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Posted on August 24, 2003 at 10:10 PM

LIO Fellow Ronald Reagan appoints Libertarian John McClaughry to public office as a Federal Commissioner. Libertarians are now regularly appointed by Presidents and officials of other parties.

The paradigm is Libertarians can't get elected or be effective when elected. Here are the facts: think again.


Washington, DC--Libertarians in public office are at a world high after a push by the US LP advised by LIO facilitator M. Gilson and candidate Harry Browne.The plan has worked well in Costa Rica under a different structure. They aim to use best practice information and focus on developing Libertarians already there.





US LP political Director Ron Crickenberger said there were 606 Libertarians counted and verified in US public office, plus another 204 non USLP members, including many former members, in a personal list he keeps, of which at least 100 are USLP members who have not been added yet to the website. There are some 200 elsewhere worldwide but not under a Libertarian label. The official USLP list on its website has some inaccuracies and must be updated, not reflecting people who are in office and showing some who retired.


He said the push moved Libertarians in public office from barely 100 in 1998 to 800+ in a plan brainstormed with LIO by focus on:

>Systematic Contact of Prospects

>A simplified platform of "replacing coercive programs wiuth voluntary ones" line by line

>Educative tours and 1-day training workshops

>Focus on appointive boards which upped elective results as people went from one to another

>Focus on building community constituency and good deeds.

The following was a report to the LP Chair.




After a spectacular debut with a Libertarian in Congress, the Costa Ricans have set local goals of both 'hard line' Libertarians and Liberal-Libertarian-oriented prople in office with good results, adopting the LIO goals. UPDATE: As of 2008 they reported over 80 Libertarians, mostly on local boards, in office, and 5 people  (10%) in the country's congress.



The effort broke many myths in the view of this memo that had been holding Libertarians back or giving ground for attack by anti-Libertarians. The authors feel that with continued good training in Libertarian principles and implementation, and political campaigning, many Libertarians and Liberal-Libertarians can get in public office more easily than ever.


 (By Ron Crickenberger, R. Swanson, review by H. Browne, W. Pollard)

 (From draft report. Courtesy R. Crickenberger)


>Libertarians can't get elected

They weren't as much as we wantyed until there was goal-setting, training, and focused effort that in fact cost little money. Trained and Pledged Libertarians actually got elected more easily in terms of repeat campaigns than those in major parties, and occupied more offices as elected (31%) than generally available (5%). The number of Libertarians elected partially tracks the number of pledged Libertarians, namely 1%. However, some states such as NH have 10% of their members in public office.Nationally, with 100,000 pledged members whether active or not who've shown activity in the last election cycle, we should have 10,000 Libs in office.


>We can get many Libs in office.

Our main restriction is Libertarians available. The maximum number of Libs in office we found was in NH, Vermont, and several other places that had 36 pledged Libertarians per million population. A first milestone of 10 means the US could have 3000 in office and aim for over 10,000, more than the highest percentage of members of those showing an interest in such activities, and viable if we have 100,000 members or supporters pledged and supportive of the platform. However, any Libertarian group not moving in that direction is misguided if it wants people in office from this poiint of view, and supporters should act accordingly.Otherwise the USLP will cease to represent Libertarians as a credible entity in its bailiwick: gettingt people in public office.


>Libertarians should avoid appointive offices

Many of the most important wins were reported by those in appointive advisory offices. The US Presidency is technically an appointive office, as are many judgeships. If anything we need to focus on getting Libertarian judges trained and in office.This is a destructive and misleading statement, and scares away many prospects.

>One Libertarian on a board can do nothing

The reverse. Libertarians formed several board majorities and led 51% of the boards in some capacity, being perceived as neutral and consensus leaders, and unusually well informed. They reported great effects on policy.


>Libertarians only get 3% in elections

Many were obviously getting elected, often in landslides. The disconnect is it takes everybody 3-4 campaigns to get within striking distance. The major factors impeding electoral success were :a) :ack of ideological and practical training; b) Failing to "suit up, show up, and play the game," according to several Libs in public office; c) Failure to persist over several campaigns and build a local base of support and knowledge, including communicating their achivemnents ince elected. This might be OK if one is just running to help ballot access, but people who get in office have a serious attitude and know these 3 things. Training was key. Trained (200 hours) Libertarians in Florida averaged 15% of the vote in a statewide effort that then resulted in many appointments. Many who used the US LP "Success" 1-2 day workshops and then self-trained at home practicing the materials and used phone mentoring (about 100 hours) reported marked increases in committment, comfort, and ability, and quite simply many got into public office. Many people reporting low levels refused or did not take training or were fringe candidates with strange non-Libertarian platforms pushed by 'reformers' and 'mainstreamers' in the LP who were GOP oriented, and then when they lost portrayed as the result of too many 'extreme talking club Libertarians in the LP.'


