A Party in Search of Itself

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“No cruising allowed,” the sign warned in large, red letters. As I drew near the intersection in downtown Portland, I looked around for a house of ill repute. In smaller text, the sign explained that “Driving a vehicle through this traffic congestion thoroughfare more than two times shall be a violation of city code….” I had violated a city code just trying to find a parking space.
Sweet!

Oregonians try to guarantee full employment for underworked 16-year-olds, at well above the market-clearing wage, by requiring that only station attendants may pump gas. The one time I allowed this to be done to my car, the Pumping Technician dumped gasoline on the side of my car before managing to get a little into the tank. Oregon seemed a funny place for libertarians to gather.

The Libertarian Party national convention met in Portland, Ore., on July 1 and 2, 2006. Libertarians hold midterm conventions. They don’t nominate presidential candidates there; they convene in preseidential election years to do that, as the major parties do. In the “off” years, Libertarians undertake other important tasks, such as throwing out most of the platform so that their candidates will have little or nothing upon which to run. (Or so that their candidates have the freedom to run winning campaigns, depending on your point of view. More on this later.)

Mark Rand and I, the observers from Liberty, arrived on the morning of Saturday the first. I assumed that the parliamentary business of Thursday and Friday would be mostly uninteresting except to devotees of LP inside politics. LP Communications Director Stephen Gordon diplomatically confirmed this supposition.

Liberty’s past experiences with the usually trivial task of getting credentialed were less than inspiring.* I’m happy to say that this year was different. A call to Gordon’s cell phone brought him hurrying by, breathing heavily and obviously do- ing the work of ten men, but still happy to help us out.

When we finally got in, Congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.) had just finished speaking. I know many libertarians regard him as a friend of Liberty, and on plenty of issues, he is. Maybe the delivery made the address, which I am about to quote, strange little dots and all, from the text he released. But get this: “To be a true and meaningful protector of liberty as a political party, an organization must be . . . organized . . . prioritized … committed … serious … it cannot spend its time and resources nibbling at the edges of the fundamental problem facing America today – the loss of liberty at the very hands of government – but must instead truly join the battle; lead the fight.” Drop the decorative verbiage, and this becomes: “To protect Liberty, you must be bold.” I assume the implication was that the Libertarian Party should stop elevating opposition to the War on Drugs as a centerpiece of its political program. But wouldn’t that be “nibbling at the edges” instead of showing leadership?

*See “Crossroads in IndianapolisHand HFear of the Press,” September 2002; and “Welcome to the LP Convention!”, August 2004, p. 37.

The first speech we heard was by Michael Badnarik, the LP’s 2004 presidential candidate. It was very – Badnarik. I don’t think I’ll ever shake my first impressions of him, which were formed when I visited his campaign website after his nomination. One of the first things I read, under the headline “Gun Control Means Being Able to Hit Your Target,” was: “If I have a ‘hot button’ issue, this is definitely it.” That was in boldface, followed b)T, “Don’t even THINK about taking my guns! My rights are not negotiable, and I am totally unwilling to compromise when it comes to the Second Amendment.”

I thought there were ways to express that notion and still have the support of some soccer moms and NASCAR dads. I was pretty sure that Badnarik’s way wasn’t one of them. Measured on that barometer, his tone this year was measured, and his speech more circumspect, than anyone would have supposed they might be.

The theme of the convention was “uniting voters.” The name badges worn by delegates bore the same slogan. Badnarik explained that the party’s plan was to unite libertarians, then unite the voters. The first ten minutes of his speech were a call to unity. “I really love to sing in the shower,” he said. “Most of you are going to have to take my word for that.” He enjoys singing in a choir more than singing in the shower, even though singing in a choir means shutting up sometimes, he said. That would be unity.

Badnarik kicked around a few buzzwords that made me cringe, though admittedly they might be true: long term unity builds synergy, and “long term synergy builds success, and success breeds success.” He defined synergy as meaning “two

“I really love to sing in the shower,” Badnarik said. “Most of you are going to have to take my word for that.”

 

plus two equals more than four.” After talking about party unity for a while, he asked the delegates to show their unity by shaking the hands of those seated near them. They complied, in high spirits. This was a little too touchy-feely for Mark and me; I was reminded of the handshake of peace in the Roman Catholic services with which I was brought up. It’s the part of the Mass you dread, because you know the emphysemic guy in front of you and the snotty kid next to you, both of whom have been coughing loudly into their hands for an hour, will want to shake your hand just before you go to receive the Eucharist.

