Steve G.

LPNY chair to BTP: Drop dead

In Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US on July 19, 2008 at 2:04 pm

In this essay, LP radical and LPNY state chair Eric Sundwall advocates that radical libertarians avoid the BTP and stay in the LP. It is entitled Party Like It’s 1973, an apparent ironic reference to Party like it’s 1773 by BTP interim chair Jim Davidson.

I was somewhat intrigued when popular Libertarian blogger Tom Knapp started the Boston Tea Party soon after the 2006 Portland massacre. An online political party that hearkened to the radical sensibility with a savvy for the political seemed an interesting notion without any real threat to LP work and activities. A place where members could vent and fume within their own diaries and entries and perhaps still effect meaningful activism within the libertarian community in general. Fine. Sometimes a great notion . . .

The current self-flagellation from its members and current standard bearers for office is a greater reflection of petty narcissistic traits and ambitions that one finds within splinters of a small movement, than any real grassroots or political effort. To be sure, most of the current brouhaha is based on the success of reform elements within the LP and the eventual nomination of Bob Barr. But there has also been a disproportionate coverage of their activities within the small third party blogosphere and even some mention in the higher echelons of typical political coverage. I’m beginning to think about getting sixteen of my buddies together to form the American Anarchist Party so as not to be left out. At least there would be no compromise on real principles.

In my estimation the BTP became untenable, less credible and utterly ridiculous when the New York affiliate formed without my knowledge or possible input. I expressed my discontent about this to founder Tom Knapp and got a reply that membership wasn’t tracked on geographical basis and thus any notification about formation of an affiliate wouldn’t be forthcoming to members unless they kept abreast of the website and those postings. At the time I thought I had kept a current feed from BTP in my aggregator (Bloglines) and it was only another entry at the time that serendipitously showed up that brought me back to the site for a quick re-reference. It was at that time that I became knowledgeable of the NY affiliate startup.

Of course the elements forming that start up were no more radical in spirit than in truth ambitious for titles and accolades. In fact some of the players were in dispute with the LPNY about one of their affiliates and a factional shoot off from it in another arena wasn’t all that surprising. Having also expressed some insider concern to Knapp about this, he just shrugged it off and said something about long ropes and the like.

In the course of 2007 one saw a gradual decline of the website and eventually spam took it over and the case for neglect made itself very obvious if one visited the site. Again Knapp was shrugging it off as not his baby anymore since the formation of a national committee and control being handed over to the new principles. Any other misgivings about Knapp and his organizational abilities were already being sent to me through my association of other notable activists and to some extent LNC connections. After he was almost completely rejected for the Platform Committee in Pittsburgh that summer I figured any possible radical ally in this figure was improbable. At the time he was flailing for Kubby as the official or non-official this or that and it was obvious where his pre-occupation was at. Once he started running Ron Paul up the racist flagpole based on a Suicide Girls post, I was done. After the Sean Haugh attack after Vegas, I was disgusted, despite reassurances from Angela Keaton and Paulie that he wasn’t the drama queen I might have marked him as.

Enter the Independent Political Report. They started covering the mini-convention of the BTP in Denver and it seems like new life was born from it. Apparently that long rope came back to bite BTP and Knapp put the kibosh on any usurpation of his baby. Utilizing an administrative override on the former national vice-chair and asserting a violation of by-laws and original intent, he summarily dismissed the usurpers and rallied his original cabal and pressed ahead with their own convention online. I’m sure if I’m wrong about this and on any radar as such, I’ll be corrected on a dozen counts by TK or the like.

But my general point is this. The BTP is an operational and philosophical mess. Great, a one line platform states that they want to reduce government on all counts. So what?! While it’s not the contorted twistings of the Reformista’s tired ruminations and redefinitions, its just annoying at this point. When some kiddie script hacker represents some percentage of the actual vote of their convention and all former users are told to sign up again because their database got trashed, you don’t have to wonder. You just don’t take it seriously. Radicals ought to stay in the LP and exert what influence they can in a franchise which has stood the test of time for at least thirty years. Getting all huffy over one candidate in an impossible race to win is not the solution. There is plenty of room for spirited protest candidacies and meaningful activism.

So don’t get your panties in a wad because Brian Holtz won the platform or that Bob Barr said something about Fannie Mae on TV. Easy ballot access in Colorado and Louisiana may get you on the ballot there and might put you on a temporary pedestal amongst chortling colleagues, but seriously, get a life (or a sound card). Do what you can, where you can. Stop fantasizing about a greater liberty movement or party. Stay real. Stay radical. Stay LP.

  1. Eric Sundwall, agreed except on two points. Barr et al are claiming the Reformer faction. I don’t think so. Is he & are they members as I am of the LRC Libertarian Reform Caucus? Maybe a few like Holtz. But mostly it was usurped as they didn’t fit in anywhere else libertarian. New Dixiecrat Caucus would never get the nomination. Second, I agree the BTP is hamstrung & doomed. A split off of a major party like Teddy Roosevelt > Progressive Party might amount to something. But the LP is already that. Best case scenario is they make a splash & a statement. Except as I said several times, if they had tried to make use of their ballot access to assist my Independent Progressive Alliance candidacy, THEN they might have accomplished something significant. But no. That was not their purpose. So now they have whatever it is. Doing whatever they are doing.

