This article was first published in the June-Sept.-Dec., 1980, issue of Libertarian Forum, Vol. 13.5-6.
“O Liberty! O Liberty! What crimes are committed in thy name!”
~ Madame Roland
The proper epitaph for the Clark campaign is this: “And they didn’t even get the votes.” Libertarian principle was betrayed, the LP platform ignored and traduced, our message diluted beyond recognition, the media fawned upon — all for the goal of getting “millions” (2-3, 3-5 or whatever) of votes. And they didn’t even do that. All they got for their pains was a measly 1% of the vote.1 They sold their souls — ours, unfortunately, along with it — for a mess of pottage, and they didn’t even get the pottage. Maybe they’ll demand a recount. Extrapolating from the Clark gubernatorial campaign of 1978 — as they liked to do last winter — they in effect promised us 4.6 million votes. (5.5% of the total). They got less than a million.
The Clark/Koch campaign was a fourfold disaster, on the following counts: betrayal of principle; failure to educate or build cadre; fiscal irresponsibility; and lack of votes.
Betrayal of principle is of course the most important, as well as the most extensive, category. The campaign was marked throughout, in strategy and in tactics, by deception and duplicity. The platform was ignored, the message distorted. ‘Basic principles were evaded and buried. The Clark defenders maintain that, in many of the instances of betrayal, he took a good stand from time to time — generally not in front of the media but before small libertarian audiences. My reply to all these feeble defenses is simply this: It’s a helluva note when all we have to fall back on is the inconsistency of our candidate.
1. Back to Camelot
The Back to Camelot theme, arguably the single most odious aspect of the Clark campaign, reached its apogee on the ABC-TV national Nightline program (11:30 P.M. EST) a few days before the election. Commoner and Clark were each invited to give a brief, one-minute summary of their respective programs. Commoner, with his usual forthrightness, summed up his platform as a governmental assault on the corporations. And Clark? Here was the entire libertarian position of the man whom Libertarian Review has had the chutzpah to refer to as “Mr. President”: We want to get back to the tax and spending and inflation levels of the Kennedy administration. When the puzzled interviewer asked for clarification, Ed Clark reiterated the theme: “We want to get back to the kind of government that President Kennedy had in the early 1960’s.” At this point, the rather bewildered interviewer, thinking naturally that Libertarians were some species of left-wing Democrat, wanted to know why we didn’t end it all by merging with the Citizens Party. To which Clark replied no, they are believers in centralized power whereas we are in favor of decentralization.
So no wonder that Tom Wicker and all the rest of the liberal media loved Clark during the campaign! And here I had thought for two decades that Kennedy was one of the Bad Guys! Live and learn!
But of course in the Clark campaign there were no Bad Guys. One of the mendacious aspects of the campaign was the hiding, the distortion of our platform and our principles. Another was the strong impression given by the Clark commercials that there are no Bad Guys and no conflict. Every American is going to join Clark in celebrating “A New Beginning, Amer-i-ca”; there will be no pain, for anyone, not even briefly, as we all march into the new dawn. No bureaucrats will lose their jobs, no specially privileged will be kicked out of the public trough. All sweetness and light and jingles. The Clark generation.
But of course this is all pap and nonsense. The advent of liberty will immeasurably benefit most Americans. But some will lose — those who have been exploiting us and feeding at the public trough. And these special interests and ruling elites will not surrender their ill-gotten gains so readily. They will fight like hell to keep it. Libertarianism is not a message of treacle and Camelot; it is a message of struggle. What will happen to those who have joined up thinking that all they have to do is sing and pull a lever to achieve victory? Won’t they be the first summer soldiers to fade away when the going gets a little tough? How are these supposed new recruits to be prepared5 for a protracted struggle against the State?
The Kennedy theme was a leitmotif throughout the campaign. The infamous Clark White Paper on Taxing and Spending Reduction, which the campaign played up heavily and took out big ads listing the endorsers, was repugnant partly because it assured the readers that the projected budget cuts in the first year of the Clark administration should not be thought of as radical. After all, they would only return us to the budget, in real terms, of the Kennedy regime of 1962. Which was one of the things wrong with it.
And then there were subliminal messages: there was the Clark brochure with our candidate standing in front of a picture of Jack Kennedy; and there was the Clark TV commercial promise that he was “bringing a message of hope” to the American people. There was the graceless imitation of the jabbing Kennedy finger of the right hand in the anti-draft commercial; and the Clark hair in the late commercial that seemed uncannily made up to look like Jack Kennedy’s.
So it’s to be Camelot again. And, gentlemen, who is going to be dunked in the White House pool? (To mix our Presidents, we all know who is slated to be the new Haldeman)
It was almost enough to make one vote for Jimmy Carter. After all, inept as he was, he did manage to whup some Kennedy ass.
2. Low-Tax Liberalism
Meshing neatly with the Camelot theme was Clark’s oft reiterated favorite summary slogan of libertarianism: “low-tax liberalism.” We are of course not, repeat not, “low tax liberals.” We are no-tax libertarians. The “low tax liberal” scam was clearly designed to suck in the media, who were seen, not very incorrectly, as being moderate liberals. How better to get favorable media attention than to pretend to be just one more moderate liberal? And, the calculation went, if we get media attention, we will get more votes, and votes are the name of the game, right?
Wrong. The purpose of an LP electoral campaign is not to get as many votes as possible. If that were the objective, then the place to go for votes is the Democratic or Republican parties. The purpose of any campaign is, in the short-run, twofold: to educate the electorate in libertarian principles, and to find more libertarians and bring them into the party (“party-building” or “cadre building”). The third, long-run, objective is to get into office so as to roll back the State.
But the evident strategy of Clark, his campaign chief, Edward H. Crane III, and the other handlers was to maximize the number of votes, so as to fool the media and the public and the politicians into thinking that we really have millions of dedicated libertarians. In short, their purpose was not to build cadre, or to start the march for the long haul, but to reap a quick success by use of mirrors: using lots of money and slick media commercials to con everyone into thinking we are really a mammoth movement. Libscam!
Many of the specific deviations and horror stories committed by the Clark campaign were denied by the handlers, attributing them all to bumbles, misprints, typos, et al. But not only did too many of these alleged bumbles pile up, they all slanted in one direction. How come that all of the “bumbles” pointed one way: to creating a media image of libertarianism as “low tax liberalism”, that is, as approximately the same ideology as the readers — and more importantly the writers — of the New York Times, Washington Post, CBS News, etc.? In short, that we are a likeable, nonthreatening group who believe in slightly lower taxes, in a more efficient version of the welfare state, in moderate civil liberties, and in a moderately dovish stance abroad. Sort of a Jerry Brown Democrat. That we achieved this part of our objective can be seen in the fact that Tom Wicker and a whole bunch of other media people liked us. But did they vote for us?
3. Keeping the Welfare State
A genuine libertarian stance, like our platform, must be abolitionist; that is, we must not ourselves embrace gradualism as in some way better than an immediate achievement of the libertarian goal. Because, if we do so, this means that we are holding something else to be more important than the achievement of liberty. And that means that we are no longer libertarians. In the words of the great Strategy Statement, adopted by the National Committee of the L.P. several years ago, and the forgotten stepchild of the Clark campaign: “Holding high our principles means avoiding completely the quagmire of self-imposed, obligatory gradualism: we must avoid the view that, in the name of fairness, abating suffering, or fulfilling expectations, we must temporize and stall on the road to liberty. Achieving liberty must be our overriding goal.”
