I had a disagreement with former Libertarian Congressman Justin Amash last night.
First, let me be clear that I think he’s been one of the top 5 Congressmen in the past 10 years, both before and after switching from the Republican to the Libertarian Party, and I hope that he runs for President someday. Congressman Amash is a super nice guy. He’s smart, well-read on libertarian principles, and highly accomplished. It’s conceivable he’s right and I’m wrong on this issue where we have some disagreement.
At our Libertarian Party of Texas dinner in Houston last night, Amash explained that Libertarians need to stop seeing themselves as activists and educators, and instead need to act like a political party, and that the purpose of political parties is to win elections.
On the face of it, that statement seems obviously true and self-evident. It’s something most Libertarians and even non-Libertarians think and say about the Libertarian Party all the time. I like winning elections too. I helped recruit over 100 Libertarians who got elected in Pennsylvania last week.
So how could I have a problem with a statement that “the purpose of the Libertarian Party is to win elections, and not to be activists and educators?”
The fact is, most Libertarian candidates that have run against both a Republican and a Democrat (in 3-way races) have received between one and five percent of the vote, and Libertarians almost always lose 2-way races as well that have one major party opponent. Averages have trended up or down slightly over the party’s 50 years, but not by far.
If having leaders like Amash proclaim that “we Libertarians need to win elections and stop running candidates for offices that we can’t win” actually caused significantly more Libertarians to win significant elections, I’d probably jump on board and would be for saying it more often.
But I don’t think it works.
I think saying that causes fewer Libertarians to run that have a small chance of winning and causes way less to run for offices like Congress where they have slim to no chance of winning.
The practical result is less Libertarian winners and a whole lot less Libertarian candidates that lose. The Libertarian Party shrinks.
For a current example, look at the Libertarian Party of Virginia’s results from November 2, 2021 (last week). The governor’s race in Virginia was national news but Libertarians didn’t field a candidate for governor this year. Libertarians didn’t make the national news, weren’t discussed on social media, and weren’t seen by voters on their election ballots. The Party presence in the minds of voters shrank. Meanwhile, some Libertarians in Virginia debated whether or not it was okay to openly admit whether they preferred the Republican or Democrat running for Virginia Governor. Having no Libertarian on the ballot in Virginia in 2021 meant many libertarian voters in Virginia either voted Republican or Democrat, and as a result got a little more used to voting Republican or Democrat, a habit that for some will carry over into 2022 and beyond. Their thinking will be “now that I’ve voted Republican/Democrat in the general elections, perhaps I should vote in the Republican/Democratic primary next year so I can have an impact, since Libertarians aren’t on the ballot."
Contrast 2021 with 2013 and 2017 when Libertarians had a candidate for Governor on the ballot in Virginia. (A PAC I run helped get Robert Sarvis on the ballot for governor in 2013).
It’s already hard to get Libertarian activists to run for offices they’ll likely lose. If you convince them their efforts are worthless, it gets a whole lot harder.
I am proud of our hundreds of Libertarian candidates around America who have run for office and have won. They have made life better in their communities. But the fact is, most of those winners are in quite small districts, altogether representing fewer than 1% of Americans. And when you consider that each citizen has dozens of politicians “serving” them (President, Governor, Congressman, City Councilor, School Board Member, Constable, Waterboard, etc.), the actual control of public policy by elected Libertarians is tiny. Around 350 of the total 500,000 (0.07%) elected officials in America are Libertarian.
Over the 50-year history of the Libertarian Party, I think that the thousands of candidates that have run for offices like President, Governor, and Congress, yet have all lost their elections, have had more impact (though indirect) on public policy than the Libertarians who have won elections.
Even when Libertarian candidates lose, I believe they educate the public, get some news media coverage, and put pressure on elected Republicans and Democrats that causes elected Republicans and Democrats to move at least a little, towards a more Libertarian position. It’s something that’s impossible to measure and prove, but I think that’s the case.
I think Libertarians’ vocal opposition to wars, support for legalizing marijuana, support of free markets and free trade, opposition to corporate welfare, support for the freedom and safety of gays, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, and other minorities or oppressed people, has helped improve public policy including the laws on paper and the personal behavior of people (the culture). I don’t know how much. But I think it’s significant when considering the annual expenditure of time and funds by Libertarians. Our grand total of a few million dollars per year spent on Libertarian Party activism is small in comparison to our impact. We deliver a big bang for the buck.
I don’t want to discourage Libertarians from running for President, Governor, Congress, or any other office, even though they’ll likely lose. Instead of our typical 50 winning and 500 losing Libertarian candidates each cycle, I’d like to be ten times bigger overall, and see 500 winning plus 5,000 losing. A bigger party. More impact.
