“Onan… spilled his seed on the earth, lest that he should give seed to his brother.”
Ballot access is a major goal of the Libertarian Party, so much so that we seem to be more concerned with keeping or gaining ballot access for whatever election is next rather than with getting any Libertarian actually elected in whatever election is before us today. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ballot_access) Ballot access seems to have become that tail that wags the dog in third-party politics. Yes, it is important to have our candidates on ballots, but doing that should not come at the expense of our using our resources, time and efforts to actually get Libertarians elected to higher offices than city councils, county commissioners and Justices of the Peace.
Without actually quoting any specific messages or e-mails to me, I will say that when I have asked my state Party Leadership for Party help with my own election, I have been told that, rather than focusing resources on any specific race, they don’t want to show “preference” for any candidates or any particular races because “it wouldn’t be fair”. I was told that “with 193 candidates, we can’t play favorites”. I say that it is because of attitudes like that which have resulted in NO major or significant election wins in almost 40 years. When election results are tallied, we crow about how significant we are because Libertarian candidates got 5% of the vote here and 7% of the vote there. Getting 5% of the votes in an election is still losing that election.
The reason I used the infamous line about Onan is that what we are doing as a Party is “spilling our seed on the earth” instead of creating any actual elected officials. I have a feeling, in fact, that Libertarians have been telling each other for so long that is it so important to view the percentages of our loses as victories that I think that there will be a lot of anger, resentment and even hatred showered on the first Libertarian who actually wins a notable office. In Irving Janis’ ground breaking book ‘Groupthink’, he tells us this story:
“Twelve middle-class American men and women wanted to stop smoking, and attended weekly meetings at a clinic to discuss the problem. Early in the sessions, two people stood up and declared that cigarette smoking was an almost incurable addiction. The group agreed. The, one man stood up and said “I have stopped smoking and, with a little willpower, so can the rest of you.” Immediately, the other group members began to abuse him verbally, and the meeting ended in chaos. The following week, the dissident stood up again and said that he could not both attend all of the required meetings and stop smoking; so he had returned to smoking two packs of cigarettes as day. The other members welcomed him back into the fold with enthusiasm but no one mentioned that the original purpose of the group was to help each other stop [emphasis in original] smoking. Their new aim was maintaining the status quo at any cost.”
I think that, deep down in their subconscious minds, the leadership and long term activists in the Party have become so inured to losing elections that they have accepted a cognitive dissonance in which they delude themselves that they are accomplishing great things by simply showing up to the ball, as it were. Ballot access is NOT what we need to be working for; getting Libertarians elected to significant offices IS what we need to be working on. We HAVE to “fertilize some eggs” and then nurture them to maturity, so to speak. If we do not and cannot accomplish that, then what the Hell good are we to America, our states and our communities?
Maybe Libertarian Party candidates NEED to be spending time standing in front of their local Wal-Mart and grocery stores collecting signature to get ourselves on ballots. Maybe we need to be holding open meetings to let people who aren’t Libertarians talk to us instead of holding rallies that are only open those who already think like the rally organizers do. Maybe we need to create “Election Coordinators” to be officers on, if not paid staff of, both our state and our national executive committees? Maybe we need to start from the ground up, do the necessary work, and use the necessary resources to get electable candidates INTO office. Maybe we need some humility instead of fancy offices in Washington. We do not need to attract the rich and powerful even though doing so makes us proud of ourselves; we need to make it where everyday people can walk in off of the street and ask us who we are and what we stand for.
Onan “spilled his seed on the earth” because he did not WANT to make his brother’s widow pregnant with his child, because it would then be considered his brother’s child instead of his own. The Libertarian Party is “spilling its seed on the earth” and, whether or not we admit that we obviously don’t really want “progeny”, that is the reality that comes with distributing our resources far and wide without there being any chances of those resources paying off for us in the end. We throw our seeds on “rocky barren places where they can find no purchase”.
The current Libertarian Party Bylaws state that:
“The Party is organized to implement and give voice to the principles embodied in the Statement of Principles by:
(F)unctioning as a libertarian political entity separate and distinct from all other political parties or movements;
(M)oving public policy in a libertarian direction by building a political party that elects Libertarians to public office;
(C)hartering affiliate parties throughout the United States and promoting their growth and activities;
(N)ominating candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States, and supporting Party and affiliate party candidates for political office; and,
(E)ntering into public information activities.”
Notice that the bylaws say that the method authorized by the Party to move public policy is BY getting Libertarians elected to public office. Without getting Libertarians elected we, by our own words, cannot try to move public policy simply by existing as a Party. In addition, the burden of “chartering affiliate parties” falls on the organization itself, NOT upon the people. It is a requirement of our bylaws that the Party itself create (a pre-requisite for chartering, I assume) the affiliate parties. Simply hoping that people will come to US and want to form local Party affiliates for us is neither effective nor in line with what our bylaws say. As with a candidate up for election, the burden is on us, as a Party, to earn the votes / support of the people. It is not THEIR responsibility make things easy for us. By the way, note that maintaining ballot access is NOT one of our stated purposes.
In Texas, the charter for our state Party says that the voting membership of State Executive Committee will be composed of the elected state Party officers and two representatives from each of our state’s 31 Senatorial districts. That means that there should be 62 district representative members sitting on our state Executive Committee. Instead of 62, there are (according to information on the LP of Texas website, http://lptexas.org/content/state-leadership) only 19, with only 6 of the 31 districts being fully represented by two members. This means that only 13 out of 31 districts have ANY representation on the Executive committee at this time. In addition to that, ALL of the current representatives on the LPTEC are from high population areas of the state. Not a single representative member of the LPTEC speaks for rural areas or even moderate population centers.
Like the government of the State of Texas, it seems as if both the National and, at least, the Texas Parties exist simply because they have existed and they function on nothing more than their own small inertia. As one of my political heroes, Pat Paulsen, said;
“Vote or get off of the pot.”
I have said before that, until we get serious about ACTUALLY being a contributing part of the American political scene, until we actually manage to win some real elections, we have become and will remain nothing more than a lunatic fringe wandering in the wilderness telling ourselves that we matter. So, I ask every Libertarian and libertarian who reads this to ask themselves one simple question… “Will I be content to just “spill my seed on the earth” again this year?”
Rhys M. Blavier
“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor”
© Copyright 2010 by Rhys M. Blavier
Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.