Candidates should appear on the ballot if:

Saturday, August 18, 2007

To Build a Better Messenger with a Better Message

Entry for August 18, 2007

Some LP activists, impatient for success, correctly diagnosed that the LP Platform was a major problem. Unfortunately, their solution was radical surgery. The belief was that "in your face" libertarianism was a show stopper. I have a differing diagnosis and solution. I do not believe it was never a matter of what was in the official platform, it was what wasn't in.

To begin with a party platform never binds candidates. No platform can trump an individual's own judgment. A platform is useful and necessary as an agenda for action which unites candidates. In order to "challenge the cult of the omnipotent state" one must state not only the targets but define HOW one plans to destroy those targets. This requires a plan of intervention in the processes of government to alter the outcomes.

The central process in which to intervene is the process of elections. This was recognized more than a century ago was by the wealthy interests who fostered and manipulated the Populists and Progressive 'movements' to institutionally entrench an apparent two-party system which preserved choice and allegiance. The whole edifice of the state rest upon popular allegiance to the outcomes produced by the system. It has failed. But it remains legally entrenched despite popular cynicism. The task is to mobilize this popular discontent into support for a reform agenda. It will not do to wait for either dictatorship or popular revolution. Either would worse for almost everyone.

The current spate of ideas to alter the electoral process indicate the time is ripe for reform. A libertarian (regardless of affiliation) should take as broad a view as can fit within the existing constraints of the Constitution - not as opinionated by the Supreme Court - the literal constraints. This does not mean that Constitutional Amendments are out of bounds; rather, amendments are a goal for entrenching a more open system not an immediate agenda item.

In my view, besides obvious ballot access issues, libertarians should serious consider voting systems such as range voting, and a cluster of electoral issues that are constitutionally rooted in the U. S. House of Representatives: the size of the House affects the Presidential Electors, decentralization of representation (apportionment), gerrymandering (re-districting), uncaging voters by allowing them to swap congressional districts with a state (voiding the partisan or racial effect of any boundary), anonymous campaign financing, secure paper ballots, and, lastly but not completely, re-empowering the House as the real "Inspector General" of the national government with rigorous oversight to trample down Executive secrecy. The House has the power of the purse and the power to initiate impeachment. If the LP is to make it's long awaited break through its central focus should be on access to the U.S. House of Representatives - NOT the presidential election.

The targets identified above suggest the "How to". Candidates should focus on rallying the public to support reform with specificity. For example, increasing the size of the House to 1776 members or 2012 (any other large 'magic number'). These reform ideas should be the centerpiece of the Libertarian Party platform and they also happen to be reforms which many other political elements could support.

The role of the LP Presidential nominee should be to take the centerpiece of the platform to the broad national electorate and reinforce the message of local congressional candidates. Otherwise, candidates should be respected as much as other activists and the people generally - your are free and expected to pick and choose your level of commitment to any platform issues. No doubt many will be dubious of the prospect of a consensus on the specificity of certain reforms. Fine. Vigorous intellectual ferment can produce the best and essential details.

Any candidate should free to advocate any more radically liberal specifics.

This, I hope, clarifies why I find the current group of contenders for the LP nomination unappealing. It's not what they stand for, it's what they fail to offer to capture 'the spirit of the age'.

1 comment:

BROKEN LADDER said...

It's good that you recognize the need for Range Voting. Most reformers have thus far been misled into supporting "that other method" that goes by a certain three-letter acronym.

People like Michael Badnarik and Carl Milsted make me optimistic that the tide is turning.