D. Frank Robinson: LINC 2020

In an interview with Ari Armstrong in 2001, LP principal founder David F Nolan expressed his view that the LP ought to put more emphasis on Congressional elections.

I have shared that view since my proposal I called LINC 80 (Libertarians IN Congress ’80) was met with a shrug by the LP administrative leaders at that time. The Clark-Koch campaign was the only priority.

Here are a few quotes from Nolan in the Armstrong interview and my comments.

“The Harry Browne campaign [2000] and the Libertarian Party spent something like $3 million, to get around 390,000 votes — about $7-$8 per vote. Contrast that with the 1.7 million votes we got at the Congressional level. I don’t have precise figures because you don’t even have to file with the FEC unless you raise and spend $5,000. We had 255 or 256 Congressional candidates, and I would be very surprised if they spent even $1 million. As far as I know, only about a dozen raised and spent more than $5,000 (I was one of those). The great majority of them ran line-holder type candidacies. They got on the ballot, they went to interviews on local TV and radio stations, they went to local forums and answered questionnaires, and did what they could, but I would suspect that the great majority of them spent less than $1,000. I would suspect that all together our candidates spent about half a million dollars. They got 1.7 million votes, which works out to about 30 cents per vote.”

The advent of the internet provides considerable more financial leverage for candidates today. The LP could have candidate in nearly all the 435 Congressional races. Assuming a minimal average budget of $10,000 each for 435 candidates would require raising $4.35 million. Some candidates would raise far more than the minimum and some would only scrape together little more than the filing fee taxes. This goal is feasible for the LP in 2018. The greater problem is 2020 when the presidential campaign could largely devour the financial base of all but a few Congressional candidates.

David Nolan went on to say, “We can raise a proportionately greater percentage of money in a Congressional race. A good candidate with a good campaign team who makes a serious effort can raise $10,000. That’s not a lot of money, but concentrated in one Congressional district, and allocated strategically, it can create a significantly greater presence in the race, enough so that our candidate can at least be the balance of power. Witness all the Republican hand-wringing over our Senate candidate in Washington who helped to defeat Senator Gorton. We can be a player. Our candidates can capture the swing-vote; they can be the deciding factor.”

I would add that there can be some races in highly partisan gerrymandered congressional districts where the Libertarian candidate would be the incumbent’s only opponent on the ballot. In those districts 20 or 30 percent of the vote is not unrealistic. In fact, it is my view that an upset victory is more likely in such a lop-sided district because the incumbent can get lazy and arrogant even commit fatal gaffs when challenged by a hard charging Libertarian candidate. If a Libertarian wants to run a mild-mannered campaign this is the kind of district to avoid because you may only get 2-3 percent for being such a nice person.

Mr. Nolan added, “In Congressional races, we have greater name recognition, greater credibility, greater ease of getting into debates and forums, the ability to raise a greater proportionate amount of dollars. That all helps explain the greater bang for the buck.”

Except in one CD states like Montana, for example, the overhead for volunteers is lower than the national expenses of multi-state campaigning for a presidential ticket. Local campaign workers need not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of a state-wide or national campaign. Co-ordination issues are more manageable.

David Nolan concludes the interview with Ari Armstrong with this statement, “More importantly, the Congressional level is where national issues and local activism intersect. You can address national issues in a relatively local race. Running for water commissioner is all very good, but all you get to do is talk about water. You can’t really talk about the war on drugs and why we should not be in Macedonia. You can certainly do that at the Congressional level. It’s on the national issues where the libertarian position can be most clearly delineated.”

Positively, because the federal Leviathan state extends into nearly every facet of life in a Congressional district there are no irrelevant issues. Even the water commissioner is likely handling largess from the feds.

By emphasizing Congressional candidates neither am I, nor ,I think is clear, was David Nolan, disparaging presidential campaigning. In fact, the LP is compelled by law in nearly every state to put a presidential slate of electors of the ballot or lose EVERYTHING on the ballot. But even 30 million votes for president is not going to win in the Electoral College. The LP national ticket should make a high priority of supporting Congressional candidates. If there one or two Libertarians in the U S House of Representatives right now, there is no doubt there would have political leverage far exceeding that of many Democratic or Republican Congresspersons. After 2018 and 2020 who can say that the Libertarian votes would sustain an impeachment of a President in the House.

