So…the election is over. Jorgensen didn’t win, or even hit 5%, but she’s left behind a ton of motivated voters, ready to keep fighting for liberty and lay the groundwork for 2024. Some of them might be ex-Republicans, disgusted at Trump’s authoritarianism, nativism, and selling out completely on gun control. Some of them might be former Democrats, disgusted by the DNC’s choice of a major architect of the drug war and a cop in the era of Black Lives Matter. Or maybe first time voters, inspired by the message of liberty.
Maybe even you reading this 🙂
So what is there to be done? Plenty. And spoiler alert: the next big year for Libertarians isn’t 2024. It isn’t even 2022. It’s 2021.
One of the common criticisms of Libertarians from major party opponents is “you need to win at the local level first!”. While we do in fact do that better than any other third party (including 15 new seats this year), there’s some truth to that statement. Even now there’s definitely a strain of “everyone wants to be president, no one wants to be dogcatcher” in Libertarian activism. I get it. School board meetings are boring, tiresome affairs, and sign regulations are not remotely sexy.
But they matter.
From a practical politics perspective, most of the mainstream either doesn’t know the Libertarian Party exists, or thinks our ideas are crazy and unworkable. The only way to change that is to prove that we can win races and that our ideas work when implemented. From a principle perspective, there’s so much that can or does happen at the local level that directly impacts the liberty of the people. Business license fees are often incredibly protectionist and disciminatory in nature. Zoning laws affect housing costs, and what people can do with their own property. Stadiums are usually excuses for eminent domain seizures and corporate welfare. Bond initiatives are always taxes on housing costs that last for generations. City controlled monopolies on services, such as cable tv and trash collection, can be opened up to competition. There are often laws that prohibit rainwater collection, or regulate the colors that houses can be painted, or have restrictions on how signs can look, all of which libertarians can push to repeal or reform. Neighbors can be encouraged to talk with each other to solve problems and resolve disputes rather than using the power of the government. And, even though local governments can’t repeal state and federal laws, there’s a lot they can do in how law enforcement does their jobs. They can set parking regulations. They can renegotiate police union contracts to have greater accountability. They can choose not to defend bad officers. They can choose what higher level agencies they cooperate or don’t cooperate with. And, most importantly, they can set enforcement priorities. Imagine a host of libertarian city councils that all decided to make enforcing the drug war the lowest priority? Oh wait, you don’t have to!
All of this could have a huge positive impact on communities, and it will build our farm team. Planning commission members become city council members. City council members become mayors, and county supervisors, and state house representatives. School board members become community college trustees, or state superintendents of education. DAs and judges can become state attorneys. State house representatives become federal legislatures, and so on.
Seems like a lot though, right? What can you, specifically do?
Quite a bit actually! First, get involved with your local LP affiliate. Usually they’re organized at the state and county level, with even smaller affiliates for really populous counties. If there’s no group close to you, reach out to the state party and start one. If you have a pre-existing group, they’ll probably have stuff for you to do and regular gatherings to go to. But here’s what they probably don’t have…
Right now the most pressing need I see for local LP affiliates, and the easiest way for someone to jump on board activism, is information.
First, compile a list of every elected office in your county. Usually this means city councils, mayors, school boards, county supervisors, and possibly community college districts, water boards, and fire boards, in addition to any state legislature and US House seats. Get the eligibility requirements for each one, as well as when they come up for re-election. And if you’re feeling ambitious, compile a list of the appointed positions too, as many cities have a multitude of appointed commissions dealing with issues from planning, to public safety, to senior issues, to parks and recreation. I can almost guarantee you your local LP does not have this data. Luckily it’s pretty easily available on the web, although you will have to compile it from the sites of each individual government. In parts of SoCal, for instance, there’s over 150 elected offices in a space that takes a half hour to drive across, 30-50 of which come up for re-election every year. It’s a huge opportunity for us-but a wasted one if we don’t know what those offices are.
Next, every local government body has regular-usually monthly or biweekly-meetings. Usually there’s public comment time available at each one. Get a list of all of those too. Again, your local LP probably does not have this.
Finally, once you have your affiliate set up (if you’re starting from scratch), go to your county registrar and get a list of every registered Libertarian in your county. Party affiliates tend to focus on dues paying members, in my experience, but the real gold is in the registered voters, which is a much bigger list. If you’re in a state that doesn’t allow third parties or has especially onerous ballot access laws you may have to skip this for now.
All of this information is powerful stuff, and leads to the next bit of information gathering. The LP should have at least one person watching every local government meeting in the country. After a few of these (and talking to people before and after) you can find out the issues. Look for things that can be worked on, improvements that can be made, and usurpations and corruption that can be fought-and as I said above, it won’t take long to find some of all of these. This interview with Cara Schulz is excellent as an introduction to both campaigning and the types of issues that can have libertarian solutions at the local level. And once you have people that are familiar with the issues, well…those are your first batch of candidates. Or the first batch of people to go for commission appointments. Jeff Hewitt has said that the planning commission is usually the stepping stone to the city council, but any appointment is a chance to advance libertarian solutions and help your community.
How many offices can your local LP contest every year, first with paper candidates, and then with more serious runs as you learn? That will be big metric for judging your success year over year, and as I said above, it’s also your farm team for higher office.
Some of this is probably for you, some of it might not be. But between data collection, watching the watchmen, and actually running against them there’s plenty for everyone to do, and enough different things where everyone can do something. Take all of that amazing energy you brought to the Jorgensen campaign and take it your local government. Stop a stadium. Fight a bond. Demand accountability for police brutality. Get rid of a zoning law. Let people collect rainwater on their own property, or grow food instead of a lawn. Get rid of some occupational licensing. Don’t cooperate with ICE. Lower the business license rate. Demand that the city contracts actually be public record, and have proper votes. Make your community better.
That is how 2020 becomes 2021. And that is how 2021 begets 2022, and 2022 becomes 2024.
Liberty in our lifetimes, and liberty starts at home.