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Joshua Katz: A Message From the CT Delegation Chair

From an article sent to the LP-CT opinions list:

There can be no denying that our party is deeply divided.  In fact, we’re so divided that the factions cannot even agree about the nature of our disagreement.  One side believes that we differ, mostly along the same fault lines, on two issues.  First, there is the issue of centralization vs. decentralization.  According to this view of the disagreement, there is a faction that believes in bottom-up ruling, and the other top-down decision making.  Second, there is the issue of radicalism vs. moderatism.  On this view, the two sides differ in that one side is hardcore and devoted to libertarianism, while the other is all too willing to compromise to make ourselves more palatable.

The other faction, though, disputes this characterization.  They deny being moderates, and instead characterize their belief in terms of “those who want to move the party forward vs. those who want it to be a debating society.”

I believe that both descriptions are self-serving, although the first has more than a grain of truth.  Both characterizations certainly make the side making the distinction out to be on firmer ground.  On the matter of top-down vs. bottom-up, I think the sides are well-established, clear, and in significant disagreement.  This is probably the most meaningful of all divisions within the party, as it concerns party governance itself.  I believe that, if we are to ask the world to adopt libertarian principles, we must live by them.  I am firmly on the side of decentralization.

Radicalism and moderatism is a more complex division.  It is not always clear what is a deviation and what is a reasonable libertarian stand.  Also, I think it is problematic to characterize radical libertarianism in terms of a set of rules about policy positions – libertarianism is distinct from system-building and rules-based thinking, in fact, it is diametrically opposed to them.  A person is not valuable to the party by virtue of his ability to regurgitate established positions, and it is not critical thinking to simply push further on an issue.  Creativity should not be frowned upon, least of all by radical libertarians.

Yet, there is a grain of truth behind it.  Those who we call moderates are not – they are conservatives, often with little libertarian thinking.

On the third characterization, I believe it is simply wrong.  We radicals do not seek a debating society, but a party of principle.  This way of viewing the division is based on a claim which I consider to be entirely incorrect, and perhaps even dishonest.  That is the view that electability is essentially a function of wearing a suit, fitting in, and shying away from controversial positions.  This is absurd – if we are not different, but we are a “minor party,” why should anyone vote for us?  Our only virtue in seeking election is precisely being different, principled, and radical.  Thus, moving the party forward is not a matter of centralization and moderation, but radicalism and decentralization.

The troubles at the convention showed a lot about the people involved.  First, despite our deep divisions, we are united in wanting a better party, even if we disagree about what that means.  Very few of us disagree with that goal.  Now, some will say we need to set aside our infighting and bickering – but left unsaid is precisely which side should shut up for that to happen.  We often hear that, well, no one thinks that the correct thing for the party to do is spend all our time fighting and none doing actual politics, so isn’t it better to give in to avoid that outcome?  I think this is a mistaken view, and one that goes along with the “moving forward vs. debate society” mis-characterization.  If success means creating a more libertarian society, that cannot be done by compromising on issues where precisely rights and decentralization are at stake.  A centralized LP may be fundamentally incapable of doing what we want to do.

Now, about individuals.  There were a few clear winners.  First among them is Lee Wrights.  Prior to the convention, he was seen as only a member of the radical side, not a party leader capable of uniting the factions.  His phrase “libertarian wing of the Libertarian Party” was seen as offensive by some.  He began to be seen differently during the Presidential debate, when he stood toe to toe with an accomplished politician and, in the eyes of many, won the debate outright.  In any event, he showed an ability to express radical ideas in a way that are acceptable to the full party, and to all factions.  He showed us an example of a truly radical libertarian expressing his views in a manner that can and will appeal to non-libertarians.  Then came the crisis during the Chair’s race, and Lee’s speech declining the nomination.  This stellar performance at the convention, the clear passion with which he spoke, and his passionate plea for us to work together endeared him to many.  Despite his firm membership in the radical wing of the party, he showed his ability to unite and to lead the whole party.  His unexpected rise to Vice Chair reflects the way he functioned at the convention.  His was, fundamentally, a healing role, as Dr. Ruwart’s has so often been.  Lee Wrights emerged as the true leader of the party, although not its top administrator.  It was alleged by many that the confusion and NOTA voting during the chair race was a coordinated attempt to install him as chair.  I have yet to hear an apology from those who made this claim, despite Wrights declining a nomination for chair, an election he likely would have won.  I think this smear speaks volumes about a certain clique which claims they do nothing but speak the truth and work to further the party.  To launch a personal attack on a man attempting to heal the deep divide in the party shows their true colors.