This entry was posted in Libertarian Party and tagged on by .

About Caryn Ann Harlos

Caryn Ann Harlos is a paralegal residing in Castle Rock, Colorado and presently serving as the Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of Colorado, Colorado State Coordinator for the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus, as well as Region 1 Representative on the Libertarian National Committee. Articles posted should NOT be considered the opinions of the LPCO, LPRC, or LNC nor always those of Caryn Ann Harlos personally. Caryn Ann’s goal is to provide information on items of interest and (sometimes) controversy about the Libertarian Party and minor parties in general not to necessarily endorse the contents.

32 thoughts on “D. Frank Robinson: LINC 2020

  1. TriCountiesLP

    One thing is certain – we definitely need Libertarians running for Congress in Illinois. Too many career politicians who ignore their constituents. Hell, my own Congressman, Rodney Davis, is too much of a coward to hold a town hall meeting and has done the last three online. While he may be a Republican, he’s afraid of the criticism he deserves in a public forum, must like the other Republican members of Congress elsewhere in the county that deserved to be grilled by their constituents.

  2. George Phillies

    ” In fact, the LP is compelled by law in nearly every state to put a presidential slate of electors of the ballot or lose EVERYTHING on the ballot.”

    This claim appears to be completely and totally false, at least for reasonable definitions of “nearly every” and “or lose everything”. It appears to be a recycle of the “5% for national ballot access” total lie of the last election campaign.

    As the author is a nice person, I hypothesize that she was fed the line.

  3. D. Frank Robinson

    I think a review of Ballot Access News will reveal that states use a mandatory slate of Presidential Electors as the keystone of the state-sponsored parties strategy to deny and remove alternative parties a place on the states’ monopoly of ballot papers.
    A party that refuses to offer up a sacrificial presidential ticket is totally banned from the ballot for other offices until it clears other hurdles again and again.
    It is not an oversight by state (D& R) legislators that votes for Congressional candidates will not allow an alternative party to remain on the ballot. The predominant pattern in the states is to require a party run a candidates in the most expensive campaigns for the Executive Branch (President and/or Governor); there are few exceptions.
    All ballot access laws are poll taxes on candidates and parties.

  4. Don Wills

    G. Phillies is correct, the comment referred to is simply not true.

    D. Nolan had the right idea of not focusing on the presidential election. However I recommend going even further down ballot – the LP could have more impact if they concentrate money and recruiting of candidates for state legislatures, with emphasis on those candidates who lead with the issue of the two-party monopoly being corrupt, offering RCV as the solution. Libertarians need to stay away from divisive issues like illegal immigration, illegal drugs and abortion – issues with a 50/50 split among voters – and focus on issues that attract large majorities of both Ds and Rs (e.g. jobs, no more wars and drain the corrupt swamp).

  5. Caryn Ann Harlos Post author

    George… “she”? I didn’t write the article. I post them but that doesn’t indicate I agree with all the contents. I post socialist articles and anti-LP articles. This is D Frank’s perspective.

  6. Anthony Dlugos

    I can’t comment on the ballot access requirements, and the only person I would trust on that aspect of it is Mr. Winger.

    But running a presidential ticket is a loss leader.

    You can disabuse yourself of the idea that the party would have the same amount of money to work with if it intentionally and explicitly decided against running candidates for the Prez/Vice Prez offices. It would also make it harder for the Congressional candidates from raising their own money, as they would surely have to explain over and over again to voters who expect a party to have a presidential candidate why we do not.

    Not to mention dividing the party into “pro-presidential ticket” and “anti-presidential ticket” factions. Oh good.

  7. Jill Pyeatt

    Caryn Ann, I think it helps remind people those aren’t your words if you put the author’s name and source between the title and the article.

  8. D. Frank Robinson

    Anthony Dlugos, I believe David Nolan made clear that he did not want abandon having a national ticket nor do I advocate that. It is still a question of emphasis. Go big on Congress or go big on the Presidential money pit.

  9. D. Frank Robinson

    Don Wills, I can’t support censoring LP candidates unless they are taking positions that blatantly violate the SoP or the NAP. Sometimes voters need to face what seem to them to be hard choices. We may not be able to avoid having a few pigs for candidates, but putting lipstick on them is not a path Libertarians should be going down as a strategy.

