Call it deja vu, or Barr 2.0, have Libertarian Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates Gary Johnson and Jim Gray adopted the 2008 Bob Barr election strategy? More importantly, is the Johnson campaign squandering an opportunity to attract disenchanted Ron Paul supporters? Perhaps the Johnson campaign staff fails to recognize what works for the libertarian minded voters.
by Jim Iannuzo
In 2008 I arranged to get Bob Barr on a local radio talk show but to my surprise his campaign manager said that Mr. Barr would not be addressing libertarian audiences, rather the focus was on non-libertarians. He declined the local radio show invitation. Clearly this was nonsensical because this radio station had a footprint which encompassed millions of non-libertarians, required only a 15 minute telephone call and it could be scheduled to coincide with the Barr’s schedule. So I pressed the campaign manager a bit and was told that libertarians had nowhere to go except towards Barr, essentially Bob already had their votes in the bag!
Fast forward a couple of months and two things happened. First, the Barr campaign seeing their poll numbers drop below 1% called and asked to appear on the radio show (a day late and a dollar short). Then the letters for money arrived in the mailbox to help “retire” campaign debts. What campaign? Was there some sort of stealth Libertarian Presidential Campaign? Let’s put this into perspective, Barr received 503,000 votes less than Independent candidate Ralph Nader’s 699,000 votes. Barr simply didn’t connect with the average liberty mined voter. He adopted trickle down campaigning that included cajoling the national media elite into saying nice things about you, supposedly translating into votes. He failed to recognize what is important to libertarians and instead chose the Republocrat approach.
The 2012 Johnson and Gray campaigns are using the same flawed logic.
1) A top down campaign structure which minimizes individual activity. The strength of the Ron Paul Revolution isn’t the messenger, it’s the message. A message that has been embraced by so many young adults. I just returned from a 6000 mile road trip around the country and saw many billboards and signs with Ron Paul’s message about individual freedom but not one Gary Johnson sign. The Ron Paul signs were mostly homemade which speaks to the passion of the individual. It’s this passion which the Johnson campaign has failed to cultivate. Johnson must embrace and not fear opening up his campaign structure thereby allowing the message to spread from the ground up. Within 25 miles of Phoenix, AZ there are 10 meetup groups that associate Libertarian with Ron Paul. There are ZERO Gary Johnson meetup groups within the same radius.
2) The Johnson campaign put the cart before the horse by focusing on national media. With few exceptions the national media has already deemed this a two man race; Romney v. Obama. A Google search will show that most Johnson or Gray events are not covered by the national media. The focus must be on developing a passionate core group of local supporters who feel empowered to call local media and discuss the Libertarian campaign message. Voters discount the larger media outlets that spin stories for some undisclosed purpose. The Johnson campaign must involve the choir, actively promoting independent action from within the local Libertarian and liberty minded community. Libertarian County Committees have large e-mail lists used to communicate with local activists. Our local county committee has never had direct contact with the Johnson campaign.
3) Focus on the libertarian message not the money. Johnson will never raise enough money to compete with Romney or Obama. It’s a waste of time and a futile task. Instead, understand the message is fundamental to successfully igniting local activists. Ron Paul didn’t need to start the money bombs.
My involvement with the Libertarian Party started when I explored the concept of self-ownership with a friend. It did not happen through some slick LNC advertisement. This concept is quite powerful when contrasted with conventional ideology and is the foundation for liberty. Reason and thought are the Libertarian Party’s ally and what differentiates this political group from all others.
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