Thursday, June 3, 2010

Libertarian Party National Convention

Reposted from the Kent County Libertarian Party Forums

I will be attending the Libertarian National Convention as a delegate from the Delaware state party. I will be serving in this capacity along with my parents and Jim Rash, the state chair. Among other things, I will be voting on behalf of all Delaware Libertarians on the new LNC Chair (the national head of the party) as well as changes to the platform and the bylaws. See the following links for more details on each of these:


LNC Chair Candidates (alphabetical):
Ernie Hancock -
Mark Hinkle -
John Jay Myers -
George Phillies -
Wayne Root -

The convention runs from Friday, May 28th through Sunday, May 29th. I'll post information about any other relevant matters as a reply to this thread, so watch the thread if you are interested in getting updates! Please reply to this thread yourself if you have any thoughts on the LNC race or the platform/bylaw changes and I'll be sure to take them under advisement.

So, there was an AWFUL lot of voting on what seemed like very silly motions at today's convention meeting. Among the votes were a vote to rename what used to be called "sessions" to "meetings" if that gives you an idea. There were delegates who voted against that change. We also voted on whether or not to vote. There were an awful lot of those. Theoretically, each vote should have taken no more than 18 minutes each, if that, as 8 minutes were allotted for the original vote, and should the measure fail, there were 10 minutes allotted to offer amendments and then vote again on the measure following any amendments.

There was much drama over whether voting on a measure which had not been successfully amended was repetitious or "in order". We finally concluded that voting against a measure's original wording may in fact mean that we intended to vote for an amended wording, but when the amended wording failed, we could vote again on the original wording if it was "good enough". It is enough to frustrate anyone, and gives meaning to "voting for it before voting against it."

That being said, lost deep within the procedural votes and bickering over points of parliamentary procedure, the business of the 2010 Libertarian National Convention was being done. Thanks to a number of time extensions, recesses, and points of order, many of the proposed bylaw changes were not actually addressed by the convention. It is possible that we will vote to "suspend the rules" and consider some of the changes which were not addressed today, but the impatience of the delegates and disorganized fashion in which we so often conduct ourselves will likely prohibit many from being considered, and will interrupt our considerations of the platform as well.

Many of these issues could be avoided by better communication between delegates before the convention opens. The committee reports were issued at least a month ago, delegates have been registered for weeks. With a little bit of coordination and organization, the delegates could have agreed among the various camps and factions which measures should be opposed, which should be amended, and which should be passed. As it is, measures were amended in a haphazard fashion without one faction knowing what the other was doing, and needless disagreement and infighting over process prevented the consideration of a number of valuable changes.

I have considered this convention to be largely an educational and networking experience. That has certainly been the case. Before my next convention, I will know of a number of delegates which I will certainly contact beforehand to solicit their input on each measure under consideration. We will attempt to predict and develop objections, plan amendments, and identify influential speakers within the convention who will be able to help implement a more organized and successful convention strategy. With a little luck and a little forethought, we should be able to get through more of the bylaw and platform changes proposed by the respective committees and present a more organized and less frustrating face to our members and the public.

Today's meetings covered modifications to the Libertarian Party's platform and the election of LNC officers. Many of the delegates seemed to have become more comfortable with the Rules of Order, so there were fewer arguments over petty procedural matters, but there were disagreements on a number of the platform planks which were recommended for amendment by the Platform Committee Report. The election for LNC chair was also a suspenseful process requiring three ballots and finally ended with a closely divided vote between winner Mark Hinkle and Wayne Root.

The most contentious of these issues was the immigration plank. Much of the dispute focused on the wording of one phrase in the committee report regarding public assistance. Libertarians are against the welfare state based on our belief that private charities are better able to care for the poor with less bureaucracy and greater effectiveness. This is another example of the poor organization of the delegates and the amendment process. A more organized and better prepared convention would have been able to find language more accurately reflecting the mood of the delegates.

This also speaks to the complexity of the immigration problem. Immigration would be less of a hot button issue if we had not strayed so far from the constitutional mandate of our government. The welfare state, labor laws, and other immense costs imposed by illegal or unrestricted immigration prevented many delegates from accepting the language currently in the plank. The amending measure proposed by the Platform Committee did not address this language and delegates could not agree on appropriate modifications.

Other delegates continued to focus on the ultimate goals of the libertarian movement which also include dismantling the welfare state and removing the incentives motivating much of the migration of concern to the nation. In concert with the removal of these incentives, many libertarians and many of the delegates continue to hope for the day when strict enforcement of limited immigration laws is not controversial and believe that our platform should reflect that dream. The conflict between the tactics, strategy, and the ultimate goals of the libertarian movement remain at the forefront of the Libertarian Party's activities.

The campaign for the LNC chair was also very contentious. There were originally five candidates:
- John Jay Myers
- Mark Hinkle
- Ernest Hancock
- George Phillies
- Wayne Root

George Phillies, a perennial candidate for LNC chair, was eliminated on the first ballot. John Jay Myers graciously withdrew from the race and encouraged his supporters to vote for Mark Hinkle on successive ballots. The second ballot saw the elimination of Ernest Hancock, and the final ballot resulted in Mark Hinkle's victory over Wayne Root. It is my opinion that this was the optimal resolution of the election. I personally supported John Jay Myers as the candidate concerned the most about grassroots organization and the mobilizing of county chairs and county parties, but consider Mark Hinkle to be the ideal compromise candidate as the most experienced LNC member and least threatening to the libertarian movement.

I certainly admire Ernest Hancock's dedication to the movement, though I had concerns that some of his statements may have lead to alienation of mainstream voters and that his style may have degraded the party's organization. George Phillies was one of my higher preferences coming to the convention, but after conversing with other delegates and learning of his history of running for LNC chair at every convention despite the ease with which he could claim a seat on the LNC indicated to me that his ambition was more about himself than the Libertarian Party or the libertarian movement.

