With the takeover of the Libertarian Party, the Mises Caucus has left an indelible mark on both the LP and the wider liberty movement.
Led with the energy and spirit of the Ron Paul Revolution, we set out to first rescue the brand of the LP—to bring it back to bold, unapologetic, truthful, and principled messaging in line with its founding vision. With that goal accomplished, the next step is to fully develop and launch a long-term political strategy for the LP to be effective. This strategy needs to be both principled and realistic, with methods and objectives that libertarians can use nationwide and into the future.
There may be some difficult-to-read sections of this document. In particular, the first half poses tough truths and deals with today’s political reality for the LP—namely, that it has been historically unable to meaningfully grow and succeed. It is time to accept our failures and strategic mistakes if we are going to grow into a viable political vehicle. But, if we are honest and employ self-reflection we can devise a proper strategy. The second half of this document lays out such a strategy. I’m not asking for anything that we haven’t already done. It took nearly five years for the takeover to happen with many losses along the way. All of those losses were used to identify our failures, which helped us make the changes that led us to our strong results in Reno. Now, the party itself needs to go through these same growing pains.
Accepting Political Realities
To build such a strategy, we must accept certain realities about the political landscape in the United States, and where third parties are within that landscape. Some of this may be bitter medicine, but it’s crucial that we get real with ourselves.
The ruling class has, with its allies in the corporate media and in academia, waged a subtle divide-and-conquer campaign against the American people over the last century or so, and it has largely succeeded. The electorate has been conditioned to identify with either Team Red or Team Blue, and to take part in a fierce political debate and life-or-death battle within a very constricted range of opinions and topics, which is sometimes called the Overton window.
This team mentality is not merely political; it’s psychological and emotional. To leave one’s team, which is what Libertarians are asking people to do, is to leave one’s social circle and status. This is a significant price to pay, and we have to have a compelling reason to ask people to make that sacrifice.
Progressives have thrived in this environment by gradually, but steadily, pushing the Overton window to the left, knowing that conservatives lack the long-term vision and principled leadership to do anything but maybe slow things down here and there a tiny bit. Meanwhile, in the background, the warfare/welfare state steadily expands according to the desires of the central banking financial elite, the military-industrial-congressional complex, and the bureaucratic state.
There is absolutely no evidence to suggest this arrangement will be upset by any positive, meaningful political change at the federal level from either major party. Nor do Libertarians have any real reason to expect we can be influential at that level of politics anytime soon.
With competent leadership and coherent ideas going into the 2022 midterms, the GOP would have run on the issues of Covid tyranny and inflation, and crushed the Democrats; instead, voters who had just endured the worst three years any of us can remember, basically endorsed the status quo.
That alone is enough to establish that there are no shortcuts, silver bullets, or cheat codes available to libertarians. There aren’t that many of us. We have very little political influence and very scarce resources. Libertarian vote totals in statewide or presidential races are mostly attributable not to our own efforts, but to the disgust that five or ten percent of the electorate has for the major party candidates. Such voters register their token protest, but only a handful become libertarian activists or even join the LP. In this sense, there is almost no return on investment from these campaigns. They do nothing to help us with our party’s needs and goals in the long term—things like membership and building actual political capital.
We’re not going to get lucky and win the presidency with a well-respected Republican retread or a celebrity billionaire candidate somehow getting in the debates and sweeping voters off their feet.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Libertarians would be invited to the presidential debates any time soon.
Statewide races are usually no different—merely getting Libertarians on the ballot in many states is a complicated and expensive endeavor that saps the energy of our activists, and there just isn’t enough money to run a campaign that will convince voters to abandon their team in races they see as critically important.
And why should they?
Libertarians have not put in the effort to earn the people’s trust within their local communities, where they perceive the political stakes to be the lowest. Because of this, people have no consistent or positive frame of reference by which to understand or identify us. As far as most voters can tell, we only ever show up “out of nowhere,” aim at big races that they know we aren’t going to win, and potentially “screw up their races.”
This is not a strategy that will build the trust and confidence we need over time.
Presidential and statewide races do have their purpose—they are often required by states to attain or retain ballot access, and with highly skilled candidates like Shane Hazel or Michael White, they can be used to promote the libertarian message and recruit people to the LP. That is the primary function of these races; not just to chase a few more votes in an unwinnable race where we forever oscillate between one and three percent of the vote, and then quibble over who did it better within that meaningless range.
