Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Thinking about 2006

Yep. The 2004 election season isn't even over and I'm thinking about 2006.

Assuming the Libertarian Party of Washington State retains major party status - and I think it will - it will need to start thinking about two things:

  • Increased outside interest in the party.
  • The 2006 election cycle.

Increased outside interest in the party will translate to several subsidiary factors:

  1. Increased media contacts
  2. Increased membership
  3. Increased importance of watching legislative action, particularly in election law

The 2006 election cycle will (should) involve the following:

  1. Candidate recruitment beginning in 2004 (not 4 months before filing week)
  2. Candidate training and development
  3. Candidate support
  4. Fundraising
  5. Get out the vote (GOTV) strategies
  6. Media follow up -- i.e., making sure L candidates are recognized in surveys, overview articles, tables and charts, etc.

The party has historically been great at analysis. Now it needs to get good at planning and follow through.

Let's get busy!

Friday, October 29, 2004

"Paper" Candidates

Cary Thomas, one of the LPWS' more active members, points to an email recently received in the LP mailbox, to wit:

"Did you folks ever think you might get further in your uphill fight if you would have your candidates taken ten minutes to submit statements to the various papers that have solicited impute from each of the canadates? I keep reading the republican and democratic statements, but under libertarian, it just says 'not submitted'."

Says Cary,

"I think this outlines the perils of running (paper) candidates who are unwilling or unprepared to engage the media and public - some folks notice the absence. We fail our candidates by asking them to run then not providing significant support after they file. Why SHOULD people vote for our candidates when they don't participate? ....

"My question is, will we ever change our strategy, or keep doing the "same old thing", expecting a different outcome? I have less than 7000 days left on the Earth - God is not a Libertarian. If I can't expect any change in strategy from the party, why should I continue? There's more fun things to do with my time."

First, I do hope that Cary has more than 7000 days on this earth.

Nonetheless, Cary does have a point. Assuming the LPWS does at least as well this year as it did in 2000, it is going to have to improve its image. While I would not outright prohibit "paper" candidates I would implement some procedures to ensure that the appropriate media statements were made on behalf of the candidates who are too busy or otherwise unable to answer newspaper queries.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Elections becoming increasingly litigious

Supreme Court Ousts Nader From Ohio Ballot is yet another example of the increasing level of litigation going on around elections. Nader has had an expensive battle in nearly every state of the union. Be warned! If Badnarik costs Bush the election in 2004 the same thing will happen to the Ls in 2008.

Lawyers mobilize for election

Consistent with my prior post on this subject hundreds of D and R attorneys will be prowling the polling and ballot counting locations throughout Washington on Tuesday looking for evidence of fraud and vote tampering. Joe Turner of the Tacoma News Tribune reports here. Sayeth Republican Chairman Vance, "This what Florida has done to us." Hardworking L activist Janet Anderson has had all she could do to round up a few dozen poll watchers for the Ls.
Fact is, with percentages being so critical to both ballot access and major party status, the Ls are going to have to follow suit (pun not intended) if they expect to continue to be a factor in future elections.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Florida was just the beginning

The San Francisco Chronical reports: Legal battles could cloud outcome in swing states - Fraud allegations and lawsuits over voting equipment Eight states (not Washington, yet) have lawyers poised to pounce on November 3rd.

I think we can expect this kind of thing to happen in 2008 as well, and maybe even after that, at least until the dust has settled over such things as "touch voting" machines and paper trails.

Partisanship on the US Supreme Court

Well, there you have it. At least somebody is willing to tell the truth.

According to an AP story out today U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, speaking of the (in)famous Bush v. Gore election case of 2000, told a legal seminar on judicial activism this:

"I had to ask myself would I vote the same way if the names were reversed. I said 'yes.' But I'll never know for sure - because people are great self-kidders - if I reached the truthful answer."

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Presidential matching funds

In today's Tacoma News Tribune David Broder concludes, "the choice for the country becomes one of confirming an executive with visible and even fundamental shortcomings or entrusting the presidency to a man whose habits of mind and of action are far removed from the challenges of the White House."

How very disappointing a choice--a megalomaniac versus an indecisive policy wonk. And yet Broder and the rest of the mainstream media continue to refuse to engage in a discussion of the other candidates. But perhaps there is a reason for that. Few, if any, of them have the background of public office that these two have.

And so Libertarian Michael Badnarik, genuine as he is in his philosophy, can not demonstrate he has the personal mettle to lead the country, at least not according to the generally accepted coinage, experience in office. This is not meant to be a criticism of Badnarik. He has far exceeded my personal expectations when he was nominated. But the fact is the Libertarian Party has yet to nominate any candidate with more than a smattering of public office experience.

There are, of course, several reasons for that, not the least of which is the Catch-22 problem of getting Libertarians elected in the first place. And this is all tied up in the "wasted vote" problem that Libertarians and all "other" political party candidates have to contend with.

But there is one obstacle at the Presidential level that sooner or later the Libertarian Party is going to have to come to terms with -- matching funds.

The very idea of setting aside taxpayer money to fund political campaigns is anathema to the Libertarian philosophy. But those ARE the rules of the game as it is currently played, and all the foot stamping in the world isn't going to change that.

During the Clinton era libertarian leaning Steve Forbes mounted a credible campaign for the presidency. But he did so as a Republican. I have little doubt that one factor in his decision (aside from the "brand name recognition" issues) was the Libertarian Party's opposition to matching funds.

Yet, the cost of mounting a serious campaign for the presidency is so prohibitive that only the personally wealthy, like Ross Perot, could give even a passing thought to taking the plunge. So far, as far as I know, no one like Perot has joined the Libertarian Party. The only person who has come close was Aaron Russo, who for multiple reasons didn't get the nod at the party convention.

