An article written by Alan Wallace for The TorchLight, the newsletter of the Knox Area Libertarian Party. Allan Wallace is currently the Secretary of the Knox Area LP and the Tennessee Coordinator for Outright Libertarians.
It began 2 years after Bill Clinton became President. Congress had been controlled by Democrats, and the Republican Party was riding high on the promises of “The Contract With America,” a document of how Republican politicians would return their party and the nation to its principled, freedom-loving roots.
The “contract” was largely libertarian in tone, mostly libertarian in economic matters and was more tolerant on social issues than republican politicians can usually muster. The “contract” echoed the hearts of the basically freedom-loving American public on the right AND in the middle. The Republican Party rode the wave it created back into power in the 1994 elections.
But, gaining a level of power they had not seen in more than 2 decades, they became drunk with that power and promptly discarded the “contract” that got them there and would have reduced or limited the exercise of that power.
Around the time of the election of ’96, republicans who believed in the ideals in the “contract” began to realize that their party had deserted them in favor of holding onto their newly rediscovered power. Some republicans already discovered that the Libertarian Party was very close to their “contract” ideals especially in economics and were telling their republican friends about this third party that espoused some of the same ideals that were important to them.
Since that time, as republicans gave up on their own party, some of them found their way to the Libertarian Party. And even though the liberal side of libertarianism discouraged some of them, many found a new home.
You must understand at this point that very few people ever come to the Libertarian Party or to the movement fully understanding the philosophical underpinnings and applications of libertarianism. It takes time to discover and learn about how freedom can actually work in the real world. Most new libertarians have one or two un-libertarian issues that they hold onto through much of the learning process. But as time goes on and as they understand more about this unique and consistent philosophy, they begin see how freedom will work when given the chance. Libertarians, whether they come from the right or the left tend to move toward the middle of the libertarian spectrum over time as they learn and experience more in life.
Some of the republicans who came into the party in the last 12 years were not just republican voters but were republican activists and politicians as well. They came into the LP recognizing the opportunities that a small and relatively weak but established minor political party could offer. In the 90’s, fearing the possibility of a Republican or Democratic coup type takeover, rules were enacted in most states to prevent a sudden takeover at a state convention. We don’t know if that actually prevented a quick takeover, but those rules could not prevent a concerted and patient takeover.
The former republican activists and politicians knew that with careful planning they could get enough control over our small party to start moving it in a more conservative direction and ultimately to make it what the Republican Party should have been. They have already begun the transformation by altering some of the principles the LP has always stood on, discarding other principles, redefining what the LP really is, trying to remove all specifics from our Platform, and distancing the LP from the greater libertarian movement as much as possible.
These former Republican activists have already accomplished many of their goals. They have effective majorities on the LNC and in many of the most influential states in the LP. They are poised to solidify their hold and to make real changes. They will claim that it is to win votes and make the LP successful in the political arena, and that really is their goal, to win at all costs. But, they do not care if they destroy Libertarian principles and cause a political upheaval in the libertarian movement in the process.
Please don’t misunderstand, centrist and big-tent LP activists welcome any and all disaffected Republicans who want to come over and join us, but we also want disaffected Democrats to join us as well. The LP has always in my experience had a large center and two wings. This party that once was balanced cannot fly nor even survive with only one wing and a cancer eating at the hole where the other wing once was.
The Libertarian Party has been the premier political party of the libertarian movement since its birth, but that status is in question as the party moves rightward and tries to re-center on its right wing. The broad base of support within the libertarian movement is eroding and the LP is in a real danger of becoming a party on the margin of the movement.
I believe we have until the next convention to move the pendulum of leadership in the LP back toward its true center and rebuild the Big-Tent party that we have always tried to be. But, until that time, I am going to work as hard as I can to salvage the party I have loved and worked so hard to build over these last 23 years.