Mark West: ‘Libertarian Ideals: Unintentional Self-Destruction’

By Mark West

All Libertarian Party candidates have experienced it at one point or another. Laying an enormous weight on every chance post and idle utterance, this grueling beast can eviscerate a campaign in a matter of moments. Yet, battling for balance with this monstrosity wearies every candidate and stalls campaigns in the malicious mire of friendly fire.

“You’re not libertarian enough or may not even be libertarian at all!”

Usually, this raucous refrain is sung by purists who tend to be more invested in spreading libertarian ideals than in helping campaigns win races. At the same time, those who magnify the importance of winning an election over spreading pure ideals would attack from the other side saying:

“You can’t win elections with purist ideals!”

Unfortunately, neither statement actually helps candidates. Yet, both statements serve the self-destruction purpose of deflating campaigns and diminishing returns.

At the heart of these conversations is the growing divide on the purpose for the existence of the Libertarian Party. Do we exist to spread the libertarian ideal, or do we exist to win elections? The implication seems to be that we can’t do both.

Sharing My Painful Experiences

Admittedly, our candidates struggle to express the nuances of policies aimed at transforming government. How can we best explain our plans to transition governance from authoritarian structures into libertarian ones? On this note, I’m interested in seeing the process that Adam Kokesh promises is going to become clear in his upcoming book. Aptly named, American Freedom, this book is going to detail Kokesh’ process for the dissolution of the Federal Government.

I’ve run two campaigns for office as a Libertarian. In 2016, I was the Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. House District 1 in Arkansas. I received 23.7% of the vote (57,181 votes) in a two-way race. In 2018, I was the Libertarian Party candidate for Arkansas Governor. I received 2.9% of the vote (25,885 votes) which was 0.1% shy of securing ballot access for 2020. I missed it by 860 votes!

As different as the two races were from a policy standpoint, one similarity was striking. In both, I felt like Thanos trying to balance his knife as an allegory for balancing the universe. My biggest struggle was balancing the libertarian ideal in proposals dealing with authoritarian structures and problems.

If my solutions leaned too far libertarian, I was labelled a purist and told that my ideas wouldn’t win elections. If my solutions leaned too far authoritarian, I was told I wasn’t libertarian enough and that I wouldn’t get libertarian support or votes. Both sides treated me as an enemy to the libertarian ideal.

Death By A Thousand Distractions

I found it rewarding to take the opportunity for publicly sharing libertarian-leaning solutions through my campaigns. In reality, my audiences had been force-fed authoritarianism which left many shocked and confused. They struggled to grasp a candidate offering solutions that didn’t include government interference or intervention. When I needed time and opportunity to engage and explain, I was often drug into battles with other libertarians over how bad I was at representing our philosophy.

Essentially, my campaigns were cursed to death by a thousand distractions. I’m still emotionally spent. I’ve lost the desire to run for office. I’m deliberately avoiding the ballot in 2020. Why?

In one example, I received the most visceral responses from my libertarian brethren when I proclaimed myself pro-life. I believe libertarians desperately need a salient solution on this issue. Caryn Ann Harlos’ column about the issue serves such purpose for my own philosophy.

In Arkansas, the Libertarian Party platform plank on abortion is a death sentence for libertarian candidates. I would have been better served with more time to explain the nuances of the issue with non-libertarians. But instead I had to play defense against being labelled fake and unworthy libertarian.

I am a libertarian because of the influence of Rodger Paxton, host of The Lava Flow and owner Pax Libertas Productions. My political philosophy almost mirrors his and I have been a member of the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus. Therefore, being labelled a fake for suggesting transitional proposals to authoritarian problems was disheartening. My proposals always maintain an eye to a more voluntaryist society, even if it must come in stages.

No Good Answers

I don’t claim to know the right answer in this debate. So I will not push one. However, I do want to use the insight from my campaign experiences to end our self-destructive habits toward libertarian candidates.

So, when you see a libertarian candidate, give them the benefit of the doubt. Unless the candidate is blatantly non-libertarian and violating the Statement of Principles and Platform on issue after issue, give them a break, they need one.

Can we ask candidates to be honest about stances that diverge from our Platform and Statement of Principles? Should we let our convention decisions be the last word on nominations so that only rallying and support follows the candidates afterward?

I’m not certain we really have good answers for those questions. But, I am certain that our candidates deserve better than our most self-destructive habits. I mean, they are willingly fighting for our place on the political stage on the local, state, and national levels.

