I had high expectations for yesterday and they were not all met. To the extent you are disappointed by the results, I apologize to you. I would like to offer a bit of a pep talk.
Everyone else seems to be in the soup with us. Democrats were anticipating a landslide and spent hundreds of millions to make it happen but it’s looking like the Republicans kept the Senate and gained seats in the House. Republicans expected President Trump to be re-elected and while the election was close, his odds aren’t good with millions of votes left to be counted from blue areas.
We will certainly assess the lessons learned, and I hope those conversations are driven by data and observed experience. In that we are not alone, as Democrats will have to confront their socialist and non-socialist wings and Republicans will have to reconcile their Trump and non-Trump directions. For my part, much of my focus is on the need I see for our candidates to have more money, more staff and volunteers, and more help from Libertarian Party brand association. I look forward to hearing the discussion and seeing people try things in different races as we figure it all out.
Here are six things I’m keeping in mind today:
· Jo and Spike are (as of now) at 1.1 percent, with 1,591,943 (and votes still being counted). This is the second best result of any Libertarian presidential ticket, second only both in percent and votes to Johnson/Weld in 2016. It beats 1980 when we had a billionaire underwriting campaign costs and 2012 (and 2008) when we had a candidate with high name recognition. Despite the media blackout, fundraising disadvantage ($2 per vote! Jo/Spike spent ~$3 million vs. $12 million in 2016; billions for the others), inability to campaign normally due to the pandemic, and lack of name recognition, 1 in every 90 Americans voted for Jo and Spike, and it looks like we beat the spread in some key states like MI, WI, PA, and NV. I’ve been in this party when our baseline was more around half a percent and it’s clear those days are behind us and we have a solid, higher floor.
· Relatedly, we had 50+DC ballot access for this election, for only the third time in our history. I cannot understate how difficult this was, overcoming gratuitous procedural obstacle, pandemic conditions, and a bidding war for paid petitioners caused by millionaire and billionaire candidates. As we do after every election, we are just starting to assess what states we retained and didn’t retain last night and our next steps. But I do want to acknowledge the hard work of everyone who helped make Jo and Spike one of the three choices that were in front of every American voter.
· Momentum. Jo was up front from the beginning that her goal was to help build the party and in that she succeeded. Membership is up 29% to 21,000, and registered voters is up 7% since March to 652,000 (in the 32 states that have partisan registration). The LNC will soon have a flood of names and contact info for new people the campaign brought in. I know some criticize us running a national presidential ticket but looking at the data, most of our best activists, candidates, and leaders were first reached by a presidential campaign. The bus tour earned a ton of local press and the ads the campaign made were spectacular. Polling shows our messaging reached an audience in particular with young people, Latinos, women, and those in urban areas.
· Local Libertarians won election and re-election. While we did fall short – and in some cases crushingly close – today has new Libertarian elected officials: Kalish Morrow, Wendy Hewitt, Trisha Butler, James Doyle, Bob Karwin – and Jessica Abbott, Jim Turney, and Cara Schulz won re-election. A big sign of progress is our first Libertarian elected as a state legislator in over 20 years: Marshall Burt in Wyoming, one of our Frontier Project candidates. Other races solidified us as America’s third party: Ricky Harrington getting 34% for U.S. Senate, Don Rainwater getting 13% for Governor, and many others that beat the spread between the old parties. Many other races secured ballot access goals (although others unfortunately fell short). Nearly all of these candidates achieved what they did with a fraction of the money their opponents had.
· The drug war lost. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota legalized marijuana. Mississippi legalized medical marijuana. DC decriminalized mushrooms. Oregon decriminalized hard drugs. I remember when ending the drug war and not viewing drug use as a criminal enforcement problem was a crazy Libertarian position in this country. Now it’s winning every time everywhere.
· Talent. Out of choice or necessity, most of the L campaigns this year from Jo/Spike on down used homegrown Libertarian campaign staff talent rather than consultants or paid operatives. The pros and cons of that will be debated, but one outcome is many more Libertarians now have on-the-job training as campaign managers, field directors, fundraisers, GOTV managers, canvassers, and with crafting messaging. Every campaign wanted more of all of those things, and those who did can now teach and train others and build up a talent pool essential for winning in the future.
Thank you to our candidates, to their families, to their volunteers. Win or lose, the commitment is an enormous one and can be draining in so many ways. Our impact and our ballot access depend on you, and your often unsung efforts are appreciated by so many of us. Thank you especially to Apollo Pazell and Cara Schulz, two of our elected officials who also help advise our candidates all over the map.
Onward. We are going to take on the duopoly until they change or we get our people elected. Seeing a routine election treated as a do or die moment by so many Americans reminds me that we need to rethink the power we give to government, and only Libertarians can actually deliver on this.
As long as you are willing to keep trying, I will be here.
- Joe Bishop-Henchman sends
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