LiberporcTo the Members of the Libertarian Party:

The 2016 election has ended. It ended much the way that I expected it to. What I am about to say will apply to many of you. There are some who this doesn’t apply to because I know there were efforts taken by those willing to do the hard work it takes to make a difference; most you did not. If you think I am writing about you after reading this memo, it likely is about you, and if the shoe fits, it’s yours to wear.

First off, it is beyond clear now that the so called “pragmatic approach” so many elected to take at the National Convention has failed once again. What could have been a prime opportunity to truly embrace our unique identity as libertarians was white washed by Hillary praising and half measures by Governors Bill Weld and Gary Johnson.  While certainly the most government experience present as candidates, when it came to what opportunities were available to the duo, they fell short.

One could argue that they were trying to be more centric to appeal to people, one can even claim that we may not have garnered the media we did in the election. What these claims ignore is that the mountain we must climb as a third party is already a high bar, so we should remain as consistently principled in our approach as possible. We are not centric in our ideology. We are not a grab bag of Democrat and Republican ideas. We are a totally separate option. We also wasted the opportunities with the media with several praises of one of the other candidates in the race.

From experience speaking with many people in my area, I witnessed the disappointment from many voters first hand. I saw so many people come up to me as I did outreach throughout the season telling me that they considered supporting our ticket, but couldn’t after either not sticking to principles or praising Clinton. It is one thing to keep a campaign clean and above the mudslinging, it is quite another to make statements about another candidate being the most qualified in the race.

For all the promises of debates, hitting at least 5%, and possible electoral votes, these all fell flat as this ticket floundered all the way to election night on so many chances.

I personally could have far more tolerated the ticket without Governor Weld. Because of him on the ticket, I had to hold my nose to cast my ballot for the Libertarian ticket this year. The only reason I placed that vote was to help my state preserve ballot access for future candidates like myself, and possibly you the reader, to run.

I argued against Governor Weld because of his history. What I learned on the campaign trail further solidified my disagreement with him being the Vice-Presidential nominee. I held my tongue to stay out of the constant arguing amongst libertarians, but I regret this decision. I should have brought this to light when I first overheard it. I owe everyone an apology, and it is something that will likely haunt me.

On August 6th, the Johnson/Weld campaign held a rally at the University of Utah. I had originally been scheduled to speak at the rally, however, in the “wise judgement” of the campaign management, I was excluded in favor of Republicans, a Bernie Delegate, and someone who had only been in the party a couple weeks as a recently converted State legislator from the Republican Party to Libertarian.

Despite this exclusion, I decided to show unity even though this would have helped propel my own campaign for the U.S. House and it hurt to schedule work off to attend. I was allowed into the green room, got some photos and one on one time with both governors. Things were going well, all things considered.  As the speakers started filing out, and Governors Weld and Johnson moved over to the door, I overheard a quirk that should have sent me ringing the alarm bells.

Though a joke, I’m sure, I don’t consider this a joking matter in the least. Governor Weld stated to Gary that things would be so much easier if they could just get rid of the 5th amendment in regards to opposition. The worst part wasn’t even just that Bill Weld stated something like this, it was that Gary Johnson agreed with him and laughed about it. Therefore, I regret staying silent so long. Due process is something that we need to defend and it is not something to quip about. This in combination with so many bad stances taken should have been enough for me to speak out more boldly. While I certainly corrected the record on libertarian stances when the ticket went off script, I neglected to speak about this issue.

I can tell you this much, if I am in a position as a delegate again, I will never support another Republican cross over candidate. It is one thing to come to learn and leave the old ideas at the door as you learn about and advocate libertarian principles; it is quite another to have a whopping three weeks’ time in the party and run for Vice President. Thankfully, I never voted for Weld in Orlando, but I should have fought harder to get someone like Larry Sharpe on the ticket.

This is the revelation I have on the top of the ticket from this election. The rest of this writing applies to some issues I observed in my own race and races across the country.

Where was the same level of motivation and dedication to down ballot candidates that you all had for Gary Johnson and Bill Weld?

This obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, as there are many dedicated volunteers who have helped us out, but the clear majority focused at the top instead of also helping build the foundation for a future of the party. The number one reason why individuals argued for the ticket we got was experience. So answer me this libertarians: how the hell do we advance things if we don’t get people into positions to get that experience? Are we just supposed to keep having former Republicans and Democrats come over and use our ballot access while promising the world? Or doesn’t it make sense that you build a foundation so we can make greater strides?

When are we going to stop bringing over the Welds, Barrs, and Roots? Are we ever going to learn our lessons about them?

To further illustrate this point about top down instead of bottom up, I have seen over thirty different polls online asking who we should run in 2020. Why are we focusing on 2020 when there are local elections in 2017? What about the midterms in 2018? We shouldn’t wait four years before we start getting people into office. We need to be supporting those principled individuals to get into the ground work and start implementing libertarian policies!

I get it. It is elating to feel a part of a Presidential campaign. However, there are so many people running to represent you across the board that need your help. We need people to help phone bank. We need people to donate if they are able. We need people to door knock. We need people to help man outreach booths. We need people to hold signs in parades. We need people to help hand out material at public events.