4 thoughts on “Mark West: ‘Libertarian Ideals: Unintentional Self-Destruction’

  1. Anthony Dlugos

    If I understand Mark correctly, being pro-choice in Arkansas is a “death sentence,” but anxiously waiting to read the policy process for dissolution of the federal government from a convicted felon/repeat arrestee running for President with no experience of any kind in any office anywhere is something perfectly reasonable to the people of Razorback state?

    Mark should know that the Democratic party’s platform plank on abortion is much stronger than the LP’s, and Democrats are elected everywhere, even in deep red states. Indeed, such Democrats frequently take positions on abortion that conflict to some extent with their party’s position (e.g., Mike Beebe, former governor of Arkansas).

    When the greatest rapper of all time, Marky Mark Wahlberg was preparing to become an entertainment god and wanted to get fit, he ignored EVERYONE’S advice, went to the fittest guy in his gym, and asked HIM how he got fit.

    Even though I find the Radical Caucus and reading or following Kokesh complete wastes of time, and even tough I am pro-choice and Mark is pro-life, my sympathies do go out to him since the made the effort to run for office as a Libertarian. So, here is my suggestion to Mark to avoid his “death by a thousand distractions” and ending up emotionally spent if he decides to run for office again:

    Tell the LP to pound salt. Tell any Libertarian who gives you any advice whatsoever to pound salt.

    There isn’t a jurisdiction anywhere in this country, up to and including the Presidency, that cannot be won…easily…even after pissing off every single Libertarian in the jurisdiction you are running for office in.

    The sooner you internalize this message, the better a candidate you will be. You’re surrounded by a gaggle of losers who can give you absolutely no worthwhile advice about running for office. Most or all of them have the stink of dogma on them. They can only hurt your chances. The sooner you stop listening to them and start listening to your voters, the better your chances will become.

    Seriously, man, If you run again, tell us all to f*ck off.

    If you can’t do that, if you can’t take the resulting abuse from this gaggle of losers, you got no chance to either win whatever seat you are running for, or accomplishing anything if you do win.

    My guess is, if you follow this recommendation, you’re gonna realize that spending time reading about Kokesh’s plan to dissolve the federal government is absolutely no help to you with the people who DO matter: your voters. Not only will Kokesh not help you there, he has no interest in helping you. He is a self-aggrandizer only interested in helping himself. He’s either that or a certifiable lunatic.

  2. Seebeck

    When I ran for state legislature in 2016, I had exactly zero support from the LP, and while I didn’t run from the party label, I didn’t highlight it, either. It was simply there. Instead I focused on actual issues from a libertarian perspective. I knew I was facing a media blackout as that’s what they do, so I didn’t bother seeking that, either. All I did was show up at candidate forums and handle any and all questionnaires sent my way. My incumbent opponent was nowhere to be found, and she ran and hid from me, because I had done my homework on her and had her scouted. I spent $0. Most people in the district had no idea who I was. All I had was a message, and that’s what I pushed. Nobody bothered me on the so-called extreme killer issues, but I was prepared to address them if needed.

    The result? 31% in a 2-way race, best in the state, and one of the best in the nation.

    Imagine what I could have done had I actually had money and put effort into it–but I couldn’t afford the 80% pay cut for the job.

    The point is that Mr. West does have some salient points, backed up by more than his own experience. The fundamental problem with most L candidates is that they simply are not able to overcome the hurdles that exist that I mentioned above, and those that do seem to only do so through negative actions (like Kokesh getting arrested or Weeks’ strip clubs schtick). That and they simply are not in touch with the issues of the district. Mr. Hewitt got elected in Riverside County (where I used to live) because he was in touch with the issues and he had also built a political resume that people were familiar with.

    Those things are important to consider. Running for public office is neither easy nor cheap. I defied the odds, even while losing, but the game as it is afoot has to be played a certain way, and the LP still hasn’t figured out for the most part how to do that.

  3. paulie Post author

    The point is that Mr. West does have some salient points, backed up by more than his own experience. The fundamental problem with most L candidates is that they simply are not able to overcome the hurdles that exist that I mentioned above, and those that do seem to only do so through negative actions (like Kokesh getting arrested or Weeks’ strip clubs schtick). That and they simply are not in touch with the issues of the district. Mr. Hewitt got elected in Riverside County (where I used to live) because he was in touch with the issues and he had also built a political resume that people were familiar with.

    Mark West scored second best of 23 LP gubernatorial candidates last year, so there is at least that.

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