When I began my term as LPKC Chair in March, I laid out a vision which I called "Roads to Liberty", looking at the political landscape and seeing our work as building the political roads from where others are to liberty. I summed up how I think we should see the world differently this way:
"It means instead of seeing people as who we are and judging whether they are one of us or not, we see people as the dynamic individuals that they are."
Our board was proud to unanimously support Matt Dubin's campaign of "There is No Them" in this spirit. Seeing the average voter in Seattle not for where they are today - very far from liberty on many, many issues - but rather looking at the political landscape, we sat with Matt's team as they looked at the rocky, complicated, and vast political landscape between where Seattle was and the land of liberty, and starting mapping a journey that many thought was hopeless.
Matt, like many other candidates, did not run Libertarian because he looked at the numbers and thought a win was likely, much less thought that the label would earn him votes. He ran because he understood that bringing people toward liberty matters, and that we have to open a conversation with voters to begin guiding them. Because of his plan that put a message before his own name, he has created a grassroots buzz in Seattle of people who see "There is No Them" signs and have gotten curious. I was helping him out at an event, and saw a woman walk up to him and say that just seeing the sign made her cry in joy because it was such a needed message.
We all knew, as a board ranging from Ron Paul Republican converts to radicals and anarchists, that this strategy was different and challenged the party's norms. It challenged all political norms, by focusing on a way of doing politics over a hard set of issues. In a landscape of insurmountable mountains between Seattle and liberty, Matt's campaign strapped on wings to defy the political landscape itself.
He summed up his strategy and passion for moving toward liberty in an interview with Jenn Gray published on election night. Unfortunately, as Jenn mentions, after the interview was recorded there were a series of events that led to a serious breakdown within the party over his campaign and left a lot of people hurt. I won't relitigate the details here, but rather I want to talk about how we do better going forward.
What is the Purpose of the Party?
This question came up during the interview above, and in some ways speaks to the tensions we've seen within the party. There is often a tone that we have to choose or severely prioritize between using the party as a means of "education", and using the party as a platform to run winnable "candidates". This "education vs. candidates" gap in values often leads to full-on fracturing into tribes. While Jenn and Matt in the interview above agree they fall on the "candidates" side, I want to be clear from the LPKC mission statement that we commit to both of those missions (and a third):
(a) Engaging in education and advocacy of libertarian positions and our philosophy of governance;
(b) Recruiting and supporting Libertarian candidates at all levels of government;
(c) Demonstrating private-sector solutions to problems in our communities;
Jacob Lamont, a board member with the state party, held a great live discussion on Facebook where he defied that as well, and shifted the discussion instead to talking about how the Libertarian Party Statement of Principles serves as a central point that we can all work toward. This centralized "land of liberty" defined by the SOP as our common destination is exactly how the vision of "roads to liberty" sees our journey.
Principles as the North Star
The Statement of Principles sets out a very practical set of principles to help us orient ourselves politically even on unfamiliar issues. One does not need to be a self-identified radical or anarchist to fully appreciate the directional strength it has in keeping us from straying down tempting tangents or walking in circles. It learns from the mistakes of both parties. We have learned from Democrats that unrestrained taxing and spending out of compassion ultimately creates more of the poverty it intends to solve. We have learned from Republicans that you can't make America great with an out-of-control military industrial complex. We've learned from both parties that the bigger the government, the smaller the people, and the less liberty we all have.
This gives our party a particularly powerful political compass that allows us to move together effectively if we so choose. It gives us a unique ability to unify where other parties cannot. When I first joined the Libertarian Party, I was amazed to find that we had two popular presidential nominees that had opposing views on abortion - pro-life and pro-choice. Neither of the other political parties have such a strong compass that it could have candidates on both sides of a very divisive issue disagreeing and yet still stay unified. I knew this was the party for me, and the party that is the future of growing America's unity.
A Compass is Best with a Map
If one has a compass and no map, it's tempting to just say "follow the way the compass points" is always the right thing to do. This works great if you're walking across a blank landscape, but for any real-world navigation, this doesn't work. You'll walk off a cliff, into a wall, or just hit dead ends. A compass is a great tool to help navigate, but it's not enough to reach a destination, especially when navigating complicated, rough, or outright impassible terrain. A wise navigator takes that compass and uses it to guide his or her steps while following a course on a map. In fact the whole point of roads - and why they are the most important things on maps - is that they define the paths of least resistance so we can have successful travels.
If we don't have a map, blindly just looking at someone taking a few steps, and are asked with no context "Is this person going the right way?", it's tempting to look at the compass, and if they're not following the arrow, say "No, they're not going the right way!" We see this in the party at times, where a single statement or event, a single policy in a single campaign, a single step in the political landscape, is taken out of context and used to accuse a person of leading others to the wrong place. The harder the terrain we are trying to navigate - the windier the roads, the narrower the path, the more hostile the weather - the more and more that we are going to have to wind here and there and it's not going to look like a straight line toward liberty at all, even when it is the best path.
On a Journey Together
Let's go back to the statement from the original vision:
"[Roads to Liberty] means instead of seeing people as who we are and judging whether they are one of us or not, we see people as the dynamic individuals that they are."
When we are looking to guide others, if we just look at the compass and where we think they are, we're guiding them from a position of blindness. Instead, sit down with them, have them pull out the map together with you, and talk about the path they have mapped out. Maybe you can help them find a shorter path. Maybe they have the map turned around and you can help reorient them. Maybe they are not where you thought they were on the map, or they see obstacles in the terrain they need to navigate around that you don't. Or maybe they were looking further down the road than you were and are avoiding a dead end you would have guided them into.
Planting political land mines, spike strips, or otherwise aggressing against others is never the right way to raise concerns about navigation. Blowing the tires out on the bus leaves everyone stranded. Nobody joins the Libertarian Party at our local level because they are looking for an easy way to "win" in politics. We are all exploring the political landscape, forging and finding paths, sharing maps and checking each others' compasses. Some of us are very passionate about educating, some of us are very passionate about political change, and some of us are very passionate about voluntaryism. We are at our best when we are building up one another in what motivates each of us by…
Treating one another with Love
Planning together with Logic
Working toward a common destination of Liberty.
Onward to 2019
If even years are the best years for education under the Libertarian brand, then odd years are the best years for candidates as hard work without partisan voting can win local offices. In that spirit, the first step I announced we are taking in 2019 is forming a Candidate Growth Committee that will up our game in recruiting, building relationships with, and providing value to candidates. This committee will be chaired by none other than our first elected LPKC candidate, Covington CM Joseph Cimaomo, who joined the party and ran a successful campaign in 2017, winning 70% of the vote and earning a second term. He will be forming the committee this month and they will begin meeting in January to prepare a toolbox of strategies, investments, and resources to grow our candidate impact.
With our other two local officeholders up for reelection in 2019, it is critical that we be on our "A game". Now is the time to be looking for ways to contribute. Whether you're thinking of running for office, helping us find a candidate in your area, looking for a campaign to join, or want to help in party efforts directly, we can use all hands on deck. It's time to pull out our compass, plot a course on the map together, and get on the road to liberty.
Yours in liberty,
Chair, Libertarian Party of King County