Let’s be honest. We aren’t convincing anybody with our “I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think we could win!” company line, either.
In fact, such nonsense damages our credibility with voters. Far better for us to start building trust toward us, our brand, and our ideas by having charismatic, bold, and brutally-honest candidates in a few unwinnable races while fielding a few hundred local, realistic candidates who can build relationships with voters in their communities that will enable them to enact effective libertarian policies.
None of this is in any way defeatism; it’s reality, and it’s healthy to see it with clarity. We have to acknowledge the situation if we are to create a meaningful and successful strategy from which we can form a foundation.
It’s also healthy to let go of fantasy scenarios that leave us demoralized when we fail, and instead work on winning smaller battles that give us experience and the emotional fuel to keep fighting.
Independence from Great Britain would not have been won by minutemen deluding themselves into the belief they could form up and win a by-the-book set-piece battle against the world’s best army. It was won by guerrilla fighters using asymmetric tactics adapted to each particular time and place. One of those adaptations—perhaps the most important—was knowing which battles were best delayed, or avoided altogether.
The issue of trust compounds in the current hyperpolarized environment where the culture war is at a peak. This also means that we do not have the luxury to demand blind partisan loyalty. It is perfectly reasonable that people who are exploring our ideas and party may vote for Libertarians in some areas, and for other candidates in other areas until such a time that we have—in their minds—earned their vote, especially at a time when we do not normally have candidates up and down the ballot anyway.
This is basic political psychology that only narrow-minded partisans could disagree with. Demanding partisan loyalty from the weak position we are currently in is tantamount to demanding fealty to losing in the minds of tens of millions of people. This is an unreasonable and counterproductive expectation that we simply cannot afford to demand. Instead, we need to appreciate the help that we do get from outside our party.
The country needs a change in its culture, attitude, and spirit as much as it needs political change. This is something over which we ourselves can have some control, if we are first willing to evolve along these lines.
We can help lead that change if we start focusing our extremely limited resources on areas where we can do more than just prove a point. Courage is contagious and, mixed with a little success here and there, it can inspire others to stand up and fight for liberty.
Why Not the Republican Party?
You might well ask why do this through the LP at all if the GOP already has a higher trust relationship with their voters than we do? Couldn’t we just take advantage of that fact and try to win through the GOP?
In the past, the GOP strategy made a lot more sense than it does now. The corporate media was essentially the only avenue through which information and ideas could spread, meaning that to get any media attention at all, libertarians would have to have a major party label. They almost always chose the Republican label because the GOP’s rhetoric, empty as it is, does echo some libertarian ideas.
Ron Paul’s GOP presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012 were of course wildly successful. For as much as he was blacked out and ridiculed by the media, Dr. Paul still got much more airtime than he would have had as a Libertarian. And of course, his performances in the GOP debates gave him a chance to speak directly to voters with no filter whatsoever.
Because his campaigns were so strong, the GOP establishment had to change, and even break, their own rules to make sure the Ron Paul Revolution would not take over their party. Any similar libertarian insurgency within the GOP would surely meet a similar fate today. The entrenched PACs, donors, and special interests that own that party have shown time and time again that they are willing to let a Democrat win rather than allow their party to move in a libertarian direction.
Think about the difference between Ron Paul and Rand Paul. While yes, Ron ran as a Republican, he was never accepted as one. He was always an outsider, a libertarian with too many “crazy” ideas. Rand Paul, on the other hand, has been more willing to clothe himself in the narrative and culture of the GOP to the point that many Republicans see him as similar to Trump. Ron always played an ideas game whereas Rand is playing a political game.
We libertarians know that Rand is much, much closer to his father, and to us, ideologically, but it doesn’t matter; he’s already marketed himself as a Republican so effectively that his potential to influence anyone outside his party is quite limited. As heroic as his crusade against Fauci was and is, he’ll never have the cultural influence of his father due to this perception as a Republican partisan. Culture is where the change has to happen first if we are to win, and the founders of the LP knew that.
While yes, the GOP has a higher trust relationship with their voter base, they also have a higher distrust relationship with the other half of the political world, and many independents. They have not only failed to stop the forward march of progressivism over the past 100 years, but they invariably end up defending the progressive victories of a few years ago in an attempt to defeat the progressives today.
