Libertarians have a reputation for nastiness online. In our own circles, we tend to be vicious and unforgiving, quick to attack anyone with whom we have even minor disagreements. I’ve watched productive debates escalate to near fistfights, and friends degrade to bitter enemies.
So, it was with some apprehension that your humble writer approached the 2018 LP Convention; filled with hope and optimism, prepared for whatever chaos may come, I marched into the den of lions to meet my kin on the fields of philosophical inquiry.
It is my duty, oh reader, to pass along some of the lessons of this gathering if only to offer a glimpse of how remarkable it was to those in attendance.
THE INTERNET ISN’T REAL LIFE
The trolling, the nastiness, the unpleasantries, and hatred… all the negativity associated with the LP and our interactions on Facebook were noticeably absent at the convention. With the notable exception of the race for the Chair, everyone seemed to conduct themselves professionally and with respect for one another. Folks of radically different viewpoints were united under the common causes of liberty and anti-authoritarianism.
That’s not to say there weren’t disagreements – L’s are contrarians at heart, and not a single proposition went without scrutiny and debate. But even in a room filled with staunch individualists, there was an inescapable feeling of community and togetherness. People with whom I’ve had furious disagreements online shook my hand, and we even found ourselves working together on the wording of various resolutions.
From this experience, I’ve learned the following: we’re kinder to each other in person than we are online, and the infighting we see in FB comments doesn’t reflect the unity within the broader libertarian coalition.
LIBERTARIANS ARE CONSISTENT
We have much to do, by way of achieving libertarian values here at home… but, that doesn’t stop us from considering impositions on freedom abroad.
The LP overwhelmingly voted to pass a resolution condemning the government of Venezuela, whose policies bankrupt the innocent and silence dissent by force. To an outsider, this might seem a silly thing to do; the LP possesses no military, the world does not turn to us for moral advice, and a resolution passed from the floor at a party convention does little to combat the Venezuelan regime. So why did we do it?
Because we are consistent. Libertarians reject any centralized authority which abridges the rights of the individual, and we stand with the oppressed peoples of any nation in their quest for individual autonomy. We, the LP of the United States, passed a resolution indicating our solidarity with the libertarians of Venezuela and expressed an undying commitment to the freedom of all people, whatever their nationality.
LIBERTARIANS ARE DIVERSE
One would be faced with an unthinkable challenge if asked: “what do convention-goers look like?”. Attendees of the convention ranged from scruffy povertarian degenerates like myself, all the way up to clean-cut conservative businessmen. There were activists young and old, adherents to any number of religious and economic systems, people from all walks of life.
It strikes me as a point of pride, to find myself united with such a disparate gaggle of otherwise independent philosophies and interests. The American political system is divided such that we tend to see two options; red or blue, left or right, conservative or liberal. The LP dares to defy these traditions and acts as a home to contrasting thinkers who would otherwise consider themselves opponents.
We tend to focus on our areas of disagreement, and hone in on points of contention… but when it comes time to do business, we are capable of an impressive degree of teamwork.
IT TAKES ALL TYPES
Some of us have the stomach for a 12-hour parliamentary procedure. Some of us have the patience for a lengthy philosophical debate. Some of us are more palatable to certain audiences than others. Some are charismatic enough to stand on a stage, some are organized enough to run the show behind the scenes. Some have read volumes of philosophy, some of us make dank memes.
NONE of us can do it all, and we spend too much time trying to role-play as perfect politicians. The truth of the matter is, it takes all sorts of different voices to communicate libertarian principles to the voting public. We cannot force people into boxes, nor control the way they advocate for liberty; we need every friend we can get.
I’ve come to think we need to reconsider the venues of activism we make available to our members; some folks are simply not interested in attending meetings, some don’t want to spend all day voting, and some have talents that are best applied outside the political system entirely. We must recognize the value in approaches that differ from our own, and perhaps not be so critical of friends who have chosen different paths to victory.
Leading up to the convention, I was nervous… nervous for what drama might unfold, nervous for the future of the party.
The dust has settled, the contentious race for the Chair has concluded, and the warring tribes have set their weapons aside and begun to rebuild trust and unity.
As I leave Think Liberty Mansion and return once more to my own local activism, I am struck by the value of this coalition we’ve built… this beautiful libertarian movement that stretches from one coast to the other, and unites these eccentric characters from every school of radical thought. I am proud to be a part of something so peculiar, so extravagant, so unconventional.
We represent the strongest opposition I’ve ever witnessed to traditional politics; we are the inheritors of a sacred alliance, the vanguard of individualist thought.
This is more than a party, it is a family… and if I could take just one lesson from the 2018 convention, it’d be that the future of the LP is brighter than any of us know.
You can read more by Kevin Shaw on Think Liberty here.