Tag: senate

Can the Libertarian Party Actually Get Someone Elected?

Conner Drigotas | @cddrigotas

Tim Silfies was one of the highest quality individuals the Libertarian Party has ever put forward as a congressional candidate. He ran for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District as a born-and-raised local with national media experience. He demonstrated a strong understanding of the district and invested a full-time commitment to winning. Silfies even quit his job as a business reporter to run his race.

In the end, however, Silfies earned only 3.1% of the vote, not even enough to cover the margin of victory.

As an ardent defender of freedom and liberty for all people, a self-described libertarian, I have not seen exceptional candidates in the Republican and Democratic parties who are working to expand our liberties as Americans. I volunteer on Libertarian campaigns, donate money, and constantly work to advance liberty in all aspects of my life.

I know I am not alone in having concerns about the state of liberty in America. However, I also have concerns about a Libertarian’s ability to win public office at the state and federal level.

The biggest red flag for me, in this case, was not the final vote percentage, so much as the surrounding facts. Libertarians love to point to debate exclusion, poll exclusion, and lack of media coverage as reasons why candidates fare poorly.

Where Did Silfies Go Wrong?

Silfies received media coverage. He was part of the media, a business reporter on WFMZ and a former Fox News Producer in New York City until he left his position to run this race. As a candidate, he appeared on Fox Business on Kennedy, twice. He was in every debate. He performed incredibly well in each debate, routinely winning with his specific policy recommendations and emotional appeals. Silfies was mentioned in every local article that discussed the race and he garnered an appropriately large social media following.

He raised and spent money as well. Despite having less cash, his cost per vote was lower than the victor.

But when people got to the polls, they still voted for the lesser of two evils, candidates that they themselves (by all media and polling accounts) believed to be inadequate leaders. They did not vote based on principle, they voted out of fear about the other major parties candidate.

To hear Tim tell it: “They said, I love your message. I love your ideas. I wish I could vote for you.”

That is a concerning narrative in my hometown.

Meanwhile, groups like Operation Win at the Door, led by Cliff Malony Jr. of Young American’s for Liberty — supported almost exclusively liberty leaning Republicans in state-level races across the country. Their organization knocked on more than 1,000,000 doors and changed the hearts and minds of many. They elected 37 “liberty-minded” people to public office. They came closer to their goal of increasing liberty in government by co-opting the system and making sure that liberty-minded individuals were getting additional support on the ground.

Values Above All Else

Principles above politics. I have always said that is the gold standard for judging a candidate — and I believe it is time that we examine political parties the same way. While the Libertarian Party has principles, the organization is not yet penetrating the market enough to elect enough people. The value proposition isn’t strong enough. Based on the example of Tim Silfies, I have my worries that the Libertarian Party will never become an effective voice for liberty-minded Americans. When Libertarian candidates are able to overcome the typical barriers, as Tim did, they still under perform at the ballot box by a polarized system based on fear.

Maybe some of it can be explained by money. While Tim spent less per vote — he didn’t have enough money to reach enough voters. The gap is significant. 

I am more inclined to believe there is a systemic issue. Nationally, Libertarian Party leadership is stagnant and not creative. There was little if any support from a national infrastructure to aid Tim’s campaign, and even at the state level, there was only limited mobilization. I understand the Libertarian idea of decentralization, but if you choose to play politics — do it in such a way that you are competitive.

The Libertarian Party at the National Level

There are no major media pushes from national leadership. They are slow to respond, and they constantly delegate routine campaign responsibilities to state organizations. Ironically, they are creating greater bureaucracy by doing so. Efforts by 50 state organizations are redundant and campaigns routinely start from scratch at the beginning of every cycle. Local and state leaders are overwhelmed and under-trained to be effective political organizers. They are starving for more education, and don’t always know where to go to receive it. The national organization is not prioritizing training and empowerment, which is what would be necessary for local success.

I believe Libertarians stand to gain the most by focusing all of their efforts on local politics, and ensuring that liberty is preserved in our states. The Tenth Amendment still has teeth — even if it is underutilized.