  10. dL

    Don Wills, I can’t support censoring LP candidates unless they are taking positions that blatantly violate the SoP or the NAP.

    yeah, and note: calls for libertarianism to strip itself of it’s libertarian identity for a DJT-style rhetorical approach is white supremacist cattle calling…

  11. Anthony Dlugos

    “Go big on Congress or go big on the Presidential money pit.”

    We actually had qualified candidates for the Prez/Vice Prez positions in 2016. We couldn’t come up with 43 legitimately qualified candidates for the Congressional races, let alone 435.

    So if you’re asking me where to dump a hypothetical $4.35 million, dump it into the qualified ticket, in this case Johnson/Weld. Ten thousand bucks ain’t changing a “Taxation is Theft” jabberbox into a qualified candidate.

    IMHO

  12. Andy

    “Anthony Dlugos
    April 3, 2017 at 07:11
    ‘Go big on Congress or go big on the Presidential money pit.’

    We actually had qualified candidates for the Prez/Vice Prez positions in 2016.”

    LOL! Johnson and Weld were completely unqualified. Neither were qualified to represent the Libertarian Party, and neither were fit to hold the offices for which they were running.

  13. Anthony Dlugos

    Your criteria for what is “qualified” doesn’t exactly carry the day with the party members, let alone the general public. Don’t know if you’re aware of that.

    Maybe we should nominate “Some Boy F” next time?

  14. Andy

    “Anthony Dlugos
    April 3, 2017 at 08:02
    Your criteria for what is ‘qualified’ doesn’t exactly carry the day with the party members, let alone the general public. Don’t know if you’re aware of that.”

    Qualified to represent the Libertarian Party means that the candidate is actually capable and willing to represent the platform of the party, something which Johnson/Weld failed to do, and to promote the party, another area where Johnson/Weld fell short.

    Qualified to hold the office means that the candidate meets the constitutional requirements to run, and Johnson/Weld did meet some of these criteria, but so does anyone else who it a Natural Born citizen, and who would have been at least 35 years in age on the day of their inauguration. They fall short on other qualifications though, like actually following the Constitution, and having a record for being honest.

    So I stand by my assertion that Johnson/Weld was an unqualified ticket.

    The Libertarian Party is NOT supposed to be about politics as usual. You are applying Democratic and Republican party standards of what makes one qualified to be a candidate, but these standards do not apply in the Libertarian Party, or in most other alternative parties. A lot of the standards used to qualify candidates for the Democratic and Republican parties SHOULD actually be considered to be disqualifiers in the Libertarian Party.

    If you think that we should apply the same set of criteria as used by Democrats and Republicans when selecting candidates, then you should leave the Libertarian Party and go to one of those parties.

    This is the Libertarian Party. We don’t give a damn about the standards applied by Democrats and Republicans, because their standards are corrupt, and they are the ones who are responsible for the mess that we are in now.

    “Maybe we should nominate ‘Some Boy F’ next time?”

    You are referring to That Guy T, aka-Taleed Brown. The only thing that disqualifies him from running for President is his age. The Constitution says that to hold the office of President, one must be at least 35 years old. Taleed is 20 something (I think he’s around 21-23). If he were old enough to be on a presidential ticket, I’d certainly vote for him over Gary Johnson or Bill Weld, and I would support him right now if he decided to run for a lower level office where he met the age requirement.

  15. Andy

    Oh, and as far as the general public goes, when I have been out in the field actually talking to the general public in the course of petition drives, I have received a lot of negative comments from people about the Johnson/Weld ticket. This has been the most negative comments I have heard about any Libertarian Party candidates since the Barr/Root ticket, and the amount of negative comments about Johnson/Weld has actually surpassed that of Barr/Root, since Johnson/Weld received more publicity.

    I have heard similar things from other petition circulators.

    A lot of the votes that Johnson/Weld received were protest votes, as in they weren’t so much for Johnson/Weld, as they were votes against Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Even among the people who were actually Johnson/Weld supporters, a lot of them were only lukewarm about the candidates.