And this means, too, that Libertarians must not commit themselves to any particular order of destatization. We must not present a four-year plan, saying we will Cut Tax X by a certain percent, Cut Budget Y by a certain figure, etc. in the first year, then a bit more in the second year, etc. For this would imply that any greater tax cut or budget cut in any of these areas is bad, would be combated by a Libertarian President. We must never act so as to close the door on more and more destatization, wherever and whenever we could achieve it. The relevant question is this: If President Clark introduced his 30% tax cut scheme in next year’s Congress, and some principled Libertarian Congressman amended the bill to repeal the infamous income tax altogether, would President Clark veto it?
Again, the Strategy Statement says: “We must not commit ourselves to any particular order of destatization, for that would be construed as our endorsing the continuation of statism and the violation of rights. Since we must never be in the position of advocating the continuation of tyranny, we should accept any and all destatizing measures wherever and whenever we can.”
But the Clark campaign did just the opposite. From the beginning, Clark expressly stated that we must cut all subsidies to business before we can even conceive of slashing the welfare state. In his first formulation, Clark vowed not to cut welfare until private charity voluntarily assumed that burden (fat chance!), or, next formulation, until “full employment” is achieved. So it is not only back to Kennedy, but also back to Keynes! Are we to pick up on these two gentlemen just when they are finally being repudiated by one and all? There is no such thing as “full employment”. Employment depends on wage rates, and, must I point this out to a libertarian reader? Welfare payments reduce the net wage a person can earn by working. Hence, the higher the welfare payments, the more the unemployment. Are we to repudiate elementary economics a5 well as libertarianism?
In Clark’s odious White Paper on Spending and Taxation, welfare is kept virtually intact. And Clark manages to find a way out of having to advocate even eventual abolition of welfare: in his neo- Lafferite vision, one year’s thirty percent budget cut (only returning us to Kennedy!) would so enormously increase jobs, production, and prosperity that no one would be on welfare anyway. Thus we see a typical example of Clark’s evading the necessity of making hard choices or statements that might lose some votes; worse yet, the supposed new converts among the public are not being prepared for the nasty fact that the budget cut would not eliminate welfare clientele because the incentive to remain on welfare — free handouts — would remain unbreached.
But we cannot eliminate welfare until we reach neo-Lafferite heaven, Clark is strongly implying, because of the suffering of those removed from the welfare rolls. But what happens to the libertarian insight that welfare is bad for its clients, not helpful; and what happened to the Strategy Statement? Blankout.
4. The Order of Destatization
Despite the Strategy Statement, the Clark White Paper commits us to a specific and detailed order of destatization in the first year of the Clark administration. No other candidate bothers with such a detailed program. Why must we? To look “Presidential.” To look “respectable.” Like a low-tax liberal. There are some gratifying abolitions and cuts, but there are some mysterious omissions. Why isn’t the Department of Agriculture abolished? Or the Federal Reserve? Or the FBI? And who can shout hosannahs for Back to Kennedy, anyway?
Moreover, the White Paper is far worse than a Four Year Plan. For it only commits Clark to one year’s worth of cuts. And that’s it. This is far worse than mere “gradualism”. For the ultimate goal is not simply downplayed, but drops out altogether. Which makes Clark seem like a slightly more libertarian John Anderson (or Jack Kennedy?) rather than a genuine Libertarian. Another crucial part of the Strategy Statement is here violated: “Any intermediate demand must be treated, as it is in the LP platform, as pending achievement of the pure goal and inferior to it. Therefore, any such demand should be presented as leading toward our ultimate goal, not as an end in itself.” But the Clark White Paper merely points to the first year program, and then says, wildly, that these cuts will be so beneficial, will lead to so much prosperity, etc. that the public will raise a clamor for further budget and tax cuts, after which President Clark would be happy in’ taking the lead to achieve them. I should hope he would at least tail after public opinion. But we are supposed to be the vanguard of libertarian opinion; what is the Party except leading the way to liberty?
Moreover, how long is it supposed to take for the public clamor to arise? Instantaneously, as in Laffer’s increased revenue from tax cuts? How many years? And in the meantime, before the clamor, it is clearly implied that President Clark would sit on his laurels and do nothing further to achieve liberty.
5. The Tax Cut
Libertarians are nothing if not anti-taxation, and it is therefore our duty to take the lead in pushing for “drastic” (as the platform calls it) cuts in taxation, pointing toward its eventual abolition. It therefore behooves us never to allow ourselves to be outflanked by other groups; never to allow any other group to be more libertarian than the LP on taxation. And yet, the Liberty Amendment people, calling for the repeal of the 16th Amendment and abolition of the income tax, have been toiling in the vineyard for many years. We owe it to truth and justice and liberty not to fall behind the Liberty Amendment people. Instead, Clark calls for a piddling 30% tax cut. Shortly after his nomination, Clark appeared at a press conference in Denver, at which he expressly repudiated the Liberty Amendment as “too radical.” For shame!
Defending his piddling cut, Clark, in an interview with the L.A. Times, said that we could not cut the corporate income tax at this time. Like hell we couldn’t! But I suppose that this would be considered too radical, too extreme, by Tom Wicker and our other buddies at the New York Times.
Clark has devoted a great deal of time to showing that the Reagan proposed Kemp-Roth 30% tax cut (at least before Reagan’s shift to the center) is really much less than his 30% cut. Frankly, I’m not much interested, and I don’t think the voters were either. It is absurd and shameful for a libertarian candidate to run up and down demonstrating in detail that our tax cut is greater than the Republican proposal. We shouldn’t have to spend a lot of energy on such demonstrations. Our anti-tax superiority should be crystal-clear to all. For example, if we called for repeal of the income tax. Not only the Liberty Amendment people, but even John Rarick, the American Independent Party candidate for President this year, called for repeal of the income tax. How dare we be less libertarian than they?
Suppose they ask us what specific budget cuts we would make? But apart from calling for abolition of a bunch of departments, we don’t have to spell out our budget in detail. And we wouldn’t, if we weren’t captivated by the idea of looking “Presidential.” We could simply say: “That’s their (the bureaucrats), headache. We’ll cut their budget by say 90 percent, and let them figure out where to allocate it.”
And while we’re at it, while up in Wyoming, Clark endorsed the controversial state tax on coal, which is beloved of Wyoming citizens of all political persuasions because they are thereby mulcting the national coal, corporations. Clark is quoted as endorsing the tax because “coal is a non-renewable resource.” So what? The Clark handlers have intimated that this was a bumble or misquote, but if that is the case, why was the press clipping on this sent out as part of the official Clark literature? Even “free-market” Senator Wallop supports the tax, so perhaps this gained Clark a few votes in Wyoming.
6. Social Security
The Social Security system is not only coercive; it is the biggest single racket of all the welfare state programs. It is also bankrupt, and many people now understand this fact. Instead of taking the bull by the horns, following the platform and calling for the abolition of this system, Clark calls for a 35-year phase-out (there’s “gradualism”, with a vengeance!), while in the meantime, everyone 40 and over must stay in the program and can mulct other taxpayers for the rest of their lives. Even the Clarkian “ideal” or “ultimate” program is scarcely ideal; it involves a network of tax exemptions for individual retirement funds. There is nothing wrong with tax credits and exemptions as a step toward the ideal of no taxes, but it is a betrayal of principle to term this an “ideal.” Tax credits, after all, distort the economy, and will continue to do so until the day of tax abolition. Furthermore, in the Clark White Paper on Social Security, even the “ideal” and “ultimate” explicitly includes retaining the welfare system. Except that, again in Clark’s neo-Lafferite buncombe, “increasingly, as Libertarian administration frees the economy and produces economic growth”, in which case “voluntary, charitable institutions” would be allowed to take over the welfare functions (Clark, White Paper on Social Security Reform).
