Libertarian Party of Indiana Exhibits Surprising Strength

Richard Winger at Ballot Access News reports on the strong performance of  Libertarian Rex Bell in the recent midterm elections:

On November 2, 2010, Rex Bell, Libertarian nominee for Indiana State House, district 54, polled 20.78% of the vote in a race with both a Democrat and a Republican. That is the first time in at least 85 years that a minor party candidate for the Indiana legislature has polled over 20% of the vote in a race with both major parties.

The 54th district is in east central Indiana, and includes Henry and Wayne Counties, and a small part of Randolph County. Bell lives in Wayne County, where he placed ahead of the Democratic nominee. Bell’s wife, Susan Bell, has been elected as a Libertarian to local partisan office as a Judge, and the Libertarian Party has two other office-holders in that county who were elected in odd-year partisan elections.

Bell has run for this seat three times. The incumbent Republican has been in that seat since 1996. Bell received 14.31% in 2006, running against both a Democrat and a Republican. In 2008, the Democrats didn’t run anyone, and Bell polled 33.49% and carried eight of the 59 precincts in the district. In 2010, Bell rang the doorbells of a majority of voters in the district, and ran radio and newspaper ads. Here is his 2010 web page.

I added the emphasis in bold.  With three local office-holders and a strong performance in the state legislative race, it is clear that the local organization of the Libertarian Party in Wayne County is quite strong.

However, the growth does not appear to be localized. One can see a similar situation in Marion County. There, the last county convention showed a ‘three-fold‘ improvement in the financial health of the local organization. In addition, in 2009 the party managed a significant coup with the announcement that at-large Republican Indianapolis City Councilor Ed Coleman was defecting to the Libertarian Party (Coleman is up for re-election in 2011). Coleman, representing over 800,o00 people, is the highest elected official in the Libertarian Party nationwide.

The party showed significant strength on the statewide level as well. Rebecca Sink-Burris, running  at the top of the ticket, exhibited the strongest performance among Senate candidates for the LP this year with 5.33% of the vote. She was out-performed by Secretary of State candidate Mike Wherry, whose 100,795 votes was the largest in state party history (for 5.9% of the vote in the race). In addition, of the 15 Libertarian candidates for US House who received over 5% in races with two major party opponents, 3 were from Indiana (one, Chard Reid, was endorsed by the Indianapolis Star).

Finally, the party’s voice is clear within the national organization- the current Vice Chairman of the national Libertarian Party is Mark Rutherford, a former Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Indiana.

While all of this must be kept in perspective (how many local office-holders have Republicans and Democrats elected?), it does illustrate that the LPIN is one of the strongest state affiliates of the Libertarian Party today.

18 thoughts on “Libertarian Party of Indiana Exhibits Surprising Strength

  1. Richard Winger

    Also the Indiana Libertarian percentage of the vote for president in 2008, 1.06%, was the best showing of the party in Indiana for president ever. And it was achieved in the context that the 2008 presidential election in Indiana was excruciatingly close. Barack Obama beat John McCain in Indiana but did not get as much as 50% of the vote in Indiana.

  2. Kevin Knedler

    KUDOS. They built the organization at both the state level and local county levels, which supports the candidates. The candidates have a core group of support. Not to mention the LPIN works with the state of Indiana government via committees, etc. They are taken seriously as a result.

  3. Robert Capozzi

    I wonder if NAP Absolutists would want to bring Bell up on charges before the national Judicial Committee for this “heretical” statement on his campaign website:

    “Will the plan provide the government with as much money as they are getting now? No, it won’t. Will it satisfy people that want no taxation or people that believe government should be allowed to take as much as it wants. No, it won’t.

    It will provide government with enough money to do what a lot of people believe government should do. Protect us from force and fraud, and provide essential services for it’s citizens. ”

    I would think that a NAP Absolutist would find much off-plumb-line here. Where is the forthright statement that “taxation is theft”? Where is the “idealistic” statements that ALL government services can be provided voluntarily?

    If I understand NAP Absolutism, it’s no surprise that Bell’s “namby pamby” positions garnered a large vote percentage in a 3-way race. An investigation should be conducted to determine whether Bell is a “right wing opportunist,” using the LP to advance himself and to blur the lines between L and mainstream America. 😉

    Since I’m not a NAP Absolutist, I’d say he ran a great campaign, marked by credibility and reasonable L positioning.

  4. paulie

    @3 Yep

    @4 “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” NAP Absolutism does not demand anarchy tomorrow; that’s a canard invented by its critics. Steps in the right direction are welcome.

    Notice how he says “enough money to do what a lot of people believe government should do”? That leaves open the possibility that government shouldn’t even be doing that much.

    And, even acknowledging that people who want NO taxation exist in the context of a relatively successful campaign is a plus. Notice how it allows him to paint himself as a reasonable moderate of sorts?

    I’d say that the statement is perfect from the standpoint of combining anarchist theory and gradualist realpolitik (or near-realpolitik).

  5. Robert Capozzi

    p, leaving open possibilities is one thing. At least some NAP Absolutists want to see Ls hold high the banner of statelessness, but (grudgingly) acknowledge the practicality of transition plans.

    I’m pleased that some NAP Absolutists accept that this approach is not required.

  6. Gains

    RC @6:

    Are you sure that your inflexible portrayal of the mythical absolutist doesn’t lend to the creation of aboslutism in others and even yourself?