But I digress. Mark whispered to me, “At least he didn’t ask us all to hug each oth_ I I Badnarik interrupted. “I was originally planning to ask for a group hug and two rounds of ‘Kumbaya.'” Luckily, that was a joke. Badnarik was impressive. He said he’d already raised $300,000 for his congressional race in Texas District 10. He certainly has more authenticity in a pinky finger than is to be found, combined, in the candidates the major parties offer in most elections at any level. The Texas LP must have its act together: it’s running 170 candidates.

Badnarik said that, thanks to his presidential campaign, “70 million people heard about the libertarian message who hadn’t heard about it before.” 1 don’t know where that number comes from. I hope it isn’t accurate, because it means that 23% of the population, and presumably a substantially larger portion of the voting population, had heard the message and ignored it at the polls.

His current campaign, Badnarik explained, has a “secret strategy” for winning. This publicly secret strategy, unsurprising from a Libertarian, is a contract. “Wouldn’t it be nice,” Badnarik asked, “if we could put limitations on individual legislators?” He intends to write a binding contract with voters, allowing them to turn him out at the next election if he’s found in violation. In effect, he proposes to term-limit himself. His contract will list goals to be met while in office. If any voter charges that he has not kept to it, the matter goes to an arbitration board; if the board agrees with the challenge, Badnarik will be ineligible for reelection. A cool notion, if not flawless. Darks like me and some other libertarians will be interested, although I don’t think you win a congressional election by winning the dark vote. Perhaps to forestall such skepticism as mine, a reprint was made available of a story from National Review Online that pitches the idea. There are impressive statistics to back it up, naturally.

These aren’t necessarily complaints. Badnarik knows the Constitution well. That alone makes him worthier of the public trust than the great majority of politicians. And he knows the game he is playing. He was decent when he was a dark horse for the nomination in 2004, and I think he’s markedly better now. After his speech, a small group of media surrounded him and asked some questions. (I didn’t see many media types wandering the halls; perhaps six or eight people wore press badges.) One was a producer involved in local radio. He was trying to get some airtime for the party’s ideas. There were a couple of local print reporters, including the publisher of the Northwest Meridian, a free, alternative paper claiming a bi-weekly print run of 14,000. It appears to have a free-market bent-surprising since every free, alternative paper I’ve seen has been leftist, centrist, or apolitical – and this one is published in Oregon of all places. There were a few freelancers and independents, and Liberty. That was it. I guess this is the norm for LP conventions, at least in the midterm years.

The gentleman from the radio station asked something; I don’t remember what it was, but it had nothing to do with the war on drugs. Badnarik answered by talking about the war on drugs. He did so with a smile that made me feel as if he had answered the question. 1followed it with a softball, just to break the silence and to see how he would answer. Libertarian presidential candidates could talk about national issues, I said, but congressional candidates would have to cater to local interests. Which did he find easier? He replied that his job was to find out, before an event or speaking engagement, what was important to me – and then explain why I should vote Libertarian.

I liked that answer. It’s the practical answer I’d expect from someone who’d been groomed to win elections, and properly understood, it didn’t have to mean budging an inch on any issue of import. It wasn’t a hard answer to produce, but until one has tried to answer questions on the campaign trail, months on end, without stuttering or starting to sound insincere, one doesn’t realize how challenging it is to open one’s mouth during a campaign without swallowing a lot of foot.

Still, color me skeptical. A plan to get elected to Congress this year, as a Libertarian? A legally actionable contract with voters? I have trouble enthusiastically saying that I believe in this. Badnarik emphasized “putting a declared Libertarian in Congress.” If I understand him, he fully expects to win. He asked the delegates whether they thought he would. Many of them, who appeared to constitute an enthusiastic majority, raised their hands.

I got bitten by the LP bug when I was even younger and more naive than I am now. After the disappointing results of the 2000 election, in terms both of electoral success and of party growth, I felt like a kid who’d been promised a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas and received only socks and sweaters. I’m leery of libertarian candidates making huge promises – or just weird promises – that they can’t or won’t deliver on. So when Badnarik says that people are in a frame of mind that hasn’t existed in America”since Lexington and Concord,” and suggests a unique opportunity exists now that “Congress has an approval rating of 18%,” I can’t muster much enthusiasm. The convention delegates could and did.

