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California Loves Johnson

California Volunteers for Johnson Weld 2016 have quite a story to tell. Join me in talking to two of the hardest working Libertarian Party’s field organizers in the country as they share with us the secrets of running a superior field effort.

The Party Party Gets to Work

This year will be forever remembered in Libertarian Party history. The Gary Johnson and Bill Weld presidential campaign broke records in turnout and media attention affording the LP massive wins that will have certain lasting positive effect on our efforts for many elections to come. The electoral wins themselves are monumental to our party and to our movement. Garnering nearly 4.5 million votes representing well over 3% of the popular votes nationwide the party’s previous records were surpassed to 400% of our previous performances. The numbers are impressive but the real wins happened in the states.

Gary Johnson does an interview at the LP booth activists put together at Politicon. California was ready for action and LP volunteers dominated the convention floor putting pros to shame.

By best accounts, ballot access was won in 17 states where previously our party had to work extra hard just to get our candidates listed. Collecting expensive signatures and fighting Republicans and Democrats in court every election represented millions of dollars in resources we once had to exhaust just to be on the ballot. Metaphorically it was like having to pay a stiff entrance fee just to join a race in which the other contenders get to run in it for free; and then also have to fight with the race organizers over whether the fee was paid in full or not, when they know perfectly well that it was.

Thanks to the success of the Gary Johnson campaign, the LP will be able to redirect its precious resources each presidential election to much more productive uses than playing “mother may I” games with our adversaries. California and it’s LP membership played critical roles in that national success. Their well organized field efforts provided a large part of the campaign’s outreach bandwidth where it counted most. The organizers in California activated a record number of volunteers getting them connected to the campaign and to the Libertarian Party locally.

Activism is Core

“Activism is the core of all political success. Every campaign is made or broken by their ability to move people.” Boomer Shannon identified this as the maxim by which California volunteers operated a very active and driven field effort for the campaign. Boomer is a member of the California Libertarian Party Executive Committee, an activist, and an experienced campaign manager and field organizer that has been working on and for Libertarian efforts for a number of years. He played several roles in the volunteer effort including California’s State Director Johnson/Weld and then trading places with Jonathan Jaech, he devoted his time to running logistics and volunteer coordination out the California Libertarian Party’s office in Monrovia.

California Loves Johnson

When you are used to being the underdog, there is nothing more exciting than to stand on a street corner and have strangers honk at you in agreement. When it happens you know you are a part of something real.

“Our job was to reach out to California supporters and volunteers and get them invested and that is where I wound up spending most of my time. One of the first things we were asked to do was get training in Nation Builder which turned out to be an incredible tool for organizing. It was almost too good. Very early on it became obvious just how big of a task we had in front of us. The platform was perfect for organic outreach. It was plugged into a powerful social media and gave us tools for running a very successful phone banking operation. We started with about a million supporters in the system nation-wide which by the end of the campaign was well over 10 million people who had opted into the campaign as supporters or volunteers.”

“We had a team in Los Angeles already set up. We opened the Southern California Libertarian Party Office down here last year to support our activism efforts. We have a group of activists that is pretty sizable. We have been helping with the state web site and doing outreach out of that office. It was very natural when that whole lot of regulars decided as individuals to help out on promoting our presidential candidate. With that core, we began by reaching out to our many volunteers. We set up a phone banking operation and immediately leveraged local LP meetings.”

Viral First Contact

“The first thing I did was get on the phone with other activists around California identifying leaders and getting them empowered to activate and to organize. I mined Nation Builder looking for people who had been especially active and filtering against their professions looking for people who were likely leaders. One of the best assets of the entire campaign was recommended to me by Joe Dehn the chair of Santa Clara County’s affiliate, a fellow out of San Jose named Robert Imhoff. What a great guy, I knew he was going to be a winner the very first time I talked to him.”

