Saturday morning business was devoted to the Bylaws Committee Report.
Proposals 1 and 2 were minor technical cleanups that passed without debate. Proposal 3 was to add a requirement that candidates for the five party offices be party members. Harland Harrison successfully requested debate, and when he disputed the voice vote and called for a standing vote, 80% of the delegates stood to approve it. Harrison also called for debate on proposal 4, and the convention voted it down in apparent agreement with Alan Rice's analysis that a simple majority of ExCom should not be able to rescind an endorsement if a convention had given it. Proposal 5 failed, leaving it mandatory that the Judicial Committee hear appeals of membership suspensions. Proposal 6 easily passed, institutionalizing the use of web sites over paper for satisfying member requests for party documents.
Proposal 7 was presented as codifying the Bylaws Committee's admirable practice of doing its work early, but it also contained a provision requiring 2/3 approval for late changes proposed outside the committee process. This was inevitably going to inspire resistance from those suspicious of the party leadership, so when Starchild voiced general opposition, I proposed that the 2/3 provision be considered separately. The remainder of the proposal passed easily, and after protracted debate and wordsmithing clarified the 2/3 rule, it too finally passed. Proposals 8 and 9 passed, making the Judicial Committee a two-year office that may hold meetings by voice or video conference.
Proposal 10 was a controversial effort to let counties set their own membership requirements and set and collect dues independently of the LPCA. Outgoing Chairman Aaron Starr made an impassioned offer to immediately and personally donate $15K to the counties if it passed. (I had expressed support of this effort to simplify the perennially fouled-up revenue-sharing between the state and the counties, but my mind started being changed by considerations about economies of scale. When Aaron complained that the current 60/40 county-heavy split made LPCA fundraising inefficient, that undid my support, since I think the state LPCA focuses too much on fundraising just to raise money to finance the next round of fundraising.) Proposal 10 failed, with me voting against.
Proposal 10a allowed each ExCom member to sponsor for convention credentialing a member who would otherwise be too new to be seated. I voted against this proposal, agreeing with Starchild that this useful power should belong to the convention instead of to ExCom, but it passed (and was soon used to seat seven new members. Proposal 11 was to eliminate county apportionment of convention delegates, and make any 90-day-tenured member automatically seated at conventions. The convention passed it on agreement with M Carling's argument that no other state has such a rule, but I voted against it on the grounds that the LPCA alternates conventions in the north and south of a state with by far the longest north-south axis in America. These were the only two proposals in which I voted on the losing side.
We thus only got through 11 of the 24 Bylaws proposals in the allotted time, and when we broke for lunch we were at 101 registered delegates.
The officer elections started with the Chair race, from which Bruce Cohen bowed out in view of the widespread support for Kevin Takenaga. Thus many people were surprised when James Ogle nominated himself to oppose Kevin. Ogle said he was a "self-employed artist, and I need a job, that's why I'm running." It's unclear whether he knew the office is unpaid, but he then made it clear that his primary cause was an online virtual government simulation that he was promoting, complete with a map dividing California into 12 mini-states.
Takenaga emphasized the need for coalition building, noting that it "doubles our manpower". His top priority is development of county parties, since counties are "where all the action is at". He wants local Libertarians to "reach out to people within your own community", and pointed out that "everyone agrees with us on something -- half agree with half of our positions, the other half agree with the other half.". (I'd be interested to know where the LP or LPCA platforms could be split to produce such a result -- which is just a snarky way of agreeing with Kevin's larger point that the LP can be more mainstream than it has been.) Kevin won 83-3, with 4 for NOTA.
Outgoing Northern Vice Chair nominated his successor Richard Newell, and Takenaga seconded effusively, saying "every great leader needs a team". Before being elected by acclamation, Rich gave an impressive and impassioned speech arguing for a bottom-up approach to LP electoral politics. He said the experience of Badnarik and Smither in 2006 show that "the public is not ready to vote for us" even when our candidates have big-time money or a write-in opponent with a hard-to-spell name. "The public is not going to put us into higher office until we've proven we can govern effectively at lower levels first. Let's get real." He cautioned that there would be no LP landslide victories in D.C. or state capitols, and pointed to John Inks and Norm Westwell as models of modest success built on the hard work of speaking at public meetings and building credibility in municipal politics. Rich said he "would like to activate a few more counties during my term", and said Dan Minkoff [sp?] would be taking over Rich's media relations operation. "All the heavy lifting has to be done at the county level", and the LPCA should mainly monitor Sacramento and do just the things that require economies of scale. "Being on the outside and throwing rocks may be fun, but it's not very effective."
