Real Politics for a Real Libertarian Party
By Jim Davidson
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Originally I was going to write this book review of Robert Heinlein's Take Back Your Government! which was reprinted in 1992. I was going to say unpleasant things about the end notes added for that edition by Jerry Pournelle. And I was going to suggest it as de rigeur reading for anyone interested in having a Libertarian Party of any real substance.
In his book, Heinlein gives a detailed summation (which Pournelle dismisses as "obsolete") of how to win an election against "machine" politicians. He shows how to organize a political club. He tells how to ring a doorbell and persuade a voter. He discusses how to organize a grassroots machine to get lots of doorbells pushed and lots of voters persuaded. He tells how to win a primary, and win an election. He shows how to build a political organization based on grassroots, individual support.
So, I thought, let's have some Libertarian Party members buy and read this book. They won't find it near the other Heinlein in the Science Fiction section of their local bookstores. They'll have to look through the Political Science section, where few of us dare wander for fear of an avalanche of socialist books caving in under its own weight while we are standing near. More likely, they'll have to order the book special from its publishers, Baen Books. And I thought, let's have thousands of Libertarian Party activists around the country revive politics as it used to be in this country.
My dream was a Libertarian Party in which those members who actually vote are actually contacted by candidates and their representatives. My hope was for a small legion of doorbell pushers nationwide to go door to door among dues-paying LP members asking them to vote in the elections. And somewhere in the back of my mind was the fantasy that the LP could become a triumphant mainstream party by being in contact with its own voters, branching out into contacts with independent voters and meeting the occasional Democrat or Republican or Reform party member who can be salvaged for libertarian purposes.
Then I read Wendy McElroy and Don L. Tiggre's pieces on individualist anarchism. McElroy had already impressed me by embracing the concept of new country development, while rejecting the entire idea of liberty through political means. Tiggre had impressed me with his favorable review of James P. Hogan's Paths to Otherwhere which I found to be an excellent book. So when I read McElroy's piece rejecting the entire notion of political libertarianism having any value for the individual anarchist with whom I identify myself, I paused for reflection.
Then I read Tiggre's comments on recent developments in the Libertarian Party, and I became more convinced than ever that Heinlein's book is important. It is vital if we liberty-minded individualists are to recapture our party from people whose "principles" deny a candidate the right to express himself freely in apparel of his own choosing, and others who seem willing to accept the presidential candidacy of a tax advocate simply on the basis that he has some notoriety from a book published some time ago.
And if the Libertarian Party is a lost cause, as many believe it is, then this book is even more important for those who, like Tiggre would start a new grassroots organization. Why? Because it asks the would-be politician to do something most unusual. So unusual, indeed, that Jerry Pournelle rules it "obsolete" from his years of wisdom as a political science professor and his amazing experiences as Assistant Vice Mayor of Los Angeles (or whatever his highest elective office might have been).
This book even has important ideas for McElroy. Her vital and fundamental point is that voters may delegate their responsibility to an elected official, but may in no way delegate responsibility on behalf of others. From this point she derives a just concern for where the Libertarian Party might go if it were ever to gain real political power. After all, once you have agreed that the republican system of representative democracy is valid and supported it by participating in elections, you are well down the slippery slope towards the corrupt politics of today.
But what if individual voters actually met their candidate? What if the Libertarian Party elected party officials, local officials, state legislators, governors, Congresscritters, and even a President by soliciting the individual participation of actual voters? Sure, that's a hard way to win elections. Television advertising is much more effective. Publicity appearances are much easier to organize.
Pushing doorbells and asking Libertarians to elect people who actually stand for the principles in which we believe? That's hard!
McElroy will be quick to point out that we will still have a problem in that the majority will rule. Those in the minority will be forced to accept the representation of folks they did not vote for. Heinlein addresses this point. You don't have to accept defeat. You can storm off and not support the other guy who won the primary. It won't help your career in politics, but you can stand on principle if it merits standing upon.
