By |Published On: May 10th, 2024|Categories: Libertarian Party|

     The most pressing question we Libertarians must ask ourselves at this moment is: what exactly is the 2024 presidential race about and how can we use it to maximize long-term benefits to the Libertarian Party and the liberty movement? Are we truly “running to win” the presidential election? Or are we directing a messaging and recruiting campaign to build our party? This debate is as old as the party itself. The founders of the Libertarian Party were quite clear that “libertarian” must take precedence over “party,” that we must be a philosophical, educational, and cultural movement using the political process as a vehicle to spread liberty however we can.

     In alignment with our party’s founders, the Mises Caucus views the presidential race as a key component of a greater long-term plan in which the LP leads the American liberty movement—a plan we call Project Decentralized Revolution (which you can read here).

     The PDR vision governs our strategic orientation and tactical outlook, which in turn indicate that the best use of a Libertarian presidential campaign is to function as our biggest marketing and recruiting campaign to attract people to our party and our movement. We can also use the campaign to help shift the Overton window, force concessions from the other parties’ candidates, and, of course, earn as much ballot access as we can along the way. But none of those goals are sustainable if we don’t reach the libertarian Remnant and grow our ranks.
     The 2024 race, however, has an “X factor” that demands we rigorously seek clarity and adjust our expectations—namely, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential run. RFK Jr. is the most notable independent presidential candidate since Ross Perot entered the fray in 1992. Challenging both a Bush and a Clinton that year, Perot won nearly 20 million votes—a bit less than 19 percent of all votes cast. Perot’s performance is the closest analog we have to RFK Jr.’s current run and is thus the best indicator of how the Libertarian candidate is likely to fare. It is frankly shocking how little examination of this factor has taken place in our ranks.
     In 1992, the Libertarian Party ran Andre Marrou for president. While not a firebrand by any means, Marrou was a quite credible candidate by LP standards, having served as Ron Paul’s running mate in 1988 and as an Alaska State House representative who helped repeal that state’s income tax—a better political resume than anybody seeking the LP nomination in 2024.
     So how did Marrou do? The results were brutal: 291,627 votes, just 0.28 percent of the total.
     While many Libertarians don’t want to hear it, the unfortunate fact persists: most Libertarian votes in unwinnable races are simply protest votes driven more by disgust of the other candidates than by enthusiasm for—or even awareness of—the Libertarian candidate’s message. This means that any credible independent candidate with solid name recognition is likely to suck up all of that protest vote energy and greatly depress the LP’s results. There is nothing we can do about it, and in the absence of a truly extraordinary and already famous candidate, it doesn’t matter whom we nominate—so get ready to see huge decreases in voter turnout for the Libertarian Party in 2024 in comparison with the last two or three cycles. We can either acknowledge this and adapt our goals accordingly, or we can do business as usual and run a race that ultimately does very little to build the party in the long term. We’ve been doing the latter for 20 years with very little to show for the votes that we have chased and only sometimes won. In short, RFK Jr. will win the lion’s share of the voters who would otherwise choose us and there’s nothing we can do about it.
     Pretending we can win the presidency anytime soon will only disappoint us and turn off many potential Libertarian voters. Focusing on how we can add value for the LP and build a more lasting relationship with voters than a protest-vote dalliance once or twice a decade should motivate us—and there is an example of this approach working.
The LP was successful in the past—despite getting less than 1% in two presidential elections
     The Libertarian Party was at its healthiest when Harry Browne twice won far less than one percent of the presidential vote—just 0.5 percent in 1996 and then a minuscule 0.37 percent in 2000. (Browne placed fifth each time, behind Perot and Ralph Nader in 1996, then behind Nader and Pat Buchanan in 2000.) Yet, despite those electoral thrashings, by 2000 the LP reached all-time high levels of membership and fundraising that stand to this day. That is a staggering set of facts that demands our attention. How did this happen!?
