Document:New York priorities

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by Robert Goodman

On Sat., Mar. 14, LP nominated the following:

Bruce Martin announced his candidacy for a H.R. seat to be named later. His son Adam, who recently turned 15 years old, is now probably among the youngest delegates ever elected to an LP national convention. Anyone know the record?

To understand developments at this convention as I saw them, I must take the story back to 1995. At that year's annual con, Dottie-Lou Brokaw and (IIRC) Jim Harris co-sponsored the 98 Counts resolution, which has been re-adopted at every convention since. I won't reproduce 98 Counts here, but it's a resolution to direct the party to get 98,000 votes for gov.-lt. gov. in 1998. It's full of feel-good platitudes that say nothing about how to do it, in the sense of what choices to make. I've voted against 98 Counts repeatedly. As I see it, it's either bullshit (meaningless) or implies real but mistaken priorities.

50,000+ votes for the gov.-lt. gov. slate on our temporary line (created by petition, as usual) would cause the state bd. of elections to establish a "political party" in our name for the ensuing 4 yrs. This'd allow our candidates much easier ballot placement -- requiring a petition signed by only 5% of our enrollees instead of 5% of the total vote for governor in the district in question, and higher or farther-left position than independents and those getting fewer votes for gov., and no petition at all in some elections -- and cause our party's name to appear as one of the choices on the party enrollment portion of the voter registration card, with county boards of election keeping the list. This would be (mostly) good, although for reasons I've stated elsewhere, such an eventuality has been IMO highly over-valued by LPNY activists for many years. I foresee such an outcome much more as a result of our growth than as a cause of it, so I wouldn't make it a priority per se.

What I've been saying is that those who DO value such official party status so highly must make choices and sacrifices. The point of a priority is that it comes prior to other things, so those who desire this outcome so strongly must say what we should do differently, and what other values we must at least temporarily sacrifice, to this end. Simply resolving to do the usual thing a little better or a little more is bullshit.

FOR THESE PEOPLE I've suggested in the past that we adopt a ballot label of convenience, such that a sufficient percentage of voters who know nothing else about us, but see that label on the ballot, will pull that lever. It could be Anti-Tax Party, Choice Party, or whatever. (After the election our state committee could change the name to Libertarian Party.) Such an effort is under way this year by Tom Leighton and Aaron Wilson to get a Marijuana Reform (with a hemp leaf emblem) line on the ballot via gov.-lt. gov. candidacy, and they'll probably succeed. Certainly without a "different" candidate like Roy Innis this year, LPNY's vote total this year will suffer at their hands, as they will from ours, when we compete for the same base.

And without a celebrity like Howard Stern or Roy Innis for guv -- he didn't even show up for his scheduled speech at the convention, and someone from NRA said he'd been undependable for them too -- it's pretty obvious we won't come close to 50,000 votes this year. I asked the attendees at the convention whether they thought that at all likely, and was gratified that the overwhelming majority agreed that neither I nor Chris Garvey was likely to come near that figure. (Chris himself wasn't so realistic.)

I also asked whether they considered 98 Counts to be a true priority, requiring temporary submerging or demotion of other values, and a majority put their hands up. So then I hit them with reality. I offered, if I was nominated for governor AND THE PARTY WANTED ME TO DO THIS, to do the following:

It doesn't make sense for Marijuana Reform and the Libertarians to fight each other and hurt each other's vote total, IF A HIGH VOTE TOTAL FOR GOVERNOR IS TOP PRIORITY. I know that for Tom Leighton, a vote total allowing not just for 4-year placement, but a good ballot position relative to other parties, is THE short-term goal, failing which he'll abandon the effort. I've discussed things with him, and he wants our help with the nominating petition drive and, secondarily, with the campaign. So what if, when the statewide nominating petitions of LP and of Marijuana Reform are filed, I (and my lieutenant governor LP running mate) decline the LPNY nomination for governor, and I accept a Marijuana Reform nomination for lieutenant governor?

By such an arrangement, LP would still have a presence on the 1998 statewide ballot; it wouldn't be like 1986, when we skipped all the statewide races. Meanwhile we'd help boost the vote total for Marijuana Reform, who'll have no 1998 candidates for those other statewide positions -- US sen., att'y gen'l, comptroller. Once we got party status as a result of the gov.- lt. gov. vote, our respective organizations (such as they are -- Marijuana Reform doesn't have one, just voter appeal) would share the ballot line over the next 4 yrs. Tom Leighton & I would jointly prepare bylaws to formalize this arrangement, and I could use our leverage to get a party name change to something like Marijuana Libertarian or Libertarian Marijuana Reform. They've no national organization, so the LP presidential ballot line for NY would be assured, and as far as other offices, considering our paucity of candidates, there'd be unlikely to be primaries between the LP & Marijuana Reform sectors of candidates; this "town" IS big enough for the both of us, for the next 4 yrs. at least.

