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Florida: Many Praise Libertarian Coalitions

April 13th 2006

Florida: Many Praise Libertarian Coalitions

Florida LP

Orlando, FL--Worried that legislators are crushing school choice, raising taxes, giving handouts to big corporations or well connected local promoters, and suppressing free speech? Wonder if anyone has the political courage to promote counter-intuitive but creative ideas such as private and voluntary regulation of police, cutting crime through concealed carry, or publicize the growing number of police who say the Drug War is actually a front for rackets? Is anyone doing something effective across the board on basic issues such as dialogue to  do something about the election mess, or simply even get legislators to read the bills they pass on the rest of us?

The Libertarians think the same way. In what is becoming a tradition, Libertarians are at work on a wide array of coalitions nationwide on these subjects. They have a growing reputation for building non-partisan citizen coalitions and getting effective results. Even their strategy is counterintuitive: a no-compromise approach on their concept of improving freedoms through immediate replacement of government programs that force participation with voluntary structures that engage it, coupled with canny lining up of broad support and transitional measures.

 

It also establishes them as no-nonsense leaders of a slowly growing constituency for rights issues and spokesperson for an emerging American center of socially tolerant, fiscally conservative citizens interested in radical reduction or abolition of government programs. Weary of culture wars between conservatives and liberals seeking to impose one-size-fits all polices, they're more aware of non-government alternatives Libertarians say are based on more tolerant and responsive private or voluntary community programs. According to a recent Gallup poll, the number of people receptive to the Libertarian message has more than doubled in a generation, to some 20%.

The Libertarian Party (LP) has created a strong record in coalitions and citizen initiatives, and this year it looks to get stronger. "Leaders are looking for more common ground with Libertarians in order to govern," says Florida Democratic Congressional hopeful Sammy Simpson, a well-known state activist who recently organized an event that invited Libertarian perspectives. Among comments the Libertarians received: "They require members to pledge not to initiate force and have an array of ideas and examples on doing things without government force. We pass campaign restrictions and they do things like denounce them while refusing contributions. They have this aura of seriousness. That itself is impressive, because from what I've seen it attracts that sort of person."

 

NOT JUST ELECTIONS

While the national Libertarian Party unsurprisingly sees winning elections as central to its mission, a good part of party activity involves a growing record of lobbying, e-mail campaigns, and community activism--which incidentally grooms winning candidates while making their losing ones effective centers of influence with community support. The Florida Libertarian Party, or LPF (www.LPF.org ) is considered a key example, its members encouraged to work independently not only with local groups but national libertarian-oriented initiatives, legislators receptive to their proposals, and other state parties. A survey of activists at their most recent convention showed that initiatives Libertarians are working on--whether as leaders, co-organizers, or key supporters and publicists--included:

* An e-campaign supporting vouchers as a quasi-Libertarian improvement joins efforts by the Governor

*Coalition work to battle back attempts to get rid of term limits (which Libertarians support as an optional management tool to curb majority abuses) and also create pilot proportional representation (which would have no term limits)

 

*A move, after a 5-year information campaign and attempt to amend the Constitution,  by legislators to double the Florida Homestead exemption, slashing real estate taxes

*Getting localities to pass restrictions on Eminent Domain seizures, while starting a coalition to make government giveaways to companies illegal (www.EndCorporateWelfare.com)

*Support of campaigns against a bill in Congress (www.DownsizeDC.org) critics say could make any private contributions to non-incumbents a crime (incumbents would receive favored government financing). Another effort wants legislators to read the laws they pass before voting on them.

" An initiative in Pinellas to bring CALEA, a private police standards group, to more of Florida that has generated upcoming public hearings

*A successful flurry of e-mails to Nebraska legislators on Florida's experience with the Libertarian-initiated carry bill that cut crime by arming citizens private and voluntary regulation of police.

* Support of LEAP, a group of law-enforcement officers questioning the Drug War

* Election reform coalitions that have helped extend balloting times, making all candidates easier to run

*Several local initiatives highlighting how the affordable housing crisis is 'in part due to backfiring real estate taxes and regulations,' said Charles Manhart, a lead activist and local candidate

*An initiative to persuade cities to adopt foreign towns in troubled areas to build bonds and 'short circuit the terrorism of he future.'

Sometimes, the Libertarians succeed by changing debate in their direction. Often they act more as needed catalysts of public unease. A strategy calling for retiring Iraq troops and denouncing how the US often supports the dictatorships that create terrorism was e-mailed to representatives and made the centerpiece of a petition and e-mail campaign. As Democrats and dissident Republicans take up their own version of the proposals, the national office has retired the plan to a back page while it prepares the next proposal "To take account of the changes in Iraq," said LP Director Shane Cory.

LONG RANGE POLITICS

"It's long range politics 101," said Simpson, who is also a community leader in St. Petersburg and Pinellas county, Florida, and spoke recently on TheFreedomWorks, a local Libertarian radio show about Democratic proposals of interest to Libertarians:  "I'm very open to free-market ideas." A show e-mailer, who identified himself as a retired Republican Councilman developing an anti-tax alliance, agreed: "They remind some people of chessplayers who stubbornly keep a position or goal that in time dominates the board. Meanwhile they keep their eye on the goal while developing common ground coalitions and mediating discussions among community groups that otherwise wouldn't be talking. Plus I've found them very pleasant in line with their philosophy."

"Republicans take care of the Republican part, and Democrats of the Democracy part of the Constitution. The Libertarians see to the Bill of Rights and the non-legislative common law approach," said the listener. "With Republicans creating budget deficits and Democrats calling for torture of suspected terrorists, the Libertarians are often perceived as a calm voice that asks us to look at our assumptions, to keep to basic principle and help us regain our bearings."

This principled approach is gold coin in a political climate filled with "Counterfeit principles, horse trading, disloyalty, back-stabbing, and short sighted compromises," says Julie Chorgo, a Libertarian activist with an e-group collecting Libertarian successes. "Sometimes people ask if we s would support something with both Libertarian and non-Libertarian characteristics. In my experience it's rare, but you better make clear you're only supporting the Libertarian part or your public message gets confused."

"The truth is there is so much we can wholeheartedly support or initiate effectively, if you know what you're doing, it doesn't come up. Characterize taxes as theft, build alliances as you propose immediate tax reductions and abolitions that benefit many people, suddenly everyone's debating not whether the Libertarian position, but how fast is realistic. Go in begging for a small tax break and you're lucky to hold the line and look like a greedy lobbyist."

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By Mike Davis
Freelance Writer

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Keywords and misspellings:  politics poletics democrat demoncrat republican repub comentary commentary


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