A Lesson from Trump’s Campaign

On January 28, 2019, I sat at CPAC in Washington DC and listened to Brad Parscale talk about the 2020 election. He is the Campaign Manager for Donald J. Trump’s 2020 reelection bid. There were 614 days until November 3, 2020, and he had 1.3 million active volunteers. As he put it, “I have 1 volunteer for every 13 people the campaign needs to reach.” The Libertarian Party has 500,000 total registered voters and will not even select a presidential candidate until May 25, 2020 — with only 162 days to go before the election.

That should be the homestretch, not the kickoff. Smaller parties need more time to organize, not less.

Where the Libertarian Party has a continuity problem, the Republican Party has a continuity machine that is devouring our country. The Democratic Party has a similar machine that rolls forward: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It is the way the Libertarian Party has organized that creates the biggest barriers to it being effective.

The Republican Party is getting people elected who may or may not be liberty minded. Most often they miss the mark on social issues, where they should be promoting small government and more individual freedom. The Republican Party has failed as an institution to shrink government, though I believe many individuals in the party at many levels work every day to accomplish that goal. The Democratic Party is helping elect candidates who are not liberty minded, and are struggling to maintain social tolerance as part of their core principles. Their fiscal policy is ruinous. In other words, there is a market opportunity there, but the Libertarians need to fill that void competently.

LPAA

I sat at the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania (LPPA) Convention on March 16, 2019. From an active membership of just over 200, there were 62 people in attendance. There is a tremendous amount of credit to be given. The multi-day event featured presidential candidates, state candidates, local candidates, vendors, and an exchange of ideas that focused on where change can actually be made — in our communities. In Pennsylvania, there is a renewed focus on action oriented leadership.

A consistent highlight of the Libertarian movement is Larry Sharpe, who also spoke to the LPPA at this convention. His talk focused on grassroots action and his approach to increasing liberty: “smile politely, be friendly, and keep having conversations.”

He believes that even when people come to the Libertarian Party looking for “Democrat-lite or Republican-lite,” the party should still welcome them, with open arms. “Don’t berate beliefs that are anti-liberty. Embrace what is pro-liberty, and keep having conversations.” By doing that, he claims, people will return again and again — and liberty will grow.

I am curious to learn whether my fellow liberty lovers have thoughts on the case study of Tim Silfies, and the current electoral reality across the country? Can the Libertarian party be successful at the state or national level? What comes next to fill that void in a rapidly polarizing system? How can we advance liberty in these United States?

Only 17% of people pay attention to politics. Despite the best media coverage, debate inclusion, and money spent 16% of people show up to vote without paying attention. They vote on party lines without, perhaps, understanding what that means. Only 55% of people bother to vote at all. 

Where Does the Libertarian Party Go From Here?

I have a number of ideas about what should come next, both for the Libertarian party and libertarians. The goals need to be bigger. The tent needs to be bigger. The plans need to be more specific, action-oriented, and local. Keep an eye out for more articles on this, and the launch of some important projects. Follow me here to stay in the loop.

In the meantime, I am looking for recommendations on the best way to promote liberty and individual freedoms in these United States of America for the protection and advancement of all people. What ideas do you have for me? Comment here, or send me a message on Facebook.

So long as Washington consolidates more power — the ranks of those who will fight for liberty will continue to grow. The question is whether those numbers will be large enough to make a difference, before it is too late.


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Congress Personally Showed Me Their Failures

Kevin Damato | @KevinCDamato

In 2019, labeling Congress as “broken” is not a particularly controversial statement.  The deadlock that many regret is only becoming more common, leaving the ordinary citizenry little hope in any productive changes. I, like most Americans, had a very critical and cynical view of the legislative body, but upon seeing the problems firsthand, I can tell you that they are far worse than most imagine.

