On Republicans and Libertarian Manners
[The following consists of Letters to the Editor for August 28, 2003, along with Ari Armstrong's replies to some of the letters. The first several letters concern a recent exchange between Mike Seebeck and Armstrong, Beating Up the Republicans. Then, a couple letters address standardized tests and the effectiveness of the LP.]
Intelligence and Professionalism
Your response to Seebeck is right on. Unfortunately, there are seemingly more outspoken Seebecks who affiliate themselves with the LP than Armstrongs. When I moved back to Colorado after working at Cato for a time, I re-registered as a Republican rather than a Libertarian purely because of the prevalence of "Seebecks" (or Stanleys). Given the tremendous disadvantages for third parties that have been successfully institutionalized (individual contribution limits, etc.) by the major parties, it is more critical than ever that the LP conduct itself with intelligence and professionalism. This certainly doesn't have to mean "pulling one's punches," but tactically and strategically there are times to position vitriol and times to go for the throat a bit more; but both can be done intelligently and without compromising first principles. Mindless vitriol dose nothing but marginalize the LP and alienate those who might have joined over time when they realize that liberty, opportunity and prosperity are inseparable from developing a truly civil society--and seemingly aren't on the Republican agenda. But for now, calling myself even a small "l" (philosophical) libertarian is more a source of potential embarrassment due to the association of the term with the LP -- assuming by some miracle someone has heard of it. Political party affiliation is fairly meaningless at the individual level, but it seems that it could be important for a party trying to build itself.
-- Don Beezley, August 23
Get Into Government
Thanks for the positive words. Even more to the point of soothing the intrapolitical fight is to realize that those bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. Incumbent parties will rule. The only way that I see to change government is to get into it, work for within and change it. Fighting it and the parties that command it is of little use. Except to foment revolution.
-- Paul Tiger, August 23
[Paul Tiger currently serves as Legislative Director for the Libertarian Party of Colorado.]
Sorry, Ari, we'll have to agree to disagree. You have far too many things mixed up here for your response to be coherent.
First, if I am speaking as and LP officer then I will say so. [Seebeck currently serves as Media Director for the Libertarian Party of El Paso County.] I always have. In this case I am not and was not speaking in that capacity, so the "greater scrutiny" argument doesn't wash.
Second, Andrews has violated his oath and that means he is not to be trusted and his word is meaningless. Violation of the oath of office is not criminal (although it should be!), but the measure of a man is ultimately by his words and how he backs them up with his deeds. Andrews has been found lacking in those areas. I would also expect that as a public official he is subject to he same "greater scrutiny" you try to apply to me and apparently give him a pass on. Remember Doug Dean? He [allegedly] committed four misdemeanors and a felony and got a pass by the R's. He [allegedly] should be in jail instead of running the state Insurance Division. He is another example of a man who talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. They won't give us a pass, so why should we?
Third, you misinterpret intentions of a campaign with the actual acts and words associated with that intention, or to put it simply, the ends and the means. The person whom you reference and I shall not name, although we all know who that is, did a publicity stunt and personally attacked public officials in the newspapers. My (and the LP's) issues with him were never about the publicity stunt, although he could have done it in a manner that would not have gotten him arrested. Whether it would have been as effective that way is unknown, but that doesn't matter here. Shnelvar and I discussed this very idea as a campaign commercial for first Glass and later him. In that case the ends were fine and the means were fine, but in the rest of the issues the means were not fine. It was as much what he said as how he said it. The worst I've ever called in officer capacity and otherwise for is resignation due to being unfit for office, not execution. Calling Andrews a constitutional illiterate is not a personal attack but rather a statement of objective fact. If he were literate of the Constitution and the laws he swore an oath to enforce he wouldn't introduce such ridiculous bills like the Pledge mandate. He doesn't do his homework which means he can't do the job and shouldn't be in office. People may not like hearing the emperor has no clothes but refusing to hear it or dismissing it doesn't change the fact that wardrobe is still empty.
Fourth, maybe I have come around to Dave Bryant's way of thinking somewhat. Maybe he's a lot more patient than me, I don't know. But he actually is right in that an emotional appeal is necessary to attract voters, even if David and I probably disagree on the methods to do so. LP members in general spend too much time in long, intellectual, statistic-laden arguments when it comes to campaigns and not enough on the things that get the short attention spans and stick with voters. We also don't speak political language very well even as we interpret it soundly. This is the game they play and win by, and it is the game we have to play and win by to be successful, like it or not. Watch what Arnold's doing in CA and Howard Dean across the country.
Fifth, Rosen is like every R and D voice in that he only uses a libertarian argument when it suits him and he trashes us the rest of the time. That only proves my point, which is that we're convenient to back up a point he agrees with but a whipping boy the rest of the time. Why give him a pass on that? Again, the wardrobe is empty, and this case he's borrowing our clothes when he can and also complaining when he can't. He can't have it both ways, and we shouldn't let him. He won't debate us because he has lost every time: Margaret Denny, Biff Baker, even who isn't named. He knows it and we know it. Joel Hefley is the same way down here.
Sixth, you mistake righteous anger with senseless anger in my case. I do not have any personal dislike for Rosen or Andrews. I think their political philosophy is just below that of an amoebae in sewer water, but that does not extend to their personal attributes in the slightest. But if attacking their political philosophy is to be considered "senseless anger", then what, pray tell, is considered righteous anger in the political spectrum? Is it the BS that the D's and R's play when they spout political language in staged press conferences and speeches in the well while deal making behind the scenes? Senseless anger is anger based on something senseless. Are you saying that getting angry over the political actions of officials that are supposed to be working for US is senseless? If that's the case then why are we even in politics in the first place???