Peter McWilliams once called the LP “political Viagra” that “helps you get it up for liberty.” That’s great, but you can overdose on the stuff. Political priapism leads to tipping-point fatigue among the faithful. It’s a tough balancing act – keeping scrupulOUSly honest while keeping the base energized – but it has got to be performed.

A Credentials Committee report followed Badnarik’s talk. I stepped out and visited the information booths down the hall. I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, to see a representative of the ACLU, who was being congenially challenged about the ACLU’s selective concern for civil liberties.

Rob Kampia represented the Marijuana Policy Project. This seemed like preaching to the faithful until I realized that he was also there as a delegate. (The next day, he endorsed Tony Ryan, an ex-cop who was running for Vice Chair of the National Committee. The endorsement got a lot of cheers from

Political priapism leads to tipping-point fatigue among the faithful.

the delegates. Nevertheless, Ryan lost on the first ballot.) Nearby were the emissaries of the Liberty Pledge Club, the LP’s monthly pledge program. They had a cute gimmick to get people to sign up: two lucky signers would receive an iPod, decorated with Libertarian Party art.

I was happy to see the Outright Libertarians represented, a happy gaggle of gay people who are welcomed by their party and love its platform. Contrast this with the Log Cabin Republicans, who – forgive me, I’m sure they’re very nice people – ought to have their pictures in the dictionary next to the entry for schizophrenia. And no convention report would be complete without a mention of another phenomenon that makes Libertarians easily differentiable from Republicans: Starchild.

The Republicans wouldn’t let Starchild in. The Democrats wouldn’t either. Possibly Chuck E. Cheese wouldn’t let him in. But the Libertarians do. Starchild, for the uninitiated, is a libertarian from San Francisco. Most of what I know is from anecdotes and a couple of Google searches, but three things seem clear: he’s a fixture at LP gatherings, is widely known among libertarians for flamboyance, and is widely respected among libertarians for his intelligence and activism. At this convention, Starchild sported a tasteful blue-grey toga, an “I Miss America” sash, a Lady Liberty headpiece, and a plastic torch held aloft at all times. “In what I’m guessing is an appeal to the more socially conservative wing of the part)r,” Communications Director Gordon noted in the Hammer of Truth blog, Starchild completed his ensemble “with a relatively small set of falsies.” (The full entr~ along with a priceless photograph of Starchild with Bob Barr, is at http://tinyurl.com/jp4ts.)

The Free State Project was there, and man, are they cool. Varrin Swearingen, the president, chatted Mark and me up about the project. We each walked away five bucks poorer, with a Free State T-shirt, and looking forward to their caucus that afternoon.

Back in the main hall, five minutes had been allotted, from 9:55-10:00, for “Retention of Planks from the Previous Platform.” I expected this to be a formality (as did whoever made up the agenda). However, expecting Libertarians to do the expected is seldom a good idea. They took those five minutes to throw out most of the party platform. More accuratel~ they failed to renew most planks, which they’re required to do at every convention to keep them in the platform.

Out of 61 planks adopted in 2004, only four were retained outright in Saturday’s vote. For all intents and purposes, it appeared the platform was scrapped. The Bylaws Committee Report distributed in the morning had included a proposal to alter the mechanics of the platform retention vote, noting among other reasons that “no one on the committee can recall any instance where a plank was deleted through this process.” Live and learn. The rejection of the vast majority of planks could mean the moderates were out in force, intent on starting from scratch to build a more marketable platform. Or it could mean the purists were upset with all this talk of unity and wanted to quash it. Knowing Libertarians, I assumed the latter.

There were several afternoon speakers. The first, Megan Dickson, was outstanding. She was polished and passionate, didn’t hesitate once – and she’s an eighth-grader. Following Megan was the first woman to receive a vote in the Electoral College, 1972 LP vice-presidential candidate Tonie Nathan. I ducked out near the end of Nathan’s talk to get some coffee, which I would need to make it through the rest of the afternoon, and managed to miss the Starchild drama.

Starchild asked to be accepted as a late-arriving delegate, and the convention refused to accept him. Joe Magyer, a delegate and officer of the Georgia L~ kept a convention diary at thirdpartywatch.com. He wrote of the incident:

Okay, we just had to do a standing vote for someone named Starchild dressed like the Statue of Liberty. Jesus. We literally just had to count each “aye” vote for Starchild. What a ridiculous waste of everyone’s time. It is now known that Starchild has been rejected as a delegate.

Yeah, Libertarian drama! Give me that old-time religion!

