Monday, October 01, 2007

A few more words on Arizona Libertarian Party v. Brewer

My "official" opinion as the 1st Vice Chairman of the Pima County Libertarian Party on the recent Arizona Libertarian Party v. Brewer decision is posted on the Pima County Libertarian Party weblog, however, there are a few things that I ought to say speaking for myself.

While the proximate effect of the decision is to prevent outsiders from hijacking the Libertarian ballot line, the case has much more significance as election law than it will in boosting the fortunes of the AZLP, for the simple purpose that the AZLP does not use its ballot line for anything of significance.

The AZLP does run candidates, usually underqualified ones who don't take campaigning seriously. (I was, self-consciously, one of those in 2004.) It rarely has contested primaries, and has yet to have a serious impact in a partisan race. Even moving the Overton Window, or otherwise changing the terms of debate, doesn't happen as often as it could because the Party fields candidates like Ernie Hancock or Barry Hess, clueless on the publicly relevant issues pertinent to the office sought, seemingly without reservation.

Yuri Downing was a mere gnat compared to the swarm of bees that is self-defeat. Back in 1990, Rick Tompkins, acquiring the voter list by less than ethical means, sent a mailer to every Libertarian in the state recommending they change their registrations and vote for Prescott slimeball Sam Steiger. The number of people driven off by Ernie Hancock's boorish populism is something we'll probably never know (although I've heard enough ex-Libertarians' anecdotes to put the number at more than a handful), but we do know that his war with members who merely insisted that the organizing law be followed hurt both state registrations and the the National party, causing Harry Browne to fall short of 50-state ballot access.

Libertarians have stopped suing each other, but keep shooting themselves in the foot. Mike Renzulli's motion to deny any Party support (including sales of the voter list!) to candidates who participate in Clean Elections did not receive a vote at the shambles that was the last State Convention, but the ensuing discussion was enough to drive Rick Fowlkes, our best candidate in the last two elections, over to the Republicans. Furthermore, this year, the State board made the decision for the Libertarian electorate that no Presidential primary would be held in 2008. (I'm still hoping that George Phillies or Wayne Root will have the cojones to say "we don't care".) There are better uses for my time (as a grad student working more-than-full-time) than to try to unseat the corrupt ideologues behind the decision. Hancock, for his part, is busy doing as Tompkins did, encouraging libertarians to change their registrations to vote for the paleoconservative Congressman Ron Paul in the Republican primary.

Libertarian policy solutions can succeed in Arizona, with last year's Prop. 207 being the most salient example. Libertarian candidates have no trouble getting more than their share of press when they're actually newsworthy. What's holding Libertarians back in this state is not election law, it's Libertarians. If the Party wants to advance a libertarian agenda at all--and after the 2007 State Convention, that itself is debatable--it needs to get serious about using its ballot status to run strong candidates, for appropriate offices, who threaten to take votes from the major party candidates or, even worse, get elected. Imagine that? Hold public office? How very un-Libertarian!

And how ironic it is, that the most significant policy change effected by the AZ LP is not a great advancement of liberty; it's ALP v. Brewer.

No comments: