Friday, August 11, 2006

You gotta smack 'em in the forehead with it

I hate paper. So it's no surprise that it took me more than a month after the LP National Convention to finally go through the crushing mass of paper I accumulated there. But one thing stood out -- a rainbow flag of a postcard simply saying "Vote your values" followed a candidate's name .com.

For anything to stand out in the mass of papers stuffed in my LP Convention binder, it must be well designed. And it got me to thinking about something one of our local Massachusetts candidates opined about recently. To paraphrase, he said that the LP has been better on gay rights than Republicans and Democrats, ever since our party was founded in 1971. But the gay activists don't support the LP, and the gay voters don't support the Libertarian candidates. Why not?

My answer is "because you gotta smack 'em in the forehead with it." And that's exactly what Bruce Guthrie, Libertarian for US Senate in Washington State has done.
more . . .

It's not like high school civics classes even mention third parties, much less their positions on the important issues of the day. And we all know how worthless the mainstream media is at covering third parties. So it's up to the parties and the candidates to educate the voters, which is difficult, especially when you want to target a minority of constituents who tend to no longer ghettoize geographically for easy door-knocking. In the case of the LGBT community, you're pretty much stuck with doing your outreach via the annual Pride celebration. But you simply won't get many takers if you try to give folks at an LGBT Pride celebration plain black-and-white brochures (or if they take them, you find them on the ground or in the trash ten feet away). Though if you give out something as eye-catching as a giant rainbow flag with the empowering words, "Vote your values," people are compelled to take it, probably assuming it's from a Democrat.

But then, when they're ready to look at who the candidate actually is, and they turn the card over, they see that it's not a Democrat, but rather a Libertarian. And not your typical crazy-looking wouldn't-wear-a-suit-if-his-life-depended-on-it Libertarian, but a professional-looking candidate with a professionally-run campaign, yet with the uncompromising stance on equality under the law that differentiates Libertarians from the other parties.

Bruce Guthrie's campaign for US Senate in Washington State is a model for how Libertarian candidates need to be reaching out to the LGBT community and other constituencies currently being oppressed by government. It's unapologetic in its support of key libertarian values, but it makes use of the marketing tools long since mastered by the major party candidates. I'd love to see more campaigns like this, which don't hide from or apologize for the Libertarian platform, but rather proudly embrace it, while running a serious organization that can be considered viable not only by the voters, but by the media. This is the path to electoral success.