James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Preach to the Choir

Regarding the Portland purge of the Libertarian Party's platform, I couldn't help think that we're missing the real problem: there were just 300 delegates to the convention. No wonder a well-organized faction could turn the party upside-down.

It seems that for the LP to become a "real" national party, then after thirty years it could attract at least one attendee per Congressional district, plus an extra two per state - that is, a state should be as well represented at the convention as it is in Congress. You would think that these spots would be coveted, that there'd be some competition and election at the local level for the privilege of being a delegate. Instead, in many places basically anyone who wants to spend the money and vacation days can go. If just 1% of the population is libertarian, that's 3 million people. But only one in ten thousand of them is committed to the party enough to come to the convention. And it's probably more accurate to place the percentage of libertarians around 10-15%.

In terms of raw numbers, there are enough libertarians with an interest in politics to actually form a real third party that in turn could regularly attract 5-10% of the vote and hold enough "swing vote" power to steer public policy in a libertarian direction. Many have joined or have voted for the LP at one point, but sooner or later have given up on it. And many others never did take the LP seriously. I don't know if it's their fault, the Party's fault, or nobody's fault. But it is clear that many libertarians just do not believe that participation in the Libertarian Party is the best use of their time.

That might be the biggest problem. Before it engages in outreach on the benefits of individual freedom and small government to the masses, it should try to persuade small-l libertarians, the already-convinced, that the LP is the last, best hope for the country. That sounds like a tall order, but if the Libertarian Party can't attract libertarians, how can it expect to win the votes of anyone else?

1 comment:

  1. The percentage of libertarians who are as radical as the Lew Rockwell folks is considerably less than 1%. The number of people who want significantly less government (both economic and personal spheres) is greater than 15%.

    The LP waffles between serving these very different constituencies. It should either quit trying to win elections and be a full on radical protest organization to fully win the love of the Rothbardians, or it should moderate its message and try to be a mainstream party and win elections.

    By a slim majority, the convention opted for the latter path. This means we need one or more new organizations to full the radical protest role the LP once filled.

    Either that, or the LP needs to define and enforce the Pledge and kick out the non-anarchists so that such a purge could never happen again -- and moderate libertarians can go form their own party and do electoral politics.

    Since a protest organization need not be a political party, the former option is more rational -- but I am not convinced that Man is a rational animal...