Shed a Tear for Stanley

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

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Shed a Tear for Stanley

by Ari Armstrong, July 9, 2002

Poor, poor Rick Stanley.

This candidate for U.S. Senate just can't seem to catch a break! People are debating his positions in public! People are even talking about him in private! Rick has been criticized for doing nothing other than sending out a little 'ol racist e-mail and directly contradicting his party's platform. Woe is Rick. What is the world coming to?

Yes, I'm being sarcastic. But I just can't help seeing the humorous side to an e-mail Stanley sent out today to his "Stanley Scoop," his "official newswire." Poor Rick Stanley is a victim, at least in his own eyes:

To be hammering this candidate over one Platform Issue, will be a negative for the future. I have talked with a newspaper publisher in Vail that told me he was thinking of joining our Party and when he saw what was being done to me by Ari and Michelle, decided the LP is not for him, even though he agrees with all else in the platform. This treatment of a Candidate is not going unnoticed by potential members of the LP. If the Party allows the PURISTS to do this now and in the future, this Party will continue to lose members and will never be a force to get Candidates elected. Folks, that is our purpose, increase members and elect candidates. Get it? For every person we chase out, we lose 10 more, and 10 more don't join us. I would rather we lose the unforgiving purists so that we can gain more members, who can grow in their Libertarianism as time goes at their own pace, not Ari's or Michelle's. I took the test and was 100/100 Libertarian. That does not mean that I agree with the "Opinion" expressed by the Libertarian Platform on all issues, most do not.

But if one person in Vail soured to the LP based on Stanley's one-sided and distorted version of recent history, Stanley has alienated countless Coloradans from the party. Let's just do a quick review.

  • Stanley said Senator Allard should be tried for treason and then "hung." But killing elected officials is just not a position that resonates with most voters. (See http://www.freecolorado.com/2002/06/stanleyrosen.html.)
  • Stanley introduced his "Million Gun March Petition," which is a bad idea for reasons I explain at http://www.freecolorado.com/2002/05/stanley.html.
  • Stanley said the government might have been directly involved with the planting of the "smiley-face" pipe bombs, with reducing men's sperm count, and with suppressing the cure for cancer. Again, this is lunatic fringe stuff that turns off most people.
  • Stanley forwarded a blatantly racist e-mail. (See http://www.freecolorado.com/2002/06/stanleyemail.html.) Not only has Stanley failed to apologize for this grossly irresponsible act, but he has attempted to rationalize it. Most people do not sympathize with racism (I don't want those who do in my party, anyway).
  • Some days later, Stanley forwarded another e-mail to his "Scoop" that contained overtly bigoted comments concerning immigrants (see the article linked above).
  • Michelle Konieczny resigned from Stanley's campaign mainly because of the racist e-mail. But instead of accepting responsibility for his act and apologizing, Stanley blasted Konieczny for resigning. In doing so, he invoked a sexist stereotype. "Surprise, surprise, in politics there might be emotional women," he told the July 3 Rocky Mountain News. It's not enough that Stanley angered minority groups, he also angered many women.
  • Stanley has attempted to brow-beat and bully numerous Libertarians if they dared to question him.

While I have criticized Stanley for each of these mistakes, his worst mistake was forwarding the racist e-mail. That was unquestionably out of bounds, both morally and politically. Because he forwarded that e-mail, I wrote previously, "Stanley should fall on his knees and humbly beg the forgiveness of every libertarian and every immigrant in Colorado. Then he should resign in shame. Rick Stanley is a disgrace to himself and to decent Libertarians everywhere." I stand by that evaluation.

Stanley's claim that Michelle and I are fracturing the party is ridiculous. Both Michelle and I worked hard for the party long before Stanley arrived on the scene. Stanley is the one who is divisive. Each of Stanley's mistakes outlined above has done damage to the state LP. In addition, at least four good people, solid libertarians, quit Stanley's campaign, partly over differences of opinion, and partly because Stanley is extraordinarily difficult to work with. To my knowledge, only David Bryant remains to do any significant work for the campaign. Stanley drives people away.

[July 11 addition: I readily grant Stanley seems to do well when he is able to casually talk with people one-on-one. I have said before that, if he could spend a few minutes talking with every voter in the state, his chances for victory would be excellent. Unfortunately, the number of people he can talk with personally is in the thousands, whereas the number of people who saw the Rocky Mountain News articles about the pipe-bombs, the suggested hanging, and the racist e-mail is in the hundreds of thousands.]

Stanley is correct that we should let people "grow in their Libertarianism... at their own pace." But the bar is higher for people who want to run as Libertarian candidates. Candidates should be secure in their libertarianism. Through my popular articles, which have been published in such papers as the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, and the Boulder Weekly, and through my political activism, I've done quite a lot to introduce libertarian ideas to people. On the other hand, Rick's comments about killing people and the racist e-mail he sent out are not likely to help people "grow in their Libertarianism."