While this “strategy” may slow down the rate of advance of the progressive juggernaut a little, its practical effect is to solidify a bipartisan support for the worst elements of the state, namely the Federal Reserve, the boom-bust cycle, foreign interventionism, corporate cronyism, bailouts, the War on Drugs, and the Orwellian surveillance state.
It’s no wonder that corporate and financial elites support both parties with campaign contributions and by lining the pockets of politicians with jobs and speaking fees. Today, pretty much the only meaningful difference between the parties is the culture war which does not address the worst issues of the state that libertarians have been right on all along.
To be fair, though, in some cases libertarians can still have some success in the GOP. New Hampshire, for example, has a much higher concentration of elected libertarians than any other state thanks to Free Staters and other libertarians working in the Republican Party. In the rest of the country, there are a handful of libertarians succeeding as Republicans. Part of us maturing as a party is to recognize that those libertarians are not crazy or wrong for following that strategy—and to acknowledge that we are no more entitled to the allegiance of libertarian candidates and voters any more than Team Red or Team Blue is entitled to anyone’s allegiance. We simply have to prove ourselves, and keep building an LP that will earn both the support of libertarian voters and attract the best libertarian candidates.
Their strategy, however, comes with different political drawbacks than ours does. We often have to run no-win races just to try to maintain ballot access, while they often have to consider the base of voters that would be voting for the letter next to their name in order to have a hope of making it through the primary. This doesn’t make them lesser libertarians. We’re all in the realm of politics where strategy and tactics matter.
We have more than enough political enemies at present for us to be fighting close philosophical allies, or even those few Democrats who are somewhat libertarian on the most important issues (think Tulsi Gabbard or Cynthia McKinney). Rather, we should let them do their thing, cheer their success, and, when possible, find ways to work together—without sacrificing our principles.
There is a significant difference between our situation today and the Ron Paul Revolution that tips the scales decisively against working inside one of the legacy parties and in favor of using the LP to lead the liberty movement: a media landscape that now favors a radical decentralist approach where libertarians can finally have a voice.
The corporate media monolith is one of the most distrusted and hated institutions in the country right now. They’re still working from an outdated consumption model of needing to turn the TV on the right channel at the right time to see the right program. That model allowed the media to have a stranglehold on the political narrative, and it still mostly works that way for baby boomers.
But a growing percentage of Americans from Generation X and younger are getting their information from new media—where dissident pro-liberty voices can and do consistently have long-format access to audiences of millions. Dave Smith is a regular recurring guest on the Joe Rogan Experience. Tim Pool, Michael Malice, Lex Fridman, Glenn Beck, Patrick Bet-David and many other major podcasters have libertarians on and/or express libertarian ideas regularly.
The people who are consuming these podcasts are generally younger, more open-minded, and can maintain attention for upwards of three hours.
Never before has the liberty movement had such an opportunity to not only consistently get our ideas out there, but to build a narrative about who and what we are and what our culture is like.
Changing a culture takes time, and political successes manifest themselves after the culture has already shifted. The fact that such a culture shift is even possible is one of the most positive changes in modern society, and the chance to drive that shift toward the growth of a liberty movement not dependent in any way on either the Republicans or Democrats is something libertarians simply cannot pass up.
Liberty will have to be successful as a cultural movement if it ever hopes to be successful as a political movement. We need a lot more people thinking and caring about liberty in order to achieve and maintain any sort of political success.
We libertarians no longer need to cloak ourselves in the narrative and culture of the GOP in order to talk to people and get their attention. The time is now to offer up new ideas, new narratives, new strategies and to tell a better story free from the constraints of “respectability politics” that have kept other political insurgencies from succeeding.
Ron Paul has always said that any libertarian revolution will come alongside a dynamic libertarian cultural movement, many parts of which need not be explicitly political. We now have the ability to work with and support that movement by promoting its creatives and entrepreneurs inside a reinvigorated Libertarian Party.
A Libertarian Party by the liberty movement and for the liberty movement, with a diverse range of liberty-based projects alongside it, whether political or not, will be the backbone of our community and culture.
What is the Libertarian Party for?
Having come to an honest realization of just where we stand, let’s turn our attention to the strengths the LP does indeed possess.
