By Bill Hall
As I finish my third term, four years, as Chair of the Libertarian Party of Michigan, I’d like to share four rules that I’ve done my best to follow. Perhaps not everything important I’ve learned as Chair, but important nevertheless. As I’m not running for re-election, I would hope whoever our new Chair is will take these rules to heart over the next two years of his or her term.
I’ve always tried my best to treat everyone – Libertarian officers, activists and candidates, the press, public officials and the general public, with courtesy and respect, no matter how they treat me. Libertarian tolerance for the views of others, and professionalism, demand it. President Trump, the Republicans and the Democrats routinely engage in nasty, highly partisan and uncivilized behavior. This is an opportunity for us to display the “softer side” of libertarianism, and contrast ourselves from our political opponents.
It’s sometimes hard to be polite to someone who repeatedly calls people names, uses profanity on Facebook, uses juvenile tactics to gain (damaging) media attention, or twists libertarian philosophy to the point they are arguing it justifies the initiation of force. However, you can be polite, yet oppose bad behavior. Call out your political opponents by using facts, not calling names. Make clear you disagree with their views or tactics. Often verbal and written attacks on social media or elsewhere are a person’s attempt to create drama, draw attention and make them feel important. Your best response may be to ignore them. Don’t angrily respond, don’t engage with them; do unfriend them and block them from your Facebook page. Most importantly, don’t increase their power to engage in bad behavior. Vote against them for public and party office and urge others to do the same. I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that in the most egregious cases, don’t be afraid to expel from the party an activist who repeatedly engages in bad behavior.
We are all volunteers in the Libertarian Party of Michigan. That means you need to be grateful for every contribution of time or money an activist gives. You must temper your expectations much more than for a paid employee. Don’t press too hard. Give a volunteer more leeway to make their own decisions about how they will fulfill their commitments. If they don’t do so, then don’t call them names; find another volunteer. Say “thank you” often for all the help a volunteer provides.
The time to question a candidate about his or her policy positions and tactics is before you nominate him or her; not after. Once nominated, the role of the LPM’s LEC is to support our candidates, not second-guess their policy positions and tactics. “Support” includes not publicly complaining about them. Candidates commit their own valuable time and money to their campaigns. They are much more invested in them than we are. I’ve never met a Libertarian candidate with whose policy positions and tactics I have agreed entirely. Yet in almost every case, I’ve been willing to vote for them, because they clearly offer a superior pro-freedom choice over their opponent. There may be an egregious case of someone gaining our nomination who is clearly unfit to be a Libertarian nominee, but revoking support for such a candidate should only be done after serious and complete consideration, and not because of one or two disagreements on policy issues or tactics.
I wish the best of luck to our new LPM officers and representatives to be elected at our convention on April 13. I plan to continue my 42 years of support for the important work we do.