Stanley implies I spend as much time criticizing other Libertarian candidates. I don't, mostly because no other Libertarian candidate from Colorado I know of has done so much that warrants criticism. I criticized one candidate in 2000 (before Stanley was even active in politics) for his support of drug prohibition. I criticized James Vance for his support of government education. I have actively assisted other Libertarians, such as Sheriff Bill Masters and Ralph Shnelvar. Regardless, open debate is morally virtuous. Stanley should welcome thoughtful challenges to his positions, not whine and cry about them.

Clearly, Stanley's statement that I am "hammering this candidate over one Platform Issue" is false. I have criticized Stanley for a number of errors, and two of them are directly related to the LP's platform. In his position on immigration, and in his position on flag laws, Stanley directly violates the LP's platform.

Stanley is also a hypocrite. He claims he should not be criticized for straying from Libertarian principles. He claims the "purists" are wrong and Libertarians should put political advantage before principles. How, then, can Stanley credibly attack Allard for violating the principles of freedom? Surely Allard voted for the PATRIOT Act as a matter of political expediency. Surely Allard continues to support drug prohibition because, well, opposing it just would not be popular, and it might cost him the election. Stanley is all for "purity," but only when it's his brand of "purity," and only when it's applied to other people, not him.

As a last resort, Stanley rationalizes his stand on immigration by claiming "most do not" support it. So Libertarians are democrats now? "Most" Colorado voters supported Amendment 22, which expands gun registration. Should Libertarians jump on board for political expedience? "Most" Colorado voters supported a tax increase for government schools. Should Libertarians give up our position that schools should be run on the free market? No, libertarians do not invoke majority rule to rationalize their positions.

But to Stanley, Libertarian principles are only "opinions." And one person's "opinion" is as good as another's, right? Stanley thus promotes exactly the kind of moral relativism and political pragmatism that has produced the steady loss of our freedoms.

Libertarian principles are not just "opinions," nor are they empty dogmatic statements. Instead, they are guidelines that can be factually demonstrated to achieve a better human society. So Stanley cannot get off the hook merely by saying his "opinion" is different from Libertarian principles -- he needs to (try to) explain why the principles are incorrect, and why his alternative principles are better.

Anyway, Libertarians, including myself, are a lot more tolerant of divergent opinions than Stanley admits. Of course, Libertarians are totally tolerant of diverse opinions in the legal sense, and we will defend anybody's right to say anything. But our standards are higher in evaluating whether any particular statement is compatible with libertarian principles, and that's the issue at hand.

Libertarians thoughtfully argue both sides of the abortion debate. They disagree about vouchers. They disagree about competing defense agencies and the moral foundation of politics. They disagree about foreign policy and the war in Afghanistan. They disagree about innumerable points of political strategy. I think it was David Friedman who said, "There may be two libertarians in the world who agree about everything, but I'm not one of them."

But just because libertarians can disagree about many issues, doesn't mean they can claim any view is compatible with libertarianism. If Stanley wants to run as a Libertarian candidate and promote anti-libertarian positions, at least he shouldn't complain or act surprised when other libertarians criticize him for it. Again, that is part of the on-going discussion. If libertarians don't defend libertarian ideas, nobody will.

One person said on the "lpco-chat" e-list that libertarians should first eliminate the welfare state, then seek to remove restrictions on immigration, because that's the "only way a large number of voters could accept" the transition. I responded as follows, with a few minor revisions.

If that is your political calculation, then the appropriate move for a Libertarian candidate is NOT to spend his or her time arguing why we should keep out immigrants. The appropriate move is to spend his or her time arguing why the welfare state should be replaced with a voluntary system of charity.

If asked about immigration, the candidate could say, "Immigrants are what made this country great. As a practical political matter, however, I believe we must first work on getting rid of the welfare state, and replacing it with a system of voluntary charity, before the move to lift immigration restrictions can be successful."

Such a statement simultaneously upholds libertarian principles and takes into account the political landscape as evaluated by the poster.

A couple of additional comments. First, Libertarians ought not ignore the large number of voters who sympathize with our position on immigration. Several seem to be falling into the trap of thinking the only people who might vote for us are Republicans and conservatives.

Second, several people seem to be arguing that, because *some* immigrants take welfare, therefore *all* (or many) immigrants should be restricted.

An equally invalid argument is the following: "Some native-born Americans have children who grow up to be welfare bums. Therefore, all native-born Americans should be subject to government restrictions on having children."

The point is, it is unjust to punish the innocent for the offenses of the guilty.

Just because one immigrant gets on welfare, doesn't mean we should violate the rights of another immigrant, who wants only to come and work, and the rights of the American business owner who wishes to hire the immigrant.

Libertarians cannot save the entire world in a day. We must pick and choose our battles, based on where we think we can have the most success. But picking our battles in consistent with maintaining our principles, and it is essential that we do both.

In a separate e-mail, I also argued, "Basically, what anti-immigration crowd is arguing is that, in order to repair the damage done by socialist programs, we need more socialism. Immigration restrictions are socialist, pure and simple. They violate property rights and the right to contract freely with others. As Mises warned, socialism tends to breed more socialism. And now even a few Libertarians are following down that path. The answer to socialism is not more socialism -- it is freedom. The answer to the welfare state is not to further restrict immigration, it is to end the welfare state. Two wrongs do not make a right."