First on that list is a resource of truly immeasurable value: thousands and thousands of human beings committed to the ideas of liberty and peace, and willing to work for those things against long odds, usually at their own expense, and often to the detriment of other areas of their lives.
Far from being selfish malcontents, the typical libertarian I have encountered is motivated by a desire to enable all humankind to live free of injustice and oppression.
Therefore, the most crucial indicator of our party’s health is the number of members we have who are contributing on some level. For that reason, Harry Browne should be seen as the most successful, inspiring, and influential presidential candidate the LP has ever had. Though he won just a half percent of the vote in 1996 and a bit less in 2000, LP membership was at an all-time high during that time.
Because he stuck to radical libertarian principles, his contribution to the health of the LP was more tangible than Gary Johnson’s, whose campaigns didn’t result in a sustained membership boost though his vote percentage in 2016 was more than six times higher than Browne’s best showing.
Principle and courage are infinitely more inspiring and memorable than mere vote totals.
Because of our thousands of dedicated members, the LP has another invaluable asset: existing footholds in every state’s political system and a track record of getting candidates on the ballot. Though the ballot access rules are stacked against us in most states, our state parties have proven they can work within those rules and field candidates, whether or not they are allowed to appear on the ballot as Libertarians. According to the LP’s current numbers, there were 673 Libertarian candidates on the ballot in the 2022 general election—no small feat.
However, much of the time and energy expended to field these 673 candidates, to a large degree, could have been allocated more wisely. Only about 9 percent of those 673 LP candidates were for local office (lower than the county level)—yet ALL but one of the 22 LP victories were in those local races. Out of 93 county-level races, one county attorney candidate was successful. For perspective, that’s 63 local level candidates, nearly all of them city council and mayor, with 21 of them winning. That’s an astounding 33 percent of all local level candidates who won.
Again, many of those non-local races did serve a purpose—such campaigns, especially those beneficial to ballot access, should continue to be a priority.
But what if the percentage were flipped, and 75 percent of those 673 candidates ran for local office instead? With the same 33 percent success rate, that would mean 224 races won. That would be more political power than Libertarians have ever had in one year.
And what if, instead of expecting each candidate to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel on their own, the LP could support them throughout the whole process? What if candidates were recruited to target the most likely races where a Libertarian can win? What if they were active in the community prior to running? What if they were effectively trained? What if they had campaign managers and plenty of volunteer door-knockers and phone-bankers? What if these trained and supported candidates also had more financial resources?
If we create an environment where LP candidates have this kind of support, I have no doubt our candidates and state parties can far exceed that 33 percent success rate.
Project Decentralized Revolution: A 1-2 Gut Punch to the State
We have developed a strategy that accounts for these real world problems. We call it Project Decentralized Revolution and we are glad to share it with anyone interested in advancing liberty. We also expect to modify it from time to time based on data and experience, and with input from those helping us to implement it.
Imagine you’re in a boxing ring with an opponent who has multiple physical advantages over you. He presses you relentlessly around the ring, keeping you on the defensive, and is able to use his size, speed, and mobility to constantly pressure you. An experienced boxer would respond to this situation not by charging in and wildly throwing knockout punches, but by trying to land body blows. It isn’t flashy, and the damage to the stronger, quicker opponent isn’t immediately obvious. But, over time, the opponent’s attack slows down, and his defense weakens. Eventually, openings appear for the disadvantaged boxer to inflict real damage, giving him a real shot to win in the later rounds.
The Project Decentralized Revolution strategy works in a similar way politically. Remember, there are no shortcuts; the work has to be done from the ground up and trust must be built over time. We must instead focus on building a nationwide network of volunteers built on the foundation of a positive culture who can lead single-issue coalitions and get Libertarians elected to local office.
Once elected, Libertarian office-holders can use the very broad decision-making power states and localities retain under the 10th Amendment to not only reduce local taxes and spending, but to start nullifying the most damaging of the countless unconstitutional federal government policies. Additionally, localities retain sovereignty over their lands and can use that to shut down federal government property and its unconstitutional activities from their jurisdiction. Local Libertarians are capable of quite radical actions.
The most notable real-world example of how nullification can work is how states and localities have scaled back (and in many cases ended) marijuana prohibition. At first, a few towns decriminalized it, prompting conversations at the county level and in bigger cities, which in turn spawned successful statewide legalization movements—all while federal law continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug subject to the strictest prohibition (though there’s now talk of that changing). We can press the same sort of attack on many fronts in decentralized pockets.
