Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

2 LP Strategy Fallacies: I-Think-I-Can and Cargo Cult

An earnest Libertarian activist writes:

) We don’t win elections because after 35+ years, in most jurisdictions, we don’t recruit and support viable candidates. A viable candidate, for example, for school board is someone who has long roots in the community, has been on the PTA, has kids in the local schools, knows his or her neighbors, likes to talk to people [...] We have not had the successes we wish for because we don’t do the hard work necessary to elect someone even to school board. (

This is the I-think-I-can / high-hopes fallacy. It's simply not the case that a federal or statewide office is currently within the reach of a Libertarian candidate lacking a seven-figure campaign war chest (or in-kind equivalent in name recognition and media access).
In a race like mine (for U.S. House), people vote for party first, and candidate a distant second (if they've even heard of him). Mike Moloney ran full time in 1998 as a Libertarian in my neighboring CA12 and only got 5% -- just a little better than the standard LP share in 3-way races. In 2002, he ran on the same platform, in the same district, but as a Republican, and got as many votes as any Republican typically gets in the liberal Bay Area -- 25%.
Sure, we can sneak the occasional Libertarian into school board and dog-catcher and other local non-partisan offices where party and ideology are effectively irrelevant. But not having such offices on our resumes is not what's keeping us from winning bigger races. To think otherwise is an instance of the Cargo Cult fallacy. The natives of Melanesia in the late 1940s built airports and radios of coconuts and straw in the hope that these would call down from the skies the planes that had stopped bringing precious cargo after the war ended. Similarly, earnest Liberatarian activists think that if we just kiss as many babies and shake as many hands as the Republocrats, we'll get the results they get. It just isn't so, for the systematic and institutional reasons I analyze at

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