Jill Pyeatt: So, Are Libertarians Really Getting Anywhere?

This was written by request for the California Libertarian Women’s Caucus website.

By Jill Pyeatt
December 7, 2013

During the holidays, when I see my family more often than usual, I’m always left asking this question: Why am I so different than they are? I have four siblings. Two aren’t particularly political, one likes Obama and still thinks he’s doing a good job, and one has always been a very strident Republican, although he is definitely mellowing a bit. I’m the family hippie, or flower-child, or whatever noun they use to describe me when I’m not around. I’ve noticed, however, that a small miracle has happened lately. Things seem to have changed. They can’t seem to help themselves from asking my opinion of current events. Before they’d kind of chuckle and shake their heads, and make those silly comments against libertarianism that we’ve all heard like “But, who would build the roads?” Now, they listen and ask more questions. I’m able to talk about their loss of liberties without being looked at like I’m from Mars. What was it that made the difference? Was it the revelation (not to Libertarians, of course) that our emails and phone calls were being recorded? Was it the humiliation of TSA pat downs? Or was it the disappointment that Obama’s “change” that was promised has really not made our lives better?

I think we can all agree that libertarianism as a philosophy is getting much more media coverage. However, much of the attention is increasingly negative. It almost seems that there’s a deliberate attempt to misrepresent what we stand for. See here and here . Why is this happening? Who is so darn afraid of us?

I can only think this is because our libertarian ideals are catching on. Two of the issues we are most well-known for, legalizing marijuana and gay marriage, seem to be getting majority support now among the people of the United States. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized pot. Almost half of our other states have either decriminalized marijuana or legalized medical marijuana. Also, 15 states now allow same-gender people to marry. It seems our ideas aren’t so fringey and strange anymore. Is it possible that a few of our more radical positions, such as allowing prostitutes to work legally, just might be making sense? I believe that now that mainstream people are feeling what it’s like to have their rights violated, perhaps it’s a little easier for them to understand that their neighbors, with a different lifestyle, shouldn’t have their rights violated, either.

As far as how we’re doing as a political party, there are a few encouraging signs. Robert Sarvis recently won 6.5 percent of the vote in the race for the governorship of Virginia. This was much higher than the previous high for a Libertarian governor candidate in the state of Virginia, which was .8 percent in 2001. On that same election day, November 5, we had Libertarians elected in six states . We also had a mayor in a small town in Iowa re-elected by write-in votes (Roger Fritz in the city of Roland)!

A few states have earned boasting rights. Colorado reports a 24 % increase in registered Libertarians since January 1 of this year (more than 24,000 in the state now). Pat Dixon, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Texas , writes “Our elections results in Texas since 2004 have been on the rise across the board. Until 2010 we never had a candidate get over a million votes in Texas. In 2012 we had 5 exceed a million votes.”

However, there remain some very serious challenges to our party in a few states, including our own state of California. Top-two has been a disastrous program for Libertarians in Washington state and in Louisiana for a few years, and, of course, we’re dealing with it now in California. The state of Ohio has just passed legislation, SB 163, that effectively knocked third parties off the ballot in that state. They can collect signatures to get back on the ballot, but the time frame is short and the 2014 deadline had already passed by the time the legislation passed and became law. The Libertarian Party has joined with other minor parties and filed a lawsuit against the state, but it remains to be seen if that will provide relief to the LP in Ohio.

How is the California Libertarian Party doing? I’d say a step in the right direction would be the new affiliate groups, California College Libertarians and the California Libertarian Women’s Caucus. This comes after the state’s enormous gain in voter registration at the end of last year. The northern part of the state had their first conference this year, and southern CA is planning its fifth conference in January of 2014. Hopefully, quite a few of us can attend next year’s state convention in Visalia on the weekend of March 28 through the 30 to make further plans to grow the LP in our state.

