What is a Political Party?
What are we doing, and what are we aiming to be, in this battle for the heart and soul of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.
The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire is in the midst of an identity crisis, and at a critical juncture to decide what role they want to play in the landscape of the fight for liberty in New Hampshire. What follows here, is my experience, and my plan to break the cycle of failure within LPNH.
This must start with a history lesson for the new and uninitiated. I’ve been involved in The Libertarian Party for a long time, including two terms on The Libertarian National Committee as a regional representative. I’ve been getting progressively disenfranchised over that time, and grown less enthused with the direction and function of the party with each passing year.
This reached a climax in 2020 when trying to run a campaign for US Senate in a ballot access race, and doing so in the shadow of the historically mismanaged and incompetent presidential campaign of Jo Jorgensen. The petition drive for ballot access in 2020 set the tone for the entire election season, with me, AJ Olding and 2 other people who I’m sure would prefer to remain anonymous, carrying the weight f the entire drive on our shoulders, and collecting the requisite petitions largely on our own, without any assistance from the LPNH Executive Committee or other volunteers. And we barely got it done, and in fact, would not have without a favorable ruling from a federal judge who agreed that my first amendment rights to engage in the political process were being unduly suppressed due to the COVID Lockdowns.
At this point in time, The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire had a lot of dues-paying members and volunteer signups, I knew who none of them were. Mostly because the management of the party’s day-to-day electioneering and political activities was coordinated via a small Facebook messenger group chat with only a handful of inner circle members included in it. Despite repeated numerous pleas from AJ and myself for those members of the executive committee in that chat to contact membership, and connect us with volunteers, that never happened.
After the elections, AJ and I heard rumors of the Mises Caucus beginning to organize in the state, and that they were holding events for members and recruiting. On a whim, we decided to go and crash one of their events. What we found was a large group of motivated, excited, and eager libertarians who desperately wanted to be involved, none of whom had ever been contacted by our proud and egotistical leaders on the executive committee. They told us how much they wanted to get involved and do the work, and have an impact on growing the party. That was enough for me because even saying it, was more than the old guard had shown themselves willing to do.
Come convention time, AJ gave a rousing speech about the epidemic of title chasers and clout whores that had infected party leadership, and how people viewed involvement in the party as a social activity instead of political activism, but with an added benefit of adding some fluff to their indeed resume with a meaningless title they gave themselves. At the end of the convention, the old guard had been ousted, Nick Sarwark lost a race for the treasurer to None of the Above, and fresh blood had taken over with zest, zeal, and enthusiasm. And then it all started going to shit.
What followed was a series of disagreements, messaging missteps, failed coups and hostile takeovers, and controversial conspiracies and drama that led to the resignation of three National Committee Members, including the National Party Chair. But despite all of this, the New Blooded Mises caucus crew came out on top, and stronger than ever, growing membership, raising more money, filling out committees with volunteers, and doing their best to grow the party ahead of the coming election year.
The elections of 2022 didn’t exactly go our way, but we did see evidence of growth in support along several key metrics with the Kauffman campaign. We raised more money than any candidate as long as I’ve been involved, We managed to bring together a slightly larger group of dedicated volunteers to knock out the ballot access petition drive, although that was still a fight, and we had unprecedented earned media and reach for our candidate. Unfortunately, in the metric of vote totals, we fell far back from our previous upward trend. I don’t eschew my portion of the responsibility for this. I was Jeremy Kauffman’s campaign manager, and ultimately, the failures of the campaign to find and retain volunteers, and motivate people to do real-world campaigning falls back to me. However, the 18,000+ votes I garnered for the same position in 2020, were achieved with even less support, fewer volunteers, less money, and less campaigning than the roughly 12,000 votes we achieved in 2022.
The aftermath of the disheartening election results forced a crisis of conscience upon the membership of LPNH, and there arose a debate about what the purpose of the party was, and where its position in the NH Liberty movement should be. Some influential members were well-spoken in their belief that we shouldn’t be concerned with ballot access, we shouldn’t worry about running candidates, and that we should just support the Liberty republicans, and use the party as a recruiting vehicle for The Free State Project. For a time, this attitude prevailed and was reflected in the communications strategy via the party’s Twitter account. They began to prioritize edgy content and stoking the flames of controversy rather than growing a political party and becoming a force for change in the political landscape.
This strategy predictably had some negative fallout, and some of the negative international press garnered had far-reaching impacts on people’s jobs, and donor relations not just for the party, but the national party, and affiliated caucuses within it. This inevitably led to conflict with those affected trying to rein in the rabid dog they had unleashed in New Hampshire, and minimize future fallout from their actions. Unfortunately, they grossly misunderstood the culture of independence present here in the granite state, and their attempts to exert influence from afar cascaded into a real-world exercise in Sayre’s Law in practice.
