The following was posted in the Libertarian Party Radicals Facebook group on July 25th, 2016 by Brian W. Ryman, a former Libertarian Party candidate for the Ohio state legislature (H/T IPR’s Paulie):
What it is like to run as a libertarian.
There are a number of good people who actively work to bring about a libertarian society. These people may, or may not work through the Libertarian Party, but they advance the cause by educating themselves and others, by offering real solutions that don’t entail governmental overreach, and live as good and responsible members of their community. These are the people who organize and attend rallies to curb the abuses of the state. These people live the Non Aggression Principle and protest injustice. They advance libertarian ideals through their words and deeds. This post is not directed at them, but I hope that it offers them some sustenance.
This post is written for the enrichment of those libertarians whose activism ranges somewhere between putting a bumper sticker on their car and putting a yard sign on their lawn yet have no reservations in criticizing the campaigns of others. This post is to show the travails of running a campaign as a Libertarian in a very un-libertarian society.
I first became active in Libertarian politics at University. I attempted to form a Libertarian club at the University of Virginia but had neither the time nor money to get much done in that matter. This was in 1979 before we had the expansive party organization that we have now. I did, however succeed as a petitioner for Ed Clark in his campaign and helped get him on the ballot in both Virginia and in the District of Columbia.
I kept involved, off and on, with the party for several years and decided to run for Ohio State Assembly in 1993. This was my first real education in politics.
Running for office in a party not officially recognized by the state (as the Libertarian Party was not) required getting a lot of signatures on nominating petitions. The signature requirement for the seat I sought was just under 600 verified registered voters. A small group of my friends and I would spend long hours on Sundays leading up to the election gathering signatures (we had to do it on Sundays because I was managing a drug store at that time and worked 6 days a week). The process paid off and I submitted 667 signatures (~400 of which I had gathered myself) and was on the ballot. I spent the next several months trying to get the attention of the media by sending press releases and doing interviews with any small to large newspaper I could. I travelled hundreds of miles to speak before any group that would listen to me. It was at this time when I broached the subject of Marriage Equality when speaking at a Stonewall Union group and was laughed at. (They ended up endorsing my Democratic opponent because, well…she was a Democrat). I used my meager advertising budget to buy an ad on an alternative music station in the area, print pamphlets, make yard signs and send a few hundred mailers. My budget came from local libertarians and friends. My entire campaign budget was just over $2300.
The Democratic candidate spent more than $300,000 and the Republican incumbent well over $200,000. This is not some David and Goliath story where the underdog becomes victorious. I was trounced!
But the campaign was not for naught. I did get a lot of lectures on how I should have run my campaign. I was told that I should have been more serious by people who wouldn’t even put my yard sign on their lawn. I was told that I had been too radical when I offered ideas about privatizing education and advancing marriage equality. I was told that I was too compromising when I suggested ways to bring about these changes within the current political structure. And I was reminded that Libertarians can’t win.
That was 23 years ago and a lot has changed. The Party is better organized and we have a lot more depth and experience in our candidates. We are putting forth the most qualified presidential candidate in our history AND our ticket has more executive experience than either of the establishment party candidates.
It is easy to find people willing to criticize people who choose to run for public office as Libertarians. Some criticisms may have grounds but most are from sideline strategists who offer nothing constructive. When you have a legitimate concern or issue, bring it up with the campaign strategists. Unless your object is to destroy, please don’t air your grievances in public forums. Our biggest obstacle to victory is our own defeatist attitude.
Libertarian candidates CAN win!!! That is, if they aren’t undermined by other libertarians.