by Powell Gammill
Libertarian Candidate, US Congressional District 9, Arizona
With regard to elections long ago the national Libertarian Party gave up its legitimate function of using the tools of the state against the state instead in the pursuit of gathering warm bodies, their money and their votes. Candidates who would not tell truth to power were thrust into the limelight to be immediately forgotten for the pablum they shelled out. The establishment was happy they no longer had to scramble to dismiss as nuts libertarians who made their hand chosen grand poobahs look like idiots, hypocrites and entitled tax hungry ne'er do wells. They had tame Libertarians opposing them.
While the Arizona Libertarian Party avoided that fate, in my opinion, it is no longer effective at using the election tools of the state against the state, and those tools are essentially gone anyway. Let me elaborate:
The registered voters in Arizona number 3,252,041 as of March of 2014. Roughly 65% of persons 18 years of age are registered. Independents are the leading political party in the state with Republicans a close second, and Democrats a large third party. The smaller third party, the Libertarian Party in Arizona maintains enough registered voters (26,595) to maintain ballot status. Among other things this means it takes collecting very few valid signatures (as few as one to a couple hundred) to get a candidate on the ballot. Additionally, if the signature nominating process is unsuccessful or untried for a particular office, a candidate can simply file their nominating paperwork and get posted as a write-in candidate for that office. If they get the same number of primary write-in votes as they needed for signatures they are also placed on the General election ballot.
With the exception of statewide offices that may require a couple of hundred valid signatures most offices could be filled with a day's work. And indeed, if enough write-in votes get cast a person can get on the ballot for a statewide office by only turning in a simple nominating form. The two statewide candidates who tried both got on the general election ballot using this latter method.
Yet, of over a hundred offices available at the state and federal level only a handful were applied for and just a smattering more as write-ins. If the Arizona Libertarian Party cannot find good libertarians willing to run for these offices what is the point of maintaining ballot status?
Secondly, the tools of the state. When the Libertarian Party was being formed in a living room in Denver in 1971, its purpose was not to elect libertarians. Its purpose was to use the election tools provided to candidates: signs, podiums, pulpits, lecterns, newspaper, TV, radio . . . against the state. To communicate the libertarian philosophy and its positions to a repressed world hungry for liberty. To articulate a better way to live. And if it made the establishment candidates look like tools so much the better. If a libertarian actually managed to get elected in the process well ... icing on the cake---unfortunately that icing turned out to be rancid to our cause in most rare cases where such election "victory"occurred. More on that observation in a bit.
So for many election cycles Libertarian Party's in many states were successful in getting libertarian ideas out there. In Arizona especially so. Indeed, I was delightfully surprised when both media and public in Arizona have a pretty good idea of what is and is not libertarian. The majority may not be libertarian but they know what we are and are not.
Unfortunately this sometimes is a problem when one or more of "our" candidates has one or more positions that are not supported by the non-aggression principle. Some of our candidates have been very honest about this abandonment of principle while others simply do it to not cost them votes (for an election they cannot possibly win). Some are honest enough to admit they are not libertarians and are running on our ticket because it requires so little effort to get on the ballot as opposed to trying to get on as an Independent (which can require hundreds to many thousands of signatures). Since we are barred by the courts from being able to keep such people off our ballot much less occupy the ballot with our genuine candidates without using taxpayer funds to do it, I have no problem with this as long as the candidate is open about why he is on the Libertarian ballot.
Libertarians who do not take what limited exposure they get as candidates to proselytize the ideas of liberty instead extolling a slightly different platform from their two-party opponents are wasting their time, and diluting or worse confusing the concept of libertarianism which is a pure and simple philosophy. Wasting your time because who cares how many votes you get? Did you win the election? Did you even come close? No. Then your pursuit of votes was a worthless egomaniacal exercise, and you squandered an opportunity or two to say something that might have stuck for life with a handful of people in an audience. That is where you had a chance to make a difference. Not in an election who's purpose is antithetical to libertarianism: To steal people's property and liberty under the veneer of a voluntarily participating process of majority rule voting.
Yes, election night it is fun to see how many votes you received. But it is the people who come up to you after a debate or at a Libertarian Party function who tell you they heard you speak in the last election and it changed their life that made running for office worth it. That is the purpose of the Libertarian Party: To get one less soldier for the cause of tyranny and fascism. And to gain one new friend.
If our candidates cannot do that we should not be running candidates.
Worse are the Libertarians who get elected. In all but a few cases they turn out to be as bad as their opponents would be. Raising taxes and enacting transgressions at the point of a gun. All while reiterating how libertarian they are. That is some serious damage.
Back to the tools of the state. In 2012, ALL Congressional and legislative districts in all states were redrawn. There were no incumbents. There were elected officials residing in most of those districts to be sure. But even they were a little uncertain about the election outcome; unlike all subsequent elections until 2022.
It should have been a media fest. Instead not a peep from the media. There were no debates of substance. And what little there was was little indeed. The candidates for both two parties were to spend essentially 100% of their time raising money. And the media--guardians of the truth--let them get away with it. Clearly some think tank somewhere had determined that what you say can hurt you. No candidate should say anything of substance unless well vetted ahead of time. Anything else can hurt the candidacy. Raising money is the only thing that matters to victory. So it goes.
If there are no debates, no interviews, no op eds offered then the vast majority of the tools of the state to communicate with the public at little cost are removed. And so is the reason for running a political party who's intent is to get their message out.
Yes there is still the opportunity of sign making, pamphleting and the infrequent event. But is that enough to justify continuing the Arizona Libertarian Party? I remain unconvinced.
The Arizona Libertarian Party is run by good libertarians who do not shy away from our single core principle of non-aggression: That it is wrong to initiate force or fraud on another. They hold a monthly meeting that is well attended in Maricopa County. And essentially debate an issue each month. Continuing that seems worth the effort. But unless a younger crowd finds relevance in running for office as Libertarians I see no reason why registered Libertarians will want to support a primary with no candidates. And if those Libertarian candidates have nothing to say, or worry about saying the things that will cost them votes, or have no forum to communicate anything anyway then what is the point of running candidates?