Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Moving Forward in Montana

We lost. Badly.

We had more in our sights than just winning an election: electoral votes, debate participation, public funding. We missed every. single. target.

I am still trying to process just how all of the momentum that we had coming into this campaign was squandered, but I would rather not focus on that. There was a lot to be learned – about campaigning, candidates, the electorate – and the Libertarian party needs to move forward. Here in Montana, there are a few things we need to look at closely to make any kind of impact in future elections.

Get Game

The Libertarian party has zero ground game. When one of the foundational principles of your movement is the desire to be left alone, it is difficult to translate your philosophy into committed action. To do so we first need candidates that inspire action. And we secondly need to school everyone in what it takes to run a winning campaign. Because in reality, Libertarians know little to nothing in that regard. There is a great graphic that shows the different levels of campaigning and which actually inspired me to run myself:, but we need to give people more than just reading material. They need support at all levels.

Build Structure

Also anathema to the Libertarian movement is the idea of structure. However, the absence of it makes organizing impossible. The Gary Johnson campaign director for Montana spent the first six weeks of the campaign actively trying to identify regional leads to help drive activity in the state. The Ds and Rs already have those people. We need to have them as well, or we will be perennially behind in the game. And though there is a tendency to think we can just gather informally and talk politics, it gets back to the idea of commitment. Unless there are obligations, there isn’t accountability, and those obligations aren’t just gathering the usual suspects together, they are about expanding the umbrella of our membership through outreach as well.

Develop Experience

Our candidates have typically focused on top of the ballot elections, championing principle over experience, as if that will be enough to convince people of their merit. But you have to show how you can execute on those principles, likely in the face of large opposition, and also provide a benefit to those who have seen government as both a benefactor and as a drain. This needs to be done by networking in local politics at the municipal and county level. Committees, councils, commissions are all ripe for our viewpoint. We need to get involved and get experience.

Find Experienced Candidates

This may seem obvious as a corollary to the above, but I have learned that there are a healthy number of Libertarians who have quietly held such positions while masking a large or small “L” next to their name. They are not advertising that affiliation so they must be found, and their experience leveraged, to gain a competitive advantage. But doing so comes at a political cost for them, which we must acknowledge and offset with real effort on our own part as a party.

Raise Money

I talked to a handful of candidates who ran as D or R, but clearly were libertarian in their leanings. The common thread as to why they ran for an old party was one thing: money. Until we are able to adequately fund campaigns for sate-wide office, we will never be able to get a candidate to turn their back on not only the money for a current election, but the dollars for all future elections. We need a consistent revenue stream that can be used to entice candidates away from the security of old party fundraising.

Advocate, Don’t Pontificate

Lastly, and most importantly, Libertarians need to get off their fucking high horse. Our philosophy is not noble or holy, it is rational. And we need to advocate from that position of logic and empathy not from one of ideological purity. At one event after another that I attended, I was visited by folks who wanted an alternative – any alternative. We need to be that for them, and no talk down to them in the process. Invite them into our party, don’t demand fealty as the price of admission.

What about you? What do you think we need to do? Comment below!

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