Boomer with his crew of activists ran what they called an “organic” field effort explaining that one of the failures of the entrenched but failing Democratic and Republican Parties is their “command and control” structure. Boomer explained that he felt that Libertarians don’t have an entrenched culture of control by nature, but that we do have a lot of young people recently activated who have only known a world with a free internet and they are disenchanted by the other parties and their top-down way of viewing the world.

California Loves Johnson

Even before signs were available, empowered volunteers designed their own signs. Here a group in San Pedro posed with their creation at a local LP meeting.

“We are an insurgent party and we have not been successful when we have tried to emulate the organizational habits of the Republicans or Democrats. As established entities, their focus is on survival and maintenance. They are so far removed from growth, both of them, that they are shrinking and seem oblivious to how to correct their dysfunctional relationship with the voting public. We, on the other hand, are focused almost exclusively on growth.”

“You don’t grow something big by pruning it to perfection. That is how you do bonsai. Looking to control our activists, candidates and voters is pretty un-libertarian on the face of it. It is impossible to do without force or fraud. The opposite of control is empowerment! That is what we concentrated on doing with our volunteers. We didn’t try to trim and prune the perfect garden, we went for the Johnny Appleseed approach. I mean we only had a couple of months till the drop dead deadline of the election. Every second that went by meant either gaining or losing momentum depending on how you spent it.”

Empowerment > Control

The volunteers in Southern California made phone calls using Nation Builder with lists of people that had signed up explicitly to volunteer. Boomer reached out statewide recruiting leaders in the northern and southern parts of the state. His core team began calling locals from the several thousand volunteers they had in Nation Builder living in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area. The process was the same, identify leaders and if they were willing, give them the task to call a list. If they came back with results, they put them to work. If not, the list was recycled to another. Across California, Boomer set up volunteers that were encouraged to run their own shows.

California Loves Johnson

Sign waving at a Major League Baseball game gave this small group of volunteers exclusive access to the attendees when they set up at the only entrance to the parking lot.

“The idea is never to tell these guys what to do. Once we knew that they were capable and willing, we set them loose organizing their areas with what ever level of guidance seemed welcome. Robert Imhoff was one of the most successful of those if you ask me; showing great willingness and skill from the moment he first picked up the phone. It was not very long before we realized we had found our Northern California coordinator in Robert. He was incredible – hooking himself in with other coordinators easily and calling volunteers to activate and organize them. Instead of having to try and coordinate a bunch of local leaders from hundreds of miles away, Robert made the job much much easier. He and his wife Jennifer really work hard, and they are the sort of people that succeed at anything they do.”

The northern part of the state used emails to get people out as volunteers to mixers. Robert Imhoff and his wife Jennifer crafted a series of emails that invited people out. “We carefully thought about what we said in those emails” said Robert Imhoff when asked about how he approached volunteer recruitment. “We kept the language strong but leaving the reader wanting to know more. We invited them to an orientation but didn’t give them an agenda. On one hand we wanted to get people motivationally curious, and on the other hand we didn’t want to mention phone banking and fail to also get the people out who just wanted signs or had something in mind we didn’t think of. We told them we would do training on the campaigns tools and have materials to give out.”

California Loves Johnson

Volunteers were empowered and encouraged to make their own events like this sign wave in South Los Angeles.

“When people showed up at one of our events we listened to them talk about themselves and what they wanted to do and accomplish. We gave people small tasks according to their interests. Our motto was ‘everyone has a role.’ This guy we gave five signs to, another we asked them to make some phone calls. We had a great guy who worked in Bay area but lived in Sacramento. Trony Fuller became a huge resource as he was willing to drop off signs and other materials to people along his path home, sometimes even going well out of his way. He was indispensable in Sacramento helping grow the already sizable organization and office Ken Gillespie had generated there.”

Connect Personally

In the South, phone banking for volunteer recruitment had paid off in big ways. Volunteer orientations were scheduled at local LP meetings. Regular volunteers in the LP office called hundreds of people from each area, and invited them to several local LP meetings so that they could be oriented on the campaign’s efforts in their area. The personal touch gave big rewards. Phone calls to people that came from a fellow volunteer had a remarkably high rate of success.