     Harry Browne was a radical Libertarian and possibly the best communicator of Libertarian principles that the party has ever had. He was well respected not just in the party but in the wider libertarian movement and was an accomplished author and speaker before being a candidate. Around the time of his two campaigns, the LP was running programs specifically tailored to seize the moment to grow membership rather than chase votes; programs such as Project Archimedes and Unified Membership worked in tandem with the campaign (which shared its data with the LP) to make it the marketing and recruiting campaign the founders of our party had always envisioned.
     But since the 2006 “Portland Massacre” in which the “pragmatists” took over over the Libertarian Party (think Reno Reset in reverse), the strategy has shifted away from recruiting activists for a philosophical and cultural movement and toward being a conventional political party that appeals to the entire electorate. After all, the prags reasoned, we Libertarians are a politically irrelevant group of niche radicals condemning ourselves to electoral futility unless we “reach beyond our echo chamber” and value people who don’t share our principles above people who do share them. Thus, “small l” libertarians who make up the bulk of the broader liberty movement have been allowed to drift away, so much so that many high-profile libertarians and dedicated liberty activists have come to look upon the LP with disdain and even derision.
     Alienating “small l” libertarians, especially those converted in the Ron Paul Revolution, has resulted in a dramatic drop in membership from which the LP has yet to recover—which has meant fewer volunteers, fewer donors, a smaller number of candidates running for local office, and a less vibrant party overall—all while Libertarian presidential vote totals have reached their highest levels. (In 2016, Gary Johnson raised more than $13 million and won more than 4 million votes—and brought in about 7,000 members. In 2020 the Jo Jorgensen campaign raised more than $3 million dollars and won nearly two million votes, resulting in just 3,000 members or so.)
     The liberty movement is many many times larger than the Libertarian Party and obviously contains our most likely prospective members. We’ve all seen what LP recruitment looks like when the party engages with the movement and people such as Dave Smith, Tom Woods, and Scott Horton are funneling people into the party. These individuals, and others like them, are key to our growth. We can no longer afford to dismiss the liberty movement—our own base—as irrelevant and fringe while running after people who share none of our core values and are often strongly committed to anti-liberty ideas.
     Once you get outside of the movement, the current political environment offers exciting opportunities to reach people by the millions that were not present prior to the rise of the networks of popular podcasters and social media personalities that thrive today. The people listening to this new media tend to be younger, more engaged, more open-minded, and quite skeptical of both the government and traditional media. These audiences represent the second-best audience for us to reach.
     At present, there is little being done to attract libertarians and liberty-adjacent people toward membership and activism in the LP—something we must do if we wish to recover and then exceed our past membership numbers and achieve our goals through Project Decentralized Revolution. Hoping for a presidential election miracle every four years has gotten us nowhere; we need to use each presidential campaign to market our ideas and our party in a way that build perpetual recruitment channels that support the party’s long-term viability.
     And again, there is precedent for this. Spike Cohen, as the LP’s vice presidential candidate in 2020, used that platform to gain notoriety that he then parlayed into his own organization, You Are the Power, which supports the liberty movement. The success of You Are the Power means that Spike will continue making gains for liberty long after the Jo Jorgensen presidential campaign has been forgotten.
     All this should make it quite clear that the most important marker of a successful 2024 presidential race is not the number of votes garnered but rather how much attention, energy, and data the campaign can generate.
     THAT is the model. Not politics for politics’ sake, especially in an environment where are very likely not achieve any of our desired political goals at the national or state level. Do not ask yourself who out of the 2024 Libertarian candidates do you subjectively like the best or who has come to your state the most. Most of these issues are, in the grand scheme, irrelevant to the value of a Libertarian run for president. Instead, ask yourself which candidate is best able to grow the party and build support for it in the long term? Who even has a plan to accomplish that goal?
     The honest answer can only be Michael Rectenwald, whose plan is based on the Project Decentralized Revolution strategy developed by the Mises Caucus.
