LPCO Supports a Legal Disaster
by Ari Armstrong, September 22, 2004
I wish I could say it comes as a shock to discover the Libertarian Party of Colorado officially supports the legal disaster known as Amendment 36, the proposal that would retroactively change Colorado's selection of electoral votes and undermine prudent checks on majority rule.
Given recent events, however, news that the LPCO board voted to endorse Amendment 36 only serves as a reminder that the state LP is on a rudderless course. Many of its leaders are more concerned with short-range publicity stunts than with working toward substantial pro-market, pro-rights reforms.
In comments supporting Amendment 36, LPCO Chair Norm Olsen explicitly recognizes the proposal is retroactive, meaning it would change the election rules in the middle of the game. Yet he doesn't describe a problem with this. Instead, he offers a purely short-term, pragmatic case for the proposal that's completely devoid of any principles.
Olsen's case is simple: if electoral votes are apportioned according to popular vote, then "it becomes substantially easier for a Libertarian to get an electoral vote." And what if the proposal throws this year's election to the courts, sets a precedent for retroactive law, and undermines checks on direct democracy? Such concerns don't even enter into Olsen's analysis.
Olsen does grant that passage of the proposal might serve to cause major-party candidates to avoid Colorado during the campaign season. However, he ridiculously asserts that they avoid Colorado already. Anyone who watches TV has seen the political ads for both Bush and Kerry, and both those candidates have come to Colorado recently. What would trump this loss of regional strength? Olsen points out that third-party candidates would have an incentive to spend more time in Colorado in hopes of earning enough of the vote (currently one-ninth) to win an electoral vote.
Yet, as Ralph Shnelvar has pointed out, this popular system is much more likely to help Greens and independents like Nader. No Libertarian presidential candidate has ever come remotely close to winning that many votes.
But let us suppose that a Libertarian candidate could earn enough votes in Colorado to win an electoral vote. What then? Well, the media will likely add a few lines that some guy, fairly well-known in Colorado but unheard of in the rest of the nation, earned a single electoral vote and had an inconsequential impact on the election. Hello? That's progress? That's the reward for selling principles of good government down the river?
Paul Tiger, candidate for Boulder County Commissioner and Outreach Director for the Boulder LP, wrote via e-mail, "Those individual members of the LP who have been saying that amendment 36 should be defeated are stealth Republicans, not Libertarians. I urge them to leave the LP and go to the party that they are actually working for. You can't be a Libertarian and work to diminish the effectiveness of your own party. In short, get a clue or get lost."
Again what is completely missing from Tiger's remarks is any invocation of principle. He's for the Libertarian Party, but what precisely is the Libertarian Party for? Apparently, for the time being, retroactive law and direct democracy.
The "analysis" of Amendment 36 provided by Olsen and Tiger amounts to political tribalism. It's good because it benefits their particular group, by whatever short-term, pragmatic standard that seems appealing at the moment.
Meanwhile, people actually concerned about liberty will take seriously the many problems associated with Amendment 36, in full recognition that our actual and long-term interests are served only by strict adherence to sound principles.