The 2010 Libertarian National Convention was held this weekend. I'm finally finding time to write about the convention.
The convention was very well attended. There were about 100 more delegates than the last non-Presidential convention. (I believe there were somewhere over 530 delegates attending) Unfortunately the New Jersey delegation was much smaller than what we were allocated. We had four delegates, myself, Kevin Ferrizzi, Dan Karlan, and Tim O'Brien. I strongly recommend that our members attend our National Conventions and regret that we had not started earlier in promoting the convention and finding delegates who would want to go.
Most of Saturday was spent discussing bylaws changes. Dan Karlan, as chair of the bylaws committee, presented the proposals to the delegates. Some interesting ones are summarized here.
There was a proposal to allow electronic vote tabulation. The proposal provided safeguards against malfunctions or fraud. The proposal ensured paper copies, paper receipts and the ability and mechanism for manual recounts. I supported this proposal. However a group of vocal paranoid Luddites pressured the body into a negative vote with chants of "Diebold". Later during the lengthy Chair voting many wondered if this was the correct choice.
Prior to the convention, one of our members felt that the members who were not going should still be able to vote in some way on issues at the convention. A bylaws proposal was presented that would allow for mail in ballots for bylaws changes. I had originally supported this proposal, but after hearing discussion and thinking about it, I ended up voting against it. During discussion the cost was one issue that was brought up. Another, and the reason I voted against it, was the lack of a debate opportunity or the ability to hear argument made by other delegates. Even though I had read through many of the proposals and come to a conclusion already, the discussion that ensues by the delegates during a convention is invaluable and had changed my mind on several issues. This proposal failed. Perhaps the correct way to do this is to have software that lets you attend as a delegate remotely. This software would need to be able to stream the convention discussion, ensure your credentials, and allow you to vote at the same time as delegates who are present. Even this solution is not perfect. There are many individuals at the convention who are lobbying for or against candidates, platform changes, or bylaws changes and handing out fliers and promotional materials. In addition, the personal discussion that we have at the convention is invaluable in making correct and educated choices.
Dan presented the possibility that if our presidential candidate was ever to achieve 5% of the vote, the candidate four years later would be eligible for matching funds. Even though our party does not support taxpayer funded campaigns, we have no power to stop our candidates from accepting such funds. He pointed out that this puts us at risk of a takeover by a non-libertarian faction. At this point someone in the crowd had a coughing fit that sounded much like name of the lovable elephant in the children's cartoon series Babar. The proposed solution was to only allow delegates to vote on our presidential nominee if they were members prior to the previous Presidential general election. This was found unacceptable to the delegates because it disenfranchised new members and trumped the rights of the state affiliates to select delegates. The proposal failed.
On Sunday we spent the morning debating Platform changes. The most controversial was a watering down of 3.4 Free Trade and Migration. The Platform committee made two separate recommendations. The first one strengthened our platform by adding the word credible to:
However, we support control over the entry into our country of foreign nationals who pose a credible threat to security, health or property.
This change passed by a large majority. This should stop future embarrassments like the when Ronnie Ferguson issued a press release under the LP name demanding a round up of immigrants during the swine flue panic.
The second proposed change was rather outrageous and very unlibertarian. It removed text that stated that government should not constrain the flight of individuals escaping tyranny. It watered down the definition of economic freedom by removing the recognition of the market exchange of human labor as deserving of protection. It also added some nonsensical language about those "not requiring public assistance" being welcomed into our country (perhaps meaning that there are people who require public assistance?). After a spirited debate, this change was voted down by a large margin.
Immediately after lunch I took the floor and made the following motion:
I motion to suspend the rules to have the delegation adopt the following resolution:
The delegates of the 2010 National Libertarian Party Convention demand the immediate release of libertarian activists Julian Heicklen and George Donnelly. We further urge that the federal government cease harassing peaceful activists and respect the right of free speech.
I had not expected the response I received. I had to pause after the first sentence until the cheers and applause died down before I could finish the rest of the resolution. I had expected most delegates to not know what I was talking about, however almost everyone there were already aware of Julian's and George's plight. I spoke to the motion. One gentlemen, Sam Sloan, spoke against it. Oddly he introduced himself as being the person contracted to publish Julian's book. He argued that Julian had broken a rule (distributing literature near a courthouse) and that Julian would just get himself arrested again. The crowd booed him down. The resolution was brought to a vote and was supported by almost everyone.
The Libertarian National Committee chair's race occurred on Saturday afternoon. There were three rounds of voting. The first round of voting had Wayne Root leading with 200 votes, followed by Mark Hinkle with 113, Ernie Hancock with 82, Myers with 70, and George Phillies with 55. (None of the Above had 10) Our delegation was split evenly between Wayne and Mark. George was automatically removed at this point. Myers volunteered to drop out and asked his supporters to vote for Mark Hinkle.
At this point it became apparent to me that Hinkle would most likely win the election. Wayne Root represents the "big tent" libertarians. He wants us to be less pure when it comes to freedom in exchange for more supporters and votes. Every other candidate represented the "principled" libertarian, who would never compromise on our beliefs in an effort to become elected. So even though Root was in the lead I did not see him getting many votes from anyone else.
The second round of voting had Root at 223, Hinkle at 210, and Ernie Hancock at 87. (NOTA had 9 votes). The NJ delegation remained evenly split between Wayne and Mark. At this point Ernie Hancock was removed from the ballot. Mr. Hancock is a very good speaker and is very principled libertarian. However he often expresses kooky 911 conspiracy theories. For this reason many (and myself) would not support him.
The third and last round of voting had Mark Hinkle at 281 and Wayne Root at 228 (NOTA had 19 votes). Our delegation had changed our voting at this time with one delegate deciding to support Mark having us at three for Mark and one for Wayne.
In my opinion Mark Hinkle was the best option and will make a good chair. The Barr nomination introduced a split in the party between the Compromisers and the Purists. This split has cost the party members, however was the reason so many libertarians attended this off year convention. Mark Hinkle's election will go a long way to repairing this rift and bring the Libertarian Party back to its principles.
Happily, this Convention represented a return to principled libertarianism and a rejection of the rightward drift of our policies. This was evident in the vast numbers of delegates who refused to compromise on immigration, non-interventionism, and in the support of Mark Hinkle for chair.
Saturday's minutes taken during the convention can be found here.
I left early on Monday. During Monday's session the At-Large members were elected. Those elected include Kevin Knedler, David Nolan, Bill Redpath, Wayne Root, and Mary Ruwart.