Draft Preface for My New Book

The U.S. political system is broken. The Democrats and Republicans have stopped talking to each other. Our legislatures lurch from one party rule by Democrats to one party rule by Republicans. We could really use a new political party, one capable of winning enough seats in Congress so that no party has a majority. Then our legislators would have to talk to each other instead of at each other.

Congress has a horrible approval rating overall, yet individual Congresshumans get re-elected as a matter of course. Our incumbents need some real competition in November to keep them honest and connected to The People. A viable third party — or several — would be very helpful.

The pendulum swings between red tape and environmental neglect, high crime and overflowing prisons, budget busting new programs and budget busting tax cuts for the rich, sloth-inducing welfare programs and mean-spirited benefit cuts. Who can we vote for to get a balanced budget? Who will give us environmental protection using sound economic principles? Who will simplify the tax code without more giveaways to the super rich than they even want? We need a new political party.

So why don’t we have a viable third party in this country? Why do new parties regularly fail to get off the ground? Why are we limited to zombie third parties that are too radical to win elections?

The answer: The U.S. political system is rigged against third parties. The Two Party System is built into the way we count votes.

But here is the good news: I have found a loophole. Two loopholes, actually. It took two decades to find them; two decades of exasperating argument, arduous effort, expensive experimentation, and humbling defeat to find these loopholes.

You can find these loopholes simply by reading this book, an effort thousands of dollars and hours cheaper. (Maybe I should charge more…) Exploit the loopholes within and you have a chance at creating a viable third party.

A chance.

Politics is a competitive game. You still need to play it well in order to win some races. The rest of this book contains a large collection of wisdom to help you do just that. I played the third party game for a quarter century, and got to pick the brains of many an experienced activist, including quite a few national chairmen. I have some lessons for you that you can learn the hard way, or learn from a book…

A Quick Political Resume

My claim is audacious. Perhaps some credentials are in order.

I played the third party game for a quarter century from many positions: solo activist to party meeting regular, obedient volunteer to local leader, callow radical to heretical reformer. I have planted signs, dropped literature, knocked on doors, worked booths, chaired a campaign, chaired a county party, and launched a PAC. I have done experiments, written polling software, and designed outreach literature. I have served on several national committees, and towards the end led a reform effort that caused a rewrite of the national platform. (Look up “Portland Plank Massacre of 2006.”) And along the way I had the privilege of discussing ideas and strategies with a wide variety of experienced activists.

All this was within the Libertarian Party, but don’t let that stop you if you aren’t a libertarian. This book is meant to be a general purpose guide. I want to see some third party Representatives in Congress even if they are members of a party I disagree with. (That said, many of the examples in this book do come from my Libertarian Party experiences.)

I also have a bigger hope. Since I left the Libertarian Party a decade ago, my own views have drifted considerably from true libertarianism. Though I still love liberty, I am game for certain active environmental and egalitarian measures. I am hoping some of you reading this book will succeed in creating a party I can enthusiastically join.

What’s Inside

This book is divided into seven parts, with multiple chapters in each:

  1. Political Science and Third Parties. Herein lies the Secret Sauce, the two loopholes that allow third party success despite some political science theorems that indicate otherwise. Heed the information here and you have a chance at success. Ignore the constraints, and failure is almost guaranteed — unless you start with a charismatic billionaire celebrity candidate.
  2. Branding and Positioning. Put on a well-tailored suit, have a three martini lunch, and light up some cigarettes; it’s time to go into Madison Avenue mode. Here we look at several possible market positionings that take advantage of the loopholes found in Part 1. What kind of people are likely to be an early adopter for your party? How do you reach them economically? How do you craft a brand that appeals to both your early adopters and future swing voters? Many possible party names are revealed. Feel free to commandeer one if you are serious. Or use the examples to inspire your own brand.
  3. A Strategic Framework for Third Parties. To truly succeed, you need be to between ten to a hundred times better than existing third parties. I’ll show you how this is theoretically reasonable using a bottleneck analysis. And we’ll explore ways to measure which bottleneck is the tightest.
  4. Lessons Learned in the Libertarian Party. High level strategy is all well and good, but the basic nuts and bolts of lower level strategy and tactics are still extremely important. Some things you can readily learn by trial and error. Other lessons require millions of dollars of experimentation. Fortunately for you, the Libertarian Party already spent the millions of dollars. I’ll give you a large collection of useful tips I picked up working with them. (The LP has a wealth of the nuts and bolts wisdom within. The party struggles because its base refuses to heed the lessons of Part 1 as a matter of principle.)
  5. Persuasion, Mindset, and Political Platforms. A quick sampling of persuasion “magic”, and suggestions on where it works and where you need to actually resort to rational argument. This is followed by tips on the art of crafting a viable platform and general outreach messages.
  6. Intent vs. Effect. Are you a progressive who likes to subsidize the rich? A conservative who likes breaking up families and increasing crime? A free market capitalist who looks forward to hyperinflation or another great depression? A libertarian who looks forward to war and dictatorship? An environmentalist who likes SUVs? If so, you can skip this part. Otherwise, read carefully to avoid mistakes common among political thinkers from all over the map. And you can find some creative solutions waiting for a new party to make them happen.
  7. Starting from Scratch. Some parting thoughts on how to get off the ground when you are starting with just a few people and extremely limited resources.