>A real party is not a debate or education society and should focus on elections only

Then why do opponents study Libertarian books to debate us? The US Army says it's main tasks for commanders is educatiopn, education, education. The USLP helped pioneer learning organizations as effective ones, but many people want it to go backwards. An uneducated candidate is a losing one. Education, especially on where Libs are doing well, and debate was essential in training Libertarians. Focus on just elections caused many things not to be done that supported or enhanced the effort, such as connecting with local activists. What was most effective was setting goals for getting people in public office whether appointive or elective. A goal of 9 people in appointive office and 1 in local elective office over several years trains people and reflects the political reality in most communities. The mission of the USLP is to encourage development of Libertarian communities by legal, educational, activist and political means. In addition, most political change is through lobbying and direct democracy, or Libertarians in appointive office. Elected Libertarians must be plugged in to these groups for obvious reasons to ease and accelerate change. By not focusing on healthy debate based on education in Libertarianism, the way was opened for many debatable and failing tactics.


>The USLP platform is a major block to getting in office

The reverse. While a committee is improving wording based on our experiences, it's very powerful and got us 8 times more people in office despite internal opposition from both 'pragmatists' who believe a weak message is a winning message, and 'purists' who often disliked such efforts or were attracxted to fringe candidates. The USLP platform is a problem only to those hostile to the platform, which was originally designed as a list of what citizens should be able to do and to focus activism. Nor was there any agreement on problem areas, as most criticisms reflected people's pre-Libertarian backgrounds or general ignorance of US law. An experimental reformatted platform with short candidate-friendly summary for reference (UPDATE: a version was adopted by the USLP in 2004 and is being re-formatted for international use by 2011) proved essential in training and being able to answer opponent questions. In addition, it was essential as a guide for people in appointive office. A study showed that focus groups of ordinary voters were more favorable to it (81%) than average Libertarian Conventioneers surveyed (65%) many of whom, however, tended to come from political extremes. Activists who stuck to the wording word for word reported success in its use. What is the problem? A study by Florida discovered that 89% of 200 surveyed as unhappy with the platform had not read it or made out-of-context conclusions; when directed to read the platform and then discuss any problems, 91% changed their minds. At the same time, not going off message on arcane issues but sticking to local issues the office could effect were key e.g. not talking about Foreign Policy when running for Library Board. Candidates who stuck to local issues supported by constituents then created simple 3-point platforms using the USLP platform as the basis, as it was intended for, did well and reported feeling very comfortable in presentation; but no message, however well crafted, substitutes for getting out there and making friends of voters.


>The USLP Platform has major problems

76% of those in public office surveyed rated it "essential" or "very helpful" in communicating with the public and understanding what to do, and 52% of those in Public Office complained it was not detailed enough for their position needs. Claims it was too long are false, as it is dramatically shorter than the platforms of most US parties including the GOP and Dems, and a short version already available for those in office was thought very helpful. Of 203 claims of problems associated with using the platform showed (itself a very low number) and rounded, showed:

--65% had not trained and admitted they had not read or understood the platform, or described it in other language. Of these nearly two-thirds stated they did not like the platform or many Libertarian positions anyway. One half of all surveyed (53%) admitted they agreed with attackers instead of defending the platform, hence the news story.

--21% said the report was exaggerated, false, or reported the platform inaccurately

--11% were stories from people who "hated" or disliked  the USLP anyway and "would attack anything Libertarian" as several admitted, or based on misinformation that in 3 cases resulted in a correction

--3% were verified


>Libertarians only elect people to dog catcher

No such posts have ever been occupied to the USLP's knowledge. Many Libertarians are in mayoral, council, and high advisory offices. The USLP has a stated goal of focus on local office which it is certainly meeting. However, campaigns for higher offices are needed in many states for ballot reasons: We recommend focusing on removing the ballot laws as was done in Florida and other states.


>Libertarians can't win partisan campaigns

They do more than major parties, 10%, at a higher level than offices available. Most public offices in the US are non-partisan and appointive (90% appointive) and unevenly distributed. Thus NH has more elective offices than Florida. A few states in the midwest have nearly a majority of elective offices in the US. (Note to Libertarians out of US: It is better to compare your country to State US LP's as more reflective of the effort needed.)


>It takes a lot of money to get elected from the LP

Most local offices needed legwork, not money.The best use of money was a) Petitions to build recognition, nad outr literature, and as a d-base source of contributions; b) Pizza money for people to hold signs on election day at the polling stations, which doubled the vote (i.e. people who normally would have gotten 26% of the vote won by using this technique); c) post-election thank you letters. We suggest the LP get completely out of donating to candidates and encourage them to raise their own funds and share d-bases with us for use of the name and all Lib groups.