Other examples of issues over which Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution grants the federal government no jurisdiction are almost too numerous to count, but they include: education, healthcare, gun control, immigration, warrantless use of surveillance technology, prohibition of drugs, and even monetary policy. All it takes to advance liberty by nullifying federal law in any of these policy areas is a handful of Libertarian or allied city council members backed by the support of a single-issue coalition drawn from all parts of the political spectrum—talk about punching above your weight!
The people of the various states created the federal government and are not owned by it. This concept, vital to the founding of our country, has been lost to the growing power of the state over time. We as libertarians are now taking our sovereignty back from the federal government whether or not they wish to relinquish it. In time, this strategy will create a patchwork of legal and political resistance across the country, making any federal, or even state policies, impossible to uniformly apply.
Project Decentralized Revolution, which includes our Run as Libertarian campaign and the 2023 Take Human Action Tour, is our plan to put this strategy into action.
Support Project Decentralized Revolution with your contribution today
Run As Libertarian
Run As Libertarian is our program to recruit, train, and support as many candidates as possible for local offices like city council, county board, mayor, school board, sheriff, and judge.
The LP has had some success in the last couple of decades recruiting candidates, but efforts to train and support those candidates have been far less successful. We need to create an environment in which well-trained candidates are the norm, not the exception. While we build up our own leadership and training modules, we should take advantage of resources like Young Americans for Liberty, the Leadership Institute, Grassroots Leadership Academy, and Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership.
In addition to online training seminars that are already happening, we’ll be bringing free, in-person training for candidates, campaign managers, and volunteers to eight cities across the United States in 2023 as part of the Take Human Action Tour, which will also feature talks by current leaders of the liberty movement such as Dave Smith, Tom Woods, Jeff Deist, Scott Horton, Maj Toure, Michael Boldin, Michael Rectenwald, and more. The ensuing audience will comprise a cross-section of the liberty movement that we will have the opportunity to inspire and recruit into the party and this strategy.
These events will take place near college campuses in an effort to bring the next generation of libertarians into the liberty movement and give everyone a chance to build friendships, network, and create a culture that will draw people into the LP to help us implement the Project Decentralized Revolution strategy.
The Local Strategy in Practice
The Decentralized Revolution strategy can be carried out in a manner that both maximizes our opportunities today, and scales over time.
Generally speaking, state Libertarian parties do not have comprehensive political strategies, either short- or long-term. Extending from that, they do not have a sound fundraising strategy to then maximize the efficiency of that political strategy. Without a credible and exciting political strategy, and an animating fundraising strategy, the recruitment strategy is left simply to the strength of our ideas with little to no avenue for those ideas to win.
We must start with the political strategy in order to shape the fundraising strategy—which together will inform the recruitment strategy. Messaging is another important aspect of this, especially recruitment, but that is a separate matter that will not be covered in depth in this article.
We know we have to aim locally, but what does that mean in practical terms?
This is where the work begins. We go county by county, collecting the voter tallies for all of the municipal level races across a given state. Many times this can be downloaded right from the county website with no need for phone calls. We find that some races for meaningful offices had vote totals that are shockingly small, say 50 votes or less. In the course of recruiting candidates, we may get people who want to run for offices in places that are more of a challenge. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as the expectations are realistic and we use these races as a chance to develop experience.
However, for the purposes of having an effective strategy, we want to find these low vote-total races and candidates who will run in them.
Members with law enforcement or military backgrounds should be encouraged to run for sheriff. Members with legal experience, either as an attorney or paralegal, should be encouraged to run for judge, and so on.
Likewise, after primary day, we can go county by county to collect sample ballots which will tell us what positions don’t even have any candidates running for them. Sometimes, we’ll get lucky and find a town council seat or a mayor or a school board position. This will also show you the head-to-head race opportunities. This can be our “year one” strategy, to target these lowest possible vote-total races of consequence (meaning, the office actually has the power to stop bad policy), recruit people to run for them, and excite volunteers to get them into office. We have an out-of-control federal government to stop in its tracks wherever possible.
