While we have been critical of the Libertarian Party [LP] and the Gary Johnson campaign, the point is not that we should not be pragmatic in promoting liberty. Rather, the point is to reflect on your efforts critically to see where you can improve. That is where true pragmatism can be found.
However, it is much easier to be critical of others than yourself. It’s easy for us to see the missteps of the LP and how Gary Johnson proved to be an ineffective candidate and how another candidate like John McAfee or Austin Petersen would have garnered more votes and more converts to the message of liberty.
Consider the strategy that won. One could argue that pandering does work. You could definitely argue that Trump pandered heavily to the Republican base. However, placating people and saying what you think most people would agree with does not necessarily work.
Trump often said things that many found patently offensive and the media focused their coverage on these statements. However, some Americans are convinced that the media is biased and takes things out of context.
This would be particularly true of anyone who has attended a Taxed Enough Already [TEA] Party event and then saw the media coverage of these events. The dissent did not disappear, but fewer people expressed this dissent publicly. Dissent against the media grew as well. So when the media attacked every offensive thing Trump said, the TEA Party took that as business as usual for the media. If the biased media is so much against Donald Trump, then he must be on the right track for the TEA Party.
Donald Trump was not the only candidate that understood how to work the media for earned media, John McAfee was as well. John McAfee was able to spur online interest with his comments on the San Bernardino iphone. If the LP is really dedicated to pragmatism, they will nominate someone with John McAfee’s media savvy next election cycle, not someone who destroys his credibility every time he opens his mouth and sticks his tongue out on the few opportunities that the media gives him to speak.
Much could also be said for Austin Petersen’s proposed strategy. Of all the third party candidates, the one who did the best was McMullin, who received 21% of the vote in Utah. I was informed that McMullin was running because Petersen did not receive the nomination. It could be argued that Petersen therefore may have garnered more votes than Johnson, at least in Utah. Petersen may also have attracted a lot of Pro-Life voters. However, Darrel Castle did not garner a lot of votes. However, Castle did not receive the media attention that Jill Stein and Gary Johnson did. Petersen, however, was able to use his connections to appear on National media outlets.
The point is not that the Libertarian Party is a failure. The point is that the Libertarian Party needs to learn from previous campaigns to determine a better strategy in the future. If they do not, they should stop calling the strategy pragmatism and call it what it really is, insanity, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. This is the 3rd time that the LP nominated a former Republican that is arguably not a libertarian. Yes, the LP continues to get more votes each time. However, that may be attributed to other factors.
The polls show that more people were willing to vote for Gary Johnson before they heard him speak. The more he spoke, fewer people supported him. Considering this, the votes Gary Johnson received were more attributable to dissent against the two party system and not necessarily support for Johnson.
While we can go on and on about how the LP could improve, we also must self-reflect about our own efforts. While we have assembled a great catalog of collaborative resources for coding education, we have failed to build interest in coding education with the libertarian community.
Instead, the site has been more of a sounding box to share libertarian campaigning strategy inquiries and opinions. While such blog posts are shared and disseminated, and many people visit the site, few people continue to explore the site to learn more about coding.
We will review our strategies and goals and determine a better way forward. This may take the shape of formulating a new organization instead that is not politically oriented. While we may still take an interest in civics and promoting critical thinking, we will avoid political parties and political agendas.