Once again, a more efficient, more streamlined, welfare state is the Clark program.
And what happened to our platform, which demands that Social Security be abolished forthwith, and that payments to meet expectations be met by selling off government land and other property? Too extreme, of course.
7. Money and Inflation
Clark and his handlers know damned well that the cause of inflation — America’s No. 1 economic problem and the No. 1 issue of the 1980 campaign is the Federal Reserve’s continued expansion of the money supply. They also know that the only cure for this is to stop the Fed, in short to abolish it and return to a market commodity money like gold. And yet Clark persisted throughout the campaign in falsely identifying federal deficits as the cause of inflation. In his infamous White Paper on Spending and Taxation — the major Clark showpiece of the campaign for which they obtained extensive ads and support — there was not a mention of Fed responsibility. Quite the contrary. The public was assured that if the Clark 30% budget and revenue cut were put into effect, this would end inflation.
What is more, the detailed Clark budget made no mention whatever of the Fed, of whether it would be cut or not. Presumably it would not be abolished, again despite the clear-cut call of the LP platform.
So base and mendacious was the Clark campaign that when Clark kicked off his White Paper at the American Economic Council meeting in Los Angeles — a gold standard, anti-Fed, outfit — he failed to mention either the Fed or gold, giving his standard balanced budget (i.e. Keynesian) line. Even when asked point-blank by one of the libertarian gold advocates at the press conference where he stood on the gold standard, Clark ducked it, and finally stated lamely that he favored a “gradual return to the gold standard.”
Anyone who knows anything about gold or money knows that there ain’t no such thing as a “gradual return”; either one is on gold or off it. A gradual return to gold makes as much sense as someone being “gradually pregnant.” Gradualism gone berserk!
When Clark came a cropper at the gold standard group’s press conference, Ed Crane’s characteristic way of handling the situation was to denounce the libertarian gold-bug for raising the issue and thus hurting the Clark fund-raising. Typically, the manipulator blames the person who reveals the truth.
Later in the campaign, under severe pressure by outraged libertarian economists, Clark did, at various points, endorse the gold standard, as well as issue a paper by myself on the causes and remedies for inflation., But all this was grudging and low-key. The real, upfront discussion was balanced budget all the way.
So, why is this? There can be only one answer. Because John Anderson-type, New York Times-type liberals all favor a balanced budget (who doesn’t, at least in theory?) but they get edgy and nervous when they hear about gold or the Federal Reserve. To them, this sounds crack-potty and “right-wingy”, and God forbid that Clark and Crane should ever be caught dead sounding like that!
The Clark idea of educational tax credits is a fine first step, but one wonders why his maximum limit of $1200 per student? This is substantially below most private school annual tuition; why not provide tax credits for full tuition, whatever that may be?
But there are two disquieting aspects to the tax credit idea. One is that there is no clear-cut statement by Clark that this is only a transition demand, and that, in fact all tax credits distort the economy by pushing people in the direction of spending toward which the government would like them to go (the same criticism applies to the elaborate retirement tax credit scheme of the Clark Social Security scheme.) Still, tax credits are excellent, but only insofar as they lower taxes; our ultimate objective should clearly be to eliminate taxation altogether. The Clark proposal should have been made in the context of the nineteenth century speech of President William F. Warren of Boston University to the university’s approving trustees: “Tax Exemption the Road to Tax Abolition!” Instead, all we get from Clark’s White Paper on Education are cloudy phrases about how great it would be if someday government were completely divorced from education.
But nowhere does Clark spell out in the concrete what this really means: for example, abolition of the monstrous public school system, and of compulsory attendance laws. To the contrary, Clark has stated during the campaign that the objective of his tax credit proposal is to “improve” the public school system. That should not be our objective; our goal should be abolition. Similarly, Clark angered Southern California party members early in the campaign by sidestepping a question by a reporter about his stand on compulsory attendance laws. That, Clark evaded, is not “a Presidential issue.”
Well, well! Not a Presidential issue indeed! No one says that Clark should have made abolition of compulsory attendance laws a key feature of his speeches or pronouncements. But when asked the question, he had the moral obligation and the obligation to libertarianism and to his fellow Party members, to answer and to answer truthfully! We call for the abolition of compulsory attendance laws! And be damned whether Tom Wicker likes it or not! Instead, we got Libscam!
It is important to realize that Clark was not simply his own person, running for office. By getting our nomination, he put himself into a moral obligation to carry forth our principles and our platform, to truly represent us in the political arena. He failed that test time and again, consistently and grossly, Always, he and his handlers acted with total arrogance toward the Party and its members; the members’ job was to gather signatures, get us on the ballot, contribute funds, and keep their mouths shut; the job of Clark, Crane, et al. was to run the campaign, and to brook no interference.
9. Answering Questions Truthfully
While we are on the issue of answering questions truthfully, Clark, to be sure, did it and did it very well — but only once. In his kickoff January press conference in Washington, D.C., he was asked about the ultimate objectives of the Libertarian Party. What about the streets, the courts, etc? And Clark answered it well: that our ultimate objective was to privatize all-of society; to turn all governmental operations over to private enterprise. It was a great and shining moment for Clark, but it was to be his last. Edward Crane was livid at this disclosure of truth to the media and to the public; how can they be conned into liking us if they know our real views? And because of Crane’s pressure, Clark was never allowed — or perhaps never even felt tempted — to stand up for basic libertarian principles ever again.
Many of us have been hammering away at Clark on these matters since early last winter. All we got for our pains was lots of soft soap and mendacity. The object: to baby us along and keep us quiet so that they could get on with their unprincipled and sellout campaign. For example, after the hard-hitting criticisms of the Clark campaign by the Radical Caucus this summer (notably, my own “Libertarianism versus ‘Low Tax Liberalism’,” Cadre, July/August, and Justin Raimondo’s “A Matter of Principle,” Cadre Supplement), Clark let it be known that his soft approach was all a design. His Grand Strategy was that, after August, with the media already softened up by his low-tax liberal approach, the Clark campaign would become feisty and hard-core. Well, of course, it was all a scam. Libscam! If anything, the Clark campaign got worse as it kept going, and the deviations and betrayals accelerated, especially whenever the precious media were in attendance. Babying along the critics was a key leitmotif of the Clark-Crane campaign. How many more times are we going to permit ourselves to be fooled?
Let us press on. What did Clark say about unions during the campaign, either in person, in literature, or in white papers? Not a damn thing. Even though the government-union comple is a key part of our economy and our society, and even though labor law reform is a direct and immediate political issue. Correction: he did say one thing, and only one. In his Village Voice interview with Cockburn and Ridgeway, Clark said that there is nothing wrong with unions. Period.
Again: well, well! It is true that in a free society, provided that unions don’t use coercion against strikebreakers (a big proviso!), there is nothing un-libertarian about voluntary unions. But this is not a free society, as our “realists” never fail to remind us, and unions are now specially privileged, almost a creature of, the State. Yet nowhere in the Clark literature is there a hint of our platform position: the repeal of all this special privilege, notably including the Wagner Act and the Norris-LaGuardia Act.
