Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. -- William Faulkner
And finally, there is always the possibility that we might actually get some libertarians elected. -- David F. Nolan, in his article calling for the formation of a Libertarian Party
Over the course of a mere 12 years as a Libertarian Party activist (and I say that in all seriousness -- some of the people in Nolan's Denver apartment when the party was founded, including Nolan himself, are still breaking heads for freedom), I've generally found myself caught between two camps, in and out of the party:
- Those who wonder why the hell we bother, since we're never going to win.
- The Lombardians: "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."
Every national convention, and every election night watch party, reinforces for me the vacuity of these two positions.
Being right may not be enough, but it's where everything worth doing starts. I'm not willing to give up being right just to "win," because "victory" in a cause I don't and can't support would be meaningless and perhaps even evil. Nor am I willing to accept that I never can win, because I know better. I've done it. Small victories, perhaps, but sweet ones nonetheless.
I'd bet money on my ability to win a serial killing contest, but I'm not a serial killer and don't want to be one.
On the other hand, I suspect others might well beat me in a contest to raise money for a charity (shameless plug: support AntiWar.Com!) ... but at the end of that contest, I'd have done something right and something good, regardless of whether or not I outperformed others in the same task.
The Libertarian Party may never elect a president. It may never elect a US Senator or a US Representative. It may eventually fade into history as an "unsuccessful" political entity.
I can live with that. There is value in fighting for what you believe in, regardless of the struggle's outcome (and as an aside, it's incorrect to say that the LP's history is entirely bereft of success -- but that's another story for another time).
At the LP's national convention, my candidates lost. I wish it had been otherwise.
But the defeat is not what I brought back from Denver. What I brought back is the exhilaration of four days of fighting, shoulder to shoulder, with comrades whom I love and respect, for the Right Things. What I brought back is the memory of time well-spent with old friends and new, and a renewed determination to keep fighting side by side with those same comrades until hell freezes over if necessary ... and then to fight some more on the ice if it comes to that.
The history of third party politics in America is a history of constant failure laced with the occasional -- and decisive -- victory, even if those victories often took place indirectly or at a partisan remove.
From the seeds planted by the Free Soil Party and the Liberty Party, the end of slavery grew and was eventually harvested. The Populists and the Socialists made their marks as well. These accomplishments are more obvious from the perspective of a century beyond than the accomplishments of the Libertarian Party are from so close in, but I suspect future historians will credit us with an influence we don't even credit ourselves with today.
All of us failed to match our dreams of perfection. So I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. -- Faulkner again
I owe at least 100 Libertarians (and at least one Socialist!) a direct debt of gratitude for their work in (or pertaining to) Denver, and I'm not going to make a list here, because I know I'd miss someone. You know who you are, you know what you did ... appreciate yourselves for it, and please know how much I appreciate you for it. We lost, but we lost gloriously and splendidly.
See you on the ice.