California Loves Johnson

Using local meetings as a gathering spot for volunteer orientations paid off for the campaign and for the local parties.

There were a number of orientations in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego each of which was preceded by a few hundred phone calls to volunteers in the area. In Pasadena, the rush of new people at their meetings in September and October overfilled the room at the local Panera Bread they regularly meet in. In Central LA people filled the meetings in those months as well,overflowing the banquet room at a small hotel on more than one occasion.

Similarly successful events also happened in several Los Angeles neighborhoods and neighboring San Bernardino, Orange and Ventura Counties including several orientations on Los Angeles’ progressive-dominated West Side. In Venice Beach, on the boardwalk, Mark Herd an upcoming candidate for City Council in Los Angeles brought volunteers to his regular meetup on the beach. Simultaneous to running his Congressional Campaign Baron Bruno held events at Rock and Brews in El Segundo a trendy craft beer joint owned by Gene Simmons of 70s music fame.

California Loves Johnson

Hundreds of people lined up hours early to ensure they could get into the Gary Johnson Rally at the swank celebrities-only Boulevard 3 Club in Hollywood.

In the  North a vibrant volunteer network had grown around Robert and Jennifer Imhoff’s hard work and outreach. He went as far as to invite the local county organization to use his home for their meetings, and got volunteers mixing in. The outreach efforts and organizations he spawned and helped support, were bringing big results. The volunteer force led by Ken Gillespie in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville, recruited someone who had some empty storefront space available for a couple of months between tenants. They opened a volunteer office putting up a giant banner that sat directly in front of busy I-80 freeway offramp promoting Libertarian Gary Johnson for President.

“We would get better than 60 people at each of the three orientations we held,” Imhoff said. “We put up tents in the yard and broke out the barbecue and beverages. It was really great to host the old guard Libertarians and see them mix with the new volunteers. They have a lot to offer to this new generation of Libertarians. They have been fighting for a long time and their wisdom and experience is very valuable to the massive number of young people who joined us. Hopefully they will keep coming to meetings and doing activism with us. The campaign itself was short on resources in those early days so it was great to get people out so that they could see just how serious of a campaign was being run”.

Wait for Nothing

California Loves Johnson

Gary Johnson was a huge draw for Libertarians doing outreach. Here volunteers administered “Worlds Smallest Political Quizzes” and pamphlets titled, “Are you Libertarian?”

“We had a problem we had to address,” Boomer admitted. “The phone banking infrastructure that the campaign was going to use for voter outreach was not yet set up when our orientations began. We did not yet have signs or literature to hand out. We actually did not have a lot to orient people on in specifics because the campaign was still gathering resources and strategic direction for the field efforts; but that didn’t slow us down. The most important part of the orientation was getting people together. We wanted our volunteers to have a solid connection to the campaign and to the party. So we moved forward with confidence and did what we know how to do best. We made a lot of friends.”

“Politics is about people, and those first orientations, while the events were light on what you might call instructions or actual orienting, they did provide a lot of value. Until we did those orientations, the volunteers were only connected via the internet and some phone calls. We wanted to get them excited and connected in strong ways. Email and phone only get you so much faith or attention from a person. You get a lot more when that person has meets you, they feel like they are a part of something big, and you then ask for their help in a specific way.”

“Our routine at these orientations was to welcome the volunteers, pump them up a little bit with good old-fashioned cheer leading,” which Boomer admitted was easy, “and then we would go around the room and to allow people to introduce themselves and tell us how they became interested in Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party. Like magic, people became invested in each other, as well as the campaign and in the party itself!”

California Loves Johnson

Rallys for Gary Johnson were standing room only and tightly packed. Primed supporters would shout “WIN” in response to the candidate’s assertions during his speech.

