also,” he says.

      SLD: I wish he’d say that the media are racist for thinking of them that way, but then the media would claim the libertarians are utterly unrespectable.

      1. but then the media would claim the libertarians are utterly unrespectable

        And how is that different that the current state of affairs?

    2. Doesn’t DC have a large black population? Unfortunately, those things matter and every vote counts (or is double counted, even).

      1. Unfortunately, those things matter and every vote counts (or is double counted, even).

        If we spend our time looking for the next Great Black/Latino/Asian Hope, we’re just falling into the trap our opponents set for us.

        As you stated DC has a large Black population. It’s also very urban and poor. While a Black face might get their attention, just filling in the ranks with people generationally brainwashed to be pawns in LBJ’s cynical game isn’t going to help us in the long run.

        That having been said, spending time and money to get the message out there about how liberty can increase their quality of life and prosperity is crucial. And if the messenger is a Thomas Sowell or a Larry Elders, then so much the better.

        1. just filling in the ranks with people generationally brainwashed to be pawns in LBJ’s cynical game isn’t going to help us in the long run.

          This times a million.

        2. hows comes libetry increese my kwalty of life and prosperty? the gubamint gone pay me when I vote for folks wit dat D next to they name.

          1. ya her me?

      2. 49% and dropping, as the federal government imports over 1000 mainly white lawyers and grad school credentialed bureaucrats every MONTH.

    3. But he should try to convince people regardless of pigmentation. And he can’t be blamed for noticing that not a lot of black people are rushing to run with the LP.

      1. Few people get here the easy way. The short cut is what others offer. The short cut of political coercion as a social force over voluntary cooperation is ultimately what we stand against.

    4. So far we have a female candidate, three gay candidates, an Asian Indian candidate, and an African American candidate. Would you like to run too?

  4. First, congratulations to Bruce Majors for getting the LP ballot access, and for a good showing in the election he ran in. That is not easy to do, and a libertarian who is active and effective in accomplishing what he sets out to do in politics is a rara avis, indeed.

    That said, the excerpted article really demonstrates why the LP is not a viable vehicle for Libertarians’ electoral success, and why it will not be so in the future. Too many big fish swimming in a small pond, too little interest shown in seeking and rewarding success within the party, and too many weirdos. If a third party is ever successful at toppling one of the Big Two, it won’t be the LP. Even if that third party is libertarian in nature, I suspect that it will be an altogether new party and not the ossified LP.

    1. too many weirdos

      That’s hurtful, TIT. I think the correct term is normalcy challenged, or eccentric if they’re relatively wealthy or have invented something.

      1. Re: eccentric – speaking in an English accent is also acceptable.

        1. Only if it’s a posh one.

        2. Only classy British accents.

          If you sound like a chav you’re not eccentric, but you may call me as I’m in the mood for some international slumming.

          1. But what if it’s a Cockney accent?

            1. Hmm, if you’re older and sound like Michael Caine I will count it as eccentric. If you’re younger and good looking I’ll count it toward slumming. EVERYBODY WINS.

      2. You’re right, that was insensitive. I meant to say too many fucking retards and Aspies. There, just try to find something un-PC in my revised statement.

        1. Thank you, TIT. It’s important that we’re sensitive to the emotional needs of the party.

          1. OK, now I’m offended. Or insulted. Or something or other.

    2. Said it before saying it again: the statists couldn’t design a better device to fruitlessly dissipate libertarian energy and efforts than the LP. The GOP is our opening.

      1. What does the Republican Party have to do with liberty though? They’re usually against it.

        1. Individuals in the Republican Party don’t have to be. See Justin Amash. The machinery of the Republican Party can be used for good.

      2. In DC the GOP is almost nonexistent. They managed to find two candidates to put on the primary ballot while we found 7. If anything we shocked them so they are now scrambling to organize themselves. If we weren’t here they remain somnolent.

    3. The City Paper report of a rivalry between Labeaume and me was a fiction, a “literary” device to make the article more interesting. I didn’t give him Labeaume’s name because I had not asked Labeaume if I could. If Labeaume talks some celebrity into running for office we will all get behind them, until then I recruit candidates.

  5. Does anyone have Bob Barr’s number?

    1. barrf

    2. He’s straight Hugh. But that mustache is alluring.

  6. “Intelligent and presentable”

    I guess that’s why he hasn’t asked anyone from H&R to run.

    1. Do we have any DC residents on here?

      1. Kirsten Kaptious. John. NOVAin…something or other. I think that’s it.

        1. hockey. but i don’t think any of us actually live in DC

          1. Just because it’s expensive and murder-y is no reason to avoid a place.

      2. Doesn’t John live in the DC area? I believe there are a couple others, also.

        1. So far 249 people have registered as Libertarians, about 20 a month since they finally printed new registration forms last March. The number of Democrats and others actually dropped by 65,000 in June after this article was written, when DC cleaned its voter roles and eliminated people who had died or moved to the suburbs.

    2. We have to be both?

    3. The reason staff are mainly not registered to vote and many are ideologically opposed to it, for example the lovely Ms. Mangu-Ward.

  7. And like the old saying goes, find two Libertarians and you’ll find at least two factions…

    That saying must have been revised, because I’d imagine that achieving parity is a more recent development.

  8. LaBeaume is trying to recruit local business owners to run for the at-large spot.

    Bad idea. Businessmen aren’t ideological, so they’re as prone to jump into statism as your standard community organizer, if the opportunity presents itself. Oh, they may be against high taxes, but they’re more than willing to use the government to tighten the screws on any competition. Also, some of the most brilliant businessmen have very little understanding how the market as a whole works. The best businessmen, in my experience, are “people persons”, which means that they’re easily swayed by the siren’s song of “government assistance.”

    Find people who have something to lose if the government gains power in any sphere. They’ll be the ones who will fight for individual liberty regardless.

    1. Please explain the bit about people persons & gov’t assistance. Looks interesting, I’m always interested in the psychology of stuff like this.

      Nobody has something to lose if gov’t gains power in any sphere.

      1. They tend to fall for schemes to “help people” because they are “people people”. I have no scientific support for this idea; it’s just a hunch of mine.

  9. The only people we hate worse than the bloody Romans are the Judean People’s Front.

  10. The reason it is difficult to find Libertarian Politicians is because Politics and libertarianism is at odds with each other.
    Most people who go into politics have an insatiable desire to control others, to get famous and powerful, and are narcissistic.
    A true libertarian is none of those things. He mostly wants to be left alone to have a quite happy family life with as little interference with his life as possible and a good career or business.
    The only motivations that prod him out of his comfortable niche in life is having his life, liberty and property in peril from the Government and a desire to do what is right for society and restore it to its natural balance.

    Into other words a libertarian if in office seeks to reduce the power and scope of the office that he has been given which is the exact opposite of a typical politician who rapidly expands both.

    That is why it has been difficult to get libertarian politicians in to power, because libertarians loath power.
    We value peace freedom and justice but not power over our fellow men.
    It will take a national crisis like we had in 1776 to bring a group of libertarians to power. Perhaps we are on the brink of that right now- the British were less oppressive to the colonists than our own government is right now.

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