The Long March Ahead
There has been a lot of talk about what the Libertarian Party (LP) needs to do in order to grow. By grow, folks usually mean the registration of LP voters and bringing more people into our many county, state, and national party groups. What I am about to say might shock you at first, but not to worry, I’ll explain my reasoning later on in this article.
The LP, the state LPs, and county party groups may get a few more registrations and members here and there, but they won’t be a force to recon with any time soon … and that’s OK.
Here’s why. Politics is both science and game. It operates by certain rules. So to do people operate by certain rules. The LP has attempted to play outside of the game’s rules, and it hasn’t worked. If we continue down the same road, we’ll experience the same lack of success.
On the science side of politics, our political opponents are well familiar with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s theory, originally proposed in his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation,” is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top. The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called “deficiency needs” or “d-needs”: esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs. If these “deficiency needs” are not met – with the exception of the most fundamental (physiological) need – there may not be a physical indication, but the individual will feel anxious and tense. Maslow’s theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs.
If you doubt me, you need only to look back to commercials run by the big two against their rivals in every election in the last two generations. Democrats attempt to scare their voters to the polls by saying that the Republicans want to take away “essential services” like Social Security, Medicare, public transportation, and so forth. Republicans do the same with their voters, but this time it’s the Democrats who are going to take away their guns, money, their God, and so on. Chris Rock’s 2003 movie, Head of State, famously makes fun of this phenomenon.
This strategy works every time it’s tried because the science behind it is solid. People will react to an “attack” on their safety/security needs, even if that attack is only perceived to be real or a vague threat. After all, why take the chance?
Into this mix comes Dr. William Glasser and Choice Theory. Glasser says that we are driven by our biology to satisfy these needs. He says that all we do is behave and that all of our behavior is chosen. We choose to satisfy various needs based on our view of reality. If we believe that the Republican candidate will end bus service, and we need that service in order to get to work (safety / survival), we’ll choose to support the candidate that will protect us. The voting record proves Glasser correct.
The problem with the Libertarian Party, and libertarians in general, is that we are for the most part satisfying esteem and self-actualization needs. We can make the choice to be politically active because we don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from, or when the electric utility is going to cut the power for lack of payment. It’s very hard for us to recruit in big numbers with our current message. Liberty means little when you’re hungry and you know that your next meal comes from either a public shelter or a public school. Your loyalty is with those that satisfy your safety / survival needs.
With that in mind, let’s look at the game that the Progressives have been playing since the 1890’s. I use the word game for a specific reason. Games have rules and strategies. They have players. They have superstars and role players. There is generally a formula for success. I mention Progressives as they’ve largely controlled the game since the FDR era.
Progressivism, in its many guises, is a broad philosophy based on the Idea of Progress, which asserts that advancement in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to improve the human condition. The key to this Idea of Progress is that in order to make these advances, someone or something has to be in control. For those that seek this kind of control, today’s Bernie Sanders is no different than yesterday’s August Bebel (founder of the Social Democratic Workers Party of Germany, 1869). Likewise, today’s Jeb Bush is no different than yesterday’s Benjamin Disraeli. The Compassionate Conservatism of the Bush family is almost identical in substance to Disraeli’s Tory Democracy.
The Progressives are our political opponents, not the big two parties. The progressives in both of those parties run the show. The current version of the Progressive playbook was written in 1966 by two university professors, Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven. The Cloward-Piven strategy is quite simple. It is a forcing of change through manufactured crisis. It calls for overloading the U.S. public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system with a national system of “a guaranteed annual income and thus an end to poverty”. From the War on Poverty, to Medicare, to Obamacare, Progressives have been trying to get as many people as possible on the government assistance roles. Next up is amnesty for the various groups of migrants and 35 million more customers for the government’s social services. That many more users will likely get us to the point of the crash that the Progressives seek. Why do you think so many Progressive groups are pushing so hard for amnesty?
But not all is doom and gloom. There is a path to victory. It’s been done before. After 40 years of unsuccessful attempts, the Golden State Warriors simply added the right team to the right coach and strategy in order to win the NBA title. The same is true for the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL. The 1993 Toronto Blue Jays won their second title, only to have a fire sale on talent in order to cut costs, and they haven’t won a World Series since.
Translated to the Libertarian Party of California, this means that we have to get in the game. We can’t ignore the game that is being played and hope to succeed. We need to identify and develop talent and leaders over several generations. We have to get libertarians appointed to boards, commissions, and other positions of authority and influence. We need to encourage libertarian writers and speakers to get out there and spread the message. Libertarian scholars have to author papers and get published. We need a strong and vibrant LP at the core of it all, moving the team in a unified direction. We need to step into the game and step up to the plate.
Once on these boards and commissions, we need to behave with civility and compassion whilst holding to our ideals. In my world, as President of a water district, this means keeping costs under control, keeping rates reasonable, keeping supply plentiful, and keeping the customer in the loop. When the Governor is on the TV talking about the drought and how the state is going to cut deliveries and ration water, I am at a Board meeting and in my community talking about the difference between a drought and a water storage problem. Yes, there’s a drought. No, my district does not have a water storage problem. We’ve got a healthy local source. The main message is that there’s nothing to worry about. My customer’s rates are not going up. My customer’s water is not going to be rationed. Thus with my customer’s safety / security needs being met, we can have a discussion as to how it happened that our neighborhood is doing fine … and it why wasn’t by accident.
Again, as libertarians, we can’t be out of the game and expect to win. We can’t possibly reduce the size of government from the outside. We have to get our people in these institutions over successive generations in order to make any changes. We can duplicate the success of the Portsmouth Taxi Commission all over the country. It took the Progressives over 100 years to get us to this point, it’ll take a while to fix their mess. Thus, my goal as a libertarian leader is to move my agency a little more towards liberty and identify and develop those people who will take over for me and continue the work.
I think we can do it. What do you think?