Why no mention of removing special privileges to unions? Again, the answer is obvious: N.Y. Times liberals wouldn’t like it, and Tom Wicker might not like us anymore. Tsk, tsk!
Immigration provided probably the greatest (or perhaps the second greatest) single scandal of the Clark campaign. New York Times liberals, you see, love Mexicans but only in Mexico; they are not too keen on Mexicans immigrating to the United States. And so the Clark position, which not only betrayed the libertarian principle of free and open immigration, but also froze immigration restrictions in with the welfare system. Clark’s position on immigration, detailed in an interview with the English-language newspaper, La Prensa, published for San Diego’s Mexican- Americans, was stated as follows:
As President I would move to increase substantially the immigration quotas from Mexico and Latin America…I believe absolutely in free immigration! In a perfect society people would be allowed to move freely anywhere. Today’s realities, however, make it difficult. In the United States we have a welfare system that precludes that. The level of maintenance for U.S. citizens is so high that it would induce individuals to come here to live only on welfare. .. I would support a legal contract system of labor to bring in people from Mexico (two to three million) to come for six months at a time to work then return…” (see A Matter of Principle, pp.2-3.)
The Clark position on immigration manages, at one and the same time, to betray principle and to be factually and economically incorrect. Undocumented aliens, including Mexicans, have not gone on welfare for the simple reason that they would have exposed themselves to arrest and deportation. These “illegal” aliens, as in the case of most immigrants of the past, have proved themselves to be among the most productive, hard-working members of society. Clark kicks them in the teeth, and unjustly.
Later, on nationwide television, Clark managed to retain his position but to put it less baldly. When asked where he stood on foreign trade and immigration, he said, craftily, that he favored free and open trade, and increased immigration (not free and open.) This is holding high the banner of freedom? This is the lamp beside the golden door?
Moreover, as Raimondo points out, Clark’s endorsement of the hated bracero program (the six months-and-then-return) would return to a policy that locked the Mexicans into their cheap-labor status, and which kept Mexican-American wages below the free market level. The Clark-bracero program, Raimondo properly concludes, is “nothing but government-sanctioned-and-enforced exploitation on a massive scale.”
Note, also, how Clark has been brought to this shameful point by having locked himself into a measured, prepared order of destatization. He has already asserted that we can’t slash the welfare state until we have achieved “full employment”; he now adds that we can’t have free and open immigration until we eliminate the welfare state. And so it goes; the “gradualists” lock us permanently into the status quo of statism. As the great libertarian abolitionist of slavery William Lloyd Garrison prophetically warned: “Gradualism in theory is perpetuity in practice.”
There is another grotesque feature of the Clark stand on immigration. He adds, in the La Prensa interview:
I would say that in an ideal society there is little or no need for a Border Patrol. I don’t believe the Border Patrol should be involved in violence. Their role is administrative. Individuals should not be killed just because they are trying to cross the border to work.
Well, bully for you Ed! So if the Border Patrol is not supposed to shoot to kill, what are they supposed to do? How are they supposed to administer the quotas on Mexican immigration? Maybe a bit of clubbing? Or tranquilizer guns, such as are used on animals?
Clark’s position on immigration is akin to his position on virtually the entire spectrum of political issues. It always takes the form: “Of course, I am a libertarian, but…” Pick any issue, and you can fill in the blanks yourself. “As a libertarian, I am of course in favor of …………………….. However, we must understand that we are living in the real world. In such a world, ……………………… would be too extreme, would cause problems, suffering, and fail to fulfill expectations. Therefore, much as I favor ……………………….. in the abstract, in the meantime we must advocate ………………………..” and here comes the sellout. The sellout, “realistic” position turns out to be more or less what everyone else says, more precisely like a middle-class liberal.
12. Nuclear Power and the Environment
I have already spelled out the nuclear power controversy at great length in the Lib. Forum. Suffice it to elaborate here on two aspects of this controversy: (a) the treachery and duplicity of the Clark/Crane forces vix a vis the Publications Review Committee; and (b) that nuclear power is only the tip of the environmentalist iceberg.
First, to carry the story to its conclusion since our May-June 1980 issue (“Opportunism, Nukes, and the Clark Campaign.”) When we left our story, Crane, communications director for the Clark campaign, had issued an infamous anti-nuclear brochure in which Clark endorsed the notorious anti-nuke propagandist Gofman, and vice versa. This brochure had been issued despite the fact that it had never been submitted to the campaign’s Publications Review Committee, which was supposed to clear all publications in advance. Furthermore, the brochure was issued in defiance of the express unanimous directive of the Committee not to issue any anti-nuke or Gofmanite propaganda, and despite the repeated assurances of the campaign’s nominal director, Ray Cunningham, and of Clark himself, that such a brochure would never be issued!
After the brochure was- issued, intense pressure zeroed in on Clark, fortified by the fact that frontlines broke the issue open (frontlines has been the major force for truth in the libertarian movement). At that point, Crane and his cats paw, Chris Hocker, the virtual co-director of the campaign, gave one and all assurances that the offending brochure was being withdrawn. Victory appeared to be ours, but one of our members, highly knowledgeable in the ways of Crane et al., sardonically commented: “I won’t believe they’ve withdrawn the brochures until I see them burned at the Washington office.”
Our cynical associate turned out, of course, to be right. For lo and behold! at the August Students for a Libertarian Society convention in October, what should turn up but our old friend the anti-nuke pamphlet, being happily distributed by the SLS ruling clique at the Commoner-Clark debate? In short, in the old but now we see to be highly revealing phrase, if lying helps…
Clark’s handlers declared in their defense that “we couldn’t write letters to every group withdrawing the pamphlet.” Why not?
In a massive bit of rewriting of history (to put it at its kindliest), the Clark people now maintain that the Publications Review Committee was not supposed to have the final say on Clark literature, that we were only supposed to be advisory, to express our input.
Who is right? Or who is lying? Or, more charitably, who is “misspeaking”, to use a word that came back from obsolescence under the Nixon-Agnew regime? Well, the decisive point is that none of us would have joined such a committee if we had thought it was going to be in a purely advisory role. This has not been publicly revealed before, but the whole point of forming the committee is that some of us, at the August 1979 convention, were worried about Crane’s potential for dominating the campaign, and distorting libertarian principles in the course of that control. It was to mollify, to soft-soap us, that Clark and his handlers set up the Publications Review Committee, which was explicitly designed to have the same role as the similarly named committee long in force at the National Committee: namely, decision-making rather than advisory. The members of the Committee were many of the same people who had expressed such concerns about a future Crane-dominated campaign. We would therefore never have accepted a purely advisory role. But of course now we know, as the more realistic of us suspected all along, that the function of the PRC was to soft-soap us and baby us along until the election. To which we must all resolve: Never Again!
Secondly, the nuclear power issue is only the tip of the environmentalist heresy that Crane, Childs, Mueller and Co. have been toying with for a couple of years. Not just nuclear radiation, but any radiation, indeed anything which someone might think to be “pollution”, is to be outlawed. All this, even at best, violates the fundamental libertarian rule laid down a century ago by Benjamin R. Tucker: When in doubt about whether some activity is aggressive, the answer is laissez-faire. Let the person alone! Or, to apply venerable Anglo-Saxon law, nothing should be considered aggressive or criminal or tortious unless proven so beyond a reasonable doubt. Every person must be assumed innocent until proven guilty.2
Furthermore, the Cranian imposition of environmental tyranny goes grotesquely much farther than even the weak “preponderance of evidence “rule. Sometimes, it seems that if A’s action could conceivably or possibly harm B, then it should be outlawed. This, of course, would outlaw the human race. Every person, for example, emits radiation; from radiation, some other person might get a random cancer, etc.
