Many Libertarians perform a ritual every four years. We watch a small, barely covered local debate between a few personalities. Then some delegates, many of whom the rank and file Libertarians do not know, get together in a meeting. During this meeting, they come to a consensus on who should be the Presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party. Some people inevitably get angry because their choice wasn’t selected, then the purity tests begin, followed by angry debating, and ending with a hope that the candidate will make that magic 5% or some other arbitrary goal.
There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s a great chance to spread the message of liberty, even if the candidate is not the most principled. To be honest, being a big tent party means we’re not always going to agree on who the candidate should be. The main purpose of this is not really to talk about the spectacle that is the presidential election or to rehash the good, bad and ugly.
I want to talk about something that many followers of the liberty movement ignore, at their own peril. I want to talk about what’s happening at your local and state levels. We often get caught up in the drama of national elections and fail to see the opportunities for big wins all around us every day. The chances of a member of the liberty movement winning a local election are much higher than winning a national election.
I advocate a bottom-up strategy for practical reasons. You can effect change in your town or county much more easily than you can, even at the state level. People are always interested in lowering taxes, fixing education, and a plethora of other things that libertarian policy excels at. We stand a much better chance of making those kinds of privatized changes in our towns, cities, and counties. Elections aren’t even necessary to make these types of changes. Simply being a loud voice in a town meeting or a well-written letter to a local newspaper can begin a change that is desirable. Surely something is better than sitting on your hands, griping about the overreach of the state.
Generally, the next question is, “Sounds good, where do I start?”. Start with your local LP. I know a lot of people are already grumbling about the LP. This is what I say to the naysayers. If you consider the LP to not be a good cause for liberty then change it. Maybe you cannot change the party at the national level, but you can surely be the voice of change at the local and state level. You would be surprised at how many people don’t speak up because they are afraid to speak up. Be the one who isn’t afraid to speak up and ask why things are the way they are.
Once you’ve hooked up with local and state people, start finding liberty minded candidates and doing what you can to help them. Even if all you’re doing is going door to door, writing a letter, posting flyers, do something. Judging by the current state of the world, we are no longer in a position where doing nothing is ok.
Many people turn away from being involved in politics and it is true that politics should be minimized. However, we cannot allow our aversion to the state to keep us from trying to minimize it. We must embrace the many tools available to us and the local political scene is one of those tools. Being involved locally can be one of the most powerful tools, not just to change the landscape but to show people firsthand how embracing liberty can improve their lives. We must have the resolve to move forward, in an increasingly authoritarian world.
You can read more by George Mason on Think Liberty here.