Congress

Montana Libertarian Mark Wicks, Who Got 6 Percent Against the GOP's Gianforte, Believes the L.P. Must Focus More on State and Local Races

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It wasn't ultimately surprising that a Republican candidate facing assault charges for allegedly bodyslamming a reporter the day before the election won his House race in Montana anyway. But Greg Gianforte's 6 percent win over Democrat Rob Quist was far lower than most assessments of Montana's relative preference for Republicans would indicate. And Gianforte's winning margin was exactly matched by the unprecedented 6 percent total for a Montana House race for the Libertarian Party's candidate, Mark Wicks.

Wicks for Congress

Wicks, a rancher and mailman in Inverness, Montana, thinks the key to his unusually good results for the L.P., for a campaign that could not afford any print, TV, or radio ads and only a few signs, was that the L.P. helped pressure the hosts of a televised debate to include Wicks along with his major party competitors.

"When people saw how I handled myself, especially compared to the other two," Wicks said in a phone interview the day after the election, it helped him nearly double the last L.P. House candidate's 3.3 percent. (In Liberty County, next door to his home county, where Wicks says he likely personally knows one-quarter of the voters, he pulled 16 percent.)

He credits his good showing in the debate not so much to ideology, but to the fact that he was able "to answer questions in a straightforward and honest way. My answers were consistent but [voters] could tell they weren't memorized. I would answer the question asked and not just pivot to a talking point."

Wicks expects he'll run for office again, though not sure exactly what office or when. He'd like to have more money, sooner whenever that happens. He'd like to be in a better position to hit the ground running with a decent cash pile the way major party candidates usually can.

The Libertarian National Committee (LNC) did give him a rare donation of $5,000, but it came too late in the process to do much good, Wicks says. Wicks sees the LNC faced a chicken and egg dilemma—he understands their reluctance to hand over a pile of cash to an untried candidate until after the debate showed he could comport himself well and make a decent run of it, but getting the money within the last couple of weeks before the election gave him no chance to have it serve as seed money for outreach that could have lead to more money.

His campaign was able to spend "a couple thousand" on Facebook advertising, he says, but his jobs and the vast sprawl of Montana's one-district state made in-person appearances before crowds of voters also impossible. He lives about 300 miles from any major Montana city.

Most of his volunteer support came via the Feldman Foundation, a national organization dedicated to finding and helping liberty-oriented candidates (named after Marc Feldman, a deceased former Libertarian Party activist and presidential aspirant). Wicks credits them with a "tremendous job, it took so much weight off my back." They managed his press releases and phone banks, for which he recalls one activist personally made 3,000 calls.

"I've always been a very conservative Republican, very freedom oriented," Wicks says. But "I felt the Republican Party just left me. The Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, their budgets…they run on cutting spending and don't cut spending." He won the L.P.'s nomination against seven other candidates at a state Party convention. He knows that many in the Party "are upset that I'm not hardcore libertarian enough for them. But we have to realize we have to start in increments. We can't start with hardcore libertarianism."

At least some voters thinking about him, he says, would "read the L.P. platform and decide they didn't want to vote for me because it goes too far, a little too much freedom in it for their comfort." For example, he stresses that while he campaigned on marijuana legalization, he does not support the legalization of harder drugs. "Legalizing all the drugs is not going to fly in Montana."

Wicks also thinks it's likely he got votes based on what he found was a widespread hate for Gianforte and Quist partisans' attacks on each other. Given the overlap on constitutional and free-market rhetoric between Republicans and Libertarians, it's usually the GOP who insists the L.P. is "stealing" their vote. But Wicks says Democrat Quist's fans were messaging him accusing him of having stolen votes from Quist. Wicks thinks it's more likely that a would-be Libertarian voter was scared toward Gianforte for a greater fear of the Democrat winning.

What lessons does he see for the L.P. in his result? He thinks more, and more active, county affiliates are important for candidate services such as setting up events. And he thinks the Party should aim its resources and attention in general more at state or local races and less on the "pie in the sky" of national presidential runs. "That money could be put to a lot better use for other candidates."

He reminds the L.P., and himself, that given that this was a special election and another House race looms in 2018, that "we're nine months away from having to start waving signs around again, and it's hard to build up a Party in that amount of time."

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  1. Once the LP is a recognizable force at the local level, people will be more willing to give Libertarian candidates a chance for Congress, which will be the best route toward national recognition. Libertarians, and all third parties, running for local offices should especially seek seats in multi-member districts where a R vs D dichotomy has less power over the electorate.

    1. To your first sentence, NO. “The People” don’t want libertarianism, they want free stuff.

      As to your second sentence, you are right, the best hope to get the message out is at the local level, though to be frank, multi-member districts unless they use some form of proportional representation do not tend to give any advantage to minority parties.

    2. But they’ve been saying that for 40 yrs.

    3. R & D doesn’t really mean much at the local level. The only reason many local races look so partisan is because both major parties are totally top-down driven and OFTEN simply abandon local party organization and local issues. So voters are left with little real choice.