From here, there is a built-in ability to scale. If we do well in targeting these races, we will already have more political capital than we’ve ever had and we can come back the next time around and target races that had, say, 150 votes or less. All the while, people are getting experience in these seats, which can then be used to train and build out institutional knowledge for everyone who comes after them. If committed to, this could produce thousands of nullifying local offices in a 10- to 15-year timeframe.
Candidates who are serious about making a run for local office need to get active and visible locally, whether that be in a non-profit, a community group or seeking a vacant spot on a local or county level committee.
Your local government should have a directory right on its website showing these committees and their vacancies. Many of these positions are appointed, not elected, and with the right connections you can be placed on them. You can even request a meeting with the official who makes such appointments or the chairs of these committees. If you can’t find the committees on the website, a phone call to the town clerk should lead you in the right direction. This gives you political experience, and shows that you are serious about local politics.
So we now have a strategy and a set of targets. Let’s say you find 50 such low vote seats and a goal to recruit candidates to run for all of those seats in your state. This then informs the fundraising strategy, and gives us the pitch we need to acquire and utilize data and software tools in a productive manner. Fundraising needs to be done in light of the political strategy as a means of animating and maximizing that political strategy.
Project Decentralized Revolution gives candidates and state LPs a strategy to raise money to then utilize tools such as a Voter Gravity or Ecanvasser accounts, along with the appropriate L2 data as well as a Callhub account to make available for all candidates and volunteers. This gives those candidates and volunteers everything they need to empower campaigns, to effectively knock doors, target voters based on issues, and to run phone and text banking operations.
Likewise, we can use that data to target registered Libertarians who regularly vote, knock on their door, and pitch them on this same strategy to get their vote as well as their membership and volunteer help.
It cannot be understated how useful and motivating it can be to actually have a year-by-year political strategy with continuity. This almost never happens anywhere in the LP, and Libertarians are starving for infrastructure, for strategy, and to be shown that something can actually be done and be effective.
We now have the opportunity to do it and prove the concept and the value of the LP once and for all. However, it is going to take a radical shift on the part of the party to get serious about training, about realistic campaigns, about software tools, and about getting active within the community.
Many state and county parties never survey the people in their communities. A survey can give you a pulse on what the local issues are that voters care about. We can then acquire and use data to identify and target people who live in our area who are animated by issues that we can run on. This can help form the lead issues that candidates want to run on and inform how we want to most effectively express the libertarian principles for those issues going into the campaign.
As badly as we need candidates, we need campaign managers just as much, if not more. A good campaign manager, even one working remotely, can help keep a candidate focused on the highest-value activities or voter bases in their community. A campaign manager also acts as a coach to make sure that the candidate is living up to their potential.
There aren’t elections all the time, though, and there are years when there are no local elections happening. These off years will usually have ballot access races to run, and if successful, that will make life a little easier for the local-level candidates moving forward. These races need to be much more focused on messaging and membership recruitment. This will keep the pipeline of candidates and volunteers filled moving forward, but by leveling with people about the realities of these races, our inability to win them, and their role in building a real foundation, we can cut down on burnout and chronic disappointment. We need our soldiers to stay in the field.
Statewide races constitute only a handful of races though, so what about everybody else in these off years? In these situations, state house races can serve as a training run for future local-level races. In most (but not all) situations, the statehouse is also unwinnable for Libertarians at present. However, the district you are running in presumably contains a smaller locality, which, ideally, you would otherwise be running in. So just aim the state house campaign almost exclusively in that local area. Get on a committee locally, start going to city council meetings, knock on your neighbors’ doors. Get your experience and name recognition up. Build up an email, phone, and donor list. Find your issues. Build up effective volunteers and train them to be local candidates themselves. Find politically connected allies and local community leader allies so that when you come back the following year, you have already done the work to be a known quantity and greatly increase your chances of winning.
The signature-gathering process for a collective of state house races can likewise get your statewide candidates on the ballot on an all-volunteer basis and those statewide candidates can likewise use their position and influence to support those future local level candidates. This frees up the state LP to support its candidates, purchase tools, or run recruitment drives instead of blowing all of their resources just to get on the ballot. In that sense, the two efforts maximize each other.
This isn’t just theory; the LP of Pennsylvania did exactly this in 2022. We had a record number of state house candidates who all went out and got signatures, which then got the statewide candidates on the ballot without the state party needing to spend any money for the first time in memory. Different states have differing challenges to getting on the ballot, but this is a model that can at least cut down the amount of paid petitioning that’s needed.