Yet Clark has hinted that he, too, would go to the grotesque extremes of the Childs/Mueller clique. In his Village Voice interview, Clark spoke with great favor of the Environmental Protection Agency, asserting that it was engaged in establishing property rights! Even if, some day, libertarian courts might establish property rights in this area, it is absurd and outlandish to claim that the current EPA is doing anything of the kind. What it has been doing is crippling production, raising costs, and imposing the life-style of upper-class liberals on the rest of society.
Moreover, in his White Paper on Spending and Taxation, Clark keeps EPA and OSHA, the tyrannical agency engaged in crippling small businesses everywhere through idiotic regulations in the name of “safety.” Again, Clark, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, indicated that he would keep EPA and OSHA, and even went so far as to suggest that any action that might eventually give some one cancer should be outlawed. Like smoking? Like going out in the sun? Like living?
OSHA is perhaps the single most hated governmental agency across the country, certainly among small business people. We could have picked up a lot of votes, as well as followed libertarian principle, by launching a blistering and radical attack on OSHA. Why didn’t we do it? Indeed, why have we succumbed to the worst excesses of environmentalism? Clearly, because middle-class N.Y. Times liberals love environmentalism above all else, and we must suck up to them, mustn’t we?
13. The ERA
If environmentalism and anti-nuke agitation are the liberals’ first love, ERA comes in a close second. So naturally, ever attentive to their concerns, and to the putative votes of N.Y. Times liberal females, Clark has strongly supported ERA throughout the campaign.
It is ironic that, in a campaign in which basic principles, and a term like “rights” were to drop out completely from the Clark vocabulary, the only place where “rights” was stressed was in an anti-libertarian manner. The ERA is anti-libertarian for two basic reasons: (a) because “equal rights” can just as well be equal tyranny as equal liberty; and (b) because the courts would not construe such wording as “public” or “government” action the way we would; and so they would enforce this equal tyranny upon private groups and employers as well as the government. The pro-ERA libertarians answer the first count that “we” will fight to see that equality is equal liberty and not tyranny. But that evades the point. The basic point is this: if there is a draft, should women be drafted as well as men? The answer must be no for every libertarian; just because half the youth population is enslaved, is no reason for us (though it may be for egalitarians) to call for enslaving the other half. It is no answer to say, with the ERA advocates, that we’re against the draft altogether and must fight against it. For this evades the crucial point: If there is a draft of males, should women also be drafted? The ERA would impose a Yes answer, that is, would impose female slavery. All genuine libertarians must say No.
The pro-ERA reply to the charge that in our present context public or governmental would be construed to include private citizens, either denies this outright or says that we must go only by how we would construe the phrase. But this is absurd. As George Smith has pointed out: Suppose that this were 1850, and some Senator introduces a Constitutional amendment calling for the government to protect the absolute rights of private property? Should we have shouted hosannahs, because the phrases looked great? Certainly not, because if we were alert people, we would realize that the courts would have interpreted such an amendment by hauling back fugitive slaves from the North, since slaves were then considered as “private property”. The analogy holds.
Bill Evers, myself, and others wasted a great many man-hours last year arguing with the Crane-Childs-Mueller clique about the principled libertarian stand on nuclear power and ERA. We needn’t have wasted the time. What we should have realized is that these gentry did not have the slightest interest in discovering the libertarian position on any particular issue and then upholding it. What they were interested in was finding libertarian-sounding rationales for positions already held by what they conceived to be “our constituency”: middle-class New York Times-type liberals. Libscam!
14. Civil Liberties
We might recall that in the dear dead days of the MacBride campaign of 1976, Roger stuck closely to the triad of libertarian principles: free market economy, civil liberties, non-intervention abroad. The Crane clique might have been right that Roger showed less than full enthusiasm for applying these libertarian principles to the gamut of specific issues, but by God he never sold out on the principles themselves.
One of those fundamental principles was civil liberties. What did Clark, in contrast, have to say about civil liberties this year? The answer is Zilch. Nada. Hardly once did civil liberties ever get mentioned. Perhaps the Clark handlers will say that civil liberties are not “Presidential”. Like hell. Like wiretapping, like rooting out “subversives”, like COINTELPRO? At any rate, civil liberties dropped out of the campaign. When asked about drugs — and of course the Federal government plays a large role in drug enforcement — Clark would reply that he is in favor of legalizing “soft” drugs: i.e. marijuana. Here, again, was “gradualism” with a vengeance, for this sort of answer directly implied that “hard” drugs, e.g. heroin, should remain outlawed. Thereby not only abandoning principle, but failing to point out a major cause of urban crime.
The problem here for the Clark/Crane clique was simply this: everyone, even middle-class liberals, is in favor of legalizing marijuana; hell, most of them smoke it themselves. But heroin is a very different story; it has the aura of the poor, the blacks, the ghetto, and so heroin continues to be a definitely “out” rather than “in” drug at the good grey New York Times. So therefore, we cannot come out for its legalization. How embarrassing when Clark is trying to be so Presidential!
Clark finally resolved the heroin problem to his own satisfaction on nationwide television: for heroin, we should adopt the British system. Sounds good, because heroin there is legal, right? Wrong. Heroin is dispensed gratis by licensed, socialized doctors to their certified addicts; in every other situation, heroin, marijuana and all rules when they are incorrect, since we believe in fusing crimes and other drugs are ruthlessly stamped out by the police.
So this is Clark’s odious “libertarian” solution to the heroin question: the taxpayer has to be coerced into paying for free heroin shots for some addicts, while everyone else is heroin-freedom ruthlessly stamped out! Another cause of Clark-Crane “gradualism” in action!
15. The Draft
But how about the draft, you might ask? Surely libertarians are solidly against the draft, and Clark was adamant on this issue? Surely? Well, yes and no. We can excuse the fact that it took a while in the campaign for Clark to attack the draft as “slavery”; he finally did so. We can also excuse his caution in not taking the possibly illegal step of advocating resistance to the draft (although some ACLU lawyers were bold enough to do so.) But then, like a bolt from the blue, there was the incident of the lengthy Clark interview in Penthouse November 1980. Here was unquestionably the strangest incident of the campaign.
In the course of a lengthy interview (in which precious little was said about libertarian principle), Clark declared that, as a libertarian, he would of course be against the draft if this were a perfectly free world. However, since we live in a non-libertarian world (here it comes again!) and since Russia has the draft, we have to be content with a “gradual dismantling” of the draft.
The Clark handlers have been claiming that it’s all a misprint. But look at the offending passage carefully. It sure doesn’t read like a misprint, and if “draft” were a typo for “defense” the passage wouldn’t have made any sense. So, it doesn’t read like a misprint. Furthermore, they can’t claim that the interviewer was hostile. The interviewer was long-time libertarian Jim Davidson, who certainly wouldn’t have deliberately distorted Clark’s words in a non-libertarian direction. And besides, why didn’t Clark complain when the interview was in galleys? No, if they want to convince us that some grisly error occurred, let them get a copy of the taped interview and play it for us… and make sure that there’s no 18- minute gap.