I returned as the platform debate was getting underway. The Platform Committee Report had consolidated several previous planks; then many old planks had been unexpectedly tossed out in the retention vote. Up for discussion now were revisions to five planks.

The sexuality and gender plank said “marriage and other personal relationships” should be treated as “personal contracts.” Someone thought this was too clinical and moved to change “contracts” to “matters.” The motion failed. Someone else moved to change “personal relationships” to “civil unions.” A representative of the committee explained that the language was intended to remove government from the equation as much as possible. “Personal relationships” would cover traditional marriage, line marriage, civil unions, simple cohabitation, whatever. That motion also failed.

Unsurprisingly, the immigration plank was the most contentious. The language was still essentially open-borders, as before, but it was a solid step toward a plank that wouldn’t alienate everybody south of the tippy-top of the Nolan Chart, while remaining principled. The committee arrived at new language starting, naturally enough, with the principle that immigration “is as much a property rights issue as anything else.”

There was a minority report that stayed closer to the original language. Badnarik’s campaign manager spoke in favor of the majority report. The staff of libertarian Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) had told him recently that, of 2,500 people recently arrested coming across the Mexican border, not one was a Mexican. “I encourage you to stop thinking this is about Mexicans,” he said. “I urge you to stop thinking that immigration and national security are the same issue.” It was an intriguing dichotomy, and one that surely merits consideration, though I have several Californian friends who would be skeptical about the distinction. “If you want to be theorists for the rest of your life … that’s great, I’m all for integrity. But I’ll tell you what. … I’m trying to elect somebody.” That won some applause.

Steve Dasbach, former LP chair and then national director, said that the majority report better reflected the LP’s sense of where its members are on the issue. The statement was characteristic of a pattern of moderation that the party evinced throughout the weekend. I call it growing up. I guess the purists call it regression.

The party moved on to passage of a new plank on taxation. On this issue, the old plank read, “No tax can ever be fair, sim- ple or neutral to the free market”; and, “Default is preferable to raising taxes or perpetual refinancing of growing public debt.” The new plank called for collection only of “taxes that do not invade individual privacy or self-ownership” and for elimination of “all taxation on individual incomes” and “ranking the effect of various taxes” before imposing them.

The new wording of the plank on government debt would have allowed Congress to borrow money in emergencies with a supermajority vote in Congress. Of course, legislatures see emergencies anywhere they must in order to comply with the letter of the law while spending money with abandon. A delegate noted this, and moved to have the emergency appropriation measure stricken. The motion passed.

Finally, the conscription plank came up for debate. The new plank was shorter, more focused, and notably no longer called for repeal of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Why the Platform Committee changed the language in this way is

Starchild wore a tasteful blue-grey toga, an “] Miss America” sash, a Lady Liberty headpiece, and a plastic torch held aloft at all times.

 

unclear, but it fitted with the palpable desire to mainstream the party that permeated much of the convention. Opposition to the UCMJ is a fairly left-wing notion, and as one delegate noted during debate, there are good reasons for its existence apart from the laws governing civilians. Language was kept from the 2004 platform which supported (though perhaps too vaguely) the right of high school kids, conned by recruiters into military service with the promise that they wouldn’t see combat, not to be punished for desertion. Agree or disagree with the idea, the LP was ahead of the Democrats on this one. The Democrats waited for the Iraq war and Cindy Sheehan to get in on the act.

Besides debating these five platform planks, the convention debated the committee’s attempt to change the party’s statement of principles. If this passed, or even came close, it would be a sign of a new tone and a new sheriff in town. The proposal was to change the denunciation of “the cult of the omnipotent state” to denunciation of “the idea of unlimited government.” This proposed change lent credence to the possibility that moderates were determined to bring the platform down to earth. The slightly altered statement of principles would have the same meaning as the original, without eviscerating candidates’ chances of winning. That was the thought. On the other hand, it didn’t sound nearly as exciting – and if you take everything too seriously, it’s hard to be a libertarian. There was a motion to postpone debate on this until Sunday morning; it passed.

We ended the evening by sitting in on the Free State Project’s caucus. The room was packed, and the hour-and-a-half presentation kept my attention the whole time. Swearingen introduced himself as a commercial pilot, a Christian, and a libertarian (the last two need not conflict, he emphasized). He later mentioned casually that he was an unpaid volunteer. I was floored. I figured they at least paid him a stipend to do what amounts to a second full-time job. Given his eagerness, you’d think they did.

