A practical guide for success, in the moment we have all been waiting for.
By: Ryan Ramsey
Chairman, Bradford County Affiliate
State Executive Committee Representative, Region 4
Libertarian Party of Florida
Since 1971, Libertarians have dreamed of this day. The moment enough members of the one party system’s two factions “wake up”. The dawn of that day has already broken. In November, The Miami Herald reported the following breakdown of voter registration by party.
3.2 million Floridians avoid both major parties.
27 percent of all Florida voters are now NPA, or “No Party Affiliation”
Two decades ago, 47 percent of Florida voters were Democrats and 41 percent were Republicans.
With the continuing rise of no-party voters, Democrats now make up 38 percent and Republicans 35 percent, but Republicans control two-thirds of the 160 seats in the Legislature.
The Republican Party is in shambles. Democrats are collectivist and authoritarian by nature, but many Republicans are Libertarians who don’t know it yet, or stay awake at night fretting Hillary or Bernie, and Obama before them, and feel a switch would guarantee their victory. The perception is the Perot voters gave the farm to Clinton, who gave them the assault weapons ban, and the plans of Bernie are literally insane.
In July 2015, Pew reported the following numbers:
Positive views of the GOP among Republicans have declined 18 percentage points since January, from 86% to 68%. Independents also view the Republican Party less favorably; 29% today, compared with 37% six months ago. Democrats, by contrast, continue to express highly positive opinions of their party: 86% view the party favorably, little changed from 84% in January. Independents’ views of the Democratic Party also are unchanged since January, at 38%.” [Pew]
Since then, the Democrats have likely lost some support, as the establishment tries to hamstring comrade Bernie to keep frau Hillary on their ticket. The attack on Donald Trump, however, has made a situation that was bleak last July and made it terrible. People are furious. I have significant insight into the way their base thinks, as I was a Republican until they did the same thing to Ron Paul. I also live in a rural North Florida County and work in Jacksonville much of the time.
The Libertarian Party of Florida, and Libertarian ideas in general are now marketable in a way they have never been before. Tearing holes in the credibility of the Republicans is pretty easy. GW Bush signed Medicare and Tarp bills 2/3 the size of Obamacare and his bailouts. I tell them picking commie lite over commie isn’t a real choice. The party of small government hasn’t even proposed a balanced budget since 1994, 22 years of smoke blowing up their posteriors.Half measures on a Balanced Budget Amendment are not convincing anyone.
Traditionally, the “PG’s”(Pot and Gays) have kept a good portion of the conservatives away from our table, but the Supreme Court sealed the deal on gay marriage, and even my megachurch attending mom is over the pot hysteria.
We must pause at this critical juncture in history and reflect on what the zealots in our party have cost us. To say we lack political scientists in leadership positions is the understatement of the last 3 decades. We are right. Freedom is the most American thing there is. We fail because we have been terrible at salesmanship. Do you want to win? Immediately apply a few simple rules of political success.
- Only sell what people want.
If Nancy Reagan has the nation chanting “Just Say No”!, it is probably a bad idea to reply “Legalize Hard Drugs”. That singular mistake in the 80’s by blowhards with “principle” is the reason we collect hundreds while the Republicans collect millions. If you are an open border Libertarian, please be quiet right now. Lets feed them milk instead of choking them to death with steak. Lets become a major party and topple the welfare state, end the drug war, and stop the interventionist foreign policy and foreign military aid. Then all the arguments against you vaporize and you’ll be in a position to relax those restrictions.
When I first came around I got involved in spite of the gay marriage support; I totally didn’t get it. Luckily I had reasonable people in the party who didn’t pick an “ism” to throw at me and run me off. I eventually went truly libertarian, and support the abolition of state marriage in favor of whatever private contracts and powers of attorney people wish to engage in. The point is, you will all have a chance to share your views with them, but we have to bring them into the fold first, and put a good foot forward without freaking them out to do so. I remind you, we are right.Right will win in the end. It is not important to the establishment if a Republican is pro -abortion, as long as he pulls the lever for their guy in the ballot box, and we need to remember that. These ideological debates on Facebook among the rank and file might be relevant to party leadership elections, but not the general elections. The government is not going to survey the 5% to make sure they are in lockstep before letting us in the debates and issuing the election funds. Once we are on that stage and our ideas in front of millions, we will have the upper hand.
Allow me the use of another metaphor:
When Special Operations troops are behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, they wear turbans and robes and carry AK’s, while riding whatever animals or beater vehicles the locals drive so they are not discovered and attacked. We all know the “more libertarian than thou” type, and in this analogy, he would be a guy that insists on riding a Harley with a clean shave through Helmand Province in Afghanistan yelling ‘Murica!!! He’ll be shot by a sniper or end up starring in a dull knife beheading video.He will lose. You are as effective in your battle as he would be.
Victory is principled, not sabotage. If you shove unfamiliar ideas down people’s throats, they will run, and the Libertarian Party will continue to stagnate. People will continue to be imprisoned en-masse for victimless crimes, the Nobel peace Prize winners will continue drone bombing programs that kill 50 innocents for every target. It really is starting to look eerily like the Weimar Republic outside. Trump is not Hitler. The next guy with a cult of personality? He very well could be, except my guess is he offers a Marxist solution. Over 100 million died last century under that ideology. Do you want to be the coolest anarcho-capitalist in the interment camp, and cursed by every generation after you? I say using our heads and smashing the system makes any of us cooler. Saving America and the world by proxy is a pretty good bonus.