The liberty movement needs its own media company
     How can a Libertarian presidential campaign open recruitment pipelines that will stay open beyond the election cycle? The best answer is to create our own media company that features the biggest voices in the liberty movement who can promote libertarian ideas and inspire people to become libertarian activists, LP members, and Libertarian candidates at the local level.
     The liberty movement is the only political sphere that does not have a media company of its own, but these companies do not advertise any calls to action to solve the problems that their content creators continually raise. A media company owned by committed libertarians would be able to feature content and advertising that promotes the LP and specific calls to action in the service of liberty. This situation would provide a permanent recruitment funnel that we own and is thus not dependent on the whims of those who do not share our goals.
     Such a media company has been in the works since mid-2023. The business plan and model is already written and reviewed by prominent, respected entrepreneurs in the liberty movement. The creators are already interested. The advertisers are already interested. The absolute best way to kick off this project will be to use the audience, energy, and data that the campaign generates in conjunction with the collective social media reach (in the millions) of prominent voices and direct contacts in the hundreds of thousands. This project will ensure the recruitment funnel to the Libertarian Party is sustained.
How the Rectenwald campaign plans to achieve these goals
     As noted above, the best recruitment ground for the Libertarian Party is the liberty movement. No other LP presidential candidate even comes close to the level of support Michael Rectenwald already has from the movement. He is endorsed by prominent libertarian voices such as Dave Smith, Judge Andrew Napolitano, Jeff Deist, Maj Toure, Gene Epstein, Stefan Kinsella, Keith Knight, and Per Bylund. Other candidates talk about recruitment, but they have virtually no support from—or even name recognition within—the liberty movement outside the LP, and they have no plan for how they will successfully  recruit people who don’t already share our principles. In fact, some of the current candidates have already run for office in smaller races and left no political or recruitment impact to show for their efforts.
     Not only does Dr. Rectenwald have the liberty movement’s support, but he also he “speaks their language.” This would be the first time in 20 years that we can run a true-blue anarcho-capitalist radical that has an unprecedented level of support from the liberty movement. Dr. Rectenwald also understands the importance of narrative, an area in which the LP failed miserably during the C*vid regime in 2020. While some in the liberty movement were bold and uncompromising from the start, the Jorgensen campaign and the Libertarian Party itself adopted the narrative that C*vid was uniquely deadly; that masks, lockdowns, and the C*vid jab were all fundamentally safe, effective, and necessary; and that Black Lives Matter was a legitimate civil rights movement instead of an astroturfed communist organization designed to sow chaos in the streets. This approach from the LP and its main messenger served only to justify the actions that the state took in removing our liberties and did nothing to assert that liberty is even more essential to human flourishing during a crisis. We simply cannot afford accept these false statist narratives; we must counter them  immediately and in a brave and forthright manner.
     A recent example of this is the October 7, 2023 attack on Israel by Hamas. The Mike ter Maat campaign responded to this attack immediately by calling on Iran to stop supporting Hamas. The next day, the entire regime media apparatus was saber-rattling for the U.S. to attack Iran. At the locus of a major historical event with serious ongoing implications, the ter Maat campaign assented to the mainstream narrative designed to fuel a conflict that could easily embroil the United States in another World War.
     In contrast to the ter Maat statement, Dr. Rectenwald condemned the Hamas attack but noted that it cannot be seen as “unprovoked,” given what we know about blowback. He said the difficult truth at the outset, when it was needed most and was almost entirely omitted from the mainstream conversation—just like Harry Browne’s famous “When Will We Learn” column on Sep. 12, 2001 and Ron Paul’s legendary “Giuliani moment.” We need our own such moments, and Dr. Rectenwald has shown he can deliver them.
     Also as noted above,  after those who already identify as libertarians, the second-best recruitment pool are the audiences listening to “new media.” There is one person in the liberty movement that stands head and shoulders above everyone else with regard to his connections to the largest platforms in the world: Dave Smith. Joe Rogan, Tucker Carlson, Candace Owens, Patrick Bet-David, Piers Morgan, Tim Pool—Dave is friends with all of them. Dave supports Dr. Rectenwald, but did not support the LP nominee in 2020. If we are to reach as many people as possible, Dave’s support is crucial and Michael Rectenwald has his support.