Promises and Caveats

If you are truly serious about starting a new political party, this guide can save you a great deal of time, money, sweat, and heartbreak.

  • The principles and examples in Part 1 and Part 2 can make the difference between creating yet another zombie political party, and creating a party that has a future of winning partisan elections.
  • The strategic insights and case studies in Parts 3-5 can save your party thousands of dollars in the early stages, and millions of dollars later on.
  • Should you actually succeed, the ideas in Part 6 can save the country trillions of dollars in counterproductive policies.

So how can you get all this at such a low, low price??

Answer: I cut some corners. This is a self-published book. Editing is limited.

  • This book does not conform to Egbert Quillfellow’s Anal Retentive Guide to Academic Style.
  • Capitalization conventions are archaic and inconsistent. Microsoft Word does not approve.
  • Citations are often imprecise or to secondary sources.
  • Some of the ideas are merely introduced. Further reading is required.
  • There is humor within. If you recently time traveled here from the Victorian Era, have a degree in Modern Indignation Studies, or devoutly believe that this country is secretly run by a coalition of Jewish bankers and lizard men, I will offend you.
  • There are at least three significant errors within. It is left as an exercise for the reader to find them.

Acknowledgments

The principles within follow readily for the philosophically trained thinker who starts with the correct a priori assumptions…NOT!!

True wisdom comes from a mix of reason and lots of expensive Trial and Error. The dedicated activists and donors within the Libertarian Party put in the millions of dollars and many thousands of hours trying out ideas in the field. Even where I criticize their current strategies, they deserve credit: it takes trying out ideas — while doing enough other things right — to find out what doesn’t work. Many thanks to Libertarians across the country with whom I have had the chance to argue strategy in person and online over the years. This includes ye radicals who disapprove of this book and my actions leading up to it. (Though I have left the Libertarian fold, I’d love to see ye elect 50 Libertarians to the House of Representatives. But are you willing to make the necessary adjustments?)

Special thanks to the Libertarian Party affiliates in Northern Virginia and Buncombe County North, Carolina. Thanks for the real world experience and for making my experiments possible. And thanks for the good times.

As for the ideas in Part 6, thanks need to go out to a very wide array of people. They are the result of testing ideas in recreational debate with people all over the political map: liberals, socialists, Republicans, gun activists, environmentalists, hippies, Democrats, Libertarians, and more. Ye forced me to reconsider ideas and hit the books many times — though sometimes a few years after certain discussions…

And finally, thanks to my family for patience while I wrote this book.

A New Series on Criminal Justice

Oops! I forgot to announce it on this What’s New blog: I have started a new series on the main site on criminal justice.

Besides the first page of the series, I now have one on the economics of crime, and one on criminal psychology; i.e., I go a bit beyond economics in modeling criminal behavior.

The goal is to make people aware of how we can reduce crime while restoring lost civil liberties at the same time.

New Facebook Group Created

The number of inquiries about starting a new political party has been huge this year. (I wonder why?) I’ve begun to realize that I have become the bottleneck in this process.

So I’ve created a new tool for those interested in doing something active to connect and discuss their ideas: a new Holistic Politics Facebook group.  Unlike the page, the group allows all members to create posts. I’m going to be light in the administration. As long as you are reasonably polite, on topic, not selling aphrodisiacs, and/or advocating illegal activities, you can post away.

And “on topic” is not limited to starting a party. The group is for discussing anything related to what is on the Holistic Politics site.


That said, there are downsides to Facebook groups. They are too much oriented by timeline vs. thread for my taste. Realtime conversation can be a real time sink. Drilling down to see old comments is annoying. Facebook’s whack-a-mole interface fatigues me.

