The Campaign Program Approach

The Campaign Program approach to the Platform holds that it should be a near-term policy vision written in a way to appeal directly to the average voter.



Top Issues maintains polling data going back to 2002 on what issues Americans consider most important. The list fluctuates over time, but the recent top ten goes something like this:

  1. Job creation and economic growth
  2. Iraq (was #6 in Sep 2003)
  3. Health care
  4. Education
  5. Terrorism
  6. Immigration (not in top 10 before 2005)
  7. Environment/Climate
  8. Energy
  9. Federal Deficit/Debt
  10. Social Security (was #4 in 2005 during Bush's privatization push)

Arguments Against a Program Approach

The Platform Process Is Too Cumbersome

Our Bylaws mandate that the Platform be written by a 20-person committee with mandatory SoP prefix, a mandatory plank structure, mandatory continuity from the previous Platform, minority reports, retention voting, floor debate, changes limited to every two years, supermajority approval of all changes, 7/8 hypermajority approval of changes to the SoP, and optional challenge to the Judicial Committee. We would be very unwise to try to write a voter outreach document under such a process.

We Aren't a Major Party

The nanny-state parties write brochure-like platforms, but they are aimed squarely at journalists and opinion leaders (despite being written in language they hope will be quoted in sound bites to average voters). They don't need a long-lived reference document about their principles because 1) they don't have any and 2) everybody already knows what interest groups they service. Instead, they talk about what they actually did in the last four years and what they plausibly might accomplish in the next four years — neither of which the LP can talk about.

One Size Doesn't Fit All

No single campaign program or pamphlet will fit every candidate and every audience. In addition to a Platform surveying our principles, we need

  1. a legislative program;
  2. a judicial program;
  3. a model state program;
  4. model county and city programs;
  5. separate voter outreach pamphlets for Democrats, Republicans, and independents;
  6. a journalist's guide to the LP policy vision;
  7. an academic's guide to how the LP policy vision fits with modern economics, political philosophy, social science, etc.;
  8. separate outreach pamphlets for teachers and students;
  9. separate outreach pamphlets for women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ, immigrants, etc.;
  10. a member inreach pamphlet on how to advocate the LP policy vision;
  11. etc.

We Already Have Such Documents

The LP already has multiple official documents that try to be what is sought by advocates of the legislative/campaign program approach. See the list above. The electoral needle hasn't been moved by any of these documents, and the reason for this was not the absence of the worlds "national LP platform" on their covers.

The LNC Can Write One

The LNC can now create a Program with a simple majority vote, whereas the old Bylaws required a 2/3 LNC vote. As the Portland convention minutes say: "Eliminating this Bylaw does not mean we cannot have such a document. It just means that we are not required to have this document, and it can be created and maintained as the need arises." If we de-radicalize the Platform via the Greatest Hits approach, the LNC will be free to commission all the brochures and programs it wants without fear of accusations that it is contradicting the Platform.

In Aug 2004 the LNC's Adverstising/Publication Review Committee made a "unanimous determination that sections of the Libertarian Party Program were in variance with the Libertarian Party Platform". Accordingly, "the APRC chair and national chair directed staff to stop distributing the LP Program and remove it from the website". What happened next was interesting:

"After some discussion including expanding the size of the APRC to five members,
Aaron Starr moved to abolish the APRC from the Policy Manual, and Mark Nelson seconded.
The motion carried 11-5, and the APRC has been abolished.
Michael Gilson DeLemos and others wanted the voting recorded in the minutes.
Voting to dissolve the APRC: Bob Sullentrup, Bill Redpath, Jeremy Keil, Mark Rutherford, Tim Hagan, Admiral Colley, Rick McGinnis, Dena Bruedigam, M Carling, Aaron Starr, Mark Nelson.
Voting otherwise: Dan Karlan, Michael Gilson DeLemos, Jim Lark, Ed Hoch, Lee Wrights."

In Aug 2005 the LPRC was reconstituted and told to "review the contents of advertising, publications, and other materials produced or distributed to the Party, to ensure that they are consistent with the Statement of Principles and the Party Platform." In Aug 2006 this portfolio was extended to include consistency with the Bylaws as well.

NatCon Can Adopt One

The same 2/3 of NatCon delegates who can adopt a campaign program as the LP Platform can also adopt a campaign program in a Resolution. Convention Resolutions can be appealed to the Judicial Committee for inconsistency with the Statement of Principles, but not for inconsistency with the Platform.

No Silver Bullets

We will discredit the idea of reforming the Platform if we chain it to the naive notion that putting the word "platform" on the cover of a voter pamphlet will move the electoral needle. It won't. Reforming the Platform will remove one obstacle to our success, but it is nowhere near the only obstacle.

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