The concept of gradual dismantling, a gradual “phase-out” (a favorite Clark term throughout) of the draft, of course requires that the draft be imposed now and then be phased out over how long? How about 35 years, the same arbitrary numbers game as in the Social Security scheme?
16. Foreign Policy
Most libertarians are under the impression that, at least on foreign policy, Clark stuck to the LP platform position of nonintervention. It is true that the sellout here was proportionately less than in other areas; but the reason, of course, is that New York Times liberals are pretty dovish themselves. But very, very moderately dovish. And therein lies the rub.
For Clark’s policy pronouncements, supported by his White Paper on Foreign and Military Policy, abandoned a principled policy of non-intervention. There is nowhere a hint that the reason for our policy of non-intervention is to avoid the high crime of mass murder; principles, rights, mass murder all dropped out here just as they did in the rest of the Clark campaign. Instead, we had a tough, “realistic” Ravenalian analysis (not a coincidence, since Professor Earl Ravenal was the author of the White Paper) which reads like a left-liberal counterpart of the Hudson Institute; the discussion is all on throw-weights, triads, diads, etc., and the reason given for a foreign policy of non-intervention is that nowadays West Germany and Japan are strong enough to pay for their own defense, so why should we pay for it? All this is fine and correct, as far as it goes, but for a Libertarian presidential campaign, it scarcely goes far enough. Non-intervention is a principled position deriving from the nature of States and the avoidance of mass murder; whether or not West Germany or Japan are strong is irrelevant to the principle. Thus, the Clark/Ravenal position implies, say, that in the 1940s and 1950s, when West Germany and Japan were weak, the United States should have then paid for their defense. Indeed. Clark has said as much during the campaign. Thus, the search for utility and “practicality”, what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism”, abandons libertarian principle and undermines the policy of non-intervention.
Furthermore, Clark, during the campaign. Thus, the search for utility and “practicality”, what C. Wright Mills called “crackpot realism”, abandons libertarian principle and undermines the policy of non-intervention.
Furthermore, Clark, during the campaign, had the gall to suddenly expand the American defense perimeter to include Canada and Mexico. As Clark demagogically put it, “We shouldn’t wait for them to get to Toronto before we defend Detroit.” So if we are to abandon a principles policy of non-intervention on behalf of the domino theory, why stop at Toronto? Why not Saigon? And are we to defend Mexico despite itself, yet not admit Mexicans into the U.S.?
And even this utilitarian non-intervention is, like everything else, to be “phased in” gradually. We are only to pull our troops out of NATO gradually.
On the Iran question, Clark was no more steadfast or principled than the major politicos. Denying the right of asylum, he first declared that the Shah should not have been admitted into the country; later. However, Clark opined that the crackpot Iran rescue mission was within the “outer limits” of permissible intervention!
Furthermore, Clark, in summing up his military policy, used the phrase: “a strong national defense.” This phrase is, of course, a code word for the militarists and the war hawks, and should not have been used. What’s wrong with “adequate” national defense, such as is used in our platform? Also, Clark was silent on another key plank in our military platform: the search for mutual complete and general disarmament down to police levels. The nuclear threat hangs over the human race; why didn’t Clark launch a great crusade to try to remove that threat? Instead, it’s “strong national defense,” and West Germany and Japan are strong enough to pay for their own defense. It is to such a dismal status that the noble policy of anti-war, anti-foreign intervention, and anti-militarism has been reduced!
17. Gradualism Versus Principle
Throughout the Clark campaign, libertarian principle was traduced and abandoned in a quest for media respectability and votes. Thus, Clark repeatedly defined libertarianism as a belief that everyone should be allowed to keep “more” of their own money. Well, well! How much more? By what standard? How about all of their own money, Ed? As Jarret Wollstein records, the worst single example of this sellout gradualism was David Koch’s definition of the three “great principles” of liberalism at the disastrous Alternative ’80 telethon (for more, see below): “lower taxes, less intervention into the affairs of other countries, and less interference with people’s personal lives.” (Jarret B. Wollstein, “The Clark Campaign” The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”, Individual Liberty, November 1980, p. 4.) The three great principles are, of course: no taxes, no intervention, and no interference. In this way, as Wollstein puts it, we are presented with an “ugly and dishonest trivialization of radical and revolutionary principles of libertarianism.” Wollstein concludes his analysis: “Clark has in fact succeeded in running a campaign under the banner of the ‘Party of Principle,’ without clearly enunciating a single fundamental principle. He gives lip services to liberty, but never mentions the concept of inalienable individual rights. He talks about ‘non-interventionist foreign policy,’ but never defines just what this consists of. He opposes ‘high taxes,’ but never identifies taxation as theft.”
Wollstein concludes: “In the long run the battle for liberty will be won or lost based on the strength of our principles and the courage of those who advocate them. It is both philosophically dishonest and tactically mistaken for professed advocates of libertarian to abandon forthright statement of principles in the name of pragmatism.” (Wollstein, pp. 4-6.)
18. Where Reagan Was Better
A minimal responsibility of any Libertarian candidate is not to let himself be outflanked by any other group or candidate; he should be ahead of, not behind, any other group in his libertarianism. We saw above that we should never have been outflanked on taxes by the Liberty Amendment people. Similarly, Clark should never have been behind any of the other presidential candidates. Yet there were several significant issues in which moderate Conservative Ronald Reagan was substantially more libertarian than Clark. (And this is not to deny the massive sellout that occurred during the campaign of Reagan’s own commitment to the free-market.) Let us set aside the tax cut, in which Clark certainly did not place himself as perceivably more radical than Reagan. And let us set aside Clark’s astounding “gradual dismantling of the draft” position — in contrast to Reagan’s seeming opposition to the draft — as some sort of unexplained fluke. There are several other significant areas where Reagan was more libertarian than Clark.
(a) Clark was ardently in favor of the statist ERA; Reagan, in an unexceptionable statement, said he was for equal rights for women, but against government as the enforcement arm of such rights. (b) Clark was in favor of outlawing nuclear energy per se. Reagan was not. (c) Clark was in favor of restricting Mexican immigration; Reagan called for a Common Market with Mexico and Canada, which, at least presumptively, seems to call for unrestricted immigration. (d) Clark was against welfare cuts until we have achieved “full employment.” Reagan at least favored eliminating the “welfare cheats” from the rolls. (e) Clark timidly came out in favor of the promising idea of a “freeport” or “urban enterprise zone” for Miami only; Reagan favored it for “several” inner cities.
19. George Smith’s Prophetic Satire
George H. Smith, a brilliant young philosopher and a leader of the anti-party libertarians, wrote a satire during the 1976 campaign that was published by anti-party leader Sam Konkin. (George H. Smith, “Victory Speech of the Libertarian Party President-Elect, 1984” New Libertarian Weekly Supplement (October 31, 1976, pp. 3ff.) As a pro-party person, I have to admit that Smith’s projected “Victory Speech” is a chilling and dazzlingly prophetic portrayal of the Clark campaign. It deserves quoting at length.
The victorious LP President is making his 1984 victory speech. He begins his sellout thus: “I appear before you this evening to tell you of my vision for this country and to unfold my plan for liberty… But let us not forget that we live in the real world. We live in a world of brute facts that cares nothing for our ideals. We must face the fact that the devastation caused by political meddling has created an extremely complicated situation. Many of our citizens depend entirely on government jobs and handouts. As much as we desire liberty, we cannot sacrifice these innocent people in a blind repeal of laws.” The President goes on to say that the coercive laws can only be whittled away gradually.
