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Libertarians Hold National Meeting

July 7, 2002

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The way many Libertarians see it, they have come a long way since their party’s humble beginnings in a Colorado living room in 1971.

The disenchantment of a few over the Vietnam War and President Nixon’s wage and price controls has grown into what they say is the nation’s best-organized and most successful third party.

``Other parties come and go,″ said David Nolan, considered the party’s founding father. ``The reason we have staying power is that we are consistent.″

The Libertarian Party claims about 25,000 due-paying members, according to press secretary George Getz. About 800 people of them were in Indianapolis over the weekend for the Libertarian National Convention, touting their candidates and their principles of individual liberty, smaller government and free trade.

It was also a showcase for their small political victories _ in large part because those are the only ones they can celebrate.

Libertarians hold nearly 500 elected or appointed offices nationwide, but most are at the local level: city or town councils, park boards and school boards, airport districts and justices of the peace. There are no Libertarian state legislators, and nobody has ever been elected to Congress on the party label.

In 2000, repeat presidential candidate Harry Browne got only 0.04 percent of the vote. Twenty years earlier, according to the convention guide, Ed Clark ``waged the most successful national Libertarian campaign in party history″ by getting about 1 percent of the presidential vote.

``They spread their resources so thin by running a large number of candidates to give the appearance of being bigger than they are, and then with no resources they get crushed and that reinforces the loser image,″ said Paul Hager, who quit the party and became a Republican after losing his bid to be nominated for Indiana secretary of state.

Some at the convention, including the party’s first presidential candidate, John Hospers, did not disagree.

``It’s just a small aggregation of people in a lot of different places at the same time, but it doesn’t amount to one huge thing in any one place,″ said Hospers, who got about 3,900 votes in the 1972 presidential election.

``What we don’t have is the money, the power and the recognition,″ said Gail Lightfoot, who is running for secretary of state for a second time in California this year.

``It’s a catch 22. Without getting elected, you don’t get the power, you don’t get the money, and it’s going to be that way for the lesser known political parties,″ she said.

On Saturday, the convention chose Geoff Neale, a software company president and consultant from Texas, to lead the party’s push as its national chairman. He promised to work to get the party’s message out to more people and get the party’s candidates better professional training.

Lack of money didn’t keep spirits down at the convention, a smaller version of the red-white-and-blue hoopla of the Republican and Democratic conventions.

When a platform statement condemning gerrymandering in drawing up new political districts was adopted, dozens of delegates hollered and did high fives. Others carried T-shirts touting their views: One showed a donkey and an elephant pointing guns, with the donkey is saying ``Your money!″ and the elephant is saying ``Your rights.″

Nolan said such raw patriotism and simple, hard-core beliefs will rule in the United States some day, and it will be on principle, not on fly-by-night candidates.

``We are not a personality-driven party,″ Nolan said. ``We are not a party that follows a George Wallace or a Ross Perot or a Ralph Nader. We are a party of people who believe in consistent steps in principles.″


On the Net:

Libertarian Party: http://www.lp.org/

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