The second winner was Bill Redpath.  Bill took on the seemingly routine task of running the Chair elections, since Chair and Vice Chair were both candidates in the race.  When the race spun into chaos, with rampant accusations of voter fraud, disenfranchisement, complete meltdowns, and parliamentary confusion, Bill was the leader the party needed in that moment.  His firm, decisive mastery of Robert’s Rules, and his unshakeable commitment to a fair election, one whose victor would be accepted by all, was a testament to his personal abilities.  It was also a testament to this party.  As divided as we clearly are, with half of the delegates unwilling to accept the other’s nominee, the election went on, and the rules were followed.  I have no doubt that if any other party faced a similar situation, with an ally of a candidate running the election, the lights would be turned out and the election declared ended.  We are different, and Bill Redpath made sure of that this weekend.

There were, unfortunately, clear losers.  Rutherford’s continuing on, in the face of opposition from half of the delegates, did him no favors.  When forced into a close race against NOTA, he should have taken the statesman’s path and bowed out, endorsing a compromise candidate more acceptable to the delegates, such as Bill Redpath.  This would have been better for all parties involved, other than him.  Yet he didn’t do so.  Had he won a narrow victory against NOTA, we would have found ourselves with a chair who is unable to run the party, a chair with no mandate.  The continued election threatened to tear the party apart.  It could, and should, have been stopped quickly.

Kevin Knedler did tragic damage to his reputation in the party, but he can, and will, recover.

Bottom line – despite being a divided party, we showed our commitment to the rules, and we demonstrated that our work as rival factions is not personal and not out of personal greed, but out of the good of the party.  The party, in my opinion, thrives from competition and fierce argument over our future and our present.  I think airing our grievances and debating in public is preferable to back-room negotiations and email proxy wars.  I think this convention was a positive for us, and now we need to move on and face our future.



  1. paulie paulie September 10, 2015

    Comments removed from this thread; see to find them.

  2. JT JT May 9, 2012

    Katz: “Also, I think it is problematic to characterize radical libertarianism in terms of a set of rules about policy positions – libertarianism is distinct from system-building and rules-based thinking, in fact, it is diametrically opposed to them.”

    What exactly does this mean?

    Libertarianism isn’t an epistemic theory; it’s a social-political one.

  3. Chuck Moulton Chuck Moulton May 9, 2012

    Then came the crisis during the Chair’s race, and Lee’s speech declining the nomination.

    I’m a big Lee Wrights fan! I sent him a little money for the presidential campaign (though not nearly as much as Johnson), vocally supported and voted for him for vice-president, and have considered him a friend for many years.

    However, I found his speech very inappropriate. I also declined a nomination for chair, but I did so from the floor and it took me 10 seconds. Endorsing someone else in a 4 minute nomination speech is a very bad precedent. Someone running for chair could just get 5 friends to run and endorse him in their speeches, thus getting 6x the nomination speech time of his opponent.

    Bill was the leader the party needed in that moment. His firm, decisive mastery of Robert’s Rules

    In general I thought Bill was doing the best he could. In the heat of the moment muddling along a chair isn’t going to make perfect parliamentary decisions.

    But what frustrated me was that overnight both Redpath and Hinkle were approached by 10 different parliamentarians telling them Bill’s decision at the end of the Saturday session was wrong. Dan Karlan approached them. Geoff Neale approached them. Mary Gingell approached them. Joe Dehn approached them. I approached them. etc.

    Every single bylaws geek told both Redpath and Hinkle that write-in votes are not counted past the first ballot. The write-in vote for Sam Sloan should have been counted as an abstention, and thus Rutherford should have been dropped from the ballot as the lowest vote getter because no candidate received a majority. Under Redpath’s incorrect ruling the balloting could have lasted an infinite amount of time, with 1 Rutherford supporter doing a write-in vote each ballot so that the write-in vote would be dropped and Rutherford could never be dropped. It’s ridiculous.

    Even when Redpath was shown he was wrong, he refused to correct his ruling. At the banquet Hinkle agreed to take the gavel in the morning and rule correctly, but in the morning he just sat there letting Redpath continue to rule wrong.

    So no, I would not praise Redpath as having a “firm, decisive mastery of Robert’s Rules”. I say this as a good friend of Redpath’s, a fellow Virginian, and someone who voted for Redpath at all times he was on the ballot (along with most of VA’s delegation).

  4. Joshua Katz Joshua Katz May 9, 2012

    As Knapp says, Oregon comes to mind. So does the floor fee, which allows national to have a say in what the bylaws make a state decision.

    Capozzi…written as if I didn’t make much the same points in the essay.