I served as national executive director of the Libertarian Party for 8 years plus 4 years for the LP Texas. I’ve recruited hundreds of candidates myself and have inspired others to recruit hundreds as well. I now run the Libertarian Booster PAC which has recruited many more candidates. I’m in search of another billionaire to help lift my PAC from a six-figure organization to a seven-figure organization so I can help lift our candidate recruitment nationwide from 500 to 5,000. I think that will make Americans' lives even better than they are today. Until those extra resources join us, I’ll keep struggling along with thousands of other Libertarian activists across the nation to keep the Libertarian Party’s influence as big as we can.
In our history, several elected Republicans and Democrats have switched to the Libertarian Party, run for re-election, and have been shocked by how far their vote percentages have dropped. I usually wasn’t shocked. Our historical elections results are public information. The data is easy to interpret.
I think we’re very lucky and fortunate to have former Congressman Justin Amash in the Libertarian Party on our team working with us. I hope he does enough research and learns from some of his predecessors like Ron Paul, Bob Barr, and Gary Johnson. I hope he carefully considers his strategies and tactics so that he can be highly effective.
Working as a Libertarian Party activist is hard. We tell ourselves and each other it’s fun and personally rewarding, but most of us know we’re usually exaggerating the personal benefits. We don’t do this for personal benefit. We are Libertarian activists because we think we know how to make people’s lives better and we’d be negligent if we didn’t try our best.
[Originally posted on Wes Benedict's personal Facebook page. <<Click here>> to visit the page to see discussion or to comment.]
In 2019, the Republican dominated Texas Legislature imposed filing fees on Libertarian candidates. Libertarians have lobbied and filed lawsuits to overturn those filing fees. In the mean time, the Libertarian Booster PAC is preparing to raise funds to cover the cost of candidate filing fees win Williamson County.
In 2019, the Libertarian Booster PAC paid $10,250 of the filing fees for Texas Libertarian candidates.
Click here for more information or to help out.
Draft website for Virginia candidates: https://template2019.weebly.com/
Former candidate Mark Lewis website (from2019)
Virginia resources page: https://www.libertarianboosterpac.org/virginia-resources.html#/
Hello Virginia Libertarians!
In 2019, I (Wes Benedict) helped several Libertarian candidates for House of Delegates in Virginia. Things I helped with:
collecting petition signatures (I personally collected signatures for a few candidates)
filing campaign finance reports
provided yard signs
provided bumper stickers
provided rack cards
provided door hangers
I'm not sure what resources we'll be able to provide in 2021. Likely I'll be able to help with many of the things above. However, it's unlikely I'll be able to travel to Virginia to help collect petition signatures. Additionally, instead of providing campaign materials for free, I'll likely require some cost sharing. So, instead of providing yard signs for free, I may provide yard signs where the candidate pays 2/3, and the pac pays 1/3.
For websites, I'm leaning towards providing a website for free once a candidate has 20 petition signatures in hand, otherwise asking for a $200 contribution.
See yardsign, bumperstickers, and rack card samples here:https://template2019.weebly.com/get-involved.html
Feel free to contact me at (512) 659-8896 or firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any aspect of your campaign.
11/5/2020 update of election results below. Total Libertarian votes: 2,357,574.
AUSTIN - November 3, 2020 [Updated 11/4/2020]
The Libertarian Booster PAC compiled results for all 88 Libertarian candidates on the ballot for the November elections in Texas. While the total vote counts will continue to go up as results roll in, the percentages are unlikely to change much. As of the time of publishing, the 88 candidates received a total of 1,926,539 votes.
Libertarian Booster PAC Founder, Wes Benedict, commented, "I want to thank all 88 candidates for stepping up to the plate and running for office. While no Libertarian candidates won their races in Texas tonight, Libertarian candidates spent the past year advocating for free markets, civil liberties, and peace, and gave voters who were disappointed with Republicans and Democrats a choice they could support."
[11/4/2020 update: A previous version of this post reported two Republicans in the state legislature with Libertarian opponents likely lost their elections, but final results show those Republicans holding onto their seats, though barely.]
Preliminary results for the 88 candidates are in the table below.
Offering high-quality, low-cost campaign materials to candidates in Texas. The cost to candidates is low because donors to Libertarian Booster PAC pay part of the cost. More designs, more candidates, and offers to more states coming soon. https://www.libertarianboosterpac.org/shop.html#/
Libertarian Booster PAC presents a plan to cut Texas state spending across the board by 4% per year for ten years. Combined with projected 3% annual current-dollar growth in gross state product, this plan shows how Texas tax rates can be cut in half by 2030, and how state spending (as a percentage of gross state product) can be reduced by half. The plan is called the “Modest Plan to Cut the Texas Budget in Half.”
Libertarians think people are better off when they are free to keep more of the money they earn. The lower the taxes, and the stronger the economy, the more people can afford the things they want and need without assistance from the government.
We are not simply looking to improve government efficiency and to reduce waste. We would go further. Libertarians want the government to do less. We think many services the government provides today, like health care, education, and transportation, would be better if provided by the private sector. And some things done by government should not be done at all, like throwing marijuana users in jail.