So I intend to set up an old school forum on the site as well. This may take me a while.

 

Is the Trump Win a Victory for the Upper Left?

I did not vote for Donald Trump yesterday. In fact, I refused to vote for any Republicans out of disgust for some of Trump’s statements and habits.

But Trump might be an ugly realization of the market opportunity that I have been pointing out for over a decade.

Let me explain.

I first came across the idea of mixing populism with a vision of smaller government when I read None Dare Call it Conspiracy back in high school. The idea was mixed with a bunch of outrageous conspiracy theories that bordered on anti Semitism. I have seen this mix in later years mixed with racism on the paleo conservative web sites, which are now labeled alt-right. The mix can also be seen in the old Reform Party.

When thinking of possible new political party names, I seriously contemplated American Party — and rejected it. I did not want to mix my ideas with racism and conspiracy theories. My hope has been that a clean revival of classical liberal ideals in a successful package could squash such ugliness. (Those long out of power often resort to conspiratorial mindsets.) I may have been preempted.

For American citizens, Donald Trump is economically far to the left of any Republican since Eisenhower. He’s more of a pre-McGovern Democrat than a conservative. He’s Dick Gephart with an attitude. He is arguably to the left of Hillary.

True, he has also revived racism somewhat, which is also an old Democrat trait. But Trump’s racism is not aimed at our black population — which stands to benefit from protectionism and a closing of the borders. Nativism favors the black population because on average Black America has deeper roots here than White America. Most black immigration ended in 1808. And by making U.S. Citizenship harder to get, it increases the value thereof. This constitutes a form of reparations for past injustices for the descendants of slaves who didn’t really get full citizenship until my childhood days.

Socially, The Donald is way more liberal than recent Republicans. He has a very European attitude about sexual mores. While he doesn’t drink himself, he has put his name on a brand of Vodka. And he ran casinos. He has long been in the vice industry. He has a serious potty-mouth.

Trump has flopped around on the issue of marijuana legalization, but overall, I’d say he has promise. (His running mate, not so!)

On gun rights, Trump has gone all in for the Second Amendment on his web site.

Given how Obama has revived the Cold War, and Hillary wants to make taking out a Russian ally her top priority, Trump may well be the peace candidate among the major party choices.

The Downside of Trump

As I wrote at the beginning, I did not vote for Mr. Trump. He has added a very ugly spin to the idea of the Upper Left.

  • His rallies had an authoritarian vibe that remind me of the 1930s. (Look up National Recovery Administration parade.)
  • He has made incredibly evil statements about bombing and torturing our enemies.
  • His tax and spending plans could cause the deficit to balloon. Deficit spending is regressive. This pushes him back towards the Right economically.
  • A serious attempt to expel the millions of illegal immigrants will be a civil liberties nightmare: racial profiling for those who look Mexican. The project is impossible with a national ID.

For now, I shall try to hope for the best. Maybe this is a Nixon Go to China thing. Maybe an ugly cover is needed for good ideas.

Or maybe we really, really need that new political party.

Can a Third Party Win the Presidency?

The Democratic Party isn’t. The party bosses have fixed the 2016 primaries to ensure the nomination of Hillary Clinton, who combines the ethics of Richard Nixon with the charm and good looks of…Richard Nixon.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are demonstrating why democracy is not always a good idea. Is Donald Trump a supervillain or does he merely play one on TV? Enquiring minds want to know.

And so interest in third party alternatives has exploded. Hundreds of people are checking out the new party manual on the main site. And this is good — in the longer run.

But alas, it is rather too late to get a new party together, select a candidate, and put him or her on the ballot in enough states to make a difference. A super strong celebrity write-in candidate might win a state or two, but it is a real long shot.

There is a less risky option: Gary Johnson. For a change, the Libertarian Party has a Presidential ticket that has more experience, and is more mainstream than the Republican ticket. 2016 is a strange year.

Yes, Gary Johnson Could be Our Next President

It isn’t likely, but it is quite possible. Gary Johnson could well become the next President of the United States. This may sound like wishful thinking. After all, Libertarians typically have a hard time breaking 1%. But this is not a typical year.

1. Never Trump is for Real

National Review devoted an entire issue to damning Donald Trump. It’s rather late for them to back out, and I cannot imagine them endorsing Hillary. And yes, it didn’t take me long to find an article recommending Gary Johnson.

Red State has multiple writers making the case for Johnson, and the articles are getting featured on the front page.

George Will left the Republican Party over Trump.

Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney have both said they will not support Trump. Romney said he could support the LP VP candidate, William Weld, and he left open the possibility of endorsing Gary after he learns more.

Quite a few Republican state legislators have endorsed the LP ticket and some have switched party.

This just in, the first Republican U.S. Congressman has endorsed Johnson.

2. The Social Liberals have Mobilized

Marijuana legalization is an idea whose time has finally come. Disgust with failed military adventures and an out of control security state is high. Black Lives Matter is drawing attention to the horrors of the Drug War. Bernie Sanders has drawn young social liberals into the political game, but many are not ready to vote for Hillary.

Years ago I theorized that the real sweet spot on the Nolan Chart was not pure libertarianism, or even moderate libertarianism. The real sweet spot is somewhere near the border between libertarian and social liberal.

Figure1_5c

Under Bill Clinton the Democrats downplayed civil liberties in favor of harsh law-and-order measures. Meanwhile, the Republican have become ever less socially conservative. Rush Limbaugh is no prude, William F. Buckley favored ending the Drug War.

But perhaps I jumped the gun. The few candidates who followed my advice didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. The civil libertarians I was trying to reach were more concerned about the wealth gap, big corporations and the environment.

But this year is different. Civil liberties are a major concern and the Johnson/Weld campaign is taking full advantage of the fact. The campaign is triangulating aggressively, making more efforts to go after the burned Bernie voters than the Never Trumps.

The campaign might be over doing it, and thus lose the Never Trumps. They have made statements on abortion, religious freedom [the wedding cake issue], and Supreme Court picks that have me thinking about voting for Trump instead — but radioactive fallout gives me a terrible rash, so I won’t.

The good news for Johnson is that Establishment Republicans are used to compromising. And many of the economic conservatives are not all that socially conservative to begin with. Their social conservatism is often more a matter of team spirit.

3. Has the Johnson Team been reading this site?

As I wrote above, to really get the attention of the social liberals, you also need to be green and egalitarian. Governor Johnson is an avid outdoorsman, and has even been featured in Outdoors magazine. And yes, he has consciously deviated from libertarian orthodoxy in order to protect the environment.

Surprisingly, he has also stated a willingness to consider a carbon tax and a universal basic income! If the campaign were to go all in with these positions it could well end up in the sweet spot in the liberty-equality plane.

MchartMini

It is almost a dream come true.

4. Money is less of an issue

In this age of social media, eyeballs trump ad buys. Ironically, the supposed billionaire Donald Trump has paved the way here.

The mainstream media want eyeballs and thereby got used by Trump. But the mainstream media do not want Trump to be President. So this year they are giving the LP ticket at least an order of magnitude more attention than is usual. Have a look at these articles in Time, Esquire, Chicago Tribune, New Yorker, and the Orange County Register. This is not a complete list. And, by the way, CNN hosted two townhalls for the Johnson/Weld team.

5. A Loophole in Election Law

Gary Johnson does not need a majority to win. He does not even need a national plurality. A plurality in just a few states may suffice. If Trump and Hillary are evenly split, just a few electoral votes going to Johnson could send the decision to the House of Representatives.

If so, the House votes by state delegation. Utah and California each get one vote. Since the Republican Party is now the rural party, the Republicans will have an overwhelming majority unless Trump has some incredibly negative coattails.

The House Republicans may well snub the Republican Party nominee. The Donald has insulted the Republican Establishment repeatedly, including Speaker Ryan. House Republicans could very well vote for Johnson instead, in the name of sanity and national unity.

(That said, it would certainly help if Johnson/Weld got some solid vote totals across the country.)

Warning! This is not a Party-Building Exercise

Ten years ago I led an attempt to reform the Libertarian Party to make a campaign such as this possible. I thought I had failed, and so left the party and have taken a break from active politics.

It is still not clear to me that the LP could build on this year’s success. I see a lot of grumbling from LP stalwarts about Johnson not running a libertarian campaign. If the ticket doesn’t win, there could well be a purge similar to what happened after the 1980 Clark campaign.

But even if the ticket does win, I’m not convinced the LP could absorb a combination of Never Trump Republicans and Bernie-loving social liberals to build a lasting coalition. The party rules and culture are designed to prevent such. A split would be likely.

I could be wrong, however. The Rothbardians could wake up and realize that they have a bigger megaphone for their ideas by being the vanguard of a broader coalition than by running an exclusive philosophy club.

I won’t hold my breath. Those of you interested in starting yet another third party should probably proceed.

But for this year, you might want to support Gary Johnson. I will.