Let’s Advertise the Liberal Side of Our Ideology

crowd of young people with colored smoke

Photo by Marcin Dampc on Pexels.com

This post is contributed by outgoing State Party Chair Sean Thornton

There is no past to return to that is better for everyone than our present or our future. To be successful, the SC Libertarian Party of today must focus on establishing a foundation for tomorrow. We should not be planning for major election wins this term:

We should be planning for domination in the ‘50s.

But to do that we’ll need to meet voters where they’ll be in the 2050s, not the 1950s. We need to figure out what our environment will look like then and cultivate a reputation that will make us a desirable choice then. So how do we do this?

Understand them.

Voters in the ‘50s will be far more liberal. The data indicate that, on average,

Also, thirty years from now, baby boomers won’t be calling the shots. Millennials in power then will start being supplanted by kids who are in high school and college now—so-called “GenZ.”

The youth of now must be our primary target. We should understand what they value (connectedness and authenticity) and how they process messaging (with distrust and cynicism). We should listen to them when they confess misgivings about patriotism, fatigue over war and war machines, and a desire for a more compassionate, inclusive society.

Educate them.

The number one focus for any libertarian strategy has to be education, as previously explained, and good candidates are the obvious way a Libertarian Party can educate. Press releases, blogging, interviews, and personal conversations are also great methods. (Arguing with other libertarians on social media is not.)

But running one good campaign or writing one good blog post isn’t going to suddenly educate everyone. Libertarian literature has been abundant for over 150 years, and Libertarian campaigns for 50 years, yet recall the statistics from my last post. Education takes time and lots of it. Maybe even thirty years.

If GenZ is an anti-racist, pronoun-conscious, corporate-weary, tech-dependent, individualist group, the SCLP needs to address our record on the rights of minority individuals; our free market position; the non-aggression principle; and quintessential libertarian ideals like free association and voluntaryism.

In other words, we need to advertise the liberal side of our ideology rather than downplaying it to please reactionary conservatives.

This shouldn’t be difficult given:

  1. Our ideological history: we have a much deeper, richer connection to liberalism than to conservatism (in fact, we’re the original liberals);
  2. Liberals are finally starting to come around to radical ideas we’ve always had, like those on equality for sexual and gender minorities, police reform, and drug law repeal; and
  3. We need to focus our limited resources where they yield the greatest results. Conservatism is always losing ground and becoming “more liberal” as its most reactionary components die out, as it isn’t so much an ideology as it is a coalition of voting blocs who just want to arrest and reverse progress to varying degrees.

None of this is to say that we should pander to liberals instead of conservatives—we simply shouldn’t pander at all but should be radically consistent. (If you want an example, consider my unreservedly libertarian answers to this questionnaire, which earned my candidacy the endorsement of the notoriously liberal Charleston City Paper.)

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t continue to try to bring conservative libertarians into our party—we simply shouldn’t sugar-coat our liberal side in order to be more palatable to non-libertarian conservatives while ignoring the increasing number of liberal libertarians we need to bring into our party.

The real goal is not to arrest progress, but to get out in front and steer it in the right direction.

Modern liberals seek change for change’s sake, and the results are often disastrous. Conservatism’s value lies in pumping the brakes on that change, but by definition it can do nothing to actually correct the course. By taking our proper role at the forefront of liberalism, we can do more than delay the inevitable.

We can actually be part of the conversation about where to go from here.

But we have to build to that first and therefore must make wise choices with what little time and money we have. Harsh as it sounds, it really is wasteful to try to educate people set in their ways, which happens a lot younger than you might think. What we spend on people beyond their 30s should be limited to finding the few libertarians already there, not creating new ones.

Poor, disjointed messaging and foolish tactics have left us with a nasty reputation for which “conservative” would be a gross understatement—a reputation of wanting children back in factories and Blacks back in the back of the bus. Building a better reputation will be a major effort, but if we start now, we’ll be ready for voters in the ‘50s, and they’ll be ready for us.

And then we’ll win. And lead. And set the world free in our lifetime.

Ready to get involved? Click here to find the next meeting for your local SCLP group.

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