The project’s aim is to get 20,000 activists to move to New Hampshire and make it a “free state.” The idea is that in a small enough state, if most of the people who move are activists who vote and work to change government, 20,000 people can make enough difference to produce a libertarian society within that state. Swearingen described the possibilities presented by New Hampshire-style direct democracy: one can attend a town meeting, question line items on a budget, and have them removed. The few FSP members who’ve already made the move are doing this stuff and seeing results.

I think these guys are here to stay; I think they’re going to reach their goal someday. The “free state” may not look exactly the way they expect it to, but then they don’t seem to have a fixed goal in mind. They know freedom when they see it, and avail themselves of the opportunities when possible. These are idealists doing something pragmatic, patient enough to wait a few years, but impatient enough to want liberty in their lifetimes. I haven’t signed their pledge to move, but at some point during the weekend, the Spirit moved me: I decided that I’m going to find an excuse to visit the Northeast in the next year or two, and check out New Hampshire. More than once, Swearingen said he was embarrassed or ashamed that America couldn’t produce 20,000 people willing to cross state lines for freedom, and that hit home.

What I think is cool is that they’ve succeeded by breaking the rules. (Most success stories seem to work like that, but most movements still follow the rules. I don’t get it.) Swearingen does not·gloss over failures. He named some victories for freedom in New Hampshire politics. Here, a couple hundred thousand dollars saved for taxpayers, directly attributable to political activism by Free Staters. There, a bad law that didn’t get passed. The FSP couldn’t claim full credit, but it had helped.

Sunday’S opening speaker was Pat Dixon, chair of the Texas LP (not to be confused with Michael Dixon, the national chair), who spoke in grave and serious tones. Jesus Christ is his role model, he said. He mentioned Crispus Attucks, and talked about martyrdom, and how martyrdom emboldens the martyr’s followers: “We refuse to concede. . . . We will continue to fight for liberty despite being outnumbered.” The del-

The immigration plank was the most contentious of the platform debate. The committee arrived at new language starting with the principle that immigration “is as much a property rights issue as anything else. “

 

egates got a little restless. They may have wondered, as I did, exactly what Dixon was calling for. But the speech was reasonably well-received, and contributed positively to the attempt to “unify” the party. It’s always nice when a whole roomful of libertarians can listen to a religious libertarian without one of them jumping from his seat to utter imprecations about people who are anti-mind and anti-life.

It was announced that there were 299 credentialed delegates and 12 alternates, for a total of 311. Someone from the Washington delegation had told me in the hall that this was unusually low. I think there was “room” under the bylaws for 700 more delegates. Don’t quote me on that: I had not yet had my morning coffee, and I don’t understand the complex formula that determines the total number of delegates, and how many may come from each state.

A delegate from the Nevada delegation was recognized and angrily decried the decision – “at best petty, at worst bigoted” – to refuse to seat Starchild on Saturday. He “demanded” on behalf of the Nevadans that Starchild be credentialed as part of their delegation. Chairman Michael Dixon asked the “nay” votes to stand; I did not see a single person rise. Much applause was rendered, and Starchild was credentialed in time for the voting.

In this tense moment, as throughout the weekend, Dixon ran the meeting well. He smoothed over rough spots, maintained good humor, and provided cues to delegates to help them move business along as needed. Everyone seemed impressed.

There was a little more talk about the platform, no less confusing than on Saturday. Some planks had been put before the convention in their verbatim 2004 forms. Some were consolidated from previous planks and put before the convention for approval. (This was done with the issue of gays in the military, for example, which was moved from the conscription plank to the sexual freedom plank.) The taxation plank, labeled “retained via debate” on the overhead screens, would have been a third class of plank; then there was a challenge from the floor regarding how that plank was handled, and Dixon ruled the challenge correct. My eyes glazed over.

Next, the business of the “cult of the omnipotent state” had to be addressed, again. A delegate claimed that even LP founder David Nolan opposed the “cult” language, having called it “off-putting to the average voter.” (You think?) An amendment was offered to delete only “cult of the,” leaving “omnipotent state” intact. I thought this was a brilliant compromise. Naturally, it didn’t pass.

Under the bylaws, a seven-eighths vote of all delegates (not just a quorum) is needed to change the statement of principles. If a few delegates go home early and a few more are in the bathroom when the vote comes up, the change can’t be made.
Dixon opted to count the “nay” votes, saying that 38 would be needed to defeat the motion. A few people stood up: clearly, this year’s delegates were not hard-line. Easily three-quarters supported the change in language, probably more. But Dixon ruled that more than 38 voted nay, and the motion failed. The LP still opposes the cult of the omnipotent state.