  2. I don’t think the platform battle was “won” by any given faction, Eric.

    The Reformers aimed to remove language about sexual orientation/freedoms and abortion from the platform, so that anti-gay and anti-abortion candidacies could be “platform compliant.”

    While Reform succeeded on making the platform shorter, the convention-goers actually made the abortion rights and sexual rights platform planks stronger than they’d been in their history.

    This likely satisfied Mr. Holtz (whose positions on these issues, I think, contrasted markedly with other reformers). Others, however, such as Alicia Mattson, likely came away far less happy with the result.

    As usual, nobody completely won (or lost).

  3. Below my reply to him

    Excellent piece, Eric. I had no idea the LP was organised in 1973. On the site they say 1971. But I’ve learned not to trust the LP.

    You are completely correct, no one asked your permission for the formation of the New York state affiliate. You should be happy to hear that Dr. Stevens disaffiliated that group from the Boston Tea Party when he left in a huff. Curiously, Stevens had formed “The Objectivist Party” which is now on the ballot in Colorado, as far back as February 2008. Which presumably indicates some of the nature and extent of his conflict of interest while pretending to serve as vice chair.

    All four of the state affiliates that Stevens helped to organise were either entirely shams, or immediately disaffiliated as soon as his ouster was permanent. His group of buddies resigned their positions on the national committee, and I think we’re well shed of them.

    Earlier this year, I took the job of chair for the Boston Tea Party. I did so reluctantly, because a friend had asked me to help, and for no other reason. I went to Denver expecting to have very little to do. It was my expectation that Mary Ruwart would win the LP nomination, the Boston Tea Party would endorse her candidacy, and we’d all go home happier and less burdened with work.

    Within about a week, Stevens pulled his shenanigans, and I watched him take his ball, his players, and his state affiliates and go home. It was at this point that I got about as mad as a guy can be. My distaste for sham elections, about which I wrote frequently during my days with the National Space Society, had reached another nadir. And I decided that this time the travesty would not stand.

    To my complete amazement, as soon as I had committed to making the Boston Tea Party an effective and ethical organisation, all kinds of people appeared from places and in ways I had no reason to expect them. Since the beginning of June, nine state affiliates have been organised and another twenty are in various stages of development. Hundreds of people have joined our Facebook presence, we’re on more social networking sites than I knew existed, our candidates and officers have been interviewed on all kinds of media, and we’ve more than 160 members on our national site.

    Perhaps of the greatest significance to this election year, we have begun to endorse candidates from other parties who are consistent in their positions and agree with our party’s smaller government platform. It appears from our rate of growth in endorsements that we’ll soon list more candidates for public office on our site than the national LP does on theirs. Since nearly all of the candidates we endorse are coming from the LP, it won’t be much later that we’ll have more LP candidates listed on our site than the national LP lists on theirs.

    I left the LP in 1998 when I stopped renewing my national dues. I did not like the corruption evident in the 1996 campaign for Harry Browne. I was upset that the national headquarters staff began working for the Browne campaign before the nominee had been chosen. At the recent convention in Denver, David Nolan, a co-founder of the LP, circulated flyers complaining that the LP staff and national committee were once again showing bias favoring a particular candidate. He also noted that membership in the party was down substantially since 2000, by as much as 50% according to one report I read later.

    But, I never stopped taking an interest in the LP, especially at the state level. I’ve worked with LP activists in Texas, in Wyoming, in North Carolina, and in Kansas. I’m interested in freedom, and LP members are interested in freedom. I’m not interested in corruption, I’m not excited about winning elections, and I am disgusted by the idea of dividing the spoils after such a victory. Like most other libertarian activists, had I wanted corruption and victory and the spoils of war, I could have chosen one of the two major parties where such things are commonplace.

    Instead, I’m involved in a long struggle for freedom. I think the LP is a part of that struggle, but the national LP has sold out. The national LP has sold its soul, rejecting the efforts of good and decent people like Mary Ruwart and Angela Keaton. Attacking my friends is among the things that pisses me off and gets me worked into a frenzy, and the LP officers have done so.

    The national LP is corrupt, it has betrayed its principles in 2006, and that illustrated that it was ripe for take over by unprincipled candidates like Bob Barr. But the state and local party organisations aren’t corrupt, and there is nothing wrong with the principled members of the party. They just need to have better leadership at the national level.

    Until they get some, the Boston Tea Party is a refuge for many. We are growing rapidly, gaining ballot access, and recruiting. I’m proud of what we’ve done in the last 45 days, and I expect to see more, soon.

    After 24 October 2008, I won’t be with the party in any official capacity. I’m not standing for election to the position I’ve held. I don’t care for elective office. But I am really enjoying myself.

    I don’t know if Eric has chosen to approve the message above.

  4. Brian,
    Actually, my main goal was to delete the right to private nukes passage : – )

  5. Just returned to Eric’s site and found my response posted, along with a nice reply from him. So I added another reply. It might show up eventually.

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