Libertarian Party

Did the Libertarian Radicals Lose Their Inter-Party Fight? Not So Fast, Says One

Caryn Ann Harlos points out that the L.P.'s Radical Caucus won a bunch of important platform fights, and has plenty of momentum


Libertarians! (That's Caryn in the middle.) ||| Matt Welch
Matt Welch

This morning we posted my column about the Libertarian Party convention from the August/September issue of the print magazine, cheekily titled "The Libertarian Party Moment: Taking the naked leap from the margins to the mainstream." In it, I make the claim that, striptease performances notwithstanding, "The radicals and free spirits lost. Ten minutes after James Weeks II's man boobs and freedom jockstrap beamed into America's living rooms, the delegates nominated [William] Weld" for vice president, despite very deep misgivings about his Libertarian bonafides.

NOT SO FAST, shot back L.P. Radical Caucus member and beloved party activist Caryn Ann Harlos, via email. Speaking in her personal capacity, though certainly channeling some Rad-Caucus views, Harlos made some good points worth sharing here. An excerpt from our correspondence:

The radicals had a huge effect this convention, and while we did indeed "lose" (I am not sure that is the word I would use since this is a party effort, and the delegates chose and we are getting behind our candidates, one of our board members is a state coordinator for the GJ campaign) on the Presidential/Vice Presidential ticket, we gained in multiple critical areas that will have long term internal effects.  We defeated every single anti-radical bylaws and platform issue that came up, and others never got heard. We motivated floor work in a way not seen in long time, and our membership has grown more and more active.  Additionally, out and open radicals gained seats on the Libertarian National Committee.  This will last far beyond November. […]

[T]he growing influence of the radicals cannot be underestimated… we are on the ascendency at this point despite the more moderate ticket.  

Harlos went on to inform me that stripper James Weeks resigned from the Radical Caucus, and that many of its board members were not happy with his performance. "Please do not paint his actions as those of the radicals or representing us," she said. "We had no advance knowledge he was going to do that."

Anecdotally, and also from my position of inexperience (it was my first Libertarian National Convention), my impression is that Harlos is right—the Rads have the juice, or at least a lot of the stuff. (One can argue that second-place presidential finisher Austin Petersen has also brought in an energetic element.)

Consider this data point: In 2012, Gary Johnson breezed to a first-ballot victory, grabbing 70 percent of the vote; and his preferred V.P. pick, Judge Jim Gray, sailed by with 60 percent. Yet this time around Johnson got a few votes less than the 50 percent threshold on the first ballot, and Weld came damn close to getting croaked on his second ballot, thanks in large part to effective and boisterous rallying from the activist base. This wasn't a 100% Radical Caucus story, but they were right there in the thick of it all. That's partly what made the convention, and its underlying tensions, so interesting to cover.

Speaking of which, here's Caryn Ann Harlos making an ad hoc nominating speech for V.P. candidate Will Coley, moments after Gary Johnson won the presidential nod:

NEXT: "Hillary Clinton Will Win, But She Doesn't Deserve To"

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    1. Theon?

  1. We defeated every single anti-radical bylaws and platform issue that came up, and others never got heard.

    Yes, they were able to keep the naked fat guys coming to the podiums. I’d say she successfully rearranged some deck chairs, but the real Titanic actually made it out of port.

  2. Harlos went on to inform me that stripper James Weeks resigned from the Radical Caucus, and that many of its board members were not happy with his performance. “Please do not paint his actions as those of the radicals or representing us,” she said. “We had no advance knowledge he was going to do that.”

    Well said, pink-haired lady wearing Statue of Liberty crown.

    1. lol

      everything about libertarian party-politics ends up looking like excerpts from Vineland; a blend of bureaucratic-boringness and irredeemable freaks. you lose the plot in like 3 pages, and don’t care.

      The story is set in California, United States, in 1984, the year of Ronald Reagan’s reelection.[1]….the novel is replete with female ninjas, astrologers, marijuana smokers, television addicts, musical interludes (including the theme song of The Smurfs) and metaphors drawn from Star Trek.

    2. The Radical Caucus embraced that shit, it was one of their cohorts, and only AFTER it got bad press did they try and distance themselves. I don’t believe a word they say about not knowing. They’re the same caucus that plotted to try and sneak a vote through early in the morning before other convention members arrived on the floor. A dishonest power hungry fringe.

      1. “They’re the same caucus that plotted to try and sneak a vote through early in the morning before other convention members arrived on the floor.”
        I don’t know anything about all this but if true, this is all I need to know.

        1. It is not true. I have no idea what he is talking about but we did no such thing. I was the main organizer for the caucus. Feel free to contact me.

          1. is how anyone may contact me at any time

        2. Some of the plotting that was going in the LP radical caucus, and discussed within the closed facebook. (before they started taking it to private messages…because they “didn’t trust’ people. lol. That conversation is from 2015, when discussing how to proceed in the 2016 convention.

          1. Interesting, a screen shot from June 2015 from someone who isn’t a member of the caucus (our membership is formal- he never formally joined) of someone tossing out ideas that were never adopted, as happens in nearly any group. One person in a FB group stating their ideas is not a “caucus plotting” to do something since we never did any such thing. At the time of that discussion, I didn’t even know how the convention even worked– and by the time that I understood and planned for convention, I would never condone such a thing. We have had a lot of people toss out a lot of ideas, some good, some bad. That idea was never EVER contemplated by the Caucus Board in private message or otherwise. Someone making a bad suggestion in a group is no different than someone suggesting in a minarchist group that they should stage a vote to throw the anarchists out. I am sure that has come up and pretty much ignored. Private groups are often vent-sessions. As far as discussing some caucus strategy in private, I would assume every group does that. THAT kind of thing was never planned or contemplated.