In order to aim all of the activity at both maximizing liberty at the local level and aiding ballot access, these statewide candidates should be campaigning primarily in the same localities as the state house candidates themselves. This helps both the statewides and the state house candidates get on the ballot, increase the profile of the LP in those areas, and creates a simple roadmap for the statewides to aim their campaign activities by
where they can share media opportunities with those state house candidates. Additionally, the statewide candidates can be the tip of the spear to reach out and create single-issue coalitions with different groups and connect them with these state house candidates and county LPs.
Issue coalitions must be the focus in areas where there are no Libertarians on the ballot and in major cities. They can be run just as vigorously as a campaign without the need for a candidate. They are also easier to garner support for from non-libertarians. Getting a libertarian issue passed in a major city, which tend to act as cultural hubs, can break the ice for that issue in the rest of the state.
Take for instance the example of Kevin Matthews. In 2019 the Mises Caucus and the LP of Colorado got behind his effort to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms within Denver, Colorado. That effort passed by the skin of its teeth, meaning the help of libertarians was essential to its success. This was the starting point for what has exploded into a vibrant psychedelic decriminalization movement across the country. Now, just three years later, Kevin again hit the ground running and was able to get psychedelics decriminalized across the entire state. This bill also allowed for psychedelic clinics and established a sub-committee that will collect and report on the effects of decriminalization, meaning success stories of the medicine in treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and addiction patients will be part of the public record for other efforts to use. Issue coalitions are the most surefire way toward liberty available to us right now and are very, very important.
All candidates need to be sharing whatever data they accrue over the course of the campaign—donors, emails, phone numbers, etc.—with their state and county LPs as quickly as possible. This allows those parties to contact these people at the peak of their interest, recruit them, and route them to the appropriate locality, candidate, or issue coalition.
Each state LP also has a vital role to play in maximizing all of this. They need to be providing tools and protocols with volunteers to maximize the efforts of these campaigns. They should be organizing already elected libertarians as leaders to help train everybody else. They should be running email and content campaigns to their members to build support for their candidates, like sending out professional-quality slate graphics. This builds not only the most effective campaigns but an increasing number of people who are themselves ready to run locally at a later date. It also keeps members engaged and aware of what is going on. Once we are consistently offering meaningful and fun opportunities, people will want to get involved at a higher rate.
As noted above, all of this will require a massive culture shift within the party. People who are running vanity campaigns, or races that are not providing value to the party in the big picture, should be actively discouraged, re-routed to productive activity, or, in the worst cases, even NOTA’d from running wasteful campaigns.
We need to respect people’s time and effort, and provide volunteers with the highest-value propositions for them to be effective. Local races, ballot access, and issue coalitions should be our meat and potatoes, and we need to synergize these efforts with each other to reach peak effectiveness.
In all cases, in areas that do not have local-level candidates on the ballot, major cities where it’s still not feasible, or in years where you do not have local level races, Libertarians need to be working on issue coalitions and finding opportunities to fill vacant local and county level committee positions.
This goes a very long way in generating recognition, trust, establishing a profile, and, most importantly, generating real-world gains for liberty within the community. Issue coalitions can be found by identifying, say, starting with the top 10 “reddest” and top 10 “bluest” counties in your state. Then, seeing how many volunteers/members are in those counties, starting from the top, and then targeting the towns in those counties with respective legislation/ordinances and lobbying efforts.
If it’s a red town, try a gun sanctuary. If it’s a blue town, try a weed/psychedelic decriminalization ordinance. Reach out to the chief of police, or veterans or other grassroots groups to find allies on these issues; they don’t have to be libertarians. We have to find allies and create relationships outside of our own circles that correspond with the issues. This is huge for generating trust because there are often gaps between what a rank and file conservative/progressive wants and what they are being given by their party bosses. Often, these gaps happen to be on issues of overlap with us libertarians, giving us the opportunity to out-conservative the conservatives and out-progressive the progressives—to give their constituents things that they, and we, actually want, and build trust as a result. Everybody wins in this scenario, except for the impotent politicians who usually deserve only scorn.
We have not yet talked much about ballot access. Ballot access is important as a tactical goal that fits within the framework of a long-term strategy. However, until we have an army such that we can maintain it, or political capital enough to overcome the hurdles, it is a bit of a hamster wheel that comes and goes.
