Pinellas Libertarians lead Coalitions in Florida
August 2nd 2005
Tampa, Fl, -As people seem to like
Libertarians more and more, perhaps the simply most unnerving
evidence of Libertarian appeal is this: 98% of the people who vote
for their candidates aren't even formal members of the Libertarian
Libertarians turn pre-conception of government, and politics, upside
down. One reason might be in their ability to do politics by ideas,
listening, and legwork at a time when it seems nothing can be done
without glitzy ads and vast finances. . Despite their advocacy of
individualism, Libertarians have in fact long had a reputation in
sophisticated political circles as savvy coalition builders and
diverse community leaders able to quietly build consensus, find
common areas, and get things done.
It must be so, as several community groups met to look at common
issues in a meeting co-facilitated by the Libertarian Party of
Pinellas (http://www.LPPinellas.org ) for Tampa Bay community
leaders. The meeting was held at National-Louis University.
"We value the Libertarian perspective on civil liberties
and their consensus skills," said Candi Jovan, an organizer for Common
Ground, which is sponsoring the series of brainstorming meetings, who also
praised other facilitating members of the event.. "Their ability to apply
principle in practice often attracts many community leaders," said another
attendee, "The ones I've met get it done and are fun."
Libertarians nationwide are also known for sometimes being overly
self-critical, agonizing over numberless details. The image is not helped by
pronouncements from their national party staff, say some Libertarians, who
often are new to the movement and have little sense of what’s happening. And
many sites run by conservative groups masquerade as Libertarian to attack
the Libertarians saying they must give up their principles and tore the
conservative or neo-conservative line to be effective.
Yet continuing self-criticism is part of their sharp edge. They perhaps
unjustly have a reputation as a debating society, as new members come to
some meetings unawares and find participants arguing Robert’s Rules, and
schooling themselves on a range of topics from local policy minutiae to
discussing Immanuel Kant’s effect on welfare economics. Yet this also makes
them formidable debaters, and often they lose an election battle but win the
war as opponents must address the points they bring up and promise to
implement Libertarian ideas. Plus college and high school students, who will
in the long run determine much of the country’s direction, love the
Paradoxically, Libertarians can cheer up by listening to their opponents.
“If you like small government, join the Libertarians, they have class,” Says
former Florida Democratic Senator Graham. Former Republican Congressman Bob
Barr notes that “Increasingly if you don’t think Libertarian ideas are
increasingly mainstream and effective, you’re not in the mainstream or
effective.” on a local Pinellas radio show run by Libertarians. Even figures
like Ralph Nader have nice things to say about Libertarians: "They're
organized," he tells admirers bluntly in a recent book, urging people to pay
THOSE PRINCIPLED, PRACTICAL LIBERTARIANS
Indeed, Libertarians would argue that they have a niche precisely because
individualism and non-coercion (Libertarians take an oath or affirmation not
to advocate initiation of force, including by government) oblige people to
co-operate. A common principle lets them self-organize independently, and
focus on a bottom-up approach of 'self-leadership.'
Indeed many Libertarians quote Science Fiction author Robert Heinlein,
creator of 'Starship Troopers' and himself an active Libertarian before his
death: "Leaders obey where the individual people will lead."
"Libertarian Individuals Mean Community Progress" is in fact the motto of
the Libertarian International Organization, and has been adopted by
Libertarian groups around the world. Libertarians view traditional coercive
government—with its taxes, social control, and commercial regulations—as
inhumane and obsolete, and work for an array of 'voluntary government'
private and co-operative alternatives that are slowly being adopted around
the world. These alternatives, they say, will better protect people's rights
and curb abuses. They say they’re right in line with the Founders, pointing
to Jefferson’s call for diminishing government.
True, they recognize that their principle of non-coercion and less
government--or no government--is quite an adjustment for most people. But
they patiently advance their ideas with small, and sometimes 'paradigm
changing steps,' says Gary Iavecchia, a Republican activist who recently
joined the Pinellas Libertarians.
STEP BY STEP
They must be doing something right, not only in Pinellas, but Florida:
Libertarians hold a small, growing, portfolio of influential local positions
there from Soil & Water Boards to the advisor on economics of the Governor,
who is also the President’s brother. They have led successful coalitions on
difficult issues, such as Revision 11. which overnight--that is, after 15
years of relentless, polite team organizing--changed Florida's anti-third
party election laws from among the world's most stringent ( Libertarians
noted that Russia's laws were more liberal, and the media soon ridiculed
laws it previously had supported) to among America's most enlightened.
That’s a phrase you hear about Libertarians in Florida: polite team players
Indeed, the National Libertarian Party itself dubbed their coalition
the "Libertarian success story of the decade." It was followed by
elections where an average of 16% of the electorate voted
Libertarian--half the number voting for Democrats, and a slow but
steady growth of Libertarians elected or appointed in local offices,
cutting taxes and blowing the whistle on official abuses.
