Monday, March 06, 2006

Open the pod bay doors, HAL

Got back from the Missouri Libertarian Party's convention last night, and I'm sober (actually, I was sober before driving back), so perhaps I can write a little more coherently about what went on there and what I've done and am doing.

First and foremost, it was a great time. It was great to see a number of old LP and non-LP friends, and to meet some new ones.

As far as the convention business itself is concerned, that falls into three parts: The business aspects, the party public relations aspects, and my own involvement/that involvement's consequences. For those of you who aren't interested in the boring minutiae of Libertarian Party politics, class dismissed. This is just that kind of post -- I do need to write it and put it up, but don't feel obligated to read it.

The business aspects

The state committee dealt with several bylaws and platform items, none of which were especially controversial:

A new definition of "voting member" was settled upon which, so far as I can tell, had the effect of putting and/or keeping the state party in conformity with state election law and allowing it to extend voting membership to more individuals who would not automatically be entitled to such membership under that law (i.e. candidates for office and donors to the party can now be "voting members" with a voice on the convention floor). Platform planks on smoking bans, eminent domain and Tax Increment Financing (and possibly some others) were added or modified. These things will all come out in the minutes, of course.

One potentially controversial item was amending last year's convention minutes and adopting them. Since the amendment in question involved removing a personal and rather charged reference to myself in what was supposed to be a non-biased record of the proceedings, I was happy that this matter went without argument or recrimination (I believe I and others have told most of that story elsewhere).

The only really controversial item on the agenda was a resolution on repeal of the national party's "oath" -- the membership criterion in Article Seven, Section 1 of its bylaws requiring certification that one opposes the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals. The resolution, as authored by Lloyd Sloan, would have sanctioned any Missouri delegate to the national convention who voted to retain the "oath" if the question came to the floor, said sanction being removal from the delegation.

Mr. Sloan is not a member of the state committee. He is, however, a long-time libertarian, LP activist, supporter of LP candidates and former Missouri LP chair. He drove 400 miles round trip to offer the resolution, and then left while the state committee considered it. I agreed with the resolution's intent, and I also believe that someone with Mr. Sloan's history who makes the effort he made deserves to have his efforts honored by due consideration of his proposals. I therefore moved the substance of his proposed resolution and rejected "friendly" amendments in order to get the resolution the up-or-down vote it deserved (after thrashing through one problem in it, that being its possible conflict with the national convention rules on "unit voting"). It was voted down; that vote took the form of an "unfriendly" amendment which changed it from an enforceable/punitive act to a "sense of the committee" that the "oath" requirement should be removed.

I wish that a way could have been found to guarantee delivery of a unanimous anti-"oath" delegation to the national convention, but the final result was certainly better than nothing. The MOLP is on record against the "oath," and the resolution also requires its own promulgation to the chairs of other state parties, etc. Hopefully, this will increase the momentum of the anti-"oath" movement in Portland.

After that, the committee caucused to choose Executive Committee represenatives by congressional district; selected delegates to the national convention; provided for the addition of more delegates between now and the convention; and adjourned.

The party public relations aspects

I consider the convention a victory in the PR area, as I wrote in my inebriated post from the convention. I don't know what the attendance numbers were, but I do know that the inexpensive packages, combined with an all-day "film festival," brought in people whom I've never seen at LP events before. If the state convention is going to go beyond a simple business meeting -- and in Missouri it always has -- then I heartily approve of using it to reach out to the public.

The convention confirmed my belief, aroused by the great attendance at the St. Louis area "caucus" the weekend before, that this is going to be a good year for the LP. We're reaching people we haven't effectively reached before, and we're going to pick up new activists, new voters and a higher media profile as a result -- probably over the short term, and certainly over the long term.

My involvement/That involvement's consequences

Prior to the opening of the state committee meeting, I accepted appointment to fill a vacancy on that committee (from the 14th State Senate District). During the caucus, I accepted appointment to the party's state executive committee (from the 1st Congressional District).

These two appointments/acceptances have consequences and require explanations.

First of all, as I mentioned in the previous post, the bylaws of the union to which I belong(ed) prohibit members from holding political party office. I'll be seeking a withdrawal card from the union.

Secondly, I can't in good conscience (and probably not in accordance with the LP's bylaws) serve on the governing body of both the Missouri LP and the Missouri Democratic Freedom Caucus. Dual membership is one thing -- committee service creates conflict of interest problems. Therefore, I have resigned from the interim steering committee of MO-DFC and can no longer be a member of both the Libertarian and Democratic parties. I still support DFC's goals, and will still do whatever I can to advance those goals so long as it doesn't require me to work against the LP's interests.

There is, of course, "back story" to all of this, some of which I've previously alluded to. Instead of rehashing that back story, I'm going to simply link to, and heartily second, a speech from last year's state convention which alludes to it.

It's good to be back home.

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