It is early November, and already I am writing a report. Events compel me. One of Jeff' Hewitt's donors hosted a party for volunteers last night. The energy there opened my heart. Talented, energetic, passionate young people filled the house. Fireside stories had us all laughing and proud of what we had accomplished together. The Hewitt campaign brought organizing to a level beyond anything I have experienced before in campaign activism. To a level that has the moneyed establishment afraid and lashing out. Just being at that one gathering validated all my investment in Jeff's campaign, and then some. I can't keep quiet about it. This is what positive political change looks like.
One of our own, a passionate libertarian and former LP officer is on the cusp of winning one of the most powerful elected offices in Riverside County. That County is bigger than a lot of countries. The Supervisors control a multi-billion dollar annual budget. Jeff is in a classic David-versus-Goliath fight, a grassroots campaign against a big money candidate supported by developers and public employee unions. But his campaign has real traction, and many pundits are thinking Jeff has a decent chance to win a close race. I'm so proud of that whole crew. Every vote counts. To help out or just get your name on the list of supporters, sign up at www.votehewitt.com.
Another close race of a similar type is the race for Mayor of Oxnard. Aaron and Alicia are shaking up the Oxnard establishment. Again. But now, the people might win for a change. Sign up at www.starrforoxnard.com.
The Starr and Hewitt campaigns are both grassroots campaigns against establishment money-backed politicians, for offices powerful enough to attract serious money. These two will stick around. Whether they win this cycle or next, they have already raised effective challenges to Big Money. Once they prove Big Money can be beat, watch out! We'll see more successful challenges following similar campaign strategies. Cracks in the Big Money dam are springing leaks.
Many other campaigns are going on. Hewitt and Starr are the only two I know running close races for prominent offices in Southern California. Other races are more "Phase One" type campaigns, raising public awareness but far behind in the polls. These campaigns can still succeed by bringing new members, making their campaigns as appealing as possible to the widest diversity of potential libertarian voters while exposing the electorate to libertarian principles of non-aggression in governance.
Whatever type of campaign you are running or supporting, it's great that activists are putting aside their differences and focusing on campaigns. When the campaigning is over we need to get back to the job of repairing our networks.
In any endeavor we will face frustrations and setbacks. Work is work, and the biggest obstacle we face is ourselves. One of our senior members for whom I have much respect made a remark in an online forum. Something to the effect that the LP has its own legislature, which is the executive committee, its own administration, which are the officers, and its own judicial system, which is the judicial committee. I hope that's not an unfair characterization; if you think me wrong please point out my error in the comments. Perhaps I misunderstood her meaning.
For whatever reason the remark stuck with me--as an object lesson, helping me realize that our members aren't here to subject themselves to another layer of government. Our members are here to network and do activism for liberty under a state-sanctioned banner with access to the ballot box. It's the only essential purpose of having a Libertarian Party in the first place. Fulfilling that purpose is our highest duty as officers.
We can't fulfill our purpose with respecting different viewpoints. Sometimes that requires pointing out differences, with respect and humility. We have to understand and respect one another to work together.
Another discussion on the Ex Com message board stuck in my head. I made a remark about officers not being more important than other activists. Others disagreed with passion. Perhaps I misunderstood the intent, but the notion (intended or not) that non-officers need to shut up and obey officers triggered me. Not only because I favor individual responsibility over authority. Also because in a democratic institution run by Robert's Rules, the notion is exactly backwards. Members do not serve the officers. Officers serve the members.
Our officers' job is simple. Keep house so we don't lose our political party status under the California Election Code. Hold a great convention every year that attracts new members and builds networking connections. Avoid power plays and actions that divide the membership. Don't use our offices as personal fiefdoms. Remain neutral in the performance of the office and help make the LPC a safe and rewarding place for everyone who advocates for liberty. Leave our activists alone to run their own activism and campaigns.
Sometime we lose sight of our purpose, and get distracted by conflicts between members. The worst thing we can do is get involved as officers, trying to determine winners and losers in personal contests for dominance and validation. We abuse our offices when we use them that way, and undermine the purpose of the Party. We will not succeed by emulating the top-down strategies of the parties in power.
Ignoring our own mistakes is a losing strategy. Apologizing is important and effective, and so is cleaning up the messes we make. Let's clean up one of those messes now.
At LPC's last Ex-Com meeting, we passed judgment on actions of former officers of an affiliate--activists who were out working on campaigns. They weren't there, we hadn't invited them to our meeting nor had they asked for our input. We can pretend we never made a ruling, or minimize the outcome by calling it "just a recommendation." Either would be a mistake. Our recommendations enable fair solutions, or they are a waste of time, a liability for the Party, an invitation to future conflict, an injury to our dedicated activists, and a frustration of our purpose. Our motion did not enable any solutions.
So let's retract our last motion on the San Bernardino controversy. Acknowledge that the process and result were wrong. Nullify our own edict. Apologize to the membership.
What do you think?