Crucial questions of executive power will confront the Central Committee at the upcoming convention. Will the suspensions by the Executive Committee of prominent activists stand? Will the Committee curb Executive overreach, or enlarge the Executive powers by eliminating all Judicial review of their actions?
The answers to these questions will define the relationship between Committee members and the Executive Committee, and the character of our Party, for years to come. Will the Libertarian Party of California be a place where diverse libertarian activists come together in peace and cooperation to network and build their activism? Or will it be a party rife with nasty factional struggles for the levers of power, in which refusing to obey the Executive Committee will get you smeared and suspended?
I can’t ignore what’s going on, and call myself a libertarian. I must condemn the abuse of executive power witnessed with my own eyes and ears.
My burning desire is for a party where members honor their non-aggression pledges. Where people can be different and still fit in. Where the Executive Committee serves the members, instead of exercising power over them. That’s why I’m speaking out. Speaking truth to power is never easy, and is almost always dangerous. But silence in the face of defamation and destruction of good people will only guarantee more of the same.
The recent suspensions have roots in multi-year smear campaigns, tolerated and promoted by officers of the Party. And not only against one, but against any who defend or associate with chosen victims. The lies have been growing for over a decade.
I’ve seen it here in LA County first hand. One or two conspiracy theorists and perennial haters whispered outrageous lies against the County’s most prominent activists. They played to members' prejudices and love of gossip, drama, and the power of excluding others. On several occasions, the false whispers motivated witch hunts by power-tripping officers and representatives. The entire history is too long to relate here; a few incidents are described in my earlier posts.
Abuse by wearers of fine hats in the Party is a pattern that stretches for years, and not just against one activist or by one set of officers. Many have left the Party over the years, wounded by official attacks. Presently, we are facing unprecedented suspensions and threatened suspensions against members, without a semblance of due process. Mr. Jupiter is a stark case in point, not the entire story.
The Executive Committee, with very little notice shortly before our convention, suspended three of the state’s most prominent and active field activists. They won't even explain why. "Trust us," they say.
You'd better think twice. The Executive Committee has an obvious corrupt motive: to silence their most articulate critics, and divide their friends. It is a reasonable explanation. Their most recent victim had criticized the leadership harshly over the platform deletion debacle last convention, for example. He would likely oppose their plans to expand the power of the Executive Committee by rewriting the Bylaws. He posed a threat to their plans, so they set him up with defamatory justifications, and removed him. He didn’t deserve it, not even close.
Granting liberty awards to all those suspended would have been more fitting, not that they sought it. If any were guilty of serious misconduct, the Executive Committee should have issued a censure explaining the specific basis for discipline. Suspending members for secret reasons is unnecessary and toxic to principles of libertarian governance. Executive power exists to serve the membership. If the members don’t have the right to know the specific basis for discipline, neither does the Executive Committee have any right to impose it. The same principle informs our opposition to victimless crimes and special immunities for police. The police exist to protect us, not to subjugate us.
Some who seek fine hats can’t resist tearing down independent activists. It’s a fact of human nature: people who seek authority desire power over others. In our Party, officers have attacked at least ten members in the past couple of years. For a small party like ours, the number is astonishing. Officers defamed these activists with unspeakable slurs and baseless accusations. The victims responded by complaining in private emails and affiliate business meetings, avoiding discussions in social media, except to counter false statements made by others. They kept busy as field activists, conducting missions in support of libertarian causes and campaigns, including helping Jeff Hewitt win his seat as Riverside County Supervisor. They avoided responding in kind to the attacks against them. Instead of reflecting the vicious ad hominum accusations against them, they limited their defense to pointing out improper conduct, arguing based on facts and libertarian principles.