Continue reading “Congress Personally Showed Me Their Failures”

Why Term Limits Are Needed in America

Jack Shields @Jack_Shields20

Beginning this Congressional term, Senator Cruz (R-TX) proposed a constitutional amendment creating term limits. He did this at the beginning of the last congressional term. Although 82% of Americans support the idea of congressional term limits, it is a mostly symbolic proposal. Reaffirming Cruz’s principles to his supporters, the amendment has no chance of even making it to the floor for debate. People don’t enjoy banning themselves from their own job it turns out. Despite there being no practical path to term limits at the moment, it is worth examining and debating. We should explore the libertarian idea that people should have their freedom to elect authority kept intact. After all, 18% of Americans are not in favor of term limits.

Continue reading “Why Term Limits Are Needed in America”

Have Your Senators Taken Money from Lockheed Martin?

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Last year’s election was rife was polarization. With bitter fights in states such as Texas, where incumbent Ted Cruz narrowly defeated challenger Beto O’Rourke, the country’s politicians seemed more divided than ever. Many Democrats ran on an anti-Trump line, whereas many Republicans did the opposite. But one thing about the election season was eerily unified: most of the Senate took money from Lockheed Martin and other military industrial complex companies. Continue reading “Have Your Senators Taken Money from Lockheed Martin?”

The Freedom Caucus: Accountability or Hindrance?

Juan Ayala | United States

“[The Freedom Caucus] can’t tell you what they’re for. They can’t tell you what they’re against. They’re anarchists, they want total chaos.” – Former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)

“…to solve immigration reform, House Republicans have to break precedent and bring a bill to the floor that offends the Freedom Caucus.” – Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) 

“..the Freedom Caucus has ruined the Republican Party” – Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

So, just who is this growing group of conservatives and why should you care?

The Freedom Caucus: A Background

In 2009-2012, President Obama carried out his agenda through the stimulus package and poured money into the economy through government subsidies. Out of this “pork barrel spending,” the Tea Party was born. The caucus consists of candidates that were angry with what they thought were big government bailouts. Thusly, they became part of this grassroots movement to accomplish what they believed establishment Republicans were not.

According to the group’s Twitter, they support an open and accountable government, constitutionalism, and rule of law. Senators in the caucus include Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. Some notable Representatives in the caucus include Thomas Massie and Justin Amash.

Relationship to Trump

The Republican Party is split over those who are openly criticizing Trump and those who let his rhetoric go by the wayside. The leaders of the Caucus are “brave, tough cookies” for Trump, as he puts it. Others like South Carolina Representative Mark Sanford have a lesser relationship with Trump. Sanford boasted an 80% positive rating with Trump’s voters and many see him as a constitutional conservative. However, his criticism of Trump led to the President releasing negative tweets about him the night of his primary. Many GOP strategists believe that these untimely tweets cost Sanford the race.

How the Caucus Operates

Congress is messy. The procedures and work schedule are an extremely difficult aspect of Congress and the Freedom Caucus doesn’t make it any easier.

Imagine you need 100 people to agree on an issue in your local community about implementing Common Core; you have 40 people in favor and 40 against. The final 20 want it abolished, to get rid of sex education and also want one of their members on the local school board. You have to give them 2/3 of what they’re asking for their support and need 51 people to agree to pass any measure, so a compromise must occur. Clearly, it’s damn near impossible to get there.

The previously mentioned 20 in the example would be the House Freedom Caucus, a group of four-dozen or so hardline conservatives (out of 199 Republican-held seats). Their presence can hinder a bill’s progress. Most notably, they killed the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was supposed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump infamously blamed them for the death of the AHCA. They have also opposed most immigration reform bills.

Remember, these are voting members of Congress and their opinions can very much impact anyone’s life.

The Growth of the Caucus

There is no official membership list. The founders, Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim Jordan (R-OH), court candidates. Contributing to an individual’s campaign is a key part of the Caucus. Following the 2018 midterms, the Caucus adds to its ranks Ben Cline (R-VA) and Chip Roy (R-TX). They expect another five to six members to join their ranks.

New Progressives, Hardline Conservatives & The Future

On camera, Congress is always ready for a 30-second sound bite. It’s the content that gets clicks, retweets and presumably also why Ocasio-Cortez was seated on a committee that also has Freedom Caucus founder Jim Jordan on it. The far-right and far-left are emerging in the House. Consequently, there will be an already uphill battle to achieve a consensus on commonsense approaches.


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