When the platform business was over, I was unsure what state the platform was in, and not for want of attention. It was ten days after the convention when party staff could finally confirm what the new platform said or how many planks it had. There are now 15 planks, less than a quarter of the previous number.

The new conscription plank, as earlier noted, no longer calls for repeal of the UCMJ. The plank on government debt reads less like an excerpt from a John Galt soliloquy. The planks regarding the War on Drugs, privacy rights, and gun rights were among the handful that survived unscathed.

The immigration platform in 2004 called for “the elimination of all restrictions on immigration, the abolition of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol, and a declaration of full amnesty for all people who have entered the country illegally.” It now calls for “free entry to those who have demonstrated compliance with certain requirements,” allowing for “screening for criminal background and threats to public health and national security.” Somewhere between 2004 and 2006, the LP recognized a fine distinction between building a wall to keep Mexicans out vs. trying to keep tabs on who enters the country. This can only be to the good.

What should one read into the changes to the platform? Says LP executive director Shane Cory in a July 12 press release: “Consider it a move that we would love the federal government to make. We’ve reduced our own party bureaucracy to allow our candidates to express their own viewpoints while holding true to our statement of principles.” That is a fair statement of what happened, and it probably accords with the reason many delegates voted the way they did. However, it belies the extent to which LP leadership was taken off guard by the drastic change.

It may be a good sign for the LP; it may be that longtime party functionaries aren’t accustomed to useful things happen- ing quickly, because infighting so often prevents it, and that was the reason they seemed unprepared for this revolution in an off-year convention. On the other hand, the new platform seems anemic even by third-party or small-government standards. The party would do well to fill out the platform at the 2008 convention.

Soon after the platform business, nomination speeches began for LNC officer positions. Bill Redpath was the favorite for chair, and he won. Chuck Moulton won vice-chair on the second ballot with 59% of the vote, defeating M Carlton. Apparently M is his name, not his initial. There were seven candidates for five at-large seats. One of the winners was Admiral Michael C. Colley, who, according to one of his nominators, commanded a nuclear submarine.

That’s got to look pretty good on LP letterhead.

One of the most interesting talks I heard was the lunchtime speech by John Buttrick, a Superior Court judge in Arizona. His talk was engaging and informative, so I don’t know why many delegates felt obliged to talk loudly throughout it. He discussed the recent hit the “knock and announce” doctrine took from the Supreme Court; the Kelo v. New London decision; the lack of progress on jury

nullification and “mere possession” and ballot access laws; Congress’ error in granting the president carte blanche to invade Iraq, which is a “non-delegable duty”; the detentions at Guantanamo; and, naturally enough, the implications for federalism of the Anna Nicole Smith case. The case involved a question of competing jurisdictions between a federal bankruptcy court and a state court, and Judge Buttrick believes the decision in favor of the federal court has unfavorable implications for future full faith and credit cases – for example, a gay couple married in Massachusetts seeking a divorce in a different state.

Attendees needed to ride down a couple of escalators to get to the convention hall. I had earlier encountered a little girl in a “Taxation Is Slavery” T-shirt, standing at the top of one of the “up” escalators, mischievously walking down a few steps and riding back up. She saw me coming toward her and, when any other kid might have run away, kept right on flouting the system as only a Libertarian’s kid would dQ. It reminded me of the title of a Liberty article on the 2000 convention: “Up the Down Escalator.” What goes around, comes around.

Right now, “unity” seems like a slogan, but in a couple of years it may be a new philosophy. Or maybe the pendulum will swing, and the party will be proposing the death penalty for IRS agents and their families, down to the seventh genera- tion. Who knows? Badnarik said in his opening remarks, “The Founding Fathers were not gods. They were ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” For the L~ reaching out to main- stream voters, with something in between the pandering of the major parties and the LP’s typical “principle or nothing” stance, would be an extraordinary thing. I’ll be interested to see whether it is an aberration or the beginning of a movement. At the moment, I don’t know what to think.

The weekend reminded me of my high school graduation: my classmates and I knew there were years ahead of hard work, of missteps, of still being treated like children. While we wouldn’t yet pass for adults, neither did we any longer approach the world in the unnuanced way of children. It was, more than anything, a time of wistfulness, confusion, and big decisions. That, I think, is where the LP stands today.

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