“…there are those who criticize our gradualism. Some of our former comrades who, before the purge of 1980, also referred to themselves as ‘libertarians,’ continue vociferously to campaign for the immediate and total repeal of all unjust laws. In upholding gradual repeal, they say, the Party must necessarily defend and enforce those unjust laws that remain. This is true…So many people have become dependent on government money and services, that to abolish them outright would clearly lead to disorder, rioting, and starvation. The good of society requires that such laws be phased out in increments, step by step, while we prepare the country for freedom. This is the wisdom of gradualism. “But still we are assailed by reckless visionaries who scream for the immediate abolition of taxation — the root, they say, of most government evil. Now, taxation is wrong, of course; but to repeal all taxation would lead to the collapse of national defense, police services, welfare, and many other essential services. Thousands, perhaps millions, would die. We are unwilling to sacrifice lives to the tyranny of false freedom, in a country where people cannot as yet handle their freedom in a proper manner. “Indeed, it was policy of gradualism that led to our massive support by the American people.”
Smith’s “President” then goes on to point out how various groups of voters were convinced to vote Libertarian: because they were told that all of their privileges: Social Security; welfare; union privileges; taxi monopolies; victimless crime law enforcement; whatever, that all of these would “be chiseled away in painless steps”. To abolish such privileges would be “only a long-term objective.”
The rest of the satire is even more chilling, for then the “President” goes on to say that any libertarian purists who insist on disobeying these unjust laws or in not paying taxes must be cracked down on by the “libertarian” government; otherwise that government would be discredited in the eyes of the public. The “President” urges the libertarians in his audience: “Become a model law abiding citizen for the sake of gradualism, even if you personally disagree with many of the current laws. Above all do not cheat on your taxes. Remember that your tax dollars will now go for the cause of freedom…”
We are going to have to have a mighty and thoroughgoing transformation of the Libertarian Party if we are going to demonstrate that George Smith and his fellow anti-party libertarians were not right in their qualms about Libertarian political action. So far, their warnings have been all too correct.
20. Fooling the Media
So much for the grievous and systemic betrayals of principle. What was the point? The goal was to maximize votes; the larger the vote totals, the greater the “success” of the campaign was to be defined. How were votes to be maximized? By getting the media to like us, to pay attention to us, to give us wide and favorable coverage. Who are the media? As everyone knows, they are moderate liberals, New York Times — CBS liberals. If, then, we pretended to be New York Times-type liberals, we would get favorable attention,
What was the point of whoring after maximum votes? The idea was that if we got a lot of votes, this would fool the media into thinking that we were really a mighty mass movement, with several million dedicated libertarians. Of course, we are not a mass movement; essentially what we were in 1980 was half a dozen guys at the National Offices, lots of money, and slick, Pepsi-type TV commercials. But a movement cannot be created by trickery, cannot be achieved with mirrors.
Once again, the entire Grand Strategy of the campaign rested on lies and duplicity: fooling the media, fooling the party members, fooling the public. But a solid movement cannot be built on duplicity; it can only be built by honesty and by educating the public in our libertarian principles.
To an extent, the narrow tactic worked: surely we got more national media attention than we have ever gotten before. (Although, as Dave Nolan points out, we did not get to tap the crucial national media.) But so what? For to the extent that we fooled the media into giving us attention we didn’t deserve, they will not be fooled again. To some extent, the media fell for our propaganda that we would get “several million” votes, become a major third party in 1980, etc. But when the piddling vote totals came in, the media learned the truth. The tipoff was Walter Cronkite’s contemptuous dismissal of us on election night: “The libertarians thought they’d get millions of votes, but they’re doing nothing.” Come 1984, and the media will remember the floperoo of 1980; we can predict that media attention will be much less in 1984. Even on whoring after the media, we muffed it.
But suppose we had gotten 2, 3, 5, 10 million votes. So what? What would these votes have meant? Would any of the media have believed for one moment that these millions of votes were votes for libertarian principles? How, if these principles were carefully buried throughout the campaign? What’s the point of getting millions of votes, for low-tax liberalism, for some vague replica of Jack Kennedy? How does that build the libertarian movement or spread the ideas of libertarianism?
How the media regard us may be seen in the flap over the notorious Hocker TV commercial, in which a bunch of national office employees and volunteers pretended to be “men-in-the street” coming out for Clark. Apart from the general meretriciousness of the commercial, former National LP Director Chris Hocker, the No. 2 man of the Clark campaign, is pictured behind the wheel of his car, saying: “I used to be for Anderson, but now I’m for Clark…”
This bald-faced lie is defended by the Cranians as mere use of advertising techniques, as simply doing what other parties have done. But most advertising people I know believe in truthful advertising, and would consider such an ad mendacious and unethical. But apart from that, it’s tacky. Let’s put it this way: Crane and his henchmen have always prided themselves as being “professionals”; in contrast to the rest of us bumbling amateurs, they are bringing us competence, and major-party professionalism. But what professional party would have, say Jody Powell, acting as a “man-in-the-street” pretending to be converted from Reagan to Carter?
For all its slickness, the Hocker-commercial demonstrates that the Clark campaign was tacky and sleazy, rather than professional. It also demonstrates that there are damned few libertarians around, that we are not a mass movement, or anything like it.
Hocker’s defense of the commercial is that the media didn’t care about the duplicitous tactic. But that is just the point! The media would have roasted Jody Powell and the Carter campaign if they had pulled such a stunt. Why didn’t they roast us? Precisely because they didn’t care, they didn’t care about us at all. We were at best a pleasant diversion, and no real threat to anyone, much less the major parties. And because they didn’t care, they didn’t bother to investigate.
The media liked us; we sucked up to them enough for that. But what reason did we give them, or other New York Times liberals, to vote for us? If they wanted “low tax liberalism,” they could support John Anderson, or the major parties; at least they had a chance to win. By aping the “respectable” parties and candidates, Clark offered no real alternative; he didn’t give anyone a reason to vote from him. If you’ve got no chance to win, you should at least offer the voter a sharp alternative to their other, more realistic choices. Clark failed to do so, and therefore his entire whoring after-the liberal-media strategy was a disaster, qua strategy, and apart from the gross betrayal of principle throughout the campaign.
Actually, the most charming media articles on the LP during the campaign were in two Marxist weeklies: In These Times, and the Guardian. They were charming because, being Marxists, they took ideology seriously and proceeded to engage in a fairly objective, though naturally critical, depiction of Libertarian ideology and its variants. The Guardian’s article (Sam Zuckerman, “Anarchy for the Rich”, October 29, 1980, p.9) was particularly heart-warming because it stressed our platform, and therefore thought that our campaign was much more hard-core than it actually turned out to be.
21. Education and Party-Building
The major purpose of a political campaign by a Libertarian Party is surely not to get into office or to amass votes; the major purpose is to educate the public in libertarian principles, and in that way to build the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party as our spearhead in the political realm. But the Clark campaign did not educate; it mis-educated. Hiding and burying libertarian principle, it instructed the voters that “libertarianism” was some sort of Jack Kennedyish movement.
Even if we had gotten several million votes, and even if these millions had joined the LP. It would not have built the LP as a libertarian party; for we would simply have been swamped by millions of Kennedyish liberals, and Libertarianism would have been crushed in the party.
