Over Labor Day weekend, I attended the Libertarian Frontier Summit in Cheyenne, WY. It was a truly remarkable event, and I’d like to report to LPCaucus members what happened and what we’ll be doing about it.
Over the years I’ve been to umpteen dozens of state and national party conventions, campaign rallies, committee meetings, canvassing drives, and other assorted events for the Libertarian Party. I have never seen anything like what happened at the Libertarian Frontier project. I saw Libertarians doing the work, not of clownish performance art or trolling silly protests or doing keyboard-warrior throwdowns, but instead being a political party strategizing about how to win some elections.
In 2018, the party did something new and different under LNC campaign consultant Apollo Pazell’s lead. He picked target races for the most viable Libertarian candidates and provided those campaigns with door-knocking teams and sound strategic advice. It was a deliberate pivot towards practical electioneering over solo paper-candidacy campaigns, and it produced tangible results. Some wins, some almost-wins, and some real moving the needle over the usual perennially failed paper-candidate vanity-campaign model. It was a successful small-scale proof of concept. An important part of this strategy has been going to states that are already favorably inclined towards libertarian policy preferences, which also have small and cheap legislative races, and most of all by recruiting strong candidates who are already well-known and respected in their communities.
Today, several of those 2018 targeted candidates are now state party chairs, most of whom attended the Summit. In Wyoming in particular, the party is on the verge of a genuine breakthrough on state legislative candidates and the excitement is palpable. Voters here not only know what Libertarians are— impressive enough on its own!— but more remarkably, they have a positive impression of the party and its candidates like Bethany Baldes, who came within a hair’s breadth of unseating the incumbent majority leader last year. There really hasn’t been anything like it in decades.
Major donors who’ve been burned on LP shenanigans in the past are coming back, finally shown that their money isn’t being wasted. It’s demonstrating that Libertarians are capable of professionalizing, running nuts-and-bolts practical campaigns, and seeking out and making the most of real electoral opportunities.
The Summit was to plan the next phase of this project, for the 2020 elections.
It was incredible to see this kind of gathering: a dozen pragmatic-minded state affiliate leaders, several incumbent elected officials, and major donors, all coming together with the goal establishing a Libertarian electoral beachhead. Tom Mahon, who has lead canvassing teams for the Frontier Project, compared it to the Allies first taking on the “soft underbelly” in North Africa. It’s not a bad analogy.
LPCaucus has been active supporting this project, both on the national committee and directly. Thanks to At-Large Representative Joe Bishop-Henchman, who also attended the summit, funds were secured and allocated by the committee for the Frontier Project which made the Summit possible.
The Libertarian Party has gone too long without winning state legislative elections. We know it can be done, we know the importance for the morale and public perception of the party, and we know how to pursue and support our best opportunities for this strategic breakthrough. And the skills learned and institutional knowledge acquired in the process will spread throughout the party to local elections (and more!) around the country.
That’s why the Libertarian Frontier Project is a top priority for LPCaucus. It’s what we mean by “pragmatic” Libertarian electioneering in action. Thank you for your support. Together we can build a Libertarian Party that elects Libertarians.