      Airhead ideology means even less. Local elections are about whether one is competent to make sure potholes get filled and cops respond and kids get educated. And if a candidate does want to just get rid of public schools, then they damn well better have a detailed plan to do so that makes sense to voters rather than that just being part of some silly globalist platform that involves NAP in Iraq or foreign trade agreements or immigration.

      Unfortunately LP usually fails to do both. No local organization. Just as top-down as the donkephant. And totally ideological.

  2. The candidate gives himself too much credit. The only reason he did as well as he did was because the two major parties fielded lousy candidates. Had the R not gotten into legal trouble at the end, or had the D been someone a bit more reputable, he would have been down at the 1% that LP candidates are used to. Another example, “Libertarian” Gary Johnson. Had it not been Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Johnson would have done worse than four years prior.

    1. You don’t know much about Montana, do you? Can you find it on a map?

    2. The only reason he did as well as he did was because the two major parties fielded lousy candidates.

      Well, when cray-cray becomes the establishment standard…

      …libertarians will benefit. Principles aside.

      1. Except when they fumble the ball and nominate a Gary Johnson, blowing the best opportunity the party had in decades.

    3. This is Montana we are talking about. You could have stopped at Had the R not gotten into legal trouble.

      1. Ever heard of Jon Tester? There *are* Democrats in Montana, you know.

    4. So who at the LP convention was better than Gary? The stiff? The Antichoice force initiator? The noob? The bomb-throwing anarchist? The Wall Street Journal recently showed federal employees decreasing but state and local numbers exploding as they gorge on asset-forfeiture looting and faith-based transfer payments. Getting the younger politicians to defect opens as many possibilities as spoiler votes. So yes! Running as many non-whacko candidates as possible in local elections is a good strategy, just like tripling the vote count with Gary (despite his running-mate) was good strategy.

  3. Why would anyone listen to this spoiler who is obviously unwilling to pile drive a 4th estater to break past 6%?

    1. The loser probably prefers missionary position to pile driver.

  4. Perhaps the results speak to the – uh – high regard voters have for reporters.

    1. It’s a step in the right direction. Imagine if Rand Paul gave someone like Keith Ohlbermann a savage beating. That thought makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. I’m guessing not many hear would shed a tear for Ohlbie.

  5. Why do parties even have platform documents? It seems like mostly a way to lose votes, to alienate people, and to give opposition candidates a specific opening to launch rhetorical attacks. Isn’t it time to get rid of the platform, especially now that the modern media has gotten thoroughly dishonest and nasty?

    Just write a few not-very-specific position statements for reference and let the candidate talk about representing the voters.

    1. The platform planks are political currency.

    2. Platforms are only for activists not for regular voters. Gotta have something to argue about at conventions in order to demonstrate who the real experts are at Roberts Rules of Order.

  6. Trump fan who stabbed two after racist rant identified as 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us…..an-n765361

    1. Another witness on the train told the station that the suspect told onlookers that it was a free country and he could say as he pleased.

      “He was saying something about America, this is a free country, I can do whatever I want, and the other people [were] saying you know, calm down, or shut up. He got agitated,” the witness said.

      8s peach is not freeze peach

      1. Wasn’t the hate speech countered with more speech and then he got stabby?

    2. Um ok.

    3. “Trump fan who stabbed two after racist rant identified as 35-year-old Jeremy Joseph Christian.”

      I’d say he’s an Obo fan, turd, and probably a very good friend of yours, given his insanity.

      1. I have it on good authority that PB bitterly masturbates to an 8×10 glossy of Trumo five times a day.

    4. Actually, the word “Trump” appeared in the article exactly zero time

      As Freud would say, “Sometimes a nutcase is just a nutcase.”*

      *In all fairness, the same thing can be said about a non-trivial number of those who claim to kill in the name of Allah.

      1. “Actually, the word “Trump” appeared in the article exactly zero time”

        Which is the reason I pointed out to turd that the thug might just as well be an Obo supporter.
        Turd made that claim absent ANY evidence whatsoever. IOWs, turd was being turd, Right, turd?

        1. PB makes up his own facts. Weasley lying pieces of shit like him do that.

    5. Wasn’t the stabber a Bernie Sanders fan?

  7. WaPo apprehends a reality others don’t”

    ‘President Donald Trump and his advisers, seeking to contain the escalating Russia crisis that threatens to consume his presidency, are considering a retooling of his senior staff and the creation of a “war room” within the White House, according to several aides and outside Trump allies.”
    http://www.sfgate.com/news/art…..178268.php

    “CRISIS!” “CONSUMES!” Bullshit!

    1. So he will tell his senior staff, “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”

    2. In Russia, presidency consume you!

    3. And once again, WaPo never actually names any specific person as a verifiable source. Really, at this point their entire news department is just progressive fan fiction.

  8. “we’re nine months away from having to start waving signs around again, and it’s hard to build up a Party in that amount of time.”
    Nine months? It’s been 45 fricking years! For whatever reasons, the LP has seen state parties wax and wane (e.g. Iowa, California) and hasn’t been able to sustain them for very long. Some of it is lack of leadership but some is what I would call lack of followership too. I know a number of activists who burnt out after several years because those they were counting on did not come through with their promises.