But let's take this one step at a time. Let's admit honestly and forthrightly that we don't like the way the Libertarian Party chose its nominee for President. We don't like many of the things that are happening at the state level within the Party. We might not even like those in charge of the Party locally.
So let's just look at how we can take Heinlein's advice and forma corrective grassroots political movement to overthrow those who are leading the Libertarian Party to ruin. We can ask each Libertarian, as Thoreau once asked the American people, to state what kind of government would command his respect as a first step toward obtaining it. Let us form local clubs, obtain precinct lists of Libertarian voters from the registrar of voters (a fun project by itself) and district lists of Libertarian Party members from the Party Headquarters (more fun), and go ring some doorbells.
If we are uncertain as to the morality of voting for representatives who will have power over those who did not vote, then let us table that question for the nonce. In the meantime, let's ask our neighbors who are Party members to help us throw the rascals out of the Party. Let's get control of our own house as one sure means of proving that we have the capacity, the talent, and yes even the right to take control of our country's government.
If we can do that, we have an uphill battle. While Heinlein points out that Dewey could have defeated Truman had all the Republicans voted in a few key districts, we have no such opportunity. If we can organize the Libertarian Party to our own ends, wrest it from the corrupt "machine"-type politics it is embracing, and get out the vote at every election...we will still lose by overwhelming majorities in almost every race.
But guess what? We'll have an effective political organization. If there are political clubs across the country with local members who know each other, can call on each other, and can get out the vote, we'll be able to do much more than we can now. We'll be able to alert each other by email and telephone when important legislation in the statehouse or Congress needs to be defeated (or, on rare occasion, passed). We'll be able to recruit more easily because people are more likely to join a group which has some hope of winning its fights.
If we do nothing more than organize ourselves well enough that the individual anarchists among us can identify each other, we will have accomplished much. (How do you identify an individual anarchist from a long way away? The rifle is generally a dead give away.) And if, having created an effective political organization, we go on to become a mainstream political organization that is in touch at the local political level with the actual voters, we will have created a better political party.
Yes, ultimately it will still be guilty of trying to foist a majority decision onto the minority. Ultimately it will be part of a democracy. But if it is in touch with the individual voters, it will be better than what we have. And if we hope to use means short of emigration to a new individualist paradise (yet to be founded) to return this country to its taste for liberty, if we hope to stop the looters and lawmakers from forcing us to defend ourselves with deadly force, we must act now.
We cannot wait for the Party to reform itself anymore than we can wait for the country to do so. We cannot hope that others will make common cause, seeing how ineffective our own Party has become. And we cannot afford to accept the compromise solutions that tax advocates will do in the name of the Libertarian Party. If we hope to change this country by political means into one in which the Constitution is more important than today's headlines, we must do it ourselves.
So, libertarian and anarchist alike, hie thee to a bookstore. Buy that book by Heinlein, Take Back Your Government!. Read it. Live it. And when we meet in four years at the Libertarian Party's national convention, we can decide where we want to go from there. If you do as Heinlein instructs, if you organize your party locally and in your district, you will not fail to be at the national convention, or have a close acquaintance there.
If for no other reason, think of the looks on their faces when we vote the party headquarters staff out of their jobs.
Jim Davidson has always been a liberty minded individualist, but got very serious about it after the state shut down his space tourism company, Space Travel Services, in 1991. Jim has a bachelor's in history from Columbia (1985), an MBA in marketing from Rice (1987), has worked in aerospace, software, banking, real estate, and is currently Chief Operating Officer of a $3 million revenues medical company. Among his other interests, Jim has been president of the Houston Space Society and scubas whenever he can.
Imagine a government bent on sharing its sensitive, caring, environmentally friendly ways with an entire universe. Then imagine the army it needs. CLD - Collective Landing Detachment. Dark military SF. By Victor Milan. From AvoNova.
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