            1. I will note once again, I was the main organizer of the Caucus activity at convention. That commenter was not at convention nor were any such things part of convention organizing. I wasn’t even a radical in June 2015. I had just joined the Facebook group as a radical-curious person trying to learn how things worked.

              But I have a challenge for the accuser. Let’s set up an escrow account and put in it enough money to cover a lie detector test by a mutually agreeable polygraph examiner. Then I answer questions on the accusations in your post:

              1. Did the Radical Caucus Board know that James Weeks was going go up on stage and do anything other than give a nominating speech including getting nearly naked and dance.

              2. Did the Radical Caucus Board discuss plotting to try and sneak a vote through early in the morning on any issue in private message or any other medium.

              I will put my money where my mouth is because those accusations are completely and utterly false. If I pass you pay. If I fail, I pay. We both get to advertise the results. Deal?

              1. I would also note that putting aside any “plotting” that is a terrible plot to anyone with any knowledge of parliamentary procedure, in fact, we saw an example this convention on how such a plan would never work…. you can’t simply move and declare platform closed when you have the numbers and expect that to hold when you don’t because another group could simply do a subsequent motion to suspend the rules etc. This happened this convention. Bylaws were over. But on Monday a motion to suspend the rules was made to re-open for the issue of amending quorum requirements as proposed by Mr. Starr. This would be the Worst Plot Ever.

                One may not like the radicals, but we aren’t dumb.

              2. Before, the radical caucus was viewed as a nuisance, now they’re reviled. Great job organizing. If they’re smart they’ll ditch you. Either by accident, or on purpose, you poisoned the well.

                Not interested in pseudoscience. But, I can see why you’d suggest it Ms. Dee Dee Warren. Attention seeking has been your hobby for a long time, you just switched your focus. New interest, but your game is the same.

                I hope you continue to lead the radicals into reviled obscurity. They deserve you.

                1. I didn’t think you would take me up on it, but it would have interesting. Good day.

  3. Intra-Party Fight…?

    1. Thank you. I had to read the top half twice wondering what other party they were fighting.

      1. C’mon – you know that for Libertarians the only fight worth fighting is against other Libertarians.

        When there’s power to be had . . .

    2. My thought was:

      “Haven’t the libertarians, much less libertarian radicals, lost every single inter-party fight ever?”

  4. The radicals and free spirits lost.

    Let’s make the libertarian Party more palatable to the Melissa Harris Perry and Rachel Maddow show demographic. That’s how we’ll expand freedom.

    1. MSNBC could hire Welch as “Libertarian Party Strategist”

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  6. The last person the LP needs arranging things for them is Caryn Harlos. She’d rather scuttle the party to stay true to her medically-induced “principles” and keep it safely irrelevant.

  7. None of us desires or is able to dispute the will of the Party. Clearly, the Party is always right…. We can only be right with and by the Party, for history has provided no other way of being in the right. The English have a saying, “My country, right or wrong”, whether it is in the right or in the wrong, it is my country. We have much better historical justification in saying whether it is right or wrong in certain individual concrete cases, it is my party…. And if the Party adopts a decision which one or other of us thinks unjust, he will say, just or unjust, it is my party, and I shall support the consequences of the decision to the end.

  8. At least the real radicals won their effort to keep the “Keep the government out of the issue” abortion plank in the platform.

    1. Best thing the LP can do is remain neutral on abortion.

  9. Referring to the attention whoring Harlos as, “beloved party activist” shows you have no idea. She’s been a disaster. A divisive religious zealot who is recently to the LP, and has power clawed her way up. People are leaving the LP because of her.

    Also, “[T]he growing influence of the radicals cannot be underestimated… we are on the ascendency at this point despite the more moderate ticket” Are they smoking crack at those “radical” meetings? They’ve become more noxious and fringe then before and that’s a pretty low bar. Your first trip to the rodeo and you take the words of a self-promoter?

  10. The real radicals are those who want to see the Libertarian Party finally organize a grass roots effort that voters can understand. The so-called LP Radical Caucus is no different than closed-minded and insular groups such as the Communists and Amish. Elitism and brutalism at its worse.

  11. Really? It is unfortunate, not only that this is happening within the LP, but that Reason chooses to focus on it. I am NEVER one to deride Reason for their editorial choices and have often come to their defense. But covering the circus side show and NOT covering many of the other good things that the LP has done seems a bit sensationalist.

    Where were these “radicals” when the LPCO couldn’t get a few thousand signatures in Colorado Springs?
    Where were they when ballot access was on the line AGAIN and the LP sued the SoS and ended up gaining an ally?
    Where were they when TWO TIMES approval voting was being pushed in the state house and senate?
    Where were they when City Councilors in Lakewood, Frederick, and Littleton needed support, re-election, and some allys of their own elected?

    The hard work of politics, convincing your neighbors and fellow citizens, is always eschewed by the most vocal critics.

    And as an aside, the gentleman on the left in that picture is the venerable and most awesome Dr. Jim Lark. Of a picture of 1000 LP members, he is one of 10 I would say deserves his name in the description of the photo.

    Overall a disappointing piece, and from someone whom I respect greatly no less.

    1. Yeah, but Dr. Lark didn’t email Welch at Reason and self-promote.

      But, we know who did.

  12. There’s something about receptions, where people are juggling snacks and drinks and talking to strangers, that make everyone look uncomfortable and/or like a loser.

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