  5. Brian Holtz Brian Holtz May 9, 2012

    if we could render an opinion without having every word looked at under a microscope

    Like when Root said “it’s gotta be” in a radio interview?

  6. Jill Pyeatt Jill Pyeatt May 9, 2012

    BH @ 20: This is an opinion piece. Maybe we wouldn’t be seen as a “debating society” if we could render an opinion without having every word looked at under a microscope.

    I happen to think this is an excellent piece, and I wouldn’t argue anything he says.

  7. Mike Theodore Mike Theodore May 9, 2012

    Thanks, George!

  8. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi May 9, 2012

    jk: …they are conservatives, often with little libertarian thinking.

    me: Glad you stipulate that this is your opinion, not fact. There are Ls who use the words “moderate” and “conservative” in describing their L perspectives…Root comes to mind. The Taoist/Hayekian approach is “moderate” in advocacy but radical philosophically, but is certainly not “conservative.”

    Setting things up in your mind as two sides may be helpful for you. Demonization generally works better that way, creating an us/them, either/or situation. It’s clear to me that such binary thinking misses the fact that advocates for liberty have a wide array of premises, positions, and analytical tools.

    There is no such thing as “libertarian thinking,” certainly not settled-law doctrine.

  9. Thomas L. Knapp Thomas L. Knapp May 9, 2012


    “What’s an example of ‘the drive for top-down management?'”

    Offhand, the most recently controversial one was the LNC’s executive committee attempting to arrogate to itself

    a) the authority to decide which organization is its Oregon affiliate (an authority which per the bylaws belongs to the more decentralized full LNC) and

    b) the authority to decide how that affiliate operates internally (an authority which per the bylaws belongs to the affiliate itself).

  10. Brian Holtz Brian Holtz May 9, 2012

    What’s an example of “the drive for top-down management”? Can you quote any Libertarian ever advocating “top-down” anything?

    Yes, “debating society” is a strawman that Libertarians throw at us radicals. None of us radicals advocate that. That’s my point.

    As for the other items of vagueness, can you give specific quoted examples of moderates instantiating (or disagreeing with) what you’re complaining about?

  11. Joshua Katz Joshua Katz May 9, 2012

    RC – Yes, we can so stipulate, of course.

    Holtz – I find it hard to believe that the drive for top-down management would be regarded as a strawman after the past 2 years. As for the other 2, were you at the convention? Did you not hear several speakers say “we are not a debating society” precisely as if the other side believed that?

    As for your unfalsifiable vaguenesses, I can easily think of conditions under which all would be false.

  12. @2 There was a great deal of internal disapproval of Mark Hinkle on all sorts of grounds. You can read about it in my monthly news magazine Liberty for America .

    There was also a great deal of disapproval of the rest of the LNC.

    Your mileage may vary. Everyone else’s did.

  13. Brian Holtz Brian Holtz May 9, 2012

    Specifics would be helpful

    Precisely my point.


    • there is a faction that believes in top-down decision making
    • [one side] wants [the LP] to be a debating society
    • electability is essentially a function of wearing a suit, fitting in, and shying away from controversial positions

    Unfalsifiable vagueness:

    • one side is all too willing to compromise to make ourselves more palatable
    • one side is [not] devoted to libertarianism
    • Those who we call moderates are not – they are conservatives, often with little libertarian thinking
    • We radicals do not seek a debating society, but a party of principle
    • Very few of us disagree with that goal [of] wanting a better party
    • A centralized LP may be fundamentally incapable of doing what we want to do
  14. Kevin Knedler Kevin Knedler May 9, 2012

    I took a breath and am focused like a lazer on Ohio team.
    We are having strategy meetings and team-building exercises with the GJ2012 Ohio team. We are making plans. We are building regional and county leaders to network with RP and GJ supporters. I hope all the state leaders are doing this.

  15. Robert Capozzi Robert Capozzi May 9, 2012

    jk: Yet, there is a grain of truth behind it. Those who we call moderates are not – they are conservatives, often with little libertarian thinking.

    me: Katz is entitled to his opinion, but his opinion is not fact, can we so stipulate?

    As a self-identified moderate L, I consider Rothbardianism to be the conservative, simplistic, reactionary stance. Lao Tzu was far more radical in inquiry and yet more moderate in counsel.

    Belief in the strawman makes the strawman “real” between the ears perhaps, but not in fact.

  16. Joshua Katz Joshua Katz May 9, 2012

    Mr. Holtz,

    Specifics would be helpful.

