Libertarian State Leadership Alliance

Letters on Libertarian Strategy

Detailed and Unstructured Strategic Planning

What is a Strategic Plan?

Strategic Planning is not a new idea. Successful businessmen have been doing strategic planning for millenia.

25 years ago, it was understandable that the newly-founded Libertarian Party would have done little in the way of strategic planning. In 2000, a quarter- century later, the elected National Committee should routinely treat strategic planning as a primary task. Failure to treat strategic planning as a primary task -- as marked, for example, by the lack of a long-since-approved strategic plan based on analysis and outcome assessment -- would represent a gross failure of the national party leadership.

What do we mean by planning?

In some cases, we can be quite detailed. In other cases, we must be far less specific. In every case, we must remember that we are a party of individuals, many of whom are strong individualists. Libertarian Leadership usefully consists of proposing projects, mobilizing support for activists who are actually doing real work, and leading from the front by doing real work yourself. Efforts to lead by telling other people what they should do are relatively less effective.

Suppose that we adopted "every voter should be able to Vote Libertarian! at least once in every major election" as a major party objective. That objective ensures that the party name -- whether printed on the ballot or spoken by candidate and surrogates -- is kept at least slightly before the voting public. That objective demonstrates that we are not a Here Today, Gone Tomorrow Party like the "parties" of Henry Wallace, George Wallace, John Anderson, and Ross Perot.

A partial path to that objective would be to insure 50-state ballot access for our Presidential candidate, as was done in 1980, 1992, and 1996.* To travel that path via strategic planning, one would identify well in advance what had to be done in each state. Strategic planning would ensure that any needed fundraising took place in early 1999 -- leaving plenty of time for unexpected contingencies. Any needed commercial petitioners would be hired in 1999, as needed state by state, getting low 1999 petitioner prices without disrupting other Party operations. In contrast, without effective strategic planning, fundraising might be a late 1999 emergency, disrupting normal Party operations and leaving it uncertain if petitioners could be hired before their rates rose to election-year levels.

Detailed strategic planning for 50 state ballot access can be done state by state, by local and state organizations with national support. We cannot always predict every step; the Democratic-Republic duopoly party can always change the rules on us. However, most of the time we can anticipate most of the needed steps, and that is usually good enough.

For other strategic paths, planning is necessarily far less precise.

Consider Federal politics. One of our party's objectives is a working majority in Congress and a series of elected Libertarian Presidents.**

What is the path to that objective? Will we first elect a President, and rise into Congress on her coat-tails? Or will the Chief Executive be the last position to fall to our Party, captured after town councils and state legislatures are solidly Libertarian from sea to shining sea? That's close to unpredictable. Perhaps we build from the foundation up. Perhaps some future Dwight David Eisenhower experiences the Libertarian apotheosis, writes a good Libertarian book, spends several years investing his talents in our party, and then asks for our Presidential nomination.

No matter the path, this objective will not be reached in the near future. We have never elected even one Libertarian to the United States Congress, nor to the Senate. Despite the heroic efforts of Neil Randall and Don Gorman, we don't even have an enduring presence in a single state legislature. In the next few election cycles, it is unlikely that we will be more than a small Congressional minority.

When the objective is very removed from the present, detailed planning is impossible. The best one can do is to create the circumstances that appear necessary for Libertarian Political victory. We may not know exactly how we will take a majority, but we can identify foundation stones that we must emplace before we succeed. At first, our efforts will lead to skeletons that are shadows of the structures created by the other major parties. As time goes on, these skeletons will gain the solidity and effectiveness of the corresponding structures maintained by the Democratic-Republicans.

In the next letter "The Iron Pentagon" I will identify some of those foundation stones. I'll do some strategic analysis. My analysis suggests things that we need to do for the future. My analysis also shows things that our national leadership should have been doing to assist us in achieving the Libertarian future.


*Observe the difference between "50-state ballot access" as described here and as described by some other authors. To some authors, 50-state ballot access is a deed of self-validation proving to us how good we are, an end in itself, no matter whether or not there is any evidence that having 50-state rather than (say) 46-state ballot access directly improves our party's position. Here 50- state ballot access is identified as a method to achieve a quantifiable objective, namely improving public recognition for our Party by ensuring that in alternate Federal elections every voter sees a Libertarian on the ballot.

**Having attained a political majority, that majority must also be defended. If we do not defend our majorities, the libertarian tax cuts of a Libertarian President and her Congress will simply be reversed by Democratic-Republican successors.

George Phillies

The Clean Slate Action Program Committee
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