I'm glad that we're going to have energetic leaders to test this "farm-team" strategy for LP success, but I would not agree that statewide and federal electioneering cannot have positive influence without a farm team that can threaten to win control of a statehouse, legislative house, or White House. The Socialist Party only had two congressmen and never won more than 6% of the popular Presidential vote, but Milton Friedman famously called it the most influential party in early-twentieth-century America because almost all of its 1928 platform's economic planks became law in the subsequent decades. There are very strict limits on how much good (say) an LP-controlled school board could do, and that any path toward a significantly free market in education soon reaches a dead end if it doesn't go through Sacramento or Washington.
Zander Collier won Southern Vice Chair by acclamation, as did Beau Cain win Secretary. Cain has previously been a professional secretary for ten years, and is finishing three years on the board of the Society For Technical Communication. Cain elicited another richly-deserved round of applause for outgoing secretary Dan Wiener, who had earlier received a standing ovation at the beginning of the Secretary election.
In winning Treasurer by acclamation, Don Cowles added a little spark to what was in effect the fifth straight walkover victory. He began his speech by taking James Ogle's map of California's 12 virtual mini-states and setting it up near the stage -- then suddenly stopped and said "I scared you guys, didn't I?" He revealed that he had proposed to nickname the Takenaga slate "the nuts and bolts, but I was told immediately there are no bolts in the LP."
The nominations for Executive Committee were next. M Carling honored and embarrassed me when he said "I worked at the the Hoover Institute for three years. I nominate for ExCom the deepest thinker in the Libertarian Party -- Brian Holtz." I vouched that I didn't know M would say that, and continued: "Instead of killing trees for pamphlets, I paid the convention for the privilege of spamming most of you with some ideas for the party, and I hope you were persuaded enough to earn your vote. If you never saw the email, then you can take that either as evidence that my approach is not a good one, or as evidence that we need to get better at modern communication technology. And if any of you really really hate trees, I do have a few paper copies you can ask me for."
The nominees and votes earned were as follows, with the top five winning 2-year terms:
Ted Brown 70
Camden McConnell 61
Laurence Samuels 58
Brian Holtz 53
Mike McMahon 52
Matthew Barnes 51 (wins 1-year term)
Bruce Dovner 46
Jesse Thomas 40
My prediction had been that I would come in fifth to the four incumbents Brown Dovner Samuels McConnell (in that order), followed by Starchild, Barnes, and Thomas/McMahon. I was surprised that Dovner and Starchild received so few votes, since both are well-known and (in my opinion) very thoughtful. Starchild wore his butterfly wings as he invoked the five principles of the Grassroots Caucus, and while I thought his pitch for such self-expression in such a friendly room was not unreasonable, I suspect that his flamboyant appearance made his vote count understate the amount of potential agreement with him that was in the room.
The Judicial Committee election seated the top five among:
Bob Weber 70
Allan Hacker 68
Dan Wiener 58
Rick Nichol 58
M Carling 57 (later elected JudCom Chair)
Ed Bowers 37
A motion failed that proposed to cede the ExCom Alternates choice to the ExCom itself to allow the time to be used for more Bylaws debate. The election seated the top two of
Chuck Moulton 47
Jesse Thomas 38
Michael Seebeck 30
Moulton is the national LP Vice Chair, and was available for a 1-year alternate slot because he will be spending the next year at San Jose State in a master's program in Austrian economics. This is a wonderful bonus for the LPCA, and for any of us on ExCom who want to hear the latest in Austrian economic theory.
I had to return home upon adjournment to resume my share of the babysitting duties for our three young girls, and break the news to Melisse that my new ExCom duties would impose even more babysitting work on her in the next couple years. She was not exactly thrilled at the choice that the convention made. :-)