  17. Lavra Lavra May 9, 2012

    Well said Joshua. I absolutely agree on Mr. Redpath. While I didn’t agree with certain decisions he made on Saturday/Sunday, he handled an incredibly difficult situation with respect and grace. The standing ovation he received (even after the food fight) was deserved.

  18. Brian Holtz Brian Holtz May 9, 2012

    Could the first half of this essay be packed any tighter with strawmen and unfalsifiable vagueness?

    It’s a textbook case of Holtz’s Law Of Libertarian Polemics: Every statement purporting to express a dispute among libertarians embeds a strawman or a fallacy of the excluded middle — and this statement is no exception.

  19. Jill Pyeatt Jill Pyeatt May 8, 2012

    This is a very thoughtful and well-written piece.

  20. Jed Siple Jed Siple May 8, 2012

    Excellent article. I loved that we had a solid debate at our convention between two candidates, both solidly in the libertarian quadrant. One was more pragmatic and experienced, the other more hard-line and party-loyal. Best of all, both were superb representatives of our party and the good faith disagreements within it. Now I was more of a Wrights supporter, but I’ve been telling everyone I know to vote Johnson/Gray in 2012!

  21. Mike Theodore Mike Theodore May 8, 2012

    Well in that original runoff, what was the primary motivation of those opposed to either candidate?

  22. Steven Wilson Steven Wilson May 8, 2012

    The utility of this LNC will be identified during the Presidential race. If Johnson doesn’t take the lead on ballot access and media attention, the LNC will cover when it can.

    How it handles the race will dictate the near future of the LP. Top Two will be for another day.

  23. I don’t like people telling me what to do. I don’t go around telling others what to do. People of that nature (ones who like to tell others what to do) ARE NOT libertarians. IMO

    A Top down LP always reminds me of one of the WW2 books I read. Near the end, Hitler was over the maps instructing the movement of Divisions all over the map both east and west. The ones in the room were too afraid of him to explain there were no divisions left to move. The LP must be built at the precinct level, BEFORE the would be “der fuhrers” can start “directing” Divisions !!!!!

    There was much discussion twenty years or so ago about the term “Radical” is a much too NEGATIVE word within the general public. We don’t need to continue to re-invent the wheel each decade. Negative lapels harm political movements. Ask the next ten strangers you run into what they think of when they hear the word RADICAL ? Most think negative, even bomb-throwing negative. Describe yourself as you wish, just know using negative terms makes it even harder to convert the masses.

    The closer you are to the TIP-TOP of the L quad on the Nolan Chart, as in 100/100 on all freedom issues, makes me look at you as a more “PURIST” in the libertarian philosophy than those who are more “moderate” on certain issues BUT who will still land in that L quad. Twenty years ago I landed at 100/100 on each test I took at the time. The older I’ve gotten the further I have (slipped?) moved away from 100/100. A flaw on my part ? Some would certainly agree ! (HOWEVER – keep your DRUNK ASS away from driving an automobile possibly injuring or killing my grandbabies! I agree to be a responsible adult and do the same.) However I still land within the L quad. Do you (any of you) truly think all members less than 100/100 should be purged from the Party? If so you plan to die a most unfulfilled sad person. No, a far better plan (IMO) is to welcome all the L quad people into the Party (a BIG tent approach) and we all keep discussing, keep sharing and definitely keep striving toward the TIP-TOP “perfection” of the Nolan Chart. Keep the Party Platform libertarian and work from there. We might get full PURITY someday!

    Let the would be Hitlers start at the Precinct level so they can learn what it takes to “build” the divisions……….

    Ballot Access is very IMPORTANT over the next twenty weeks, please get involved !!! LP still not on in NY, IL, PA, NJ, VA, WA, MA, TN, MN, WI, AL, KY, CT, OK, IA, WV, ME, RI and DC. {OR?, NH, SD, ND,} Volunteers and donations needed NOW ! THX

  24. nemo nemo May 8, 2012

    Mike, the original vote was very close between Hinkle and Rutherford. Something like 40.xx, 41.xx and 18.xx for NOTA.

    Hinkle was dropped in that round of voting though, so it had to be NOTA v Rutherford.
    Well, until things got reopened the next day.

    Actually, Hinkle handed his defeat in a much better fashion than Rutherford, IMO.

  25. Mike Theodore Mike Theodore May 8, 2012

    What I never understood (as I wasn’t closely watching the Convention) was the opposition to re-electing Mark Hinkle. I don’t know why exactly the race had to be NOTA vs. Rutherford. Was there any internal discontent with Hinkle over the past 2 years?

  26. Roger Roots Roger Roots May 8, 2012

    Well said Katz.

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