A Theory of the Stanley Schism

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A Theory of the Stanley Schism

[John Geltemeyer distributed the following message via e-mail on August 24. It is reprinted here with his permission.]

Friends,

Here is an e-mail that will neither instruct you how to vote on Tuesday, nor will I try to persuade you to send this to ten other Libertarians so that they may tell the board how to vote.

This is an attempt to explain how we got into this mess and to not view our fellow Libertarians as "the enemy."

It's longish, so I appreciate your indulgence:

We have pro and anti-Stanley groups in this party bent on demonizing each other. Demonization is merely an illogical emotional response that ends up precluding any meeting on middle ground.

This whole Stanley thing is about to get ugly. I do not have an opinion about what the appropriate actions of the board should be. I do know that whatever the outcome, with the current view from the two sides, the result will not be good for the party. I hope to change how the two groups view each other, in that way, regardless of outcome both sides can say "I know what you were trying to do, I know you meant well, I disagree with your methods, I think you were wrong, let's get back to the business of making liberty."

First let's talk about what the two sides are not.

First let's talk about "Rickbots." Yep, that's what how anti-Stanley crowd refers to the pro-Stanley crowd. There are definite inferences that the Pro-Stanley crowd is gullible, easily led, a bit on the yokel side and ready start planting bombs in the county court house.

First I have found few Libertarians that are gullible. They tend to arrive to conclusions over long periods of reflection and are quite intellectual. Gullibility is not a Libertarian trait.

Easily led? No. Rick was able to win a hotly contested nomination at the state convention. Yet, his clearly hand picked replacement for chair was defeated by a large margin. Obviously people who choose to support Rick are not at his beckon and call, they think for themselves.

Yokels? Rick has just as much support in Denver as he does in the rural areas. The yokel characterization does not hold up.

Bomb throwers? Other than a few "quaint" e-mails written by some arm chair generals, there doesn't seem to be a groundswell for an immediate revolution. The million gun march petition, and the limited support it has received, is sound proof debunking this characterization.

So what about the Anti-Stanley crowd?

Per paraphrases from the Stanley Scoop we are to believe that the anti-Stanley crowd is: a bunch of party old timers, a bunch of party insiders and people afraid of the new kid on the block messing up their coffee house discussion club by trying to win.

A bunch of party old timers? If you look at Stanley supporters you will see as many or more old timers supporting Rick than not. David Bryant and several folks up in Denver come immediately to mind. The amount of time anti-Stanley people have been in the party varies as widely as the pro-Stanley people. I might suggest that on the surface it appears that the anti-Stanley crowd has spent less time in the party then the pro-Stanley people.

Insiders? One Stanley charge is that the board has been plotting to keep him off the ballot both before and after the convention. The 2001 board was made up of a lot of people who most of the state was unfamiliar with, who never heard of Rick before his announcement. The 2002 board had nearly an 80% turnover of another group of people, that most people, had not heard of from around the state. That's an awful lot of control those insiders must have to be able to swap out the entire board and still maintain their hold on the reigns.

People afraid of the new kid on the block messing up their coffee house discussion club by trying to win. Whether you liked her methodology or not, Ms. Glazer was obviously running to win in 2000. How did people act to her "trying to win?' They gave her money. In 2002 El Paso County has Biff Baker (U.S. House 5), Steve Gresh (HD20) and Keith Hamburger (HD18) are also "trying to win." How are they treated? Warmly. No back biting, no fighting. So "trying to win" obviously isn't the problem either.

If you are buying into this so far, the question is "What is the real problem?"

The answer in one word: Press.

One side believes that any press is good press and that the word Libertarian never appeared in a newspaper before the Stanley campaign.

The other believes that there is bad press and it can hurt you. They also take offense at the suggestion that the word Libertarian was a non-player before Rick.

>From this, it is a lot easier to see where the divisions in this party are.

I believe that the core of people who are anti-Stanley come from El Paso and Boulder counties.

This is where I have to get a little blunt. The pro-Stanley people predominately come from areas where there is no local party or the local party is ineffective.

To deafen the howls of outrage let me define the word "effective."

One outreach event at a minimum of every 45 days, little problem getting volunteers for outreach, the ability to muster 20-30 people for a major event once per year, the ability to fill you local legislative slate, the ability to run candidates in off season elections, the ability to generate your own press (more on this below) the ability to generate one new activist every 8 months, the ability to have the overwhelming majority of your activists say they are no where near burn out.

That is my definition of an effective affiliate.

