Being the second part of a self-administered Q&A session (part one here), covering the history of the Boston Tea Party from the end of 2007 to mid-2008.
Q: So, how about a brief recap of what’s happened with the Boston Tea Party since the beginning of 2008?
As of the beginning of 2008, the party still looked moribund, but there were signs of stirring. The new interim chair, Jim Davidson, actively recruited new national committee members, solicited the formation of new affiliates, attended Libertarian and Constitution Party events to network, and tried to inspire real activity. This led to the party’s first major controversy, in which I was at times “the bad guy,” but it also culminated in the nomination of 2008 presidential ticket — the party’s first. As of today, we’re at 150+ registered members and have six bona fide state affiliate organizations, with others forming.
Q: Okay, now one step at a time. What’s this about a controversy?
When I appointed Jim Davidson as interim chair and resigned my national committee position, I intended to “just walk away.” I should probably have known better. When you create something, it’s never easy to take your hands off of it.
One reason I had gone all “unitary executive” on the situation was that the BTP was off its bylaws. Things that should have been done hadn’t gotten done. My assumption was that Jim would immediately work to get the party back on the rails with respect to strict bylaws adherence — coming up with kludges where necessary, but aiming in that definite direction.
Instead, Jim plotted a way forward that didn’t necessarily emphasize getting back into “bylaws-compliant mode” as fast as possible. He was more worried about resuscitating the organization and getting it active than he was about procedural niceties. My “walk away” pledge notwithstanding, I got involved again in a way that I’m sure was incredibly frustrating to Jim. I’ve since apologized to him for that.
In any case, this controversy began to mount as the BTP held a meeting — characterized in some places as a “convention” (the party’s bylaws specify that conventions occur on the Internet) — in Denver, concurrent with the Libertarian Party’s national convention. And it got worse when what came out of that meeting (and subsequent action/interpretation) was that an online presidential nominating convention would be held in which each state affiliate, rather than each party member, received one vote.
I appealed the “one affiliate, one vote” procedure to the membership (as provided for in those bylaws I keep harping on) … and all hell broke loose. Interim Vice Chair Tom Stevens deleted the member polling while it was in progress. As the party’s site administrator, I yanked his privileges with respect to controlling site content. This provoked an outburst on his part about “mere members” defying his authoritah, etc.
It was at that point that I began to suspect something wasn’t right — that there was more than just non-bylaws-compliance going on. The driving force behind the “one affiliate, one vote” idea was Dr. Stevens, who was also a candidate for the party’s VP nomination, and who had spearheaded the party’s affiliate drive. Interim Chair Davidson didn’t have a problem with “one affiliate, one vote” per se (he felt that it would encourage members to start active affiliates), but when this chain of events began to get heated, both he and I started looking for an explanation of why Dr. Stevens might be so hell-bent on it.
The short explanation is that the “affiliates” turned out to be, as far as we could tell, empty shells with no members, each presided over by “a friend of Dr. Stevens.” In the case of at least two affiliates, the people listed as affiliate chairs/presidents didn’t even live in the applicable states, but rather in New York, where they held positions in other organizations, also headed by Dr. Stevens.
The “controversy” ended with Dr. Stevens and his compadres resigning from the national committee and dissolving their apparently imaginary “state affiliates.” Playing “unitary executive” again, I simply noted that the poll versus “one affiliate, one vote” had been running unanimously against when it was shut down, and held that it was obvious the members preferred “one member, one vote” … so that was how it should be. The chair agreed. End of “controversy.”
Q: So, the party nominated a presidential slate. How did that go?
I thought it went reasonably well.
By the time the membership voted, there were two candidates for the presidential nomination (Charles Jay and Robert Milnes) and three for the VP nomination (Todd Andrew Barnett, Chris Bennett and myself). Dr. Stevens had dropped his VP candidacy when he resigned. Alden Link, Stevens’s favored presidential candidate, had dropped earlier. Attempts had been made to approach/recruit other candidates (including Christine Smith), but those other candidates had declined to be considered.
Of more than 100 members at the time, 37 chose to participate in the presidential nominating poll, which was conducted by modified “approval voting.” Charles Jay was nominated with 28 votes, the support of 76% of the voting membership. Robert Milnes received five votes, or 14%; None of the Above received nine votes, or 24%. On the VP side, 34 voters selected me as the nominee with 22 votes (65% support). Todd Andrew Barnett received 11 votes (32% support), and Chris Bennett and NOTA each received six votes (18% support).
During the voting, we had a “situation” arise from the creation of multiple accounts to stuff the poll. That situation required some quick work (done as openly and transparently as possible so as not to negatively impact the poll’s perceived integrity) to correct. As far as investigating its orgins, ElfNinosMom here at Last Free Voice got to the bottom of things before we did.
Q: The party made it past its first major controversy. It conducted a presidential nominating election which surpassed Broward County, Florida standards of integrity. Next?
Thanks to the heroic efforts of Wes Pinchot and other great BTP activists in Colorado, we submitted ballot access paperwork there the day after the nomination vote (Dan Sallis, Jr. replaces me in the VP slot because of logistical problems — I couldn’t find a notary for my statement of intent in time to get it there). We’re also looking at ballot access in other states — Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee and perhaps New Jersey and Utah.
Charles Jay and I have both started booking talk radio and Internet radio appearances to promote the campaign and the party. Charles is remodeling his 2004 web site (he was the Personal Choice Party’s 2004 candidate, on the ballot in Utah), and you can see what’s happening with him at www.cj08.com. I’ve got a side blog of my own for VP ruminations at My Front Porch Campaign.
Now that the Boston Tea Party has decided what it’s going to be (a “real” political party, rather than an internal LP caucus or whatever) the presidential campaign will be its “maiden voyage” — and its shakedown cruise. We got started too late to seek ballot access in most states, run congressional slates, etc. this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t accomplish important things.