At least we don’t have to worry about that; for there is no evidence that the 900,000 LP voters are going to join the LP or become libertarians. The number of new LP voters are going to join LP members or libertarians discovered by this large and highly expensive campaign is minuscule; essentially, we have the same number of activists we had before. After Clark’s famous 377,000 votes for governor of California, for example, nothing at all was done to recruit these voters into the movement or Party; in fact, nothing was done with the 90,000-odd registration signatures we gathered to get us permanently on the California ballot. It is doubtful, in fact, that the Clark/Crane forces are particularly interested in building the Party or the movement. Party members vote, and are therefore troublesome, because they might vote “incorrectly”; how much easier to employ half a dozen people and millions of dollars! They are far easier to control. If you get more than a handful of people, they might not be willing, in one of Crane’s favorite phrases, “to go along with the program.”
To educate the voters in libertarianism, you must run a principled campaign; to build libertarian cadre, you must run a principled campaign. An unprincipled campaign might get votes, it might fool people temporarily, but it will mis-educate, and it will not build a movement. There is no substitute for honest education and for patient, long-range building of a movement and of a party. There are no short-cuts to victory. That way lies only betrayal and defeat.
22. Fiscal Irresponsibility
In addition to everything else, the Clark campaign was run wildly, with all-out spending and ineffective fund-raising (except of course from David Koch.) After they had proclaimed loudly and repeatedly that the campaign would not run up any debt, we now find that Clark/Hocker et al have run up the gigantic debt of $300,000 some of which, furthermore, they are trying to get the National Committee to assume.
In a magnificent piece of truth-telling and investigative reporting. frontlines (November, 1980) reports on the debt and the mismanagement of the campaign. It reports that Dr. Dallas Cooley, Treasurer of the LP and a high official of the Clark campaign, is worried about the S200,000 deficit, which is 60 percent of the entire LP operating budget for one year. “The LP is in trouble,” said Cooley,” and we could have accomplished just about the same thing without going into debt at all.”
Particularly disastrous was the highly touted Alternative ’80, a fund-raising telethon put on at Los Angeles and distributed across the country. frontlines quotes many hype comments at the event, such as Roy Childs’ trumpeting that “with the kind of enthusiasm we see here, we could raise a hell of a lot of money.” Indeed, the Clark campaign put out a whopper of a press release the day after the telethon (Sept. 29), proclaiming that it had raised $247,000. Mendacity, mendacity! In actuality, the telethon cost us no less than $100,000.
frontlines reports that the finance director of the Clark campaign, Dale Hogue, later resigned his post, partly in disgust at Crane’s mismanagement. Hogue points out that the telethon, as he originally had planned it, would have raised a considerable amount of money, perhaps up to $150,000, but that Crane had insisted on turning the telethon into a costly “entertainment and media event.” The result: financial disaster.
Again, in real, professional political parties, campaign committees are responsible for their own debt; they can’t stick the Party with liability for that debt. If the National Committee has any spunk or sense of fairness, they will tell the Cranians to go clean up their own mess, to pay for their own fiscal irresponsibility. And all libertarians should tell them the same thing.
23. And They Didn’t Even Get the Votes
After promising “several million” votes, after trumpeting imminent major party status, after a campaign of lies, evasions, and mendacity, the Clark/Crane campaign fell flat on its face. They got only 1% of the vote.
What has the C/C response been to the vote totals? Predictably, by rewriting history, and by claiming that the campaign was, after all, a big success.
Part of the success claim rests on the smug assertion that this is what the Cranians had expected all along. Perhaps so: and their prescience is supported by my information that the national campaign office put on a betting pool, in which no one was more than several hundred thousand votes off the mark! But that hardly gets the Cranians off the hook. Quite the contrary. For it means that at the same time they lied to the media to hype them, while they lied to the party workers to fire up their enthusiasm and get financial support, they knew all along that they would get less than a million votes!
And, what is more, both Clark and Crane said many times publicly that less than a million votes would mean failure. On their own terms, then, they failed, and failed miserably.
It might be said that, after all, we got more than four times the MacBride vote. Sure, but at enormous financial expense. Furthermore, we slipped badly in our strong states, such as California. Clark’s 1.7% of the vote is a miserable flop compared to the 5.5% he got for governor in 1978. In Alaska, we were promised that we would come in second, and add three or four more state representatives. We added only one, and garnered only 12% of the presidential vote. None of the other races amounted to a hill of beans. The “victory” of Mary Shell as Mayor of Bakersfield, California had better be soft-pedaled; for this was a non-partisan race, and Miss Shell, though an LP member, is in favor of outlawing marijuana and a hawkish foreign policy.
One repellent aspect of the campaign was the way that financial supporters were conned. For example, the hype had it that Roberta Rhinehart had a “good chance to win” a seat in the State Assembly of California from Los Angeles; and on that basis, many California libertarians were induced to kick in funds at the last minute. In reality, Ms. Rhinehart got only 17% of the vote.
We must face up to the hard facts: We are not going to be a third major party, now or in the foreseeable future. The Cranians wailed that Anderson spiked our guns, that he had, in the words of Cranian Youth Leader Jeff Friedman in Libertarian Review, “stolen our constituency.” But Anderson’s “constituency” is ours only if we try absurdly to be more “low tax liberal” than he; as libertarians, our constituency is not confined to New York Times liberals, but to anyone and everyone ripped off and exploited by the State. Furthermore, the Cranians had better reevaluate the future, because Anderson is going to be around for a long time; he is already threatening to build a real party and run again in 1984. And then there is Barry Commoner’s Citizens Party. It is true that we beat him four to one, but on the other hand, for an initial race, Commoner did better than MacBride in 1976. He is not going to disappear either.
No, we had better not try to barter principle for a lot of votes, for Quick Victory. We’re not going to get all that many votes, and There Ain’t No Such Thing as Quick Victory. (TANSTAQV).
24. Conclusion: What Is To Be Done?
During the campaign, the Cranians and most of the Partyarchy tried to silence all criticisms of the campaign. The excuse was that the unity of the campaign must not breached, that we need maximum votes, and that it would be disloyal to the candidates to launch any public criticism; that should wait until after the campaign. Now that the campaign is over, however, the Cranians take a new tack: the campaign is all ancient history, we did pretty well. So let’s forget the whole thing and go onward and upward into the light.
No! That must not be permitted to happen! Many party members throughout the country, fed nothing but pap from a puff press, don’t even know what went on. They must be informed, and right away. We must have a mighty campaign of analysis, and of protest, throughout the country. The party members must be aroused before it is too late, and before our souls have been lost. We must not permit this infamy to happen ever again. Honest libertarians will not stand for another Presidential campaign like the one we have been through. Once was a tragic mistake, twice would be intolerable.
We must expose and denounce, not only to right the record of 1979-80, but also that we may escape a similar fate in the future. We must form a mighty popular coalition throughout the Party to make the necessary changes. For this is not a question of “right” or “left”, “liberal” or “conservative.” This is a fundamental question that cuts right to the heart of our movement: of honesty versus duplicity, of principle versus betrayal.
We must resolve Never Again, and to do this we must make fundamental changes in our Party. There must be structural changes, so that candidates will no longer be able to get away with murder, and betray us and the platform; all candidates must be accountable, day by day, to the Party structure and the Party platform. State candidates must be accountable to state parties, and national candidates to the national party and its National Committee. And since opportunists are real persons, and the betrayal was engineered by persons, we must see to it that those persons are never again in a position to run and to ruin a presidential campaign. In short, we must resolve: Never Again Clark, Never Again Crane. $