     A key element of that support is based on the fact that Dr. Rectenwald is the most accomplished author and speaker for libertarian principles of the current Libertarian candidates for president. He has sold more books promoting liberty than the vote totals of all of the other candidates combined. He is a headline-level speaker at the Mises Institute. He has spoken at major universities such as Hillsdale College. He has shared the stage with major figures outside libertarian circles, including Jordan Peterson. One doesn’t have to particularly like any of these figures or institutions to see the value that Dr. Rectenwald’s reach represents. Even before declaring his candidacy and gaining Dave’s endorsement, he has garnered more media than all of the other candidates. Don’t believe me? Simply type each of their names in a YouTube search window. Rectenwald has the depth of knowledge to be able to go twelve rounds in long-format discussions on all of the platforms that we need to hit.
     Why does Dr. Rectenwald have more media attention? Because he has a compelling backstory that went viral. He has authored a dozen books, and all of them written after his libertarian conversion promote liberty. He has been canceled by both the left and the right over the course of his intellectual evolution. It is true that, as with other figures such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Thomas Sowell, Dr. Rectenwald was at one point a Marxist. That is, until he encountered the woke mob firsthand and had his wake up moment that radicalized him into hardcore Misesian libertarianism. And even when he was still on the left, Dr. Rectenwald was always fiercely antiwar and marched against Bush’s wars before many of us were ourselves Libertarians.
     More recently, he was canceled by his publisher over his views on the Israel/Hamas war. He also lost his fellowship with Hillsdale College in the same time frame, because the college feared his candidacy would affect their tax-exempt status. Dr. Rectenwald is tested, proven, and unwavering, even when it proves to bring hardship upon himself.
     His history as a Marxist professor also makes him uniquely qualified to teach our principles and to engage those who may be indoctrinated, or at least heavily influenced, by woke Marxism or other anti-liberty ideologies common to the American education system. All of this will come into play during one of the major initiatives of a Rectenwald general election and its outreach: a college tour.
     Dr. Rectenwald has the support of some folks in a well-established, nationwide organization with many student chapters. That will be an asset in establishing a college tour to engage young people—another fertile recruiting ground in which Ron Paul had considerable success—at the source of their indoctrination.
     While other candidates will offer the world and try to sell you that they will get lots of votes or “cover the spread” between Trump and Biden—or promise to peel off a vote or two in the Electoral College, or offer a plan to get into the debates—the Rectenwald campaign will be honest and realistic with you about its goals and approach. The campaign will have three primary focuses: recruitment, media outreach (especially in the alternative media), and a college tour.
     We have heard your concerns: “Is a professor, of all people, really going to be able to reach out and build a campaign big enough to do all of this?” Well, along with what we’ve already outlined about Dr. Rectenwald’s media reach over the last few years, his campaign has another invaluable asset: Clint Russell of Liberty Lockdown as running mate. The combination of an intellectual professor with a populist firebrand podcaster is particularly well-suited to this year’s political landscape. Through Spike, we have seen what can be done with a vice presidential nomination for the LP, and Clint himself has likewise built up a sizable podcast audience and very solid connections to make frequent media appearances on platforms even bigger than his own. It’s the best of both worlds.
     These factors together form a cohesive package that maximizes successes for the long term and builds toward our stated goals. Our plan will maximize the LP’s outreach not only this year, but will serve to give a new libertarian media network a solid foundation from which to expand for years to come. No other LP candidate has a plan that looks beyond what promises to be a fourth-place finish on election night. The only way we will ever get real political success is if we shift the culture our way and create more Libertarians.  The same energy that imbued the Ron Paul Revolution animates the Rectenwald/Russell campaign and it’s that same energy we in the Mises Caucus pledge to keep alive in and through the Libertarian Party.

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