Reality Check: State of the Libertarian Party
Well, a lot has been happening the past few weeks: war between Ukraine and Russia, threat of nuclear apocalypse, all that good stuff. The chaos the war has brought upon is worth commentary, especially with how it has affected certain groups of people in the liberty movement; however, another of our writers is dealing with that in his upcoming article.
Instead of dealing with the global existential threat of the times, we’ll deal with a more locally-induced stressor (at least for those in party politics): the current state of the Libertarian Party, and the road that it’s going down.
The Libertarian Party: Its Main Conflict
If you don’t know what the Libertarian Party (LP) is, here’s a short introduction: founded in 1971 by David Nolan, the LP is one of the many alternative parties made as a third option to the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Its main tenets is complete social freedom, limited government, and laissez-faire economics, calling itself “the party of principle”, “fighting for all your freedoms, all of the time.” Many of its political influences come from free market economists and right-libertarian philosophers.
With that synopsis out of the way, what’s the problem facing the LP now? Two words: identity crisis. We got two different factions in the party trying to determine what the party stands for, and in the process doing its share to make it more of a trainwreck.
On one side, we got both the more moderate minded, as well as socially progressive (while still laissez-faire economically), libertarians who want the LP to grow as a political organization and be more inclusive to those who are marginalized (racial minorities, LGBTQ+, immigrants, etc.). Their focus is on making sure the party is socially libertarian as well as economically libertarian.
On the other, we have both certain types of radical libertarians as well as more conservative-minded ones. While they also want the LP to grow, they focus more on espousing economic libertarianism and limited government while fishing towards a more socially right-wing demographic. Both sides work on things such as ballot access, petitioning, rallies and organizing protests, etc; their difference comes in their messaging and their target audience.
The aforementioned sides also have quite easy categories: most, if not all, of the second side are members of or aligned with the Libertarian Party Mises Caucus, a PAC headed by its founder, Michael Heise. The first side is a mix of all the other types of members (former Pragmatist Caucus members, Radical Caucus members, etc.) The division is simple, easy, and to the point, though there are exceptions to the rule, of course.
What’s Going On?
With the general idea set, what the hell is actually going on?
We got the two sides fighting for the identity of the party; the battlegrounds are the state affiliates. How the party is ran, from directly to the local level to choosing who runs it on the federal level, are determined by those affiliates. They also act as great grounds for seeing both sides in action.
Let’s first look at a recently contested affiliate: the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania (LPPA). Already we have the clearest show of foul play to be ever seen, on both sides of this debacle: the Mises Caucus and the Anti-Mises Caucus (also called the Cathedral Caucus) both advocate for their members and allies to register to vote in the LPPA state convention, even if they are not residents of the state of Pennsylvania. Figures such as Karlyn Borysenko, who is currently running for Governor of New Hampshire, have even gone to the convention in order to help influence the LPPA, outside of her jurisdiction.
It should be no taboo to say that the only people who should have any say in how the LPPA runs itself are Libertarians who live in Pennsylvania, who will actually be effected by the actions the LPPA takes. And it should also be quite easy to shame both of those sides for participating in such disgraceful actions, as an affront to any and all principles that the Libertarian Party claims to hold.
This hasn’t been the first time underhanded methods were advocated either: the founder of the Mises Caucus has suggested that people should “go to your YAL chapters” in order to recruit people to come to LP conventions and vote in them, as “Libertarians for a day.” For supposed Libertarians, they seem to care more about Power than about Principles.
And that’s really what this is all about: two factions fighting over who gets power in the party, leaving the rest of the members floating in a sea of confusion as the factions tear apart the ship. Hell, the LPPA convention recently had to deal with attendants fighting each other during a Q and A; if that ain’t a sign of the LP’s self-disintegration, I’m not sure what is.
However, to blame ordinary members, of either the Mises Caucus, the Cathedral Caucus, or the party at large would be to misplace the blame from where it rightfully stands: at the feet of the leaders of those factions.
Where should we begin? Let’s look first at who’s reacting to the Mises Caucus: In New Hampshire, the former Chair of the LNC Joe Bishop-Henchmen tried to create a new LP New Hampshire affiliate with a former executive committee member of the original affiliate. Having multiple affiliates would be a violation of the Bylaws; thus, Bishop-Henchmen planned to authorize the new affiliate as being officially recognized. Such a fiasco led to stolen resources from the affiliate, and after the conflict was resolved, Bishop-Henchmen resigned.
In Massachusetts, the Executive Committee of the LP Massachusetts affiliate voted to remove 46 members of the affiliate, all of whom had sign a petition asking for a special convention to take place. Whether the petition itself was valid or not is not important:an invalid petition does not excuse the excommunication of 46 LP members by the ruling committee.
Delaware has the most chaos, with flaws from both sides, that has just led to more confusion than anything put. In simplest terms, a debate on which of two different claims to the rightful affiliate is true. With the LNC and Judicial Committee getting involved, doing contradicting actions, it created such a situation that can make one dizzy for days.