Mr Jupiter often stood up to defend those under attack and point out reasonable alternatives for conflict resolution. But those in power ignored his suggestions, and counted his defense of others as transgressions. As Southern Vice-Chair, I witnessed the consistent peacemaking tone of his complaints, his actions to resolve controversies by civil discussion in business meetings, or by friendly informal discussions, and the closed-minded arrogance with which officers brushed aside his well-intentioned commentary with vicious ad hominum attacks that do not bear repeating.
Should we allow members who seek no power over others, and dedicate their lives to the cause of liberty, to be defamed and expelled by militant officers?
The problem is especially bad in Los Angeles County. The Chair of the LA County Affiliate has been intent on silencing all her critics. She was elected as Chair back in June 2018 on a promise to heal divisions in the County affiliate. The divisions had pretty much healed by the time she was elected, and for a few months, meetings were cordial. She and the Vice Chair began dating openly and recruited their friends to serve on the County Executive Committee. She began signaling her intent to relocate the monthly business meetings and “heal divisions” by suppressing dissent. At that time, she was also Secretary of the LPC.
In September of 2018, while I was Southern Vice Chair, the LPC Chair and Northern Vice-Chair against my advice orchestrated a secret disciplinary proceeding against former officers of the San Bernardino County affiliate. No misconduct was proven, and the Executive Committee ended up passing a toothless resolution without the compulsory discipline the instigators had sought. Afterwards, I and others criticized the process for non-compliance with Robert’s Rules and LPC Bylaws. Some officers didn’t appreciate the criticism, but there were no more secret trials while I was Southern Vice Chair. In contrast, the new Southern Area Coordinator (along with eleven other members of the Ex-Com) failed to oppose the recent suspensions; both proceedings were secret and in both cases the defendants objected to the summary process used.
Shortly after the secret trial, Mr. Jupiter, while properly recognized during a regional business meeting, questioned the County Chair who was also Regional Chair about the secret trial. Afterwards, I saw that the County Vice Chair posted a video in the affiliate’s Facebook group about supposed disruption of the meeting. I watched that video. It showed Mr. Jupiter sitting quietly in a chair, while the Vice Chair stood shouting vulgarities and threats. This same Vice Chair, now an at-large representative on the state Executive Committee, has repeatedly smeared Mr. Jupiter and boasted of his determination to silence him. The criminals are blaming the victims for their crimes. It's corrupt police behavior we too often see in the larger society around us, and does not belong in our Party.
After the regional meeting in September 2018, the LA Chair threatened Mr. Jupiter with police force if he dared to show up at any business meeting. Since that time I have not seen him at any Los Angeles County LP business meeting, including the annual meeting where officers are elected.
After their latest suspension vote, the LA Chair, Vice Chair, and their friends on the Executive Committee celebrated. They posted a group photo as the “Fine Hat Caucus” of the LP.
It was no joke. Other Executive Committee members, writing on social media, were quite explicit. One considered the suspension no different than a corporation firing an at-will employee, you can read the entire thread yourself here. These same authoritarians barred the defendant from presenting any witnesses, while permitting the accusing witnesses they preferred. The Executive Committee belongs to the Fine Hat Caucus now, glorying in their power to rule over members.
Even when under ban from the County Chair, Mr. Jupiter continued to volunteer and donate to many libertarian campaigns and outreach activities, and urged his friends to do the same. He is a true believer, moderate in his lifestyle, sincere in his respect for the non-aggression pledge, and generous to a fault; an exemplary member in practically every way. If the Executive Committee can suspend him on a whim, they can and will suspend anyone they please. Who is next?
Unjust suspension from a minor party, although not without its injuries, is not the greatest punishment in the world. It’s the damage to the Party, to the innocents desiring liberty, that matters most. We can either enforce a culture of liberty, or allow those we elect to office to run amok building up control structures echoing those of the Republicans and Democrats. How about insisting that officers abide by their non-aggression pledges and our collective purpose of minimal top-down governance?
Ultimately, we as members are responsible for what the Executive Committee does, and we are the only force that can prevent them from going astray. Convention is when we take back the power.
See you there!