I’m not going to rehash the drama here, but it is well-documented byon her page, , If you're curious, just head over there for a thorough play-by-play of the incidental dissolution of the New Hampshire Mises Caucus.
"In any dispute, the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake. That is why academic politics are so bitter." -Wallace Stanley Sayre
The Quiet Part Out Loud
The TL:DR of the drama, if you didn’t check out Karlyn’s recaps of it, is that the National Mises Caucus Organizer joined a New Hampshire Group Chat, and came in blazing with insults and derogatory statements about the members, before systematically purging everyone from the group over their attempts to reason with his coup and demands for compliance with the grand plan of the caucus for the state party.
The first message he sent was to accuse those here of not being a serious political party, and caring more about their social status than their activism, focusing the party on “drinking beers around campfires and cracking shitty jokes.”
But where he really lost the crowd, was a follow-up, where he insinuated that the Free State Project trends towards “not being serious about politics.” A statement that instantly earned him the ire and disrespect of all involved.
This drama has reinvigorated LPNH and its member groups, as they have consolidated in anger and outrage, renewed in purpose, to tell Jeff to go fuck himself while drinking beers around a campfire and telling shitty jokes.
And here’s where I’m going to ruffle feathers…
Jeff Douglas Was Right
Not about the Free State Project, arguably the most successful libertarian political movement in history. One whose successes are documented thoroughly, and whose momentum is trending towards completely taking over the grassroots political scene in New Hampshire, while maintaining status as the freest state in the country in Cato’s annual rankings.
But he was right about the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire. Unfortunately, he was right, while being confrontational, argumentative, and somehow even more of an asshole than I am on a bad day. But nonetheless, he was right.
The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire has thriving social events, and meetups, but little to no real-world activism or engagement in the political process. The membership has no motivation to delve into an arena already saturated with groups like The New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, Americans For Prosperity, The 603 Alliance, and dozens of other grassroots organizations focused on promoting libertarianism through grassroots politics in the granite state. There is no drive to do the work, when they can just celebrate that the work got done by others.
A handful of candidates ran in local municipal elections, but there was no coordination to campaign or support them. A handful of members are actively involved in the efforts of other organizations, but there is no impetus for them to build that infrastructure on behalf of making LPNH a force in the field. In fact, for the large part, they don’t seem interested in doing much more than arguing over the content of the Twitter account.
And what a scathing indictment of the Libertarian Party’s efficacy, that the most valuable asset they have, is a shit-posting Twitter account that toes the line between edgy content and blatantly offensive commentary on a regular basis. But even when they aren’t focused on taking a single-sided and childish view of international geopolitics regarding the war in Ukraine, or engaging in mindless collectivism when they are drawn into preaching about the culture war, they do find the time to humble brag and promote the Free State Project, and prove Jeff right about their intentions to use the party solely as a recruiting tool for another organization (albeit a great one.)
This is probably the best on-brand tweet the comms team has put out in relation to the purpose and scope of a political party, engaging in politics. But let’s focus a bit on the specific wins that it is celebrating, and how The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire, as an organization, had little to no impact whatsoever on them happening.
The First listed item is the introduction of DefendThe Guard Legislation in the State House. And props where they are due, Derek Proulx has put forth tremendous personal dedication and effort into supporting and promoting this legislation, but the party has done nothing. I went back and scrolled through my emails and double-checked, but I never received a single notice from the party about activism alerts or how to get involved in supporting the legislative process. But I did have correspondence from other groups in NH promoting it on their own as well.
And how about the bills to end the drug war and finally legalize recreational cannabis in the state? Well, again, this bi-partisan legislation had absolutely zero involvement from the Libertarian Party in its genesis, and on the day of public testimony, I myself was the only member of The Libertarian Party to attend. The credit for this one rests almost exclusively with the hard-working folks over at Americans for Prosperity, especially the tireless lobbying of Ross Connoly.
Making Education Freedom Accounts universal was on the Agenda of House GOP Leadership, and spearheaded by the state Commissioner of Education Frank Eddleblut, with support from national and state non-profits such as The Children’s Scholarship Fund headed by Kate Baker. Not The Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.
Eliminating Licensing laws. This one was even a surprise to most in the Liberty community, as it was proposed by the governor as a part of his budget, not as a legislative initiative, and certainly, not one influenced by The Libertarian Party.
The bi-partisan bill to ban no-knock raids was butchered via amendment, and rendered into little more than a symbolic attempt at the end of the day. But perhaps if The Libertarian Party had actually mobilized membership out to testify at the public hearing, they could have had some influence in that fight instead of none at all.
And the push to exempt locally manufactured firearms from federal regulation is again, just a part of the GOP agenda to further the nullification of federal gun control passed last year. It wasn’t a measure or motive of the Libertarian Party, and the sad fact is, the Libertarian Party had no impact on the process of it.