Ballot access is not a goal in and of itself; liberty is.
We absolutely do need to be running ballot access races, but my opinion is that we should be dumping much more resources where we can actually expand liberty than we do on ballot access in the hopes that we can maybe win races that are not within the scope of political reality for us at present. For now, the highest value of ballot access is to allow local level candidates to be on the ballot easier than they otherwise would and to lend credibility to the presidential candidate when they run.
Because of this, we should confine the number of statewide races we are running to the positions that have historically produced ballot access for each state as a means of maximally spending resources and efforts. If it’s governor, run governor and US Senate and that’s it. Governor and senate candidates can sometimes get into the debates and require strong messengers as candidates.
Remember: The goal is liberty, and at present liberty will only be consistently generated through local libertarians and nullification. Everything needs to be in service to maximizing this reality.
In any case, whether we have ballot access or not, door knocking and direct voter engagement must be taken seriously. Statistics show that roughly one in seven doors knocked earns you a vote. This gives a general statistical baseline from which victory can be achieved and the numbers game played. Even with our small numbers, most towns can be canvassed with a team of even just two or three people. That’s another benefit of not running for big races with huge districts. State house races can serve as a means of getting signatures for the statewide candidates, and from there a training program for winnable races down the line.
Ballot access is generated from races outside the scope of the Project Decentralized Revolution strategy. This creates a very nice opportunity for the division of labor. The state parties themselves have a higher duty to pursue ballot access than anybody.
We in the Mises Caucus can focus on Project Decentralized Revolution, and anyone else in the party who sees value in it is welcome to join us. The state LPs can likewise put a bigger emphasis on ballot access, and the members who place a high value on that are free to pursue that. Many members will support both. We have no reason to impede them, just like we have no reason to impede libertarians who work in other parties.
In this case, everybody does what they are best suited to do whether that is candidates, party organizing, ballot access, or issues. There are avenues to suit everyone’s passions, and plenty of room for overlap. No need for arguing, no need for fighting; all of these goals can be pursued together.
Volunteers generally don’t give you much outside of their areas of interest anyway, and therefore should be encouraged and shown avenues to pursue their passions. Nobody is getting paid, so somebody who is passionate about issues is unlikely to do, say, social media or something else that doesn’t interest them. This all points to an effective division of labor instead of an argument over which avenue is best; all efforts are maximized in a local setting.
Making Our Bargain with the Future
This is all starting to sound like a lot of work! Well, It is.
It took a lot of work for the regime to take more and more freedom away from us. They are religiously devoted to their ideal of ever-growing state power with themselves in control, and they have shown extraordinary diligence over generations working toward goals that their grandchildren might never see. We must meet them at the gates of this effort.
We likewise must toughen up and accept that large-scale gains for the cause of liberty may only be enjoyed by those in the shade of the trees that we are planting today. Our rulers do have the numbers, the power of the state, and seemingly overwhelming historical momentum on their side—but we have the truth on ours, and the truth is an extremely powerful force.
Our passion for truth and liberty must be constantly reinforced by a sense of common purpose, community, and camaraderie among those of us in the trenches. That’s what will carry us through the drudgery and uncertainty of this work. The community is what will keep this work going even when we suffer setbacks and have to adjust our tactics to correct the errors that only experience will reveal to us.
We need to laugh in the face of the state and have fun in this Decentralized Revolution together. That will not only keep us going, but it must be present to draw others in to fight alongside us. We may be right philosophically and politically, but our movement will not grow big enough to succeed if it does not also offer social connection and a vibrant culture.
Many of us expect to spend much of our lives in service to this calling, but we must also support each other and lead by example when it comes to attending to the other essential parts of our lives, like family, career, faith, and creativity.
If we can keep this balance, treat each other right, and do the work, we may end up 10 or 20 years from now in a place positively unimaginable to us now. What do we have to lose!? We Libertarians have barely kept our heads above water for the last 50 years! It’s time to narrow our focus, commit to a long-term strategy, and “make a bargain with the future.”
The Mises Caucus contends that if we do, we will not be condemned to live under the increasingly dark and degrading dictates of the state and its power elite for the next 50 years of the LP’s existence.
“Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito.”
“Do not give into evil, but proceed ever boldly against it.”
– Ludwig Von Mises