The show of hands I asked for for this or "a gimmick or tactic like this" showed almost no support for this, either. However, I unsettled those present, especially state chair (acting as convention chairman) Lloyd Wright, by presenting this choice. I think people didn't like to be faced with what's necessary. I'd like to ask those who HONESTLY want official party status AS A PRIORITY, but not by a strength-and-power sharing means such as this, what ideas THEY have.

This discomfort was revealed especially in the vote for the nomination. I got only 2 votes (one from Chris; the other NOT from me, because I voted for Chris, inasmuch as I didn't REALLY want to run except as an alternative to Nobody). BTW, the idea of Tom Golisano for governor had been floated, and both Chris and I said we'd decline in his favor if the opportunity presented and our committee to fill vacancies found Golisano acceptable.

My "campaign" for governor had started at a state committee meeting last November. For about a year committee members had stared at each other and wondered what celebrity we were going to get to run for guv. In true committee fashion, hardly any individuals of the committee had actually done the little bit of work involved to actually ASK any prominent person to run; mostly we just blue-skied it and shot the breeze with ideas. (I'd asked William Tucker -- who'd spoken in the 1980s on housing at a Laissez Faire Supper Club of Manhattan, had some association IIRC with the Manhattan Inst., and now writes a column for the New York Press -- but he turned out to disagree with us on vice matters -- gambling, drugs, prostitution). Wanting to get over this bullshit, I asked Jim Harris how they got a full slate to run in Nassau county in 1997, and he said it was just the bunch of them who'd been meeting regularly in recent years. So I said, turning to everybody, it looks like we'll have to do the same; I'll run if you run. Jim Harris then volunteered for lieutenant governor. Chris Garvey took US senator because he was more interested in national & world issues; and I took governor. We had the time because we were self-employed or unemployed.

The bullshit still didn't end of course (although maybe it changed to horseshit), because that's when the secret outreach to Roy Innis began. For my part, I meanwhile contacted Kenny Kramer (the comedian on whom the Cosmo Cramer character of TV show "Steinfield" -- oh ok, "Seinfeld" -- was based), who ran abortively for mayor in 1997 and who I discovered had voted Libertarian ever since he discovered us while performing in Arizona, but he didn't express enough interest in running, and might still be in Australia by convention time.

At the convention, Don Silberger got the nomination for lieutenant governor unopposed, because Jim Harris had decided to run for state chair instead; he was elected unopposed the next day.

Then came the "race" for US senator (D'Amato's seat). Alan Keyes didn't show up at the convention; a spokesman for him did, although he didn't impart much information of use to us. There was doubt expressed as to how libertarian Keyes is, but in general attendees thought there was little info by which to judge. So someone nominated me. I thought for a few seconds and said I'd accept; again it looked like we had nobody else. Then someone nominated Bill McMillen. He similarly thought a few seconds and accepted. The choice then became a decision over the possibility of Alan Keyes. When asked, I said we'd have to find out more about him, but that if Alan Keyes was considered seriously by our committee to fill vacancies, I'd consider my judgment about of equal weight to any of them, and decline my nomination in favor of Keyes's if we thought it best. Bill said he'd not decline the nomination. He then won the nomination fairly handily.

Dan Conti won the att'y gen'l nomination unopposed. Then someone nominated me for state comptroller, an office I was unprepared to consider. But when it became clear we had no other takers, I accepted and won. The next day I also volunteered to find the Garvey-Silberger-Conti-Goodman campaign committee a treasurer.

The convention also adopted a new LPNY bylaw requiring any candidate on any LP ballot line to be a member of the state party; currently that means also a national member under the UMP. This move is another example of our paranoia. Seems most of the party activists are always afraid we'll be taken over somehow, when it's clear that the reverse (insufficient attraction and activity) is the real problem. The new bylaw takes some autonomy away from the county affiliates, too. What if a local LPer just doesn't like the state (and national, while we're on the UMP) organization? And why don't we trust ourselves, even at the state level, to nominate good people in the future? We have hardly any candidates as is, and we're putting one more little barrier in the way of activity. LPNYers seem to think the state (via election laws) is the main impediment to candidacy, but I'm starting to think it's our own organization that's at fault. We should be so lucky that some outsiders would consider us worthwhile to take over!

There was apparently some hope that if LP did achieve state established party status, we could somehow keep people from running as members (equated under election law with enrollees) unless they were dues-paying members of the state party. I think that requirement is unlikely to prevail legally, and might be considered akin to a poll tax. Why should the state allow us to use their apparatus (enrollment with the board of elections and designating, i.e. primary, petitions) to select candidates but then somehow include veto power over the procedure?

Of course it was also objected that the requirement to sign the NIOF certif'n and pay dues is not an impediment to anyone who seriously wants to fuck us up.

In Your Sly Tribe, Robert---