Wayne Root was my last choice. His entire approach struck me as being stereotypical of the slimy politician craving power and attention. His plan for the Libertarian Party also struck me as a path to turning the Libertarian Party into a Republican-lite Party which would alienate disaffected Democrats and prevent us from serving as the neutral arbiter between the left and right which I believe we so desperately need. His promises of funding and support sounded too good to be true considering the alternative routes available to him to PROVIDE that support without the glory and spotlight he was seeking as the LNC chair.

As the remaining officer and at large LNC delegate elections play out, I hope that we are able to create an LNC able to represent all factions of our party and create the unity we need to stand strong against the two party system.

Yesterday we wrapped up the elections for party officers and today we are continuing elections for LNC At-Large members and Judicial Committee members. I believe we succeeded as well as could be hoped in the elections for LNC officers considering the factionalism apparent in the national party. The strength of Wayne Root's faction was recognized not by electing him to the LNC Chair position, but by electing his ally Mark Rutherford to the Vice-Chair position. The secretary position was given to Alicia Mattson. Rob Power was her opponent, but as it was a largely technical position, Alicia was considered a more proficient candidate. Rob Power's position on the New Path slate of George Phillies also motivated me to prefer Alicia as I had already decided to support the New Path's candidate for treasurer, James Oaksun.

The election for treasurer was a foregone conclusion considering the numerous enemies Aaron Starr had made during his tenure as treasurer. Aaron Starr was perceived as Machiavellian, secretive, as a divisive force in the party despite his limited responsibilities related to FEC filings. Aaron Starr also spent much of the convention during the Bylaws and Platform reports monopolizing the floor and preventing other delegates from participating in the debate. He lost the vote by the highest margin of any of the elections with over 300 votes for James Oaksun and less than 120 for Aaron Starr. A clearer message about the tone the delegates wish the LNC officers to set could not have been sent.

It is my sincere hope and belief that the officers we elected will be able to represent all of the factions in the Libertarian Party and do so in a civil fashion. The more divisive figures from each faction were not elected, and as the At-Large elections close I will post further updates and will continue to encourage each faction to be just disappointed enough that they will be unable to run away with the party before incorporating the input and views of the other factions.

LNC/Judicial Committee
Those at the convention who supported Wayne Root didn't leave empty handed. Wayne Root was elected as an At-Large member of the LNC. It speaks to the decorum and maturity of the Libertarian Party that even those who adamantly opposed his election as LNC Chair were willing to support him as an At-Large member. One such delegate, Nick Sarwark, even gave a nominating speech for him.

I was disappointed that John Jay Myers did not receive enough votes to reach the LNC this time around. He was definitely close, and had the support of the entire Delaware Delegation, but it was not quite enough. The other At-Large members selected were:

- Kevin Knedler
- David Nolan
- Mary Ruwart
- William Redpath

As the LNC Chair for the last two years, Bill Redpath was almost guaranteed to win himself a seat. I did not vote for him in favor of bringing more new blood onto the LNC, but I certainly don't begrudge him a seat considering his tireless efforts, generous contributions, and unquestionable dedication to the party. David Nolan was a founder of the party and creator of the now famous "Nolan Chart", which became "The World's Smallest Political Quiz". We certainly need to retain experience and wisdom on the LNC, and I can think of no finer example of both than David Nolan. Kevin Knedler is someone I am less familiar with, but he had the endorsement and recommendation of the Delaware State Chair, Jim Rash, and was instrumental in the creation of the website and the organization of the Ohio state affiliate party. He had my support and I am glad that he won. Mary Ruwart is another old hand in the Libertarian Party and helped to raise over $55,000 at the banquet on the final evening of the convention. She was also an incumbent member of the LNC and runner up for the 2008 presidential nomination. I am sure that her contributions will be valuable and well received so I gladly supported her also.

I am less comfortable with the balance of power between the party's factions and the number of old-school members of the party elected as At-Large members of the LNC, but I am confident that they will serve the party well. We only kept a couple of incumbents and I am not really familiar enough with which factions these members may represent to make a completely fair evaluation, so we may have done just fine. I'm just less certain than I was yesterday of the officer elections.

The final elections of the convention were those for the party's Judicial Committee. The Judicial Committee is a very important but seldom employed committee within the Libertarian Party. They are responsible for determining when there have been infractions of the party's bylaws and rules and ultimately for preventing a takeover of the Libertarian Party by forces hostile to our message of liberty and responsibility. I was pleased that Nick Sarwark was re-elected. He had made a number of valuable contributions to the debate during the convention and made a strong impression on me as a knowledgeable and reliable libertarian who would serve the party well. Also elected were:

- Lee Wrights
- Bill Hall
- Jim Gray
- Robert Latham
- Bob Sullentrup

Many of these members I am not as familiar with as I would like to be, but I know of Lee Wrights and the numerous contributions he made during the convention, his history of service on the LNC, and his gravitas and respect within the party. I also recognize the contributions that Bob Sullentrup made to the party as secretary and look forward to his service on the Judicial Committee. I really do not know Jim Gray, Robert Latham, or Bill Hall, but I don't know anything detrimental about them either so I will defer to the wisdom of the crowd on their elections. There are supposed to be seven members of the Judicial Committee in total, but there was a tie between Ruth Bennett and Brian Holtz. The votes are being audited to ensure an accurate count of all votes, but Brian Holtz has graciously offered to withdraw his candidacy should the vote count stand. These are the types of people that make me proud to be a member of this party.

The convention has closed, and I'm on my way back to Delaware. I'm definitely re-energized and looking forward to getting back into the fight.

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