And so the question becomes: What sort of candidate is going to consider running under the Libertarian banner when the party philosophy hobbles him at the starting gate? Can the LP ever expect to ever field an experienced high-profile candidate for president for so long as it requires that candidate to refuse matching funds?

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Taken by my daughter one summer Saturday afternoon Posted by Hello

Learning to Tell the Truth

Last weekend here New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman lamented the failure of modern American politicians to tell the truth. He would, for example, vote for Bill Cosby if "he would talk as bluntly to white parents and kids about what they need to do if they want to succeed as he did to black kids and parents a few months ago."

Of particular concern to Friedman were three population related phenomena that should reach critical mass in the next 10 years or so. First, the American baby boom generation is now two presidential terms away from claiming its Social Security and Medicare benefits. Assuming the programs remain unchanged, some claim the cost will exceed the net worth of our entire national economy. Second, Friedman says young people in India, China and Eastern Europe will enter the job market as skilled, or perhaps more skilled than our own children, and compete for even the high-tech jobs. The third wave, according to Friedman, is from the Arab world, which has the fastest growing population in the world. One-third of the Arab population is under the age of 15, and the Arab world is not even close to educating its baby boomers with the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century, a prescription for humiliation and suicide terrorism.

But, as Friedman noted, truth hasn't sold well to the American public.

After a half century of relatively easy times any talk of hardship and hard choices offends those secure in their easy chairs and watching ESPN. And it isn't as if Friedman just discovered these things. Local libertarian and friend Kelly Haughton advised me of the coming Social Security crisis nearly 10 years ago. Now, the impending failure of Social Security is so commonly known that most educated adults under 40 don't expect the program to exist when they retire.

But still nobody seems to care. And while future job competition and widespread poverty in the third world may not seem as threatening, they are likely to cause just as much financial upheaval as the retirement of the baby boomers will. And these issues are barely on anybody's radar.

From a strategic perspective, this may not matter much to Libertarians either. At present most of us are still trying to be recognized as a legitimate alternative to the same old party rhetoric that we have been hearing for most of the 20th century.

Happy Times Are Here Again

This is the New Frontier

Morning in America

But these issues--Social Security Crisis, Third World Job Competition and Massive World Poverty--are just around the bend. As the Libertarian Party continues to grow and gain influence it needs to start thinking about practical responses to them now, so that it will be ready when the need arrives.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Re: The politics of consumption

Seattle Times guest columnist Philip Cushman laments the consumer mentality in modern politics here. We are destroying American democracy, he says, because we live in a consumer society, and the candidates themselves have become a consumer product. He notes, for example, "that representatives in the House have to raise an average of $100,000 per day when they are on recess in order to defend their seat every two years." So far, so good.

But after all this wringing of hands, Cushman's answer is atrocious. He argues, "we must increase our efforts to institute a governmental agency that would force political ads to be scrupulously honest and accurate, both in fact and in spirit, before they could be released to the public."

Uh, lessee. We are reduced to political consumers of packaged candidates and so we should demand truth in advertising. As if advertising was ever truthful. The whole point of marketing is to get people to buy something they probably don't need in the first place. This is done by presentation of selective facts and "puffery," the fine art of stretching the truth. Everybody knows this is how it works, and yet Cushman thinks a government agency can stop political consumerism by regulating free speech.

There is no doubt that money is one of the driving forces in politics. And Cushman is right to complain of its predominance. But his solution throws the baby out with the bathwater.

The other driving force in politics is ideas. And without the fullest protection of the First Amendment there is no point in the exercise at all.

There is, to my mind, no way to eliminate the influence of money in politics. The cure, to the extent there is one, is not to suppress free speech, but to protect it. Develop electoral systems that encourage the marketplace of ideas, such as by relaxing ballot access laws for independents and minor parties.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Opening Salvos

I am setting aside the ordinary prefatory comments about newfangled technologies, the blogosphere and old men such as myself. Suffice it to say for now that liberty is, or should be, timeless, and the internet is one way to keep the flames afire, even if it does mean an old dog needs to learn new tricks.

This blog will be a vehicle for my own comments and the comments of others (assuming I can properly set the preferences) about the cause of liberty in the State of Washington, and more specifically the future of the Libertarian Party of Washington State.

No doubt there will be times when national or local events will bear on the matter. But the basic premise is that things periodically happen that affect the work of liberty, and which things will sometimes need to be publicized in ways that prior to the internet were simply not possible.

Over time I am hoping this site can become a place where the curious can find out what at least one libertarian (me) thinks about current events, and what a world of the future based on libertarian thinking might be like.

So much of our public speech these days contain the words of freedom and liberty -- e.g., "Where do you want to go today?" or "Let's motor!" -- but so much of that is ersatz freedom. Where we go and what we do is severely limited by laws allegedly designed to protect us from ourselves. What we do in our own back yards or in our own bedrooms are, for the most part, nobody's business but our own. But I'll wager each person reading this can think of at least one thing they might do in each of these places that really has no legitimate public consequences, but which the law prohibits anyway.

This isn't to suggest there are no public problems and that government is unnecessary. Rather, it is simply to suggest, a public problem does not always lend itself to a government solution. Further, it is sometimes true that government IS the problem, and if it simply butted out things would work much better.

But even if these postulations are accepted as true, government continues to grow at a phenomenal rate. So, I suppose, the first question is: Is liberty still a viable principle in the 21st century? Or is it merely a relic of a bygone era?

My answer is that liberty is the foundation of human progress and there is no philosophy that has proven better. The problem is the corrupting influence of power. And since, to paraphrase Washington, government is nothing but an aggregation of power, one must deal with the potential for corruption of power in government.