In Northern California Robert Imhoff was running a similarly open and organic strategy for activating volunteers also. “Robert’s hard work in Northern California made concentrating a lot of my time in the south both easy and productive,” Boomer said. “He and Jennifer are a powerhouse team. With them handling things up north so adroitly, I was able to concentrate a lot on the people working closer to me. I was able to be a bigger part of well… the field effort itself. I really love working in the field the most: Getting a bunch of activists together and causing trouble for the establishment is one of me special joys in life. The interaction with the national campaign began to be the hardest part of the effort for me. The phone calls were laborious and not very productive as other states were dealing with problems that California’s density and strong existing activist organizations obviated.”

Activists that Play Together, Stay Together

The general strategy and the tactic of inviting people out to orientations paid off in the end. When, in the final weeks of the campaign, many other volunteer groups were battling volunteer burn out, the California effort was still going strong and calling people in strategic states like South Dakota all the way up to the last minute. It is hard to quantify the actual effect on the votes that the volunteer phone bank efforts had but the correlation to popular vote and the phone banking campaign was very strong. It became a specific point of pride for California’s volunteers.

California Loves Johnson

A young volunteer for Johnson Weld 2016 addresses an enthralled gang of soon-to-be-voters.

Boomer’s voice tremello’d when he described the phone banking efforts in California, “Our volunteers were dedicated all the way through to the finish line. We literally had people sitting at folding tables under Easy-Ups in back yards calling in that last week. A lot of volunteers called from home, but phone banking parties were pretty popular. People liked working together.”

The California volunteer effort was also on the ground a great deal. They tabled at community events and  recruited deeply at colleges. They also held flash-mob style sign wavings and managed the fieldwork for wildly successful rallies in Hollywood and Sacramento where Gary Johnson addressed throngs of supporters. Organizers attributed the number and participation in those events directly to having gathered people together in-person.

Boomer felt the difference was dramatic and demonstrable. “About 90% of the phone calls made in the phone bank were by people who had signed in at one of our orientations or trainings. Our volunteers felt empowered… they were explicitly authorized and encouraged to organize their own events, and they came through for the campaign.”

“Look at this,” he said holding up a hefty stack of dog eared volunteer sign-in forms. “We literally had many hundreds of people come to one or more of our events as a volunteer. Having office space to use was a real boon to us down here as it was up North.”

California Loves Johnson

Phone banking was easy to get people into when they were encouraged to get together. This phone bank party overflowed into the back yard where extensions cords powered laptops used for managing phone calls.

Boomer asserted strongly that volunteers having a place to go and to gather was key to their success. He claimed that getting people together energized the volunteers and motivated them to start making phone calls and then friendly competition drove their productivity upwards as well. “You just can’t beat the strength of a relationship made in person or the awesome feeling of working with a bunch of people who are looking to accomplish the same wins as you in society. We were really fortunate to have had Gary Johnson’s campaign. Their foresight in having an online platform for supporter outreach early on was a game changer for the field. It allowed us to reach out and then to immediately also empower those we contacted to begin doing the same. It was that level of organic, unconstrained and viral empowerment that gave us the biggest wins of any party this election cycle.”

A Bright Friendly Future

Boomer’s outlook speaks to directly what he hopes to see happen next for the Libertarian Party. “It isn’t just the record level of votes our party got. It is not just the massive amount of resources we are going to save from winning ballot access; nor is it just the media attention we got making the Libertarian Party a household brand. What is likely to be the biggest win for us, short term and long term, is this army of activists we just mobilized.”

California Loves Johnson

Volunteer orientations for the Gary Johnson 2016 campaign were held all over California. This one was at the trendy Rock & Brews in El Segundo which is owned by 70s KISS-rocker Gene Simmons.

Boomer and Robert both expressed that their next step is to continue to reach out to the the new volunteers that they met and encourage them to become members of the party and continue their participation in activism.

“I am looking forward to getting to see the great people I worked with on the Gary Johnson campaign again,” Robert said about moving forward. “We really wanted them to see that there was more beyond the campaign to be a part of and I think we were successful at that.”

“We feel like we have made a whole lot of great friends,” Boomer said, “and I hope that we are going to continue to see them at our meetings. After all, they now know where and when we meet and they have friends to see there. Failing that, we do still have their phone number and who doesn’t like getting a phone call from a friend saying they are missed?”

