In the straw poll nomination for Libertarian Party Candidate for President at the recently concluded Ohio State Libertarian Convention held in Columbus, OH, your Faithful — albeit Occasional — Scribe received 1 vote.
Not bad for the Master of Ceremonies! Especially since I was surrounded at the time by no less than 8 articulate candidates serious about taking on any two of the Big Three: McCain, Obama and/or Clinton.
This was my first Libertarian Convention since my last appearance as Keynote Speaker at the Maryland State Convention circa 2000. Sad to report from Ground Zero: Libertarians are still holding the same low ground of political acumen, campaign reality and fiscal common sense. Most appalling was again witnessing the almost giddy and giggly genuflection to The Cheap.
Despite various "motivational presentations" from the State Chair, State Board Members, Candidates and even Yours Truly, prying $17.76 from attendees to help fund the Ohio Libertarian Party, Libertarians demonstrated one of their greatest — if not the greatest — talent: Sitting On Wallets. I have long marveled at the petulant reluctance bordering on temper-tantrum refusal of Libertarian Party members to part with a penny for the most worthy to the most basic causes — like paying the office rent and keeping the phones turned on for a year. Good idea? Yes? No? All in favor? (OK, OK — check Robert’s Rules.)
The jaw-dropping, whip-lashing irony-broaching-hypocrisy focusing moment came the next day during the "Presidential Candidate Forum," a 2 hour non-debate discussion of the "the issues" by the candidates when the following comments were made:
“Libertarians are accustomed to doing a lot with little to no money.”
“I do not expect any funding from the national LP — and I don’t want any.”
“I am going to use the Internet to go after the niche vote: Ron Paul supporters, the gays and lesbians who will be angry about a Bob Barr candidacy.”
“We should pass a resolution telling Ron Paul to give $10 million of the $37 million he has left over to the Libertarian Party. After all, he can’t spend it on himself!" (this to enthusiastic applause).
Interlaced through this Enlightenment, was the regular disparaging of The Media, excoriated for ignoring Ron Paul and marginalizing 3rd-Party candidates. No reference was made to the regular attendance at certain "3rd Party" conventions by candidates running on the "Rights for Cross Dressers" platform or the "Militant Vegetarians for Open-Mouth Mastication" who flaunt their right to run at the bankrupting expense of "Alternative Party" credibility.
My personal favorite was a group of 3 typically rude attendees, bona-fide Libertarians who staked out the center table so as to maximize the effect of their interruptions to everyone within hearing distance (which meant the entire room). I say "typically rude" since representatives of their sorry ilk have been present at virtually every Libertarian event I have attended from San Francisco to Atlanta to Baltimore and beyond. These are the ego-masturbating clowns who use the By-Laws and Business Meetings to use Roberts Rules to bludgeon the agenda rather than advance it in an orderly fashion. The loud-mouthed Middle Member of the Triumvirate, when not loudly flagellating his First Amendment disagreements with the speakers to his buds, waved a newsletter in the air, rotating it for all to see the headline: "THE MEDIA IS THE ENEMY!" As a long-time practitioner of and in THE MEDIA, I read his hand prop to those fortunately facing away from his throne and I pointed out, as a member of THE ENEMY, no one on this panel will get elected without us.
Unbowed, he later presented a second opportunity for me to address The Obnoxious Trio: "The Main (or Lame) Stream media may be all the heinous things you so desperately wish to believe it is. As a practitioner of some 40 years in markets Big and Small, from Network to Station Ownership, I can assure you much of it is. As such, no one gets in the White House except through us." (Don’t tell anyone I wrote this; I would have to forfeit my American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) cards and my wife, a graduated journalist and News Director of 5 radio stations would banish me to my bass boat!)
But despite the meteoric rise and near ubiquity of the Internet, it hasn’t quite yet surpassed the giants of NBCABCCBSFOXCNN and all their ugly step-sisters. While "the Net" may rack up attendance figures that put to shame all newspaper circulation stats combined, way more 65+ folks — most of whom have yet to embrace Chat Room and E-mail — show up to vote in way greater numbers than pre-pubescent 14-year-olds downloading "Grand Theft Auto #87" or ogling Hi-Def porn who are part of the those millions cruising cyberspace.
Ask John Kerry whose campus rallies had rock concert turnouts — but the Faithful were still sleeping it off on Election Day. A more recent example: Ron Paul. Failure to use, bridge, manipulate, populate THE MEDIA may be sleeping with THE ENEMY — but it is still the best — and maybe the only — way to get the attention required to get elected President. Times and technology are changing rapidly. But this November, the Big Dog is still the MSM.
But I digress…
Then the second whiplash struck. After all the trash-talk about THE MEDIA, everyone began talking about how to use it, how to get on it, how to get it to pay attention to their candidacy. Of course, the tantalizing, provocative, unsolved mystery was how to do it for FREE! After all, no one could expect Libertarians to raise the wherewithal to afford a National Rate Card! Yet, great urging from the Candidates focused on the need to financially support All (LP) Candidates Great And Small, followed by bobble-head nodding in the Sold Out audience of 74 (including the camera man from a local NPR TV station and 2 hotel food servers) most of whom wouldn’t part with $17.76 just the night before! Oh, the irony! Candidate Wayne Allan Root boasted he had "personally raised $20,000 for the Party." Candidate Daniel Imperato accurately then stated, "Twenty grand? That’s chump change." In the straw poll, Mr. Root finished 3rd; Mr. Imperato finished just above me.
And so it went. Questions from the Sold-Out Crowd asked about foreign aid, Iran, guns and the usual Libertarian staples. Attendees also wanted to know how the very pleasant Dr. Mary Ann Ruwart, would deal with hardball politics; why Senator Mike Gravel was "late to the party"; how could the "wealthy darling of Las Vegas," Wayne Allan Root "identify" with the Common Man. (Dr. Ruwart won the straw poll, by the way.)
State Chairman Kevin Knedler gets high 5′s for the smooth operation of his first convention and mega-kudos for overseeing the scrapping of an archaic set of By-Laws while creating a "more growth" and user friendly organization. But Libertarians are still stuck on stupid when it comes to the blood and guts of reality of political campaigning. Sadly — maybe tragically — Ron Paul showed some left-over Libertarian timidity in failing to assert himself in the MSM debates, being too frugal with his bodacious Internet fundraising successes and, remarkably, failing to take advantage of the Holy Grail of Libertarian campaigning: Free Media. I know. My producer and I called Paul HQ over 100 times in 3 months to book him on my show, the #1 rated talk show in NW Ohio. (You remember Ohio? One of the "important Battleground States"?) Ron Paul’s peeps never returned a single call.
The tragedy is: Libertarians have The Message. No question, warts and all, the country would be more prosperous, safer and more secure and the Republic brought back from the brink with any of the 8 Libertarian candidates — even Bob Barr! — in the White House than the Socialist, Marxist or "Conservative" running now. But unless or until Libertarians get a grip on the financial reality and hardball tactics of Major League Politics, they’ll just be the "Alternative Party" with the winning message, 400,000 votes and another losing campaign.
Brian Wilson [send him mail] is a talk show host, author and speaker. He’s heard on better talk radio stations across the country through his Vacation Relief Service and is currently imparting essential libertarian views 3P—6P most afternoons at www.WSPD.com where he is in the final year of a 3 year experiment to save NW Ohio residents from Liberals, Union thugs and those suffering Attention Deficit Democracy (see James Bovard for your prescription — and read your daily Rockwell).