Most of you jumped at the chance to do it for the top ticket, but forgot about the state legislative candidate. You left out the Senate candidate. You left behind that County Commissioner candidate. You let down that Congressional candidate. You could have done so much more than what you did in races that could have made a huge difference.

There were at least 16 federal elections with only the Libertarian and one major party candidate that could have used the help. There was a myriad of two way races at the local and state levels that could have used your support. Is it great you help Gary? Of course, however, you failed the people who could have made the biggest impact on the political climate where you are most affected: your community.

For the record, this is not me complaining about my own run either. I had some wonderful supporters who regularly helped me out and it reflected in the results of 5.59% and over 11,000 votes which set a record for the party in my state and put me with only two other third party candidates in my district’s history. Some of Gary’s volunteers even did double duty with me. Don’t think this is a blanket for everyone, but if the shoe fits, you had better wear it and accept the bed you made.

The only two disappointments I had in my own run was when I was so close to being in the debates in October. I let people everywhere know the polling was going on. I asked for support, and in a moment I could have used it, too few stepped forward. I ended up excluded over .5% in the polls. If I could have gotten more support, I know without a doubt I would have been on that stage. The second disappointment I had was when I asked for support to protest the exclusion only four people showed up to support me outside of the venue. This was heartbreaking beyond measure. If you followed the campaign at all, you saw how much I put into it. I was not a placeholder.

Now, before someone wants to jump in and start blaming libertarian “purists” or throwing out accusations my way, or to others, we are not the reason why the race was low. We were not the ones who failed to show up. This may be anecdotal, but from what I experienced, it was radicals who were showing up for outreach, it was radicals who were donating, it was radicals fighting tooth and nail in tons of races. There were radicals all over the place pushing for the most libertarian direction possible.

Most of the donations I personally received in my race were from radicals. Even though I wasn’t endorsed by the Libertarian Radical Caucus, several of their members stepped up to help with their time and money, seeing that while I wasn’t as far down the path they had traveled, I was sincere in what I was doing and truly believed in the principles I spoke about.

This brings me to my final point: I am sick and tired of feeling like we aren’t welcome in this movement. There are constant attacks against anarchists in the party and it needs to stop. We fight for liberty as hard as we can. We are out there doing ballot drives, manning outreach booths, running effective campaigns, and even when we didn’t get our choice in, we gave Gary Johnson and Bill Weld a chance. Many of us still volunteered to help the campaign. Some of us donated. It wasn’t until they continued to go against principles, including against our platform, admitting such on national news, that we started correcting the record and dropping support.

But seeing as how we are one of the smallest minorities in the country as radicals, we are not the cause of this. It falls square on you for choosing them. I don’t know what would have happened with a different ticket.  We had a chance to have someone advocate for libertarianism in a way not ever presented before, as the two most horrible people possible stepped up for the major parties. As of now, we also see that all the excuses of government experience are now thrown out the window, as President-elect Trump has none.

To further illustrate the point, look at Evan McMullin’s results in his home state of Utah and compare them to Gary Johnson’s results in the state of New Mexico. Evan McMullin, basically a nobody at all, garnered 20% of the vote at home. Gary Jonson in contrast as the former Governor of New Mexico only managed to get 9% of the vote. We literally could have nominated just about anyone and focused on stopping the electoral college 270 minimum to force the House vote and possibly had success.

I’m done accepting promises from former Republicans swooping in to run and being accepted with open arms almost immediately with their lofty promises. For all the promises made, none of them happened. We didn’t get into the Debates. We didn’t get 5% of the vote. If this continues, there is no real party of principles, because the people we are running end up lacking principles, yet we continue to accept hand me downs looking for the ballot access we fought for. Where were they during these efforts?

I am not giving up on the efforts of liberty, but I hope what I have stated today helps to take stock of your part in this campaign season. I hope that if you were one of those who could have done far more, you take it to heart and do what you can going forward.

I will personally take about two weeks of time away from most things political. After that, I get back to work on the movement for liberty. As a Chairman of a County affiliate, my work doesn’t end after a Presidential cycle; I hope your own contributions don’t cease and you work to help grow the party and educate people about the philosophy of libertarianism. I sincerely hope that you don’t go to sleep for another four years until it’s time for another Presidential race.  We have elections in 2017, 2018, and 2019 before we get to the National Convention in 2020.

We need tomorrow’s leaders to step up to run. We need volunteers to man those booths as we do outreach. We need people helping man the phones. We need people to door knock and hand out flyers.

Will you step up?  Will you do your part? Will you help truly grow libertarianism in the world?

I will be there. I will be in the trenches with you if you’re willing to help dig in. Will you join me? Will you prove me wrong from 2017 up to 2020 about what I saw this year?

It is your choice libertarians.

In Liberty

Craig Bowden

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2 thoughts on “My Final Electoral Thoughts of 2016

  1. I like your words, but there’s another problem. The Libertarian party is suffering from a lack of Strategic Vision. I’d like to see their vision for 2020, or 2025. There were several opportunities this past 8 years to step up and Speak out, but instead, there was NOTHING except email only to ourselves. They seem focused on insignificant crap, and not big goals. For the third largest political party in the US, they should have made moves on all those Republicans who were angry with their leadership. We missed opportunities to the point that I think I may have come to the end of my 10 year relationship with the Libertarian Party. I still think Libertarian, but there comes a point where repeated disappointment is too much to take…

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