Our plan is to make Texans’ lives better by cutting government spending, reducing taxes, and moving many people off government assistance into a thriving free market economy. While some low-income Texans will have direct government benefits reduced, they’ll also pay lower sales taxes, lower government fees, have greater job opportunities and an overall lower cost of living.
For Immediate Release
Libertarian Prescription for Coronavirus
AUSTIN – March 18, 2020
True, most Libertarians aren’t doctors. Our remedies are for the government.
People are rightly concerned about the current coronavirus outbreak. A March 13, 2020 New York Times article quoting the CDC says that, in the worst-case scenario, as many as 214 million Americans might get infected and 1.7 million could die. Other experts expect far fewer infections and deaths once better data on infection rates becomes available, and as people change their behaviors to prevent the spread of the virus.
Wes Benedict, founder of the Libertarian Booster PAC, commented, “In times of crisis, Americans are too quick to reach for the government as a default solver of problems. Politicians wanting to appear to be ‘doing something’ are all too eager to act, but they have a long history of doing things that make situations worse, both in the short term and the long term.
“Libertarians believe that free people and free markets are best equipped to respond to crisis situations. Often government remedies, which might make us feel good, get us hooked and cause long-term damage. The war on poverty, war on terror, war on drugs, and other government responses to perceived threats have given us restrictions and programs that rarely get revoked. We don’t need a new expensive freedom-killing war on viruses which may kill more people than it helps by reducing economic development worldwide.”
Benedict added, "Instead of asking what new program or law is needed in response to every problem like the coronavirus, we should be asking, 'What existing laws are adding to the problem?'"
Below are activities the government should avoid, followed by prescriptions for activities the government should take.
Governments should avoid the following:
Mandatory restaurant and other business closings. People should be free to decide for themselves what risks they are willing to take. I’d highly recommend most senior citizens and those with weakened immune systems do their best to stay away from restaurants and stores. Many already do that during flu outbreaks. But it’s wrong for the government to force businesses to close, and doing that now sets a dangerous precedent.
Quarantines and limits on public assembly. Quarantines can backfire. People who might be sick may avoid getting tested for fear of being held against their will. At-risk individuals have the choice to isolate themselves and use extra caution as they do during flu outbreaks. Healthy individuals are free to avoid public gatherings as well, but they should not be able to prevent others from assembling.
Carriers of the disease can create risks for vulnerable individuals. However, Libertarian tenets of personal freedom and personal responsibility put the onus on the at-risk individual to stay isolated, rather than demand that the rest of the world change their behavior.
The power to quarantine is very dangerous, because it amounts to imprisonment without a crime. That same power could be used in the future by government officials who want to get dissidents out of the way. The First Amendment protects people’s right to assemble, for good reason.
As an example, the City of Austin has banned gatherings of more than 10 people. That’s wrong, violates the Constitution, should be reversed immediately, and should never be done again.
Bailouts and other financial rescues. Government should avoid causing a financial pandemic on top of the disease pandemic. Forcing businesses to close, monkeying with interest rates, quantitative easing, promising bailouts, and other subsidies only make the financial problems worse in the short and long run. The world has suffered disease outbreaks in recent years such as Ebola, SARS, MERS, and swine flu. A new contagious disease outbreak should be a surprise to no one. It’s the responsibility of individuals and businesses to be prepared for occurrences like this. We should not punish prudent businesses by taxing them and giving that money to businesses that might otherwise fail.
Things government should do:
Although Libertarians are famous for complaining about what government does wrong, there’s one area where the government is performing pretty well: free speech.
Free speech is critical. We don’t want a situation like China where people who contradict the government are subject to threats, censorship, or perhaps even worse.
While it’s possible the media has created more panic than we need, or failed to warn us quickly enough, press freedom is crucial. And freedom of the press means the freedom to be wrong. Our free media has grabbed America’s attention and has helped individuals stay informed so they can take voluntary action.
Freedom of speech for every individual shall not be infringed. Free speech means the right to criticize the president, Congress, and all government officials. Free speech also means the right to question experts, to disagree, and to debate and argue on social media without interference from the government. Except for some defamation lawsuits and speech codes on campuses, America mostly does well respecting free speech.
Benedict reaffirmed, “I know people are scared. Government reaction scares me more than the virus itself. Now is not the time to panic and throw out our principles. Instead, now is the time to stand firmly on principle, and remind ourselves what makes America great. Now is the time for us to take responsibility for our own health, and to voluntarily lend a hand to a neighbor. Free people, voluntary persuasion, and free markets are the surest, quickest, cheapest, and safest way for humanity to fight the coronavirus—not government coercion.”
Wes Benedict is Founder of the Libertarian Booster PAC (libertarianboosterpac.org) and former Executive Director of the Libertarian National Committee.
Wes Benedict, Libertarian Booster PAC president