But this sort of rational discussion seems not to interest Stanley. In a previous e-mail from July 9, Stanley claimed he has suffered "abuse" from me. He said the LP's position on immigration should be "pulled from the platform" because it "is just plain stupid" and it "has no place in practical politics." Stanley never attempted to justify his statements. Stanley wrote,

The Libertarian Party has an OPINION, which is a discredit to individuals who want to bring this Party to prominence, only to be held back by stupidity, cloaked in purism, dipped in self defeatism. No wonder so many people are leaving this party in droves. The only reason Colorado hasn't is because of Candidates like me. I have heard from many solid Libertarians that if I did not get the nomination, they had intentions of leaving the Party. I won the nomination, honorably I might add, something these skulking behind the scenes players wouldn't understand. Ari has no HONOR. NONE. He is a whiney little crybaby that didn't get his way and now is sowing discontent in the Politically Correct crowd in the Colorado Party. I understand he has moved to the National Party as well with his act. Bring it on Ari. The only people who will join you in your quest are born again losers, tired of the old losing ways but still clinging to the same old garbage you can sling. Scumminess is not a good trait. Sliminess is your way, behind the scenes. My campaign has been up front and in your face, and you can't deal with it. Get over it. Join the Republican Party with your smug little notions of greatness. You will fit in with the traitors very well with the treachery you have displayed. I have forwarded this to the Stanley Scoop and I hope they feel the same outrage at your actions as I do. Just so their is no misunderstanding here: You are not my friend, I don't consider your treachery to be an attribute that I could tolerate in a friend, I don't want or need your support, I don't want or need your vote, and I certainly don't need or want anything to do with you. Don't cross my path, you won't enjoy it. There won't be any treachery though, you see, when I don't care to be around someone, I don't mask it. You can keep your nerdy little self a safe distance from me, I would recomend it highly. Isn't this refreshing? A Candidate that tells it like it is. Still, after 14 months of wasting my time dealing with pouty little nerds like Ari. I am so over that kind of nonsense. I have four more months of this wonderful campaign. What is the next embarrassment coming from the Colorado Libertarian losers section? I can't wait. I'm sure the supporters that did vote for me at the Convention can't wait either. So much for the closing ranks and presenting a United front. This Party implodes once again. Fortunately, this Campaign has focused outside the Party, and my supporters are finding new blood to fill this Party in the future and push the Ari's out. This is not something that will damage this Party. For every treacherous Ari, we can replace with hundreds of people that don't have a personal agenda to ruin this Party. That is what I will do. Ari tears down, I will continue to build this Party. Ari continues to attack from behind the scenes, I will assault this little nerd like he has never seen, UP FRONT AND IN THE OPEN. Run Ari.

Stanley's screed is mostly a series of ad hominem attacks and false claims. The notion of rational discourse seems foreign to Stanley. He is like the schoolyard bully who sneers at others and intimidates and threatens them.

Stanley's claim that he's the one keeping people from leaving the party is ridiculous. To borrow a line from Clint Eastwood, Rick Stanley is a legend in his own mind. Those building the party are people like Sheriff Bill Masters, Ralph Shnelvar, BetteRose Ryan, and John and Carol Geltemeyer. Stanley has done more harm than good to the LP and to the libertarian movement.

There is no evidence to suggest the LP's position on immigration is the cause of the recent decline in LP membership. Indeed, the LP's membership tends to decline following every presidential election. It's important to note that national LP numbers do not correspond very well to state numbers, because Colorado accepts as members anybody who registers to vote Libertarian, whereas national counts only dues-paying members. Around 300 people have registered to vote at Ralph Shnelvar's recent events, so it could be that the state numbers are climbing.

Stanley has made claims to the effect that he's the most successful Libertarian candidate in Colorado's history. But the claim doesn't become true merely because Stanley and his sycophants repeat it often. True, he may have generated more negative press than any other Colorado Libertarian. Stanley had two main things going for him: his gun trial and David Bryant's insightful editorials. But he has buried those positive accomplishments under a mountain of his irresponsible, ugly, and anti-libertarian statements. What a waste.

The only way Stanley has been able to gain much traction in the main-stream media, aside from his gun trial, has been to make outrageous statements. His idea of politics is campaign by flame-war.

He is obviously trying to bait me with the comments above. So why do I respond? Stanley is sure to storm off the scene as abruptly as he entered it.

The ideas are important. The libertarian position on immigration is important. The notion that government ought not restrict property rights and the free expression of ideas (say, by passing flag laws) is important. The idea that libertarianism is a coherent set of principles is important. The idea that freedom is indivisible, that we cannot pick and choose which rights to support, is important. Maintaining an atmosphere of open dialogue in which libertarians can rationally debate the issues, without being intimidated or bullied by personal threats and attacks such as those made by Stanley, is important. Condemning racism is important.

As a tool of pedagogy, Stanley's campaign may be unsurpassed. Libertarian candidates who avoid making all of Stanley's mistakes will be off to a good start.

The Colorado Freedom Report--www.FreeColorado.com