How the West was Lost

Originally published on Third Party Watch on Tuesday June 6, 2023

No, that’s not a typo. I said lost not won.  Of course most people currently living in the US would call it a victory.  The winners get to write the history books.   However, if you were someone who lived on this continent before the relentless swarm of invaders headed inward from the eastern shore, you would say lost.

The same is true of political parties. New parties are not always built these days.  Most people posting comments on Third Party Watch speak of it as a horrible and unthinkable option. I agree that in most states the system has been rigged to make it difficult, but it is not impossible.

Historically, internal political movements tend to just take over the old ones and change them.  Not always, but it happens frequently in our country.  If you are old enough to have followed politics in any of the “big two” parties before their most recent philosophical changes, you probably would say they were lost.

Look at what is called the Democratic party. Is it a liberal party?  Conservative?  Has it been a driving force in the civil rights movement, or an entity controlled and run primarily in defense of slavery? The answer, of course, is all of the above — at various times in history.  If members of the Democratic party from the 1860s had been alive during the 1960s, they would have insisted it had lost its direction.

I can only imagine what the founders of the Republican party would think of it today. I don’t think anyone actually knows what it stands for.  I don’t think that anyone who was a member of it as recently as 20 years ago knows what it stands for today.

I live in a state that has brought Strom Thurmond, Lindsey Graham, and now Tim Scott to national prominence.  Tim is the most hated politician in The Community, yet “loved” in DC.  We were talking about him in the barbershop Saturday morning. Technically, it is close enough to where he lives to be his barber shop as well, but over the years I have rarely seen him there.  Certainly not since he became political royalty in DC.  A far cry from serving on Charleston County Council.  Scott scares me politically.  He is not really what you are seeing on TV.  But back to losing the west.

The Libertarian party is changing as well. The “party of Nolan” is no longer his.  I can’t claim to have known him as well as many others did, but I learned a lot about his thinking in the time we both served on the national committee. I don’t think anyone would say he could possibly be happy with what is going on today.  Dr Feldman certainly would not.  Why do the good die too young?

The Mises are in charge, long live the Mises!  What the heck is a “Mises” anyway?  It doesn’t appear to me to be anything like an anarchist or minarchist.  Even the actual Mises Institute seems to have disavowed them. But who they are doesn’t matter.  They won, and for now at least they are in charge.  They call it a win.  The original Libertarians would not.  How did they get to be in charge?

The management and seating of delegates at party conventions is flawed. You could even call it corrupt.  States can send more delegates than they are actually allowed to seat, and they can get seated in other states. Personally, I think that is a violation of the intent of a political convention in representation by state.  It should be illegal. Oh, wait! It actually is in some states!

By allowing overflow delegates to be seated in other delegations, states that are not able to send their own excess delegates become smaller in proportion to states where carpet baggers are seated. All it takes is controlling a few states and bringing lots and lots of extra people and you take over.

This flaw has been present for many years, and has been used by a number of factions to a certain extent at various times. It is a dirty little secret of libertarian party conventions.

But the system is not all bad. Allocating delegates based upon a percentage of the most recent vote for president is actually a rather brilliant idea. It promotes getting out the vote.  I have thought of improvements, but they will come later.

However, allocating other delegates based upon the number of dues paying national members is, of course, pay to play. It is corrupt and another dirty little secret of libertarian party conventions.  Everyone tries to take advantage of it.  State parties have competing membership drives to try to increase the size of their delegation faster than each other.  The only winner is the bank balance of the national party.  A brilliant fundraising idea, but easily corrupted.

Some state parties also allow people who do not even live in their state to join, vote at their state convention, and be delegates to the national convention.  The dirtiest of the dirty secrets.  Even the Democrats don’t allow this (although they have “super delegates” which is one of their dirty little secrets!)

I was not present, but I’ve been told that all of these tactics were deployed successfully by Mises.  When you store open cans of gasoline in your living room next to the fireplace, well… You get the picture!

There is no perfect system of allocating delegates.  But there are certainly better ways.  A Classical Liberal Party must avoid the mistakes of the old parties.

And how do you avoid takeover and subversion of your message?  How do you avoid a future “Mises Event” either by that or some other faction?  How do you avoid becoming pigeon-holed as Starchild calls it?


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