Written, January, 2010 and posted to several Libertarian pages and publications.
By: Allan Wallace
There is a cable TV network that advertises, “Characters Welcome” and emphasizes their successful lineup of shows about odd and out of the mainstream people.
The Libertarian Party has always had more than its fair share of “characters”. For any party member that has attended a national LP Convention, I only need to say the name “Starchild” and there is instant recognition.
I remember when I first joined the party while living in Georgia; we had some LPGa members that reminded me of my great uncle who chewed tobacco so long that he barely had any teeth left. These LPGa members were gun enthusiasts from rural Georgia that came to our monthly meetings looking like they had been working on a farm all day and didn’t have time to change (which was probably the case).
My first thoughts were not complementary. I couldn’t understand why they would come to our meeting dressed like this, and besides, at the time I thought Second Amendment issues were just too difficult to explain to my liberal friends. I was still learning more about Libertarianism.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is always a place in the LP for hard working independent thinkers from any side or corner of the libertarian spectrum, just as there has always been a place for people who want to end the War on Drugs, and people who want to end all War (except in defense of our borders). Starchild, Angela Keaton, and other liberal-leaning Libertarians are welcome in a party that welcomes characters.
And, Ron Paul is DEFINITELY a character! Anyone who works within the Republican Party to pull Republicans to a more libertarian position has to be a character or the work would drive him insane. Ron Paul and his followers are welcome in a party that welcomes characters.
Even that hodge-podge of groups and individuals tired of politics-as-usual, big deficits, and huge debt, known as The Tea Party Movement (when it began) has a place with us. Except for a very vocal minority (in the beginning), they were primarily libertarians and libertarian-leaning folks from across the spectrum from the radical left, through centrist America, to the Ron Paul right. And, they are welcome in a party that welcomes characters.
What happened to the LP?
The Libertarian Party has always been a “big tent” party, welcoming “Characters” from every walk in life. But, in the last few years, the LP has lurched right-ward, constricting its outlook and reach to only the Right side of the political spectrum, and now I find myself apologizing for that far too often.
Recently, someone in a position of leadership in the party who is a part of our new conservative leadership had the gall to claim that Conservative-libertarians represent the “new center” of the party. This attitude has already hurt our influence in the greater libertarian movement. If we do not move the LP back toward the center of the movement soon, it will serve as confirmation to libertarians on and from the left that they are not welcome in the party.
And it hasn’t stopped with the left. Since the previous LP Convention in 2008, no less than three popularly elected Representatives to our national LNC, one from the left and two from the center have been forced to resign under questionable circumstances or have been summarily dismissed on a technicality. Two of these elected Representatives have been replaced with conservatives, both of whom lost the election to the people they replaced. The LNC was forced to reinstate the third.
If this “Conservatization” of the LP continues beyond the 2010 LP Convention, politics within the movement will fracture, right and left, and start working against each other. Instead of being a Bridge between opposing factions, the LP will plant itself firmly on one side forcing the other side to compete against it for members and limited resources. There have always been factions within the movement that love to bicker with each other, but this could become all-out war, ultimately damaging what influence we have and forever painting us as a fringe movement that can easily be dismissed.
So, the choice boils down to that of being the party that welcomes characters, seeks to reconnect factions, and leads the whole libertarian movement, or being a party on the fringe of a fringe.
The vast majority of the Right-wing Libertarians now in control of our national party are not bad or evil people. They simply have not yet discovered the full depth and consistency of Libertarian Philosophy, or have been led astray by the same Devil that plaques the major parties and offers the temptation of political success in exchange for their libertarian souls.
The Libertarian Party can be a BOLD and “Big Tent” party once again, it will take work on our part to move it back to Center, but it can be done. We must vote with our dollars and our time, giving to our state and local LP when they encourage “Big Tent” party building. And, we must prepare for the 2010 LP Convention when we must again elect as many BOLD and “Big Tent” Libertarian Representatives to the LNC as possible.
This must begin with your state LP Conventions where you need to campaign to become a Delegate or Alternate to the National Convention in May. We can rebuild the left side of our big tent, balancing the tent once again.
For the future health and strength of our party and our movement we must restore that balance in the party. And, we must be able to once again proclaim that the Libertarian Party is a Big-Tent party for the whole libertarian movement, where “Characters Are Welcome.”
Note: In both of the conventions of 2010 and 2012 the proverbially pendulum that seemed stuck on the right side of the Libertarian Party for so long, now seems to be swinging slowly back toward center. But we shall see!