    1. From what I’ve seen it is lack of pragmatic skills. L’s become L’s because they want to talk about politics not because they want to create an organization or actually DO politics.

      1. It’s amazing this rando from Montana figured this out in one election cycle but our party turds like hihn, Johnson, n the doofus’s who run the national party can’t figure it out…

        “He knows that many in the Party “are upset that I’m not hardcore libertarian enough for them. But we have to realize we have to start in increments. We can’t start with hardcore libertarianism.””

        But what’s he know, the LP has had sooooooo much success acting like intellectual know-it-all’s talking in extremes and portraying realities that have no chance of existing in today’s political and educational climate.

        As I said before, hihn, Johnson, and their ilk make us look worse, and even more closed minded and stupid than we are. We need to be accessible and acceptable to all, even those who only agree with part of our platform. This guy gets it, but sadly most Lp politicians don’t.

  9. But Greg Gianforte’s 6 percent win over Democrat Rob Quist was far lower than most assessments of Montana’s relative preference for Republicans would indicate

    Democrats are still losing, but at least they’re covering the spread!

    1. They should have a rally celebrating that fact. And promising to beat the spread by even more next time.

    1. I fucking hate it when people number tweets, but 38 is to the point of being comical.

    2. That was a good thread.

  10. Build momentum from the bottom and move from there. Makes sense.

    1. That’s what she said.

  11. But Greg Gianforte’s 6 percent win over Democrat Rob Quist was far lower than most assessments of Montana’s relative preference for Republicans would indicate.

    Do those assessments take into account Montana’s Democrat governor and Democrat senator?

    1. Meh.

      Montana Democrats are more conservative than many state’s Republicans.

  12. He knows that many in the Party “are upset that I’m not hardcore libertarian enough for them. But we have to realize we have to start in increments. We can’t start with hardcore libertarianism.”

    This is the sort of pragmatic approach that may eventually lead to a libertarian ascending into office, which will be fought tooth and nail by the libertarian establishment.

    Maybe a viable libertarians may emerge who’s not for open borders. Oh no! Immigration “restrictionist”! Worse than Trump, who’s already worse than Hitler!

    In places like CA (jungle primary) a well funded libertarian-ish libertarian could theoretically win the second spot and run against a dem. I would vote for Peter Thiel either as a republican or a libertarian. Because the choices are so bad in a freakishly blue state that I’ll live with a less than terrible libertarian or a republican.

    1. This is the sort of pragmatic approach that may eventually lead to a libertarian ascending into office, which will be fought tooth and nail by the libertarian establishment.

      Don’t confuse a principled libertarian with a politician.

      I’ll vote for, and we’ll be better off with, the guy who is most libertarian. Gay Jay wasn’t a purist, but he’d be a damn sight better than the two alternatives.

      (Same can be said for Rand)

      1. I guess my point is, while I’d likely be considered a “purist” I’m a firm believer in incrementalism.

        1. I’m not sure anymore that that’s the big dilemma. Trump got away with saying some pretty outrageous things; makes me think the right candidate could, say, oppose public accommodation laws and not be killed for it. Maybe it’s not a matter of finding a candidate who’s soft enough to not scare away the average voter, but rather a candidate who is charismatic and likable enough that he can get away with things people might see as scandalous. The good news of politics being 80% personality (if it’s true) is you don’t have to compromise on ‘the issues.’

          1. Trump only got away with that because the other major party candidate had even more severe problems. And he BARELY got away with it by squeaking by on a technicality (electoral vs. popular).

            You can’t count on that. Trump and Clinton were both weaker than any major party candidates since at least Michael Dukakis.

            1. Are there stronger candidates in the wings for 2020? For the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, or someone else?

              What makes a strong candidate, other than strong voters? Seems voters are weakening.

        2. +1 increment

      2. I’ll vote for, and we’ll be better off with, the guy who is most libertarian. Gay Jay wasn’t a purist, but he’d be a damn sight better than the two alternatives.

        Except GJ had no chance of winning, so there was little point to voting for him.

        Hypothetical: Say Rand Paul had been the GOP nominee and the other parties’ nominees had been the same. GJ is much closer to an LP type of libertarian than Rand Paul.

        Would you vote for GJ because he was the most libertarian, even though there was a huge gap between the libertarianness of the two candidates who had a chance of winning?

    1. What a fucking idiot. He posted the place and time of the screening he’s going to, and his Twitter account has his picture on it. Dollars to donuts some white knights beat him up in the parking lot before he sets foot in to the theater.

    1. Still would.

  13. Trumping your life: How to be a better, stronger person by being more like the president

    This is the second of five installments I plan to share. If you take this Trump-inspired self-help advice seriously, I believe it will significantly improve your existence.

    1. 4 & 5 were pretty much just rephrasing his earlier points, don’t let the haters get to you and be genuine (good advice, but not really groundbreaking or unique to Trump, as the author suggests). Unless this guy starts listing one way per installment, I have no idea how he’s going to make it to 15.

  14. Your kids actually want you to talk to them about sex

    If any of you feel uncomfortable with this subject, I am available to talk about sex with your teenage children, wives, and/or parents.

    Let me know.

    🙂

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