>We can only run paper candidates, or should focus on partisan vs. non-partisan, local vs, state, etc.

Florida stopped calling its candidates paper candidates when a survey revealed that on key metrics the candidates were doing more than their opponents in getting out to the public. Training helped people get past false strategic choices. The best thing was to find what a person needed to do and mentor them.


>The LP needs professional help and should imitate the major parties in elections

The best result was to do the reverse: run a series of person-to-person, low budget, people centered campaigns. In summary, we've accomplished the sub-mission of "Building an organization capable of electing Libertarians." What we now need to do is repeat what we know and continue what we're doing, but in the focused manner that has worked here, both nationally and statewise. Many fear that extreme socialists and religious conservatives claiming to be Libertarians to do what they can to divert the effort by proposing big campaigns, attacking the platform and diverting focus from setting actual goals via a political director. However, the techniques are now so any Libertarian can do them if properly mentored. While LIO is preparing manuals and a non-partisan arm  to distill the effort, we emphasize this was done with present materials: A workshop, re-formatted platform, excellent manuals by Mr. Winter and others, and above all, building teams that set goals to get in office by energizing the people with personal calls, concrete goals, and training workshops.

>LP or Libertarian candidates draw from mostly from some group e.g. conservative voters

Separate recent surveys involving LP-LIO and LP Florida-LIO (the latter with selected  in-depth follow-up interviews)  questioned people entering and leaving polls. They determined;

  • Libertarians draw equally from all political parties and independents; and more than proportion to population among minorities, women, and recent immigrants
  • Libertarians do very well with the self-reported over 140 IQ and the young
  • Libertarians do well among college educated and unions
  • The more "radical" the Libertarians to LIO standards, the more they draw votes. trained Libertarian in Florida (they took over 100 hours in training and used a unified '3-line  make it all voluntary' platform they designed averaged 1/6th of the vote in State legislature with all time highs, and move appointments to public office from 4 to 45 (As of 2005)..Libertarians who invoked constitutional, compromised, or other off-topic themes did poorly.
  • Libertarians strong points were the perception they were neutral, rights-oriented, listened to the public, and had a comprehensive platform to guide discussion.In Florida the refusal  of Libertarians to attack their opponents and vow to run low-budget campaigns and not take large donations (the  80+ candidates were outspent by one Green) were huge pluses.
  • Most people who voted Libertarian  were new or previously semi-active voters. 90% of respondents said they only voted because there was a Libertarian. Over 99% were not registered or members of a Libertarian Party.
  • 99% said they would like to see more Libertarians in local and appointive office
  • Many suggested they would like to see Libertarians as educators among peers in public office, and liked the Florida pledge to continue into local appointive office or as citizen monitors.
  • 2000 surveyed from all parties (not those who voted for Libertarians alone) and groups who agreed to review the draft guideline (2004) platform said they would support each plank with over 51% consent, with an avareage of 72% approval and the numbers rose if it were doine by initiative. This was cause for concern as this actually exceeded plank support in the USLP itself based on delegate votes and follow-up surveys (63%). In other words, the public viewed the LP platform as more acceptable than the Libertarians, who generally felt if they had problems it was too radical. This seems to track the phenomenon of advocates underestimating "silent support" among the public.
  • A survey of elected Libertarians said there major weakness was lack of education on their own philosophy and what Libertarian peers are doing; and strategically, lack of appointed people in public office and activist initiatives to support their efforts.
  • Finally, respondents cited as a main benefit from Libertarian candidacies that they were motivated to discover what the laws and constitutions actually were, and the details of the budget (In Florida, all candidates carried a chart of the budget and their pitch consisted of simply asking the audience for improvement suggestions that were of a voluntary and rights-respecting nature).

Based on the responses, Mr. Crickenberger and his team created a best practice plan to bring 1000 Libertarians in public office, 90% appointed, by 2012 to the US LP in addition to those already in office plus more to account for retirements. Exccept for ballot access or outreach purposes, it was concluded LP should de-emphasize registration and local affiliates as these arenot directly related to electoral totals, concentrate on appointive and direct democracy initiatives, and focus on using the Florida approach in concordanc with a new guidline standard platform and strategic improvement toolkit (see www.LibertarianBookClub.org updated). The LIO has adopted the conclusions as guides for world action groups.

Mr. Crickenberger summarized by saying Libertarian did best by doing the opposite of political common wisdom, and cited Republican Party study summaries of which he had become aware that found similar results in terms of Libertarian sources of support and message strengths. The LIO will continue its non-partisan training focus in due course. (Update)

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