Via email from George Phillies. New Path for the LP is a slate of candidates for the Libertarian National Committee, and George Phillies is their candidate for Chair. This is Step 4 of Part Three of the 63-page New Path plan for the LP. IPR is not endorsing any LNC candidates, and is interested in articles from all the different campaigns.
Our objective is to turn the Libertarian Party into the American majority party. We will become the majority party through thoughtful, effective, hard-working leadership that spends your money effectively, that mobilizes volunteers in useful ways, that incites effective grass-roots organizing, and that spends its time electing Libertarians and creating the conditions that will elect more. On our way to that objective, we will reunite vast numbers of Republican and Democratic politicians with their families in much-needed retirement, and not incidentally re-unite their political parties with their political ancestors, notably the Whigs, Federalists, and Know-Nothings.
Mobilizes volunteers? Anyone can talk about mobilizing volunteers. You need to do real work to make it happen.
The National Committee can and should maintain an internal education campaign. Our message: Take charge of your political life. You don’t need our permission to become an activist. We need every Libertarian to be active in politics.
The National Committee can’t ask every Libertarian individually to volunteer. We still have people with titles, people who have promised to spend their time helping the party. These people should view candidate and activist recruitment as a major personal objective.
Persuading casual members to become more active in the party is equally a mission for the LNC and every activist. Volunteer mobilization is about incitement. Incitement is persuading people to organize, run for office, carry petitions, handle a campaign treasury, and stuff envelopes.
Persuading people to do something is the easy part. If you preach at enough Libertarians, some will print up stationery and call themselves a Town Committee. Some will run for office. Now the hard part: If you don’t give these people meaningful support right away, you’ve prepared them to throw up their hands and quit. If they quit, they’re burned out. Mobilizing them again will be much harder. To conserve our volunteers, we have to be ready to give them meaningful support.
We also need to remove major obstacles to effective volunteer mobilization. Consider first the obstacles:
1) Some people think they need permission to volunteer.
2) Some people need to be asked to volunteer.
3) Some people have energy, enthusiasm, and vigor, but no idea what to do.
4) Many people want to be sure that what they are doing matters and makes sense.
5) Some people are the abominable Noman and Nowoman, the folks who always without exception find a reason not to do anything.
6) Some people want to spend their time arguing about Libertopia, a state of affairs so far away that we have no idea what the reality will be like, what we will actually want as the Libertarian future approaches, or what real problems will arise when we approach.
That’s plenty of obstacles. How do we overcome them? We’re not going to overcome them by ignoring them. We’re not going to overcome them with smoke, mirrors and speakers who put to shame every snake oil salesman ever born. No, we’re going to overcome them with common-sense practical steps that move us in the right direction. What are some of those steps?
1) Some people think they need permission to volunteer, and await permission. Yes, we will say loud and clear: The water’s fine, come on in. If you want to see how to send that message, listen to Ernie Hancock.
Saying ‘you don’t need permission’ is good step, but it’s not enough.
To ‘you don’t need permission’, add ‘we’re here to help you’. We don’t have the resources to do your work for you, but we can answer your questions.
And then we give potential volunteers real working examples. Every time a potential volunteer reads a letter from a real volunteer, someone who chose to get active in the movement and did real political work, that’s one more foundation stone building potential volunteers into real volunteers.
2) Some people need to be asked to volunteer. Yes, really. After all, most people decide to run for political office because someone asked them. Why should deciding to volunteer for political activity be any different?
We are here to ask people to volunteer, one on one. We can’t ask everyone in the party, but we can ask a good number of people, and we can build the spirit in which Libertarians make a habit of asking their liberty-leaning friends to become active in politics.
3) Some people have energy, enthusiasm, and vigor, but no idea what they might do.
Here there are several answers. Number one is to talk to people and give them choices that match their personal inclinations and skills. To do that you need to ask people what particular skills they have, and you discover people can do things you never knew were possible.
Choice number two is to distribute support materials. Tom Knapp’s article on writing letters to the editor is a masterpiece of libertarian thought. Liberty for America distributes in multiple formats several downloadable trifold templates, samples of things that people could use and modify for their own purposes. For people who need to speak in public, Michael Cloud’s The Essence of Political Persuasion is now available on disk.
Choice number three, which will only get easier as we grow, is to put each volunteer into the company of several more established volunteers, people who will be right there and give the new volunteer support and encouragement.
Choice number four, last but not least, is to use more volunteers in the operations of the LNC. Is there something that the LNC needs to do? A working group of volunteers, with a few LNC members to act as stiffeners and facilitators, should be formed to do it.
When volunteers come to us, asking if we have something for them to accomplish, our answer is: We have people you can work with, and projects ready to go when you ask.
4) Many people would like to know that what they are doing matters and makes sense. Seeing the larger strategy and how your part fits in to the whole is a real motivator. You’re reading our strategic analysis. There are short and long term objectives, and a business plan to take us there. An important part of our plan is grass roots organization and activity. Grass roots efforts are the activities that are organized from the bottom up, not the top down. The LNC can’t tell people how they should spontaneously self-organize, but it can assist libertarians who have organized. The New Path message to potential volunteers is: We have a sensible plan. We’ve laid it out where you can see it. We’d love to have your help, and we are happy to help you when we can.
P.S. We have a plan. Ask our opponents about theirs.
5) Some people are the abominable Noman and Nowoman, the folks who can always without exception find a reason not to do something. Anything.
Recognizing NoPeople is an important political skill. Everyone has a few possible activities they want to avoid. There are always a few people with some truly eccentric ideas on one topic. But if you have a group of volunteers, sometimes it is apparent that a few people form a substantial obstacle to getting anything done. You should rejoice that those people are Libertarians, and give them a chance to work on their own projects someplace where their complaining will not hinder your work.
6) Some people want to spend their time arguing about exactly how the Libertarian future will be arranged, when we are so far away from it that we have no idea what the reality will be like. Nor will we know in advance which evils actually lurk under the cover of innocent and reasonable changes in what appear to be pro-liberty directions.
Most readers have already noticed that arguing about utopias seldom gets us anywhere. That’s why the New Path talks about political operations, not rewriting the platform. We’re here to build a Libertarian political Party, not to argue about fine points of platform wording.
We recognize the right of Libertarians to dispute philosophical fine points, but don’t believe that’s a path to anywhere. We encourage Libertarian party volunteers to stay in touch with people who actually want to get something done. We stay polite to people who want to argue philosophy on their own time, but we don’t spend our time on philosophizing.