A week ago tonight, my former boss captured the GOP nomination for our Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District, essentially guaranteeing himself a seat in Congress representing the reddest district in one of the reddest states.
Gary Palmer made it through a crowded primary by coming in second with 18% of the vote and went on to win the nod by over 60% over a state representative who had more name recognition and money, and he did it without slinging an ounce of mud. His opponent spent hundreds of thousands of dollars attacking him, using clipped quotes and half-truths, but he prevailed, and I think it has a lot to do with his belief in giving people something to vote for, rather than showing them everything they should vote against.
Libertarians could really learn a lesson from his campaign.
Make no mistake, libertarians are absolutely in a campaign. We may not necessarily be asking people to vote for a person in a congressional race, but we are asking people to believe and trust in something that is radically outside of their previous worldview. Every minute of every day, we have the opportunity to make an impression on others. Whether on a college campus, in the workplace, in a Facebook comment, or on the distinguished pages of TOL, we have countless opportunities to show others why they should choose liberty.
A recent Reason/Rupe poll showed that 53% of Millennials would vote for a socially liberal, fiscally conservative candidate. Our generation is ready for liberty, but we have a marketing problem.
How much of our time and effort is spent kindly and patiently explaining why liberty is the winning team, and how much is used to cover our eyes and yell “STATIST” at the top of our lungs? Instead of using real-life examples of why liberty works, many times we become impatient with the liberty-curious as they slowly hammer out their problems with libertarianism.
Sure, there are many organizations doing amazing work showing why and how liberty increases well-being, but for every Cato Institute there are 500 asses on the Internet turning people off of liberty with their trolling.
While Millennials are a large portion of the population who are beginning to embrace liberty, they are not the only ones. Many older liberals and conservatives are beginning to be disillusioned with the D/R dichotomy and have begun dipping their toes in the liberty pool. But what kind of pool party are they encountering?
We are in a decades-long campaign, but instead of asking people for their votes, we are asking them to do something much more risky. We are asking them to change their minds about beliefs they’ve held for most of their lives. This requires caution, patience, and understanding. This isn’t a plea for people to be more politically correct, but for libertarians (myself included) to be mindful of how we interact with the world. Liberty can stand on its own merits, so let’s run a clean campaign.