Seventh, don't equate showing a little emotion as "school-yard antics." I've seen far too many L candidates and spokespeople display far to little emotion and get written off, and some who lose control and get justifiably tossed out. It isn't just the emotion that gets people written off, but also whether people agree with the message attached to the emotion. Look at the Roy Moore case in Alabama right now. Those of us who know the wall of separation of church and state exists and is the law see Moore's acts as stupid, infantile, and worthy of a kindergartner instead of state Supreme Court Chief Justice. We don't agree and don't relate to his message. Yet those who support him, Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy and their supporters, think Moore is a saint. They agree and relate to his message. The point is that message is one thing and emotional attachment to it is another. Libertarians in general have the message fine, but lack getting and keeping the emotional attachment to it. Part of that is admittedly from lack of resources, but part of that is also our presentation. There is nothing in your dissent to my position that refutes that point.
We're going to have to agree to disagree, but I would urge your readers to consider that we live in an emotional world and it is of the utmost importance to be able to separate the emotional context of a message from the message, not only to be able to get to the meat of the message, but also to be able to put the two together so that we can gain electoral success by resonating with the people. That's how we'll win, but the challenge is how we can put that understanding to good use to get there.
One other thing. Andrews changing his vote after the roll was recorded, allowing a $2 BILLION bond debt tax increase to get onto the ballot is hardly inconsequential.
-- Mike Seebeck, August 23
Ari Armstrong Replies:
1. Coherency does not depend on the number of points made. The number of arguments properly relates to the complexity of the subject matter. Indeed, coherency suffers if too few points are made relative to the subject matter.
2. LP officers certainly must be held accountable for their public statements, even if they claim not to be speaking on behalf of the LP. Otherwise, LP officers could make racist remarks, support socialism, or whatever, so long as they added, "But I'm not speaking in my capacity as an LP officer!" Of course, at times it is appropriate for an LP officer to offer a disclaimer, such as, "I believe Position X, but this is not the official position of the LP." Seebeck's public comments do warrant greater scrutiny, and they may properly be taken into account as LP members decide whether to confer an LP-related title go Seebeck in the future.
3. I have indeed frequently criticized John Andrews (as well as Doug Dean). However, my critiques were based on substantive arguments, not vacuous name-calling. This isn't about "giving people a pass," it's about the difference between reasoned disagreement and nonproductive ranting. I would also remind Seebeck that people should be treated as innocent unless found guilty by a jury. I don't believe criminal charges were necessary in the case of Dean.
4. Previously, Seebeck wrote, "Andrews is just an arrogant illiterate idiot..." Now, he believes "Andrews [is] a constitutional illiterate." Obviously, those are quite different claims. However, Seebeck isn't being quite literal: nobody doubts that John Andrews is capable of reading the Constitution. Seebeck's case seems to rest on the fact that Andrews supported "bills like the Pledge mandate." Unfortunately, Seebeck doesn't provide much of an argument to show the Pledge bill violates the Constitution. I think that bill was a dumb idea (a waste of tax money that won't benefit children), but it's not at all clear to me that it violates the Constitution.
5. I have never argued against the notion that "an emotional appeal is necessary to attract voters." However, there are good emotional appeals and bad ones. I have noticed neither Arnold Schwartzenegger nor Howard Dean refer to people as "arrogant illiterate idiots." They have enough sense to realize such shrill, ad hominem attacks won't create an emotional bond with voters, but will instead have the opposite effect.
6. I did not say that Andrews' vote was inconsequential -- I said it didn't impact the final result. The original discussion was about a procedural gaffe, not the nature of the bill.
Do As I Say...
Did Armstrong REALLY write that name-calling is childish, and tends to turn off thoughtful people? I recall comments about an Other being a "jerk." Sic semper puerilis.
--But Martin, August 25
Ari Armstrong Replies:
I argued against "mindless namecalling." It is possible to work through a long chain of evidence and reasoning, and then conclude with a negative description of a person, trend, etc. Obviously, that's not "mindless namecalling," and, also obviously, that's not what Seebeck did.
For instance, with his use of the Latin phrase, Martin seems to be calling me a name. Now, if Martin's point were correct, that I'm also guilty of childish name-calling, then he would be warranted in tossing such a name at me. However, his point is incorrect, as he misses the distinction I've described. Thus, his namecalling does not count as "mindless" or "childish" -- just off-base.
Perseverance Tops Test Scores
I don't post often, but here goes. I never much believed in those bloody test scores anyway. It's kind of like IQ tests. It's not a fair measure of the individual's inherent knowledge. Some people just do not test well. I know, I'm one of them. One of my instructors in high school was "kind" enough to inform me that, based on my SAT scores, (I never even took the ACT) I'd never make it through college because I didn't have the math skills. I still don't have those skills, but I did make it through. Wasn't easy, but I did it. So I take my hat off to those kids that can fight their through despite maybe not having all the intellectual advantages. More power to them!!! Keep the Faith, as I know we all do,
-- Mike Budler, August 22
Note from a Centrist
First, I would like to thank you for printing my opinions in your August issue of the Colorado Freedom Report.
I took the Libertarian litmus test -- the results indicate I am Centrist, a political moderate -- this is true majority of Americans and the proof is how the main political parties position themselves toward the center in elections- phrases such as "Compassionate Republican or "Atari Democrat" are used to emphasize this.
Congressional seats may not be the sole measure of success- and getting the votes out may not be the only way to be successful, but they translate to power. Whether comes from the People up or from Washington down- the conclusion is the same, you need to be a "tour de force". As it stands now- the LP has a long way to go.