The post California Loves Johnson appeared first on Alive Free Happy.

Dude, California Radical

I Grew into Being a “Radical”

When I first got into helping move our freedoms forward in a more determined fashion, I joined the LP. I found a lot of friends and people who truly believed in Liberty. A great number of them far better learned in the philosophy than I. They gave me an education. The LP made me a California Radical.

Among some of those people who truly believed in Liberty and inspired me was a man who had been a part of the Party from the beginning. Ted Brown is one of those stalwarts that has been working in one way or another for freedom, engaging the electoral process for 40 years. A genuinely nice guy that only a most pathological madman could criticize. The Golden State’s Libertarians are lucky to have him.

He recently replaced a more “pragmatic” chair, who had grand plans, and unfortunate tactics for trying to make the party a bit more mainstream. Our ballot statements were dry; our platform was going fallow, our ability to put people on the ballot in disrepair for the drag of party leadership in the face of “Top Two”. But all of that has changed in California.

Radical California

I wanted to share with you what it looks like when you have a polished radical leading a ballot qualified party in the most populous and electorally rich state in the US:

Libertarians stand for something: Freedom.

We believe that the most peaceful, most prosperous, most socially fair and tolerant and progressive society is one that solves its problems without government force. We believe that social woes like inaccessible healthcare, inadequate social justice, economic instability, and racial disparity are caused and perpetuated by officials who would rather increase their power instead of truly solving any problems.

We believe in all freedoms. For over four decades, the Libertarian Party has been the feet on the ground advancing once radical issues like marijuana legalization, gay marriage, gun rights, closing the Federal Reserve, school choice, transportation competition, ending mandatory minimum sentences, and ending eminent domain. We oppose foreign wars and want to bring our troops home from overseas.

We want to end graft that robs the poor, destroys honest businesses and corrupts education, police, courts and elections. We believe that Americans are being taxed to death to support a failed system full of waste and corruption.

We must stop giving money and power to the same people who have caused the problems we face today.

It’s time for a big change. If you are tired of throwing away your vote, send a message

– Vote Libertarian.

Ted Brown, Chair

Libertarian Party of California

That is a party that understands that politics follows the people. That to reach out and educate, to take radical stances and stand by them, to speak the truth and to not apologize for it, is what has made Libertarians win policy change even if the rules of the ballot are stacked against them. To win the hearts and minds of millions of people is a generational endeavor, and no matter what barriers are placed in front of you, there is always a way for a radical to punch through.

A Gathering of Radicals

The Libertarian Party of California has it’s Annual Convention starting April 1st, 2016 and it is a great opportunity to make friends. I guarantee an excellent time.

Yeah, April Fools Day was neither a mistake nor a joke. There is irony in it reflected against the farce of voting and the organizers have  sweet sense of humor. It is a presidential election year and guys like John McAfee are going to be there. I am hoping for a presidential steel cage death match for Friday Night.

I’ve sent like 15 letters to the convention committee recommending it. I bought 6 rolls of hurricane fence, 16 steel posts and 8 cubic feet of gravel and QuickCrete just in case there is a last minute approval for my plan. I’ve also reached out to both John McAfee and Austin Petersen to see if they might contend in the Main Event. I figure they were a good match up. Gary Johnson would annihilate any of ’em if we let him in.

There has been no response from our hopeful contenders either, but they are probably waiting on a committee decision with me. No doubt they are secretly training so as not to be caught napping. If it happens, I have $50 to put on McAfee and another $20 says he wins with an eye gouge.

I hear Vermin Supreme wont make it out to this convention though he has declared himself a Libertarian candidate. Love that guy. He would have been an excellent referee.

A Great Program

As far as the already scheduled activities go, the party has a bunch of great speakers lined up. It’s a great list from across the spectrum. David Nott who is the President of the Reason Foundation will be there. Angela Keaton from too. The one I want to hear most of all is Lily Tang Williams from Colorado. She is featured above with a very alluring pose if I may say so.