What can we do as individuals to continue the growth of the libertarian philosophy, and also that of the Libertarian Party? First, I’ll remind you not to be quiet about it. Tell all your friends and family about the rallies you’ve attended, and the successes in your city or on your school board. Continue to write those Letters to the Editor of your local news source. The Patch, which is an online newsmagazine that might be in your community, makes it easy for an individual to start his or her own blog where any reader can write articles for the community. Do your best to teach your children that it’s okay to be different than their friends, and to stand up for their rights, even though they might just be a kid and it’s a grown-up who is trying to take away their rights. Be friendly with people that you run across who agree with you on a single issue, such as ending drug prohibition, and share Libertarian solutions to other problems with them as often as you can. More importantly, don’t forget to “walk the walk”. In your everyday life, including going to work, going to church, attending sports events, make sure that your behavior exemplifies the Libertarian principles that we know can make for a better and happier country.

That way when someone comments that you’re different, you can say, “Thank you! That’s because I’m a Libertarian!”

14 thoughts on “Jill Pyeatt: So, Are Libertarians Really Getting Anywhere?

  1. Jed Ziggler

    Great work, Jill. I especially like the part about living libertarianism in your own life, I’ve been encouraging this for a while now.

  2. Richard Winger

    I agree, this is great to read. As to Virginia Libertarian candidates, the only previous LP gubernatorial race was in 2001, not 1990. Bill Redpath had a heavy burden to run in November 2001, less than two months after 9/11.

  3. Jill Pyeatt

    Thanks to everyone! After the shock of seeing my picture full-size here, it was nice to see that Paulie had posted my article.

    Pssst…Dave, you don’t have to go to church. I confess that I don’t go often, myself.

  4. Steve Scheetz

    Jill posted a link to an article by Derek Hunter, and from my stand point, he makes some valid arguments.

    HOWEVER, many of those critical of Libertarians not holding true to any specific philosophy seem to be wanting a great deal in a very short period of time from us..

    The Libertarian Party was founded, it was discussed, it was battered about for 44 years now. During this time, Libertarians have been trying to figure out how best to sell its “brand.” Here in Pennsylvania, we had a large number of non-Libertarian Libertarians trying to change everything about the party.

    Changes that would lead us to a philosophy of “BETTER Government” not “LESS Government”

    When the Libertarian Party nominated Bob Barr, it was a symptom of the “Let’s try to win more votes, then fix the philosophy (itis)” Somehow this did not work out for us…. Oh there were those of us screaming “I told you so!” but again, this is a symptom of an ongoing problem where many of us have been foregoing our legitimate opinions in order to appear less combative, and more open-minded.

    I have learned many things over the years while debating with this person and that person, and everything has served to teach me that we all need to base everything on our core principles such as the NAP, self reliance, helping our neighbors while not serving them. Having no expectations of anyone other than what he/she voluntarily offers, etc…

    We as Libertarians have something that others don’t in that regard. Knowing that nobody will be there to defend our rights if we don’t go out and be proactive in their defense, knowing that nobody will defend our families or our property if we don’t defend it ourselves, and knowing that no form of government will do anything worthwhile if it steals money from its citizens in order to pay for it, for the same reason that nobody who wins the lottery will ever understand the meaning of wealth the way someone who worked for it does, IS NOT a defeatist attitude. It is a realist attitude, and starting from this baseline, we all know what to expect from government agencies. (which is, of course, absolutely nothing…)

    Derrek mentions Libertarians sitting on the sidelines with arms folded complaining about those doing something. It is obvious that he has not spent any time here in Pennsylvania. Here, we do not sit on the sidelines, instead, we go out and do things. However, it does take some time and it does take a lot of work to demonstrate to the people that they do not actually need politicians to help them with anything, least of all “The Roads!”

    In 2013, Libertarians won elections by holding true to their core values. In 2014, I am looking forward to winning more offices and Pennsylvania Libertarians demonstrating how we all walk our talk!

    However, he does make one point that bears repeating. (in my own paraphrasing way….) The Libertarian Party will not go anywhere unless it clearly delineates itself as the party that is about privatization of government, and putting power back into the hands of the people, where it belongs.


    Steve Scheetz

  5. Joseph Buchman

    paulie @ December 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    DITTO. Spreading around as well. Nicely done Jill!

  6. Michael H. Wilson

    Justin has a pretty good article I must admit. It is unfortunate that the LP has not taken a stronger stand in the past. Maybe we can change that.

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