Now, on to something more direct and more easily seen, the faults of the leaders of the Mises Caucus. Firstly, and most importantly, Michael Heise, who has not only gotten into a fight at the LPPA convention (with fault, at this moment, seeming to be on both parties), but also advocating and participating in the outside influence by Mises members on the LPPA.
Not only that, but his advocacy of recruiting members of Republican organizations to become delegates for a day and influence libertarian conventions points to a common pattern of aiming for power instead of fighting for principles. What does it say about a supposed leader in the liberty movement that he’s willing to violate the sovereignty and independence of organizations and associations if it means his side will gain more power?
Another supposed leader comes in LNC Chair Candidate Angela McArdle, who insinuated that a recorded zoom meeting, that required you opt in before joining the meeting, violated privacy law because she had supposedly not consented to being recorded. She said as much to the Libertarian Party of Colorado, leading to not only the deletion of said video from their youtube channel, but the resignation of their Social Media Director. Why was this done? Because allegedly he had insulted and flinged abuses at standing members of the LPCO, and thus wanted to delete any evidence of such a thing occurring. Again, what kind of leader of a movement for liberty would insinuate a threat of legal force in order to hide any bad media of themselves?
What about the people they push for election? NH Senator Candidate Jeremy Kauffman, who ran the Social Media Committee for LPNH and ran the LPNH twitter account, tweeted in the past that one should “Seize power at all costs… everything is permissible and nothing is forbidden.” While it might contain a message on keeping to libertarian principles, it’s more or less meaningless to the grander message, and definitely has some troubling connections with what Heise as advocated for. NH Governor Candidate Karlyn Borysenko is at fault for it, too, probably more at fault because, as mentioned earlier, she has participated in pushing outside influence onto the LPPA.
Is There Any Hope?
Everywhere we see, it seems that the people who have power just want to cement it further, instead of creating, building, and growing a movement and organization that advocates for liberty, personal, economic, absolute in all ways.
What has come from this infighting? What has resulted of this chaos, and the supposed “wins” and “successful takeovers”? Well, in all honesty, nothing: either there was no actual change made, or there was even stagnation. The Arizona affiliate removed experience members of the party from being delegates in order to replace them with newbies, who had no experience but were friendly to the Mises Caucus. The treasury reports for the LPNH are unavailable to the public, and do not seem to be filed on time or even at all, as currently looking through the New Hampshire Campaign Finance System shows no reports from the LPNH. Hell, even inside the Mises Caucus there were problems, with them filing their own reports with the Federal Exchange Commission incorrectly.
What hope, then, is there to be left? It’s in a most unexpected of places: with both sides working with each other. We first off have people like Craig Bowden, who has 8 years of experience in the field in multiple positions, and is willing to work with people from both sides, in order to actually help grow and spread the party. There’s Steve Dasbach, who has also has experience and has helped grow membership and funds for the LP. In states like Wyoming there are actual people helping grow the party and get a foothold in the local politics, such as Marshall Burt, and those like Bill Redpath doing their best to organize their state affiliates. Outside of the LP, movements like End The Damn Wars, Food Not Bombs, etc., all are working towards greater freedom and liberty outside of the LP.
Hell, even within the factions, there are good deeds being done: Joe Bishop-Henchmen, while he did not do too well as LNC Chair, has done a great amount to help protect individual rights through his career as a lawyer, defending the sovereignty and autonomy of the individual. The Mises Caucus, while their leadership has done wrong, has participated and helped movements for the benefit to individual freedom, such as the movement to legalize psychedelics in Colorado, which they have done good work in.
The problem with the LP then stems from those individuals, those supposed leaders, that are only looking for power in the party, choosing it over serving for the benefit of their fellow libertarians, over focusing on fighting for the individual and his rights and independence. What is needed is one of two solutions: either replace the current leaders of thought in the movement with those who are willing to help fight on the frontlines, to choose actual leaders, or to do away with leaders entirely, to practice a form of organization where everyone has a true say, can truly act. I personally advocate for the latter: the anarchist position seems to me more convincing than the minarchist or small-government libertarian; the route of direct action preferable to action within the system. One cannot decide how it should be ran; it is the members of the party who must decide how they should be organized.
The party must be reoriented to focus on doing actual work, to actually grow the movement and help defend freedom: the abolition of factions, the doing away with cults of personality, the focus on radical action and messaging without becoming mediocre culture warriors, the choosing of qualified individuals and multiplicity of actions, as well as the older members helping to educate the young, and vice versa, etc., etc., etc. Without such actions, without such drastic changes, there is no hope; with these changes, a chance is at least given.
The members of the party will have to decide for themselves. It is their organization, after all: if they wish to save it, they must take action and responsibility; they mustn’t be apathetic anymore. Otherwise, they may watch it decay and dwindle as they see fit, and go on living apathetically. One can only hope that they shall decide to wake up.