BURNET, Texas – Every day during this campaign I’ve become more and more convinced that it’s vitally important for the Libertarian Party to recruit and train good libertarian messengers. At every event I’ve attended, I have met eager, young (and some not-so-young) libertarian activists who are prime candidates for this mission. All they need are tools with which to work and build this party.
Their dedication and enthusiasm always rejuvenates me and gives me the energy to continue my pursuit of the Libertarian presidential nomination. It reaffirms my commitment to make sure that the Libertarian Party’s standard-bearer in 2012 is ready, willing and able to proclaim a loud, clear, and unequivocally principled libertarian message. But more than that, it inspires me to write articles like this, which I hope can serve as tools for training, so that Libertarians can become stronger and more effective libertarian messengers.
Like many libertarians who choose to engage in the political process, I’ve embraced the Libertarian Party as my family. One question I’m asked quite often, by both libertarians and non-libertarians, is “How did you come to join the Libertarian Party?” The reason has nothing at all to do with what anyone said or did. There was no political argument or discussion, no reasoned debate point that convinced me to join the Libertarian Party. Rather, I realized that the Libertarian Party embodied the values and beliefs I already held. It wasn’t a process of me coming to agree with the Libertarian Party; it was coming to the conclusion that the Libertarian Party agreed with me.
In my experience, this is the way most people find their political home in the Libertarian Party. They join not because they agreed with the LP, but because the LP agreed with them. Liberty and Freedom, after all, are agreeable topics. Most people join a group because they already agree with what that group does or believes. It’s natural for human beings to seek out other people of like mind. I mean, who wants to hang out with people they don’t agree with?
So one of the key points for libertarian messengers is to be agreeable. Freedom is an agreeable message, and freedom and liberty are the key components of the Libertarian Party platform. People naturally want to be free. One of the most effective ways to spread the libertarian message is to find areas of agreement with other people and other groups, even if it is just on one topic.
In politics, that’s called coalition building. When I was ballot access director for the North Carolina LP, we developed a strong coalition with the Green Party over the issue of ballot access. It was common for Libertarians and Greens to carry ballot access petitions for both parties. We even joined in a lawsuit challenging the ballot access laws.
Being agreeable starts right here in our libertarian family. It never ceases to amaze me how libertarians can argue among ourselves for hours and hours over the five percent of the things we might disagree on. We go to war with each other over one small portion of our philosophy, wasting time, energy and resources that could be better spent promoting the 95 percent of the libertarian philosophy on which we agree. We should proudly claim, and stand united, upon the common ground we share.
Sure, libertarians aren’t going to agree on everything. But we can agree on the things that are most important to all of us. In a recent discussion with a group of sincere, dedicated libertarian activists, someone argued that this view was not realistic. He said that libertarians could never totally agree on one issue. He asked me to name one issue all libertarians could absolutely agree on.
“That’s easy,” I replied. “Stop killing people.” No one in the group spoke. Why? Because I said something so agreeable, there was no argument. I didn’t have to scream it at the top of my lungs. I didn’t have to belittle anyone’s views or beliefs to make my own point. I simply said something agreeable.
To get people to agree with us, libertarians must first be agreeable. We should strive to win hearts and minds, not arguments. Our objective should be to persuade people that freedom is the answer, whatever the question. Freedom is an agreeable subject. It’s probably the most common denominator among people of any political persuasion. After all, do you know anyone who doesn’t want to be free? Once we’re standing on that common ground, it will be a lot easier to find other areas of agreement.