I am not saying Boulder and El Paso are better than everyone else. We both have unique conditions that give us an edge.

Large population base to draw from, the two party system has collapsed lopsidedly in favor of one party and a media that isn't self-absorbed with the importance of whatever government entity dominates the landscape.

So what about press? We got it. It comes from the fact we have had some fantastic media people within the party. They have cultivated good media relations over several years. It also comes from the fact that we are actively accomplishing things.

The press has run several feature articles explaining who we are, what we are doing and why we exist. The press is running large articles from the press releases of all our candidates. Our candidates get mentioned along side the other party candidates in the elections section, as if their events were just as important as ours. The local network affiliates ask to interview our candidates and portray them in a positive light. When we have events, the TV crews come and talk to our spokesmen. When they cover events, they give us favorable camera angles that make the crowds at our events appear large. Press releases are printed from the party in the papers. Reporters come to our meetings when we have a hot topic. Reporters intercept party e-mail traffic and print portions as "scoops." Papers get angry when they don't get the exclusive from us. The media calls us for our opinions on current controversies, ballot initiatives and election results. They cover our election night parties. We are invited on the radio. Certain radio venues have whole crowds of detractors that feel it necessary to go after us.

Synopsis. We get press.

In conclusion the constituents of the two groups, as far as the press goes, are absolutely correct.

One side believes that all press is good press and that the word Libertarian never appeared in a newspaper before the Stanley campaign.

If you have no party or an ineffective one, you are correct, based on your perceptions.

The other believes that there is bad press and it can hurt you. They also take offense at the suggestion that the word Libertarian was a non-player before Rick.

If you have an effective party, you are right on the money, because you are used to getting press without having to resort to negative attention getters, again the perception thing.

If press is the primary gauge of things, then the rift makes perfect sense, because again, both sides are right, from their perspective.

If you have no or minimal press in your neck of the woods, of course Rick Stanley is the best thing you have ever seen. It is logical to conclude that this might be our last best chance. The media blackout is so annoying that you welcome the word Libertarian whenever it appears.

If you have routine press, of course you balk at the suggestion that the only way to get in the media is by being over the top. You don't see Rick as the end all solution to all problems and you get irked at the suggestion that no one has accomplished anything in the party prior to Rick's arrival. You also chafe when the good accomplishments of your candidates are printed along side your U.S. Senate candidate being accused of being a racist.

If you have no party or an ineffective one, you are bound to see topdown solutions to every problem. That high level candidates have a better chance of getting elected than lower ones. Since the only party you have is state and national, you bemoan "The last 30 years" like a religious mantra.

If you have an effective local party, you see local candidates as a salvation. You don't see the viability of or support higher level candidates because you are too busy with your local ones. You look at the national and state parties as occasional nuisances that detract from the very important business of your county. Your continuity doesn't start 30 years ago, it starts with the current crop of activists and the current chain of accomplishments they have.

In short, I have no intention of trying to change your convictions regarding Rick Stanley, for or against.

What I would like you to think about is how you feel about those in the camp opposite you. They are Libertarians just like you. They came to a conclusion based on personal perceptions. Their goal as lofty as yours "For the best interest of the party."

If next Tuesday ends with your objectives being met, show maturity and grace. Then figure out how you intend to work with your fellow Libertarians.

If next Tuesday ends contrary to your wishes, show maturity and grace. Then figure out how you intend to work with your fellow Libertarians.


Ari Armstrong Replies

*Some* people who disfavor Stanley's campaign refer to *some* of Stanley's supporters as "Rickbots," which Geltemeyer describes as a person allegedly "gullible, easily led, a bit on the yokel side." Unfortunately, these traits do seem to aptly describe *some* of Stanley's supporters. For example, a number of Stanley's supporters condemned John Berntson based on the most spurious of hear-say accusations (http://www.freecolorado.com/2002/07/stanleyvberntson.html). Geltemeyer's observations about those who voted for Stanley do not apply to every individual Stanley supporter. Similarly, observations about individual supporters do not necessarily apply to others.

I think Geltemeyer's discussion about press explains a lot of why some people tend to support Stanley and other people don't. But those who call for Stanley's removal are not simply concerned with Stanley's negative press. Instead, they are concerned that Stanley undermines libertarian values http://www.freecolorado.com/2002/08/rsvote.html. After all, the promotion of libertarian values is why the LP even exists.

Geltemeyer hopes all parties can "figure out how you intend to work with your fellow Libertarians." That's all well and good, so long as our fellow Libertarians are actually libertarians.

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