Plus they get high praise from their political colleagues: "They're
small but understand the one thing that is gold coin in politics: if
you have a reasonable principle and have the will to stick with it
ignoring people who say ‘compromise’ and politicians willing to sell
out their grandmothers, all until you win, then you win," said an
aide to the former State House majority leader who asked not to be
named, "And then the victories come more easily as people realize
you intend to win, and know how to win."
Many observers agree that, because of their principle that coercive
government is never the solution and actually the problem,
Libertarians are able to be relentless from a long term focus and
the strong bargaining position that gives them: they don't bargain.
While they do offer a variety of incremental steps, they always move
towards getting the public more voluntary alternatives. Their
message is they simply won’t support more taxes, regulations, or
official social intolerance of any kind.
Thus Pinellas Libertarians draw a sharp distinction between
compromising promises to the public and advocacy of transitional
measures that head in the right direction. And they patiently meet
with groups to build consensus, citing LP Founder David Nolan, who
called the LP a consensus organization. “People spend a lot of time
on what they won’t do, we focus on what people are willing to do,
and there are often areas of agreement people don’t realize are
there until they start talking,“ Says Pinellas LP Chair Michael
Gilson-De Lemos.” Step by step is good, but in the context of the
need to ask for what you want up front in any discussion so people
get over the sticker shock, so to speak—but often people realize
that they agree completely with what at first seems an ‘extreme’
proposal. If you don’t ask, the answer is no. Anyone who’s sold a
house can tell you that. I would say that 80% of what people say
‘Oh, they’ll never do that’ people will do on a little discussion.
And we listen carefully to other’s proposals, always looking for a
common area of action.”
It's also creating a reputation for integrity among the public.
“When people ask, how do I know Libertarians will not go back on
their promises, I point to the fact of the pledge and that we simply
see no role for government coercion,” Says activist Jon Kueny.
Libertarian candidates, who in Florida run deliberately low-budget,
legwork based campaigns de-emphasizing campaign contributions
(they’re often outspent even by the Greens) actually had lobbyists
complaining in a newspaper article that Libertarians were driving up
the price of what many feel are de-facto bribes—what are called
campaign contributions for access—since Libertarians won’t compete
for lobbyist funds. Unsurprisingly, Pinellas Libertarians posted the
article on their website with glee and it now forms part of their
presentations to community groups. . "Public bodies notice a change
with even one Libertarian present" says the St Petersburg Press. The
Times-Union puts it more succinctly: "The Libertarians are doing
what political parties are supposed to do" at the local level.
PINELLAS LIBERTARIANS IN SEVERAL COALITIONS
Their abilities continue in Pinellas County, Florida, where
Libertarians have been attracting international attention with their
systematic approach to education, activism, and political action on
Libertarian ideas. Pinellas County includes the resort and
retirement cities of Clearwater and St Petersburg.
Pinellas was among the first American counties to privatize
ambulance services. Libertarians have led coalitions that cut taxes
and expanded voluntary home schools. They’re working with local
peace groups, are talking to community leaders about a Pinellas city
adopting an Iraqi or Middle East sister city for long term peace,
and point out that Libertarians are at work in Iraq, including a
workshop for 63 Iraqi Legislators interested in less government and
more human rights. Lately they've been active in fighting the
Patriot Act and promoting better election procedures, notably in a
coalition with Democrats, Greens, and numerous community groups (www.ERCPinellas.org)
using ideas developed from standing-room only public hearings the
Libertarians also helped facilitate.
And it isn’t just the Libertarian Party. An array of non-partisan
Libertarian groups focused on books, cultural discussion and
community projects have an Adopt-A-Road Program, assist new home
schoolers, and have a Libertarian radio show that interviews a
parade of local and national officials and figures on voluntary
approaches. There are monthly seminars open to all on how to be a
candidate, fill out Rube Goldberg government forms, activism, and a
dinner group. There’s even a well attended short workshop on the
Libertarian pledge, which relates it to policy proposals and
self-improvement books, and compares it with the less well known
oaths of the Republicans, Democrats, and Greens.
All this makes for political capital. Several Pinellas Libertarians
are on the short list for appointment to local citizen advisory
boards, and a group of non-Libertarians has offered to fund
Libertarian candidates for local elections. The Election Reform
proposals are being studied by several local boards and groups
involved in the subject.
And for the future?
"We’re developing a long-term coalition for slashing local taxes
while improving public services through Libertarian voluntary
techniques," says Mr. Michael Gilson-De Lemos, a retired Fortune 100
consultant with a background in economics and systems philosophy who
also helped found the modern Libertarian movement. "We’re also
looking at statewide interest in raising the homestead property tax
exemption to the median level, $150,000 from the present ridiculous
$25,000. Libertarians around America are halving taxes while
doubling services through common sense measures and voluntary
approaches. Why shouldn't Pinellas lead in that regard?"
Why not indeed? Pinellas Libertarians may stand posed to hit another
nerve: The property taxes are up, and the county budget has
ballooned. An open house on tax issues by the Libertarians recently
was—again—mostly non-Libertarians, standing room only.
Keywords and Misspellings: Libertarain Libartarian
Penellas Pineslas Floreda