Now, there have been some good measures supported by LPNH Members as individuals and a handful of LPNH members are actively involved with The New Hampshire Liberty Alliance and its bill review and lobbying initiative. Stephen Nass has created a great network of agorist and local food service providers to lobby on behalf of their industry and interests here in the state, and Zephan Wood is one of the top legislation reviewers in all of New Hampshire. But again, the question has to be asked, when there are more productive outlets for those motivated activists, what reason do they have to build the infrastructure to support it within the Libertarian Party?
So Now What?
Where do we go from here? Do we pivot, and make focus on making the party functional and not embarrassing? Or do we throw in the towel, and keep cracking jokes in our circle jerk of a signal group while those of us who do want to have an impact leave the organization to do so elsewhere?
Ben Weir and Conrad Nelson at least currently want to put in the work to make this party functional and grow it to be a force in New Hampshire politics, but I fear the consensus of membership is against them. I for one, aim to support them and provide whatever advice and assistance I can, however as I’ve detailed extensively, my priorities no longer lie with the party, but with my own health and well-being, so my capacity as a volunteer will be limited for uncompensated work.
However, I am proposing to build something new. Outside the party, and immune from the whims of its democratic structure. I am aiming to rebrand Subversive, from a podcast and a blog to a movement of human action. Subversive Action will focus on networking, lobbying, recruiting, and building lasting infrastructure in parallel to the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire. To create tools to enable the party to succeed. To train activists, and direct them towards meaningful goals. To build relationships within the legislature, and creative and work towards achievable legislative goals and initiatives.
The problem is, The Libertarian Party, is the lightning rod of the libertarian brand. And the public perception of that brand affects not just LPNH, but every other group in New Hampshire working towards our shared goals of promoting human freedom and liberty. It is imperative for the sustained long-term success of the libertarian movement, that the Libertarian Party become a respected force in New Hampshire Politics.
And that is a goal I’m willing to pursue. I’m willing to do the day-to-day grunt work of making the calls, keeping priorities straight, and making sure that the bonfires with beer are celebratory of something we have accomplished for ourselves. I can’t promise an overnight transformation, and this effort will require the buy-in and support of more than just myself.
Quite frankly, I don’t have the time.
But, my time has a price. And the more support I receive, the more I can dedicate my time towards these efforts instead of my other career and professional pursuits.
My Patreon page is set up to facilitate this effort, and if this is something you want to see succeed, I encourage you to support it at whatever level you are comfortable with. But the more total support I have, the more total time I can dedicate to building a truly subversive political action network in support of the Libertarian Party’s brand and mission.
Join the Insurgency!
That’s right, You too can join the insurgency, and help support everything I’m doing here, from the podcast to the newsletter, to real-world activism and legislative lobbying work in New Hampshire.
Join us on Patreon, at Patreon.com/ODonnell for as little as $3 a month to help support the show financially and get some sweet perks as well!
You can also join our community Discord Channel to help grow the community around the show, and chat with other fans at any time! This requires participation, and it will be what we make of it, so join today and let’s grow it from the ground up together!
Copyright Justin O’Donnell, 2023
For Inquiries, contact, and booking: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subversive w/Justin O'Donnell is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The role of a Libertarian Party affiliate, within a much larger, and very successful Free State movement, is not obvious, has never been thought through logically, has not been tried anywhere else, and is the underlying cause of our many debates
Some reflexively assume it must look similar to an LP affiliate within an Authoritarian-49 state, even though NH has large, well-run, and !!SUCCESSFUL!! liberty orgs that do far better at what are the traditional LP affiliate functions in the A-49. Others (like me) assume our affiliate should FOCUS on what it uniquely can do, and what it does better, than any of the other 100+ liberty organizations in the Free State, thus, taking a small, partnership role within the much larger state movement, r.t. trying to fill ALL the roles - alone - in a largely authoritarian state which the A-49 affiliates must do.
Until we resolve our unique dilemma about the role of an LP affiliate within the most successful liberty movemen in the world, we will continue to get complaints that opportunities [to poorly replicate what our other state liberty orgs do better than we ever could] are missed, or that resources [that could have been better spent doing what the other orgs cannot do] are wasted.
Perhaps after PorcFest (or maybe at PorcFest) we can meet on the debate stage to lay out the conflicting options (and their rationale) for a curious and confused audience who all want liberty, are all excited about the progress we are finally making here, yet don't quite understand how LPNH can/should help the larger effort.
This minor-party cycle of drama will continue as long as the US has a two-party system, and that results from the voting method, Plurality Voting. Change to Approval Voting, and you'll get multiple viable parties, as well as better primaries and better outcomes in general.