  16. Andy

    “who it a Natural Born citizen”

    Should read, “who is a Natural Born citizen…”

  17. Nate

    I see three ways for the Libertarians to go in 2020

    1. Nominate anarchist neckbeard. Beg for money to get him to libertarian dinner clubs around the country. Raise enough to make it to some of them. Disappoint the rest . Do lots of podcast interviews with 40 year old virgins and literally dozens of listeners. End up with 0.2%, completely irrelevant to result. Congratulate each other for finally nominating a “real libertarian.” Trump wins all 50 states, loses only in DC.

    2. Nominate William Weld. Do better than ever before. Split the liberal vote. Help Trump win all 50 states, losing only DC.

    3. Recognize the reality that most libertarians actually support President Trump. Co-nominate the President for re-election. Focus on local races they may actually have some chance to win. Trump wins 50 states, loses only DC. Filibuster-proof Republican majority in the Senate. Huge Republican majority in the House. Republican control of state houses and Governorships up to 40 plus by this time. Trump nominees revolutionizing the judiciary branch. Military and police firmly behind the Commander in Chief, and he firmly behind them. ISIS, Mestizo invaders, China, Democrats, liberals, criminals, looters, rioters, communists, feminists, BLM, and other enemies of the USA and the West all being routed everywhere you look. Trump, Putin, LePen, Farange and friends leading the Euro-American alliance to glorious victory.

  18. Andy

    “Nate
    April 3, 2017 at 09:25
    I see three ways for the Libertarians to go in 2020

    1. Nominate anarchist neckbeard. Beg for money to get him to libertarian dinner clubs around the country. Raise enough to make it to some of them. Disappoint the rest ”

    “Nate” is likely a troll, but I will respond anyway.

    Why should it automatically be assumed that nominating an actual libertarian Libertarian will mean less votes? Bob Barr and Wayne Root did not do very well in terms of votes, and even the tickets with Gary Johnson on them actually under-performed when you consider the highly favorable circumstances under which they ran (no competition from a higher profile or better funded minor party candidate, like a Ralph Nader or a Ross Perot or a Pat Buchanan or a John Anderson, as well as other favorable circumstances).

    What is the point of getting votes, or running candidates, or even existing as a political party, if the party is going to nominate candidates who stray as far from the party’s stated principles as the Johnson/Weld ticket did?

    If one is just out to get votes, principles be damned, they should go to the Democratic or Republican parties.

    “2. Nominate William Weld. Do better than ever before. Split the liberal vote. Help Trump win all 50 states, losing only DC.”

    LOL! Weld is NOT popular at all, and he is less popular now than he was last May we he got nominated by the Libertarian Party.

    William Weld at the LP’s candidate for President in 2020 would be a FLOP, not just in terms of philosophy, but also in terms of votes.

    “3. Recognize the reality that most libertarians actually support President Trump. Co-nominate the President for re-election. ”

    I don’t think that most libertarians are supporting Trump, and the few that are may not continue to support him after he’s been in office for awhile. I’m not sure that the LP’s by-laws even allow for the party to nominate a candidate from another party, and even if they did, Trump would have to change a lot of positions and enact policy changes in accordance with them in a libertarian direction before most Libertarians would even consider nominating him, and I doubt that this is going to happen.

  19. dL

    Nominate anarchist neckbeard.

    beats a dead-squirrel head…

    Do lots of podcast interviews with 40 year old virgins

    beats a rally of gizzards who looked like they last had sex 40 years ago…

    Recognize the reality that most libertarians actually support President Trump

    Need to get out more often…population sample is bigger than the local klan rally

  20. D. Frank Robinson

    Anyone who can discount the odds of any alternative party presidential candidate winning the votes in the right states to win in the Electoral College and then accomplishing anything in the face of united “bi-partisan” opposition in the Congress, the Deep State and the Supreme Court could be delusional or a disinformation activist.

    If one wants a presidential campaign to have any credibility of winning one must have the support of several Congressional office holders in the House and a few in the Senate. The election laws are rigged to close exactly that path. and force dissenters into the presidential campaign slaughter house.

    There is a logic to Article One establishing the Legislative branch in the Constitution followed by Article Two, Executive, followed by Article Three, Judicial.