Mrs. Williams escaped communist China, came to America, and then was horrified when she found out that her daughter’s Common Core education was identical to the Maoist travesty she ran away from. California, espeically Los Angeles is pretty cosmopolitan and so is the State Party. The leaders of both The Libertarian Party of Canada and the Libertarian Party of Mexico will be speaking. The program has a bunch more. But speakers are only the cake. The icing comes at night.

A Great Opportunity to Make Friends

The California Libertarian Party is renown for it’s parties. The banquet is going to be great, and the night gets kewler with the hospitality suite rocking late into the night. I can tell you some epic stories… Do bring a check book. Make donations at the festivities. It is well directed money and someone bought all that free booze. It is only right to give back.

If you have misgivings about voting. That’s kewl. Come to just make a friend or six. If you are on the fence let me repeat this tidbit of stolen wisdom: If voting could change the system, it would be illegal and if not voting could change the system it would be illegal. Right? Well, electoral politics on its own wont do any good for moving society in the right directions. We all know it. Evil lives in those halls of power and taking a seat there is a dangerous proposition at the least and a corrupting one most likely.

But, the electoral system is a great place to get a handful of statist nutsack and wrench.

Check out the website.

The tickets are cheap. You are going to make a lot of great friends.

The banquets cost extra -totally worth the price – but the parties are free, in every sense of the word. You don’t want to miss it.

The post Dude, California Radical appeared first on Alive Free Happy.

Vermin Supreme – The Nation’s Funniest Presidential Candidate

The man’s name is Vermin Supreme and every moment in his presence is pure living theater. He has run for President several times, with each election cycle he gains more attention. He promises to implement a system of uniform dental hygiene laws, to revolutionize the world with free energy from zombies, and he extols the virtue of a combined pony based economy and federal identification program (you must have your pony with you at all times.) I got to talk to Vermin Supreme behind the scenes and see him in action in several venues. It feels like an experience worth sharing for the fun of it but also because for me, it forced some pondering on what success in politics really looks like.

An Introduction

Vermin Supreme made himself an Internet sensation in 2012 with this performance at the Democratic Party Primary Debates in New Hampshire. I invite you to watch it, all five minutes of it are a riot.

Not just a perennial wacky satirical Presidential Candidate, Vermin Supreme is a true showman, a professional; and as I have had the pleasure to find out, he is serious about his mission. I first saw the above video in 2012 while watching the race, rooting for Ron Paul to make the biggest splash he could. It cracked me up and so it did to many people. The YouTube video went viral and was even the feature of attention in several large forums.

If you are older than 35, you may not have heard much about him, but a lot of college aged kids sure got exposed to his plans for pony poop recycling. That video alone got over three million hits. A search on YouTube brings up a lot of material, all with decent showings. Vermin loves performing and has successfully kept an loyal internet following together between campaigns with interviews, biographies, and a string of political stunts. One video is of him playing with ponies, dancing and singing to his own autobiographical composition: “I’m a Meme“.

Dinner with a Meme

It was a set of interviews Vermin Supreme had scheduled in Los Angeles that gave me the opportunity to meet him in person. An activist here had contacted him, and arranged for him to be the host of a dinner fundraiser for the local Libertarian Party. In return, the activist (a young freedom fighter named Boomer Shannon) shuttled him around to his interviews, appearances, and street theater demonstrations for the week he was in town.

A Nice Restaurant on the Beach

The fund raiser, which I quickly bought a ticket to, was a small private dinner at a swanky place on the beach in Santa Monica. Chez Jay’s is a landmark, festooned on it’s outside with bright colors, cartoony underwater murals, flashing lights, and a giant concrete clam shell once part of a set that graced Santa Monica Boardwalk’s entrance. Looking inside it is crowded with two rows of tables between booths and the bar. All of the patrons all have designer shirts, many with ties; the ladies are bejeweled.

