Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Importance of Strategy

One thing libertarians often lose sight of is strategy. This applies to both those inside the party and those outside, and to both the libertarian caucus and the reform caucus.

In California two ballot propositions were up for vote. Both of them promised eminent domain reform. Proposition 98 included very strong eminent domain reform, and also included rent control reform. It was a perfect libertarian initiative in that if it had passed it would have restored and protected the right of private property. Proposition 99 was a very weak eminent domain reform that basically left the balance of power in the hands of the city and county governments. Proposition 98 was written because of the discontent with Kelo versus New London. Proposition 99 was written to protect the cities and counties from proposition 98.

The advertisements for 99 pointed out that 98 was advertised as an eminent domain reform but contained a "hidden agenda" against rent control. The advertisements neglected to mention that rent control is a failure every time it is tried. Instead they simply ended by saying 98 was against rent control as if that alone were proof of the sinister nature of 98, and they correctly pointed out that 98 was a bundled measure and if one part passed the whole thing passed.

Proposition 99 feed on the discontent against eminent domain, and the measure that protected eminent domain rode to victory with the votes of those who wanted to reform eminent domain. Proposition 98 was defeated by the same margin by those who felt that the measure was dishonest.

At the 2008 Libertarian Party convention, the Reform Caucus beat the Libertarian Caucus. Mainstream libertarians are not represented on the 2008 Libertarian Party presidential ticket. It would have been a good move on the part of the Reform Caucus to sponsor a unity ticket with a prominent member of the Libertarian Caucus in the Vice Presidential Candidate slot. Failing to think strategically the Reform Caucus wanted their victory over the Libertarian Caucus to be thorough. Now the result is a weakened candidate. There is much discontent within Libertarian Party ranks over this ticket.

Bob Barr is campaigning for votes outside the Libertarian Party. What he is neglecting is that he should be campaigning for votes inside the Libertarian Party as well. The Reform Caucus has, by choosing victory over strategy, alienated a large portion of the Libertarian Party. The reaction from the candidate himself has been "I'm the candidate so you will vote for me." The reaction from the Reform Caucus has been to accuse everyone who hasn't warmly and happily embraced the ticket of being sore losers, wanting to destroy the party, et cetera. The truth is that by placing victory at the convention over strategy, the Reform Caucus is more guilty of trying to fracture the party than the disenfranchised Libertarian Caucus is.

Barr does need to spend time advertising to the base. He is neglecting that duty, relying on "you have to vote for me" to get the votes from the base. Libertarians are notorious for rejecting calls for "you have to vote for me" as a substantial portion of libertarians are converts from major parties and those converts realized that they don’t have to vote for the candidate of the party. It doesn’t matter that the hated other party will win if the candidate for the party is just as bad. That’s not to say that Barr is as bad as Obama or McCain – he most certainly is not as bad as them. The question resolves to is he good enough to get the vote of those who will actually analyze a candidate instead of showing blind party loyalty.

Strategy is important. A better thinking of strategy by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assocation and Proposition 98 would have passed. A better thinking of strategy by the Reform Caucus and Barr wouldn’t have to worry about getting the libertarian vote and could concentrate on the independent vote. As it stands now he has the potential to gain one at the expense of the other, and that will not result in the growth that the Reform Caucus promised the rest of the party when they rammed a double reform ticket down the throats of everyone else.

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