    The electoral system has been revised since the 19th century to entrench control of the federal government in two rhetorically complementary symbolic partisans in a theatrical struggle for the Presidency with Congress and the Judiciary appearing a the spoils belonging to one or the other victorious partisan gladiator figurehead.

    Presidents no longer matter. The only potential path to eroding the Leviathan State “within the system” is through the Congress. It is the Congress who can rip out the rigging in the election laws – if anyone can.

  21. Anthony Dlugos

    “If one wants a presidential campaign to have any credibility of winning one must have the support of several Congressional office holders in the House and a few in the Senate. ”

    I agree with that.

    I just don’t agree that we actually have to ELECT the officeholders as Libertarians. Officeholders can defect, from dinosaur parties, and that is how I’d expect to see at least some, if not all, of the initial crop of Libertarian members of the US Congress.

  22. Wang Tang-Fu

    There seems to be a presumption here that the same amount of money that goes to the presidential campaign, or a large part of it, could be made available to the congressional candidates. But I don’t see evidence for this. Congressional candidates already try to raise money. Some with more success than others. Some don’t even try. If it was true that the presidential campaign eats up their potential donations, we would expect congressional candidates to raise a lot more in non-presidential years. Do they?

  23. D. Frank Robinson

    As David Nolan clearly pointed out in his interview, contributors to Congressional campaign get more vote bang for their bucks than in Presidential elections.

  24. Wang Tang-Fu

    And he was probably correct. That’s an argument congressional candidates can make in their fundraising pitches if they are so inclined. But my point remains:

    Congressional candidates already try to raise money. Some with more success than others. Some don’t even try. If it was true that the presidential campaign eats up their potential donations, we would expect congressional candidates to raise a lot more in non-presidential years. Do they?

  25. D. Frank Robinson

    Wang Tang, well, let’s see how many LP Congressional candidates can each raise $4,999 in 2018.

  26. Gene Berkman

    To clarify one issue, ballot access. Each state has different rules for getting and maintaining ballot access. In California we get it by registering voters equal to 1% of the vote for Governor in the most recent election, and keep it either by getting 2% for one of our statewide constitutional officers, or by maintaining enough registered voters. In New York a party gets on the ballot by petition, and stays on if its candidate for Governor gets 50,000 votes. In neither state does the vote for President matter.

    In Michigan, a party maintains ballot status by getting enough votes for the top of the ticket – which can be U.S. Senator if the party does not run a candidate for President.

    In many states, getting votes for President is one way to maintain ballot status, and in a few, the only way. Richard Winger at Ballot Access News has information on all the states. In any case, a party can decline to run a candidate for President and still maintain ongoing ballot status in most states, if it gets enough votes for other candidates.

  27. D. Frank Robinson

    Thanks, Gene Berkman. Yes, it always comes down to quotas, actually taxes, for candidates to appear on the ballot. Quotas for collecting signatures, quotas for past votes applied to future candidates, quotas for filing fees, ballot taxation is theft. The intent is to suppress competition.

    This fundamental fact of ballot taxation is why I long ago came to the remedy of universal write-in voting even if the state still retained a monopoly on the paper used to vote with. The format for a write-in ballot can be very simple. The state prints on their special paper the offices for the election with a space for the voter to write-in their preferred candidates name for each office. NO petitions, no fees, no quotas of any kind for any election.

  28. Gene Berkman

    “universal write-in voting…”
    Apparently you have not seen how years of public schools have caused a decline in penmanship. Many people cannot write a legible sentence, and are saved by texting and word processors.

    Petitions and vote totals to get and retain ballot access are a way to make sure candidates enter the election with some support. In principle such requirements are legitimate if the numbers are not made so high as to prevent the possibility of competing with establishment candidates.

  29. D. Frank Robinson

    Gene, at the risk of getting into technical details, almost everyone today can use a qwerty keyboard. There are mechanical and voter verifiable means of enabling voters to produce legible ballots. For a ballot we are talking about nothing more challenging than making a legible shopping list.

    Who knows what the Goldilocks numbers are for access to to the ballot? It all turns on arbitrary opinions like what is a fair rate of taxation? In principle there are no legitimate numbers. See Arrow’s theorem (1951).
    If we are going to play the democracy game, the rules need to be as simple as possible to allow every person the least impediments to play. There are no rules that make elections fair in everyone’s opinion.

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