Vermin Supreme – The Nation’s Funniest Presidential Candidate

The setting is hard to describe. Chez Jay’s was one of the West Side’s swanky “dive bars”, an exclusive place where Los Angeles elite would dine and drink on the beach and party through the night. A wooden ship’s wheel stands in the entry. forcing people coming and going to squeeze between it and the crowded tables and booths. It seems to be giving the bartender and staff time to monitor guests coming and going. Over the bar hangs a decent sized tuna, the first fish that Gen. George S. Patton ever caught.

Our event was in the back, in a small room that once allowed celebrities to party it up in privacy long after last call. Rumor has it that Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys would use that room to meet when the boys were in town. The hall to the restroom has an impressive array of photos showing Hollywood stars, politicians, and other celebrities partying it up.

The decor is the same as when it was first built. The seat covers are a little worn, but the city will not allow them to be replaced as they had once held some historically notable behinds in their cushions. The red leather benches run down each side of the wood paneled room we ate in, a long set of tables runs down the center. In this compartment eight excited guests, half of whom where under 30, and Vermin Supreme drank wine, dined on steaks, shrimp and enjoyed an appetizer made by the chef especially for the event: Cajun grilled octopus steak with shrimp on an etouffee to die for.

A Clown With a Boot on his Head

Vermin, in character the whole time, extolled the virtues of harnessing zombies for power, made serious demands about the promotion of oral health and sold us on the necessity for the country to adopt a pony based economy. In short, he proclaimed that this country can only be led by a friendly fascist prepared to grab problems by the gum line and floss them clean.

Vermin Supreme – The Nation’s Funniest Presidential Candidate

You have to imagine what the setting is like to understand the surreal nature of this dinner fundraiser in a restaurant within one of the most expensive parts of Los Angeles, literally on Silicon Beach. From standing in the park that surrounds the restaurant to the back, you can throw a stone and hit the any of thirty public tech companies, game design labs and the several of the world’s most elite sound production studios. The customers of the place have money, the food is not cheap, and in the back is a raucous party going on.  Hosted by a guy wearing eight ties under his long white Santa beard, a leather vest, sport jacket and a rubber boot on his head, a room full of people rolling in laughter, there is a party going that has clearly gone out of bounds. He entertains them and the entire establishment with a showman’s voice that echos from the doorway of the back room, over the crowd, and into the street – sardonic zany irreverence in every word.

You would think the management would be ready to toss these loud, imposing jokers out on the street. The staff was all smiles though. The big room out front picked up its own volume, laughter and giggles filled the establishment for the show going on. The tinkling of glasses and cheers demonstrating that happiness is contagious, and the Los Angeles elite love a good show as much as the next guy. Vermin Supreme was a hit, and the maître d came in with a bottle of a lovely Cabernet compliments of the house. “That was nothing you should have seen the outrageousness that Steve McQueen would conjure up,” he would tell us later. Indeed, on the restaurant’s web site there is a picture of Steve McQueen passing a joint to the owner, taken back in a time when that bit of marijuana was worth 6 years in a California Penitentiary.

Never out of Character

Vermin Supreme did not break character once all night. After dinner, a break for the smokers, and then desert, we lingered together in the parking lot.  The energy did not dissipate. Vermin kept up the show, entertained the valet, signed autographs for new fans, diners leaving the restaurant posed for pictures with him as we did.

Vermin Supreme – The Nation’s Funniest Presidential Candidate

Everybody had a great time and Vermin Supreme helped the Libertarian Party of Los Angeles raise a bunch of money for their part of a co-hosted activist conference in January. Even with tickets at a couple hundred bucks a piece, the fund-raiser sold out in just two days. Limited seating meant people missed out if they didn’t answer their phone and had to call back. I was really impressed with the experience, the food, the organization, and especially the entertainment. I wanted to find out more about Vermin Supreme and arranged some time with him at a private party two nights later and got a few minutes to talk. I learned a lot from him that evening, mostly delivered through his quickness of wit.

Even in personal circumstances, with no cameras or microphones around Vermin Supreme rarely drops his character. Talking to him is a conversation of sound bites but through it, I got to see the fascinating person behind the fascinating personality.