  7. Robert Capozzi

    g7, hmm, I’m never “sure” of anything, actually, as I recognize that perception is often faulty.

    Near as I can tell, NAP absolutism IS actually a bit more nuanced than I characterize it, even Rothbardian NAP absolutism. Sometimes, a NAP absolutist will seem to accept another L’s statements SO LONG AS there is a caveat that leaves open the possibility that a stateless society is both desirable and feasible. Bell’s statement does this, so some NAP-solutists will accept his position.

    If a L ever says that, for ex., defense, cops and courts are necessary, this sometimes brings out the long knives from NAPsolutists. Personally, I think they are necessary for the foreseeable future, though I don’t foreclose the (remote) possibility that a stateless society could be sustainable. I don’t feel the need to qualify my support for State-run defense, cops and courts.

    This view has certainly triggered a reaction among leading NAP absolutists who have said I am not L, but rather a mere fellow traveler or classical liberal. I don’t agree with those who say so. I find it highly self-limiting (my most generous interpretation!) when some NAP absolutists attempt to brand minarchists and non-NAP-absolutists less than bona fide Ls.

    Frankly, the crypto-anarchism-at-minimum litmus test is something I wish the NAP absolutists would lose, right quick.

  8. Gains

    RC @8:

    Is it really their philosophy or their actions that bother you? The reason I ask is that you complain about NAP absolutists, but sometimes it feels like the NAP that you are complaining about. More so, is it absolutism that you really critique? It feels like absolutism is an internal decision that isn’t really for anyone else to critique.

    It feels to me that what you are really unhappy about is the tactics that they use to project their philosophy on others. More than once I have either laughed out loud or groaned in pain as someone blatantly broke the NAP in order to champion it.

    The beauty of the NAP for you, sir, is that in order to enforce it, you have to break it. That the only enforcement possible is voluntary, and there is a wonderful conundrum there. The only possible enforcement of the NAP is in creating a culture in which people WANT to follow it.

    Are you at all opposed to a culture in which the NAP is deemed a high personal moral worthy of respect but incapable of being used as a weapon? Would such social application bother you or is it the hypocrisy that gets under your skin?

  9. Robert Capozzi

    g, if the tactics used to enforce a plumb line NAP absolutism in the LP and LM were not used, I’d not be as interested in the subject. I’m fine with others who wish to apply the NAP in an absolute way for their personal approach to politics. When they tell me and others that I and others MUST agree with their personal approach to be a bona fide L, I express my disagreement if is seems appropriate.

    Without this fundamental disrespect, we could engage in a dialog is which Ls respectfully engage in a conversation about our ideas about the theory and practice of L-ism. My sense is some NAP absolutists believe that they are the “true believers,” and that I and others are somehow interlopers. Such disrespect cannot lead to truth, as I see it.

    It’s my opinion that discussing this root disagreement in the LM is the single most important conversation we can have. Sweeping this fundamental disagreement under the rug is in no one’s interest, near as I can tell.

  10. paulie

    I’m not sure why an article about Indiana LP success is a jumping off point for discussing tactics used to enforce a plumb line NAP absolutism in the LP and LM. The example used to segue into this discussion illustrated the opposite of what it was intended to illustrate.

    Wouldn’t it be more constructive to discuss their methods of county and local organizing, candidate recruitment and support, and other things that led to their relative success and what other states could do to emulate it?

    Somehow, I get the feeling that endless circular discussing of how many angels can dance on the head of the NAP pin is not what led the Indiana LP to do better than other states.

  11. paulie

    It’s my opinion that discussing this root disagreement in the LM is the single most important conversation we can have. Sweeping this fundamental disagreement under the rug is in no one’s interest, near as I can tell.

    Likewise, Robert Milnes believes PLAS is the single most important issue we need to discuss, James Ogle believes all our discussions should revolve around the US Parliament idea, and so on.

    Should we make a special thread for this thing, or what? 😛

  12. Michael H. Wilson

    re # 11 Wouldn’t it be more constructive to discuss their methods of county and local organizing, candidate recruitment and support, and other things that led to their relative success and what other states could do to emulate it?


  13. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob @ 10:

    “My sense is some NAP absolutists believe that they are the ‘true believers,’ and that I and others are somehow interlopers.”

    It’s not a matter of belief, it’s a matter of fact.

    The NAP is codified in the LP’s statement of principles in a way that requires 7/8ths vote of convention delegates to modify, and has been so codified for decades.

    The NAP is also codified in the LP’s membership certification pledge.

    Non-NAP-absolutists in the LP are either lost or trespassing.

    I don’t necessarily agree that it SHOULD be that way — when I was in the LP I personally supported ditching the certification pledge, and might have supported changes to the statement of principles that didn’t go so far as removing the statement of opposition to the cult of the omnipotent state — but there’s no reasonable doubt whatsoever that it IS that way.

  14. Robert Capozzi

    tk, Paulie has schooled me on this matter, being too off-topic. But, I would suggest that it’s possible to oppose aggression and at the same time advocate for LESS aggression in this paradox-filled world. Non-aggression would be our true North along the way.

  15. Thomas L. Knapp


    I don’t disagree with anything you say there.

    The LP’s statement of principles and membership certification pledge, on the other hand, do.

    Even as I supported, over the course of several years, opening up the LP to non-NAP-purists, I always wondered why they flocked to a party which specifically, firmly and beyond question rejected their premises, then pissed and moaned and agitated against that rejection, instead of just forming their own damn party.

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