2.Talk to people in language they understand.
When you start quoting Lysander Spooner on the Constitution, you sound like someone explaining calculus to people who don’t know division and multiplication. Except in a foreign language that sounds like “screw America” in English. Seriously.
I have a couple quotes for you to use in case you actually want to win over disgruntled Republicans. Lets have a contest to see who gets to 5% first, quoting Spooner to them, or this man, who polls as #1 among the target voter pool.
“I don’t believe in a government that protects us from ourselves.”
“As government expands, liberty contracts.”
“Government is not the solution to our problem, government IS the problem.”
“If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism… The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.”
Before you turn your nose up, are you aware he ran on a platform to abolish the Department of education? This nugget below may be news to libertarians as well as potential recruits.
—-Reagan never seriously considered sending U.S. troops to Nicaragua, despite demands from conservative intellectuals like Norman Podhoretz and William F. Buckley. “Those sons of bitches won’t be happy until we have 25,000 troops in Managua,” Reagan told chief of staff Kenneth Duberstein near the end of his presidency, “and I’m not going to do it.”
—-He resorted to military force far less often than many of those who came before him or who have since occupied the Oval Office … After the  assault on the Marine barracks in Lebanon, he questioned the wisdom of U.S. involvement, and Reagan withdrew our troops rather than dig in. He found no good strategic reason to give our regional enemies inviting U.S. targets. Can one imagine one of today’s neoconservative absolutists backing away from any fight anywhere?
Post this 1975 Reason Magazine interview on their Facebook page while you’re at it.
Sorry Lysander Spooner, the Constitution is not going anywhere, and The Bill of Rights in the US Constitution contains a marketable way to attack every major issue we face, from an angle of attack easily understood by Republicans. It is already firmly entrenched in their worldview.. Telling them about Liberland and anarchy will be as effective as kicking them in the testicles. We need vets who swore an oath on the Constitution, and 60% of them come home with anti-interventionist views. Anarchist hipsters will never have the moral capital, or skin in the game, like a combat vet on the issue of the American empire. You want to end non-defensive war? Find all the veterans you can and get them in your party.
Be self aware my brothers and sisters, you are ahead of your time. People from the future. You are a smart phone syncing with a walkman cassette player. Make whatever adapter cable you need for now. You cannot upload digital to an analog device, no matter how hard you want to. Upgrade it later.
3. It seems like such a simple concept, but many Libertarian victories are pure luck, because they do not understand the basic circles of influence and concern. You cannot do it all. Focus your energy ONLY where the two overlap and suddenly the effort bears fruit. I tell newcomers the story will write itself. Just get your boots on the ground.
“Opportunities multiply as they are seized”. Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Politics is war, it is ideological warfare! Do not attack the enemy at his strongest defenses. Find out where they are weak. Find places where other larger groups can help. Form alliances. Operate like an agent behind enemy lines and don’t bring up contentious issues, focus on the common ground.
We have so many issues, that we will have more targets of opportunity than we can possibly attack. We cannot sit idly by with the highest per capita prison population on the planet while our government sets the world on fire. Do something, and do something effective! For example, every State Libertarian Party and County Affiliate, should look for seats they can run unopposed, or where a well known elected official is hitting retirement or term limits without a successor and RUN.
I will write more in coming weeks, issue by issue, on new angles of attack and strategy. This article forms the basic premise, and overall war plan. You have to plan your work, and work your plan. Without a plan, you could spend 45 years being right about everything, and have a voter pool that believes most of the same things, and is polling as very sympathetic, and not even reach 5%. Put on your big boy pants Libertarians. Time is running out and if wee squander this chance it will not be the party that loses. It will not be your caucus, or your party position that you lose. Freedom itself may perish from the earth forever, and the slaves of the future will talk about the United States in the way we discuss the lost city of Atlantis. I am NOT letting that happen on my watch.
I like analogies, they help many people understand concepts better, so I will leave you with a final one before you go about your day, hopefully to light the brush fires of liberty in the hearts and minds of men, and be effective.
Imagine for a moment that we are standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Freedom is on the other side.We form a small group within a huge crowd that knows how to cross the chasm. We have the equipment and supplies to build the bridge. All we have to do is convince the crowd to work with us, and were across. Are you going to point fingers and call them statists? decide the few things you disagree about will keep you from helping each other with all the things you agree on, including getting across? Did I mention there is a thousand D9 bulldozers side by side coming our way to push us off the cliff?
I don’t know about you guys, but I would rather have a nice debate between minarchist and anarchist on the other side than let the bulldozers do their grim work. You’re stuck with us anyway, we can hit the bottom together, or we can cross together. Choose wisely. The consequences of failure are too horrific to imagine.
About the author:
Ryan Ramsey is a US Navy Veteran and lifelong political activist. He Chairs the Bradford County Affiliate and Represents Region 4 on the State Executive Committee for the Libertarian Party of Florida.
In addition, he hosts “Global Dissident Voices” and “Sons and Daughters of Liberty Radio” on the SDL Radio Network. He sits on the National Council of the SDL, is the Director of The Florida Liberty Project, founder of Jacksonville Open Carry, and the singer and guitarist of the “Rock Against Communism” band “Lovecrime”.