The Meme is a Man

I learned some interesting things about his campaign. Vermin Supreme has been doing this shtick for 24 years. His first run was in 1992. He was a clown candidate (really… He has formal training) and did not get a lot of attention at first, but persistence has paid off for him. From the spark of internet memedom, he has been doing interviews and franchising his universe. He has worked with comic book artist Digger Mesch who is publishing a series with Vermin as it’s base. He is even writing a novel set in the Dystopian future that exists after his election. Vermin read from the novel for a group of young freedom fighters at the party. I also got to learn a little about the man behind the beard himself.

An Anarchist of the Far Left Sort

“I am a socialist,” Vermin said with a voice that was not his normal showman’s delivery. His face had gone serious. He had also indicated that he was a “very libertarian person” with the same tone of firmness. After a pause to let it set in he said, “I believe in mutual aid.” Then he was right back into character. A little while longer, one of the young people present asked him if he might run as a Libertarian. He indicated that he was not opposed to the idea. He intended to run under several parties already. He said that if he did run as a Libertarian, unlike Harry Browne, he would likely take matching funds and to promote his campaign to the fullest.

Vermin Supreme – The Nation’s Funniest Presidential Candidate

Vermin Supreme is one of those far left anarchist types. The Rainbow Family outing attendee is perfectly happy living in New Hampshire among other independent minded people. He loves his privacy, and his individualism, but he also loves people. He is not wealthy by any stretch of the word except in friends. He believes in and loves community, but only the voluntary sort, and only the free sort where participation or non-participation is up to the individual and one where goodwill drives public interaction. People like him for his earnestness, they trust him and that translates into real political effect.

Like the Pied Piper of Hamlen Town, Vermin rallied and led the kids at the game night party on one of his missions the next morning. Up early blinking a short night’s sleep out of their eyes, nearly a dozen young activists met up early, downed a couple of pots of coffee and caravan-ed out to the beach a few miles north of where Vermin’s fund raiser was two nights before.

Freedom in the Sun

Venice Beach is at the north end of swanky Santa Monica, just south of the $25,000/month mansions that run along PCH and the exclusive beach cliffs that run up to Malibu. It is a piece of Los Angeles history, a place that was once run by a street gang known as V13. It was where the muscle builders hung out and as Santa Monica gentrified it remained wild, untamed and relatively impoverished for the surrounding area. It was a neighborhood of artists and musicians, junkies and surf bums.

Vermin Supreme – The Nation’s Funniest Presidential Candidate

During the weekend, the boardwalk in Venice has been and still is a carnival. Some things have changed there compared to when I hung out as a kid. The character of the place has not changed much per se. The same people are there doing the same stuff, artists on blankets selling their stuff, street performers juggling flaming bowling balls, drum circles chorusing complicated rhythms, dancers shaking, splitting and synchronizing to various styles of music. I once made a couple hundred dollars a day getting petitions signed on the boardwalk; which is how, personally I got turned on to the Philosophy. I was recruited to registering to vote as a Libertarian over 25 years ago by a guy with horned rimmed glasses and a Nolan Chart whom congratulated me on my 100/100 score with a voter registration form and a pen.

One thing has changed. You used to buy weed in Venice in a back alley. Now you walk into a store front. The Green Doctors was one of the first medical marijuana doctor’s offices in the state to blatantly hang out a shingle after proposition 215 in 1995 changed the law in California. Not at all typical of the practice in the state where most prescriptive recommendations are in traditional doctor’s offices. The Green Doctors is typical Venice, bright paint, bold psychedelic sign, and nurses in short uniforms. You can’t buy the weed there, but on the other side of the boardwalk from them is muscle beach and waiting along the chain link boundary of the weights area, there is a couple of people who happen to know where the closest dispensary is. The boardwalk, as it always has been, is packed with people gawking and shopping.

Vermin Supreme – The Nation’s Funniest Presidential Candidate

Here Vermin is among his kind of people. