A Winning Race by Radical Libertarians in California is Now all but Decided. This may be the most significant WIN by the LP since it stole an Electoral College vote.
Libertarian Jeff Hewitt has pulled away further into the lead in his race for county supervisor in Riverside, California. “The world upside down,” is the only way to describe it. The Libertarian took a losing race against an establishment Republican and actually flipped the score, sending both major parties into a scramble. As of November 30th, Hewitt is over 2500 votes ahead out of over 100,000, putting him at 51.3%. Depending on how many of the remaining county-wide provisional votes count towards his race, it may now be impossible for him to lose.
The race he is in is for one of the most prized political positions in the country and easily among the top 20 most influential positions in all of California. The result will likely mean that for the first time in history, the Libertarian Party will have a solid member supervising a significant county seat. Riverside County is the 11th MOST populous county in the US and has a geographic area the size of New Jersey. The five person board decides administrative and enforcement policy for all law in their county and it controls an annual budget of over $5,000,000,000.
What few votes remain to be counted in this race are a tiny portion of the Vote-By-Mail ballots that needed extra verification and then also about 30,000 provisional votes cast on election day. The remaining votes will not all be applied to this race. Because the counting has now prioritized precincts within this particular race, it is believed that there are only 2500 to 7000 votes left. The final results will not be certified until Dec. 6th, but only an impossibly improbable showing could make him lose at this point.
County elected officials are reportedly calling Jeff Hewitt to congratulate him on winning. It is said that many have specifically complimented his campaign for a spectacular job moving voters. There is also apparently some level of having to admit surprise. Not a lot of the establishment politicos in the area had bet on the dark horse. To ensure that he can ramp up his office in time, the county has even issued Jeff Hewitt an exclusive access pin identifying him as Supervisorial Staff in administrative offices in the county seat.
A Full Tilt Assault by Libertarians
This was no “gimme” of a win for Libertarians. Jeff Hewitt’s campaign was a full tilt assault on traditional party politics. According to the campaign manager, Boomer Shannon, the approach was to do, “good ole’ fashioned politicking.” He says that the establishment parties have become so entrenched that they no longer know how to solicit votes; they only remain in power on the momentum of their “now broken machines.”
The day following the election, Mr. Shannon reported to activists and observers at the campaign office the results of the night’s counting and predicted a win by 2000 votes. Though at the time they were still down several hundred votes, he pointed at the 56% performance at the polls and said this statistically represented, “the world turned upside down,” from the 44% of the early absentee returns. He felt that the Democrats and Republicans did not know what was coming and said that as votes come in, “there will be great wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Afterwards, I got a minute to ask Mr. Shannon what he meant by people not knowing what is coming, and what that meant to other libertarians.
“They have gotten worse than lazy,” Mr. Shannon said about the major parties. “They are indolent in representing the people that vote for them. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are attracting new voters because the generations following the Baby Boomers have completely lost faith in them.”
“Over the last 15 years that we have been doing street level activism in Southern California we have seen a significant shift in the way people approach society. It is testimony to the decades of education work the party has done. When we canvass people with an OPH (Operation Politically Homeless) kit, the results today are striking. In parts of Los Angeles that trend towards Democrats, there is a swing. The little red dots we put on the graph have shifted up on the Republican side towards Libertarians. Conversely in more Republican areas like where Jeff is running, we see the registered Democrats shifting up into the Libertarian quadrant.”
Operation Politically Homeless is a long running education tool invented by the much revered and missed David Nolan. Once known as the Nolan Chart, the device is a small ten question test that inquires on a respondent’s view on some hard hitting freedom issues. Five of the questions are on “personal freedoms”; the rest are about economics. The chart is purported to correctly identify which political alignment a person has. The alignment is based not only on the familiar Left to Right axis, but also on a up-down scale of Libertarian to statist. An organization called The Advocates for Self Governance makes pre-printed tests of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz and display ready scoring posters available online. These kits are a regular gift among Libertarians to new activists.
“What this shift means to us is that on each side of the pseudo-divide between the two major parties, the side that feels disempowered, sees Libertarian thought as the solution. But that is not the strongest sign we see. What we get really excited about, the thing that seems to be the most significant change in those charts, is the fading away of the red and blue dots.”
“When I first started doing activism using the OPH kit, the respondents were a different sort. Most people who took the test were registered in one of the big parties. The chart would just have a smattering of yellow stickers we used for people registered in a 3rd party or had declined to state a party preference.”
“Gradually, and then significantly, those dots began to change. Each year, and universally across the various neighborhoods we canvass, red dots and blue dots began to be replaced by independent voters. Now nearly half of the respondents to the World’s Smallest Political Quiz we talk to are independents.”
“What is interesting is that the change isn’t just a replacement. We are getting a lot more people to stop and talk to us, take the test, and discuss society. Younger voters, who were once disenfranchised, are taking ownership and an interest in the political process. And let me tell you, they are a cynical lot too!”
“In areas that are Progressive strongholds in Los Angeles for instance, we get a lot of voters that understandably trend on the left side of the chart. The blue dots push far over, but the independents and Republicans score strongly Libertarian. When we talk to these guys, they still tend to be most interested in the issues that their neighbors and old progressives traditionally held up as ensigns like social justice and the environment. What we found though, is that they do not trust government to do these things. Until they talked to us, they just didn’t have any idea that these problems might be solved without ‘pointing guns at people.’ They tend to agree that government is not the right solution for society’s most important problems.”
Politics is about People
Boomer Shannon explains that these observations about the trajectory of political interest in voters was strong in shaping Jeff Hewitt’s campaign. The campaign sought to distance itself from politics as usual by throwing out the bold and blocky style now universally recognizable as political signs.
“A leader in the GoP here in Riverside called us ‘gutsy’ for putting Jeff’s face on our print media. Like most politicos, he has no clue what marketing looks like. As part of our volunteer army we had Hollywood PR and design people advising us and a staff artist. We knew that what we needed to do was set ourselves apart from politicians in general. We used warm desert colors in our advertising and plastered Jeff’s smiling confident face all over the county. It was friendly. It felt very personal and Jeff was very well received.”
“We have a saying around here that guides our attitudes: ‘Politics is about people; and the number one skill is making friends.’ Jeff and his amazing political track has represented the epitome of this. We would never have had this level of success if Jeff had not first volunteered for the planning office in his hometown, ran for the city council and then been promoted to mayor. His reputation was the foundation the campaign was built on. When we walked into a forum, as outsiders we were always walking into what normally would have been enemy territory. But it didn’t matter if it was a liberal church, a hispanic business coalition or a conservative club of GoP regulars, Jeff had a friend welcoming him and making introductions.”
“With this ability to make friends, our outreach became a funnel for people to meet Jeff. We had a dozen people canvassing neighborhoods, knocking on doors and making friends. People would see Jeff’s face on the extended literature and say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen him,’ and the rest was easy. Our number one goal was to put Jeff in front of people on a personal level, the second was to get signs on lawns. If they showed some active interest we set them up for coffee with Jeff. Jeff wound up drinking a LOT of coffee. Campaigning was two shifts a day for him – seven days a week.”
“Not only did we get a lot of positive feedback for the personal contact, we littered the district with thousands of signs. You would drive around town, and at busy intersections there was [the opponent’s] sign nailed to a pole where a signage company was hired to put them up. Ours were there too, but when you turned into the side street of a neighborhood, it was all Jeff, Jeff, Jeff. The GoP doesn’t know how to play a ground game. For them it is all about the party approved vendors.”
The Failure of Parties
Boomer claims to have studied the art of political persuasion, “before Tammany Hall,” when violent enforcement of party lines became prevalent. He says he can identify concretely where the Republicans and Democrats are failing. Their model is still based on control they no longer have. He also says he knows how to exploit that weakness and that it is easy to illustrate so that Libertarians do not make the same mistake. It is his theory that the major parties are no longer really political parties.
“This is hard for some, especially the establishment, to understand. For over a hundred years, politics has been monopolized by teams on a playing field that is completely corrupt. Look,” he said, “a political party, by its organic nature is the opposite of a control structure. Political parties are actually defined by a set of people, having a common social goal, coming together to realize it in the electoral process. You wont find any actual social goals except as window dressing in the establishment parties. The purpose of the their parties is completely manipulated to maintain access to graft. People know it and they hate corruption. What they need to know is that Libertarians are different, that we are sincere. That means being bottom up and decentralized as a movement and as a party so that activists and candidates stick around, and it means being locally relevant and radical in our messaging so that people hear us with definition.”
“As soon as the parties became centralized, they stopped being… Parties. After nearly 100 years, their unyielding grip on government is slipping because they do not know how to talk to the public. In those hundred years, they became Leviathan, and now under the weight of their own narcissism, they are collapsing. The massive swelling of voters who do not choose a party, to me is a plowed field ready for planting. We will use the rotting corpses of the old parties for fertilizer as we sow seeds of Liberty and irrigate it with the tears of broken and destitute bureaucrats.”
“Republicans and Democrats settle your mortal affairs. Jeff is just the beginning. The Libertarians are coming.”
As a So Cal Libertarian, I was naturally very invested in seeing Jeff Hewitt win this election from a number of angles. I helped on the campaign as a volunteer anywhere I could, and more. I was not alone and have a great love and appreciation for the dozens of fellow Libertarians that similarly took massive amounts of their free time and valuable skills and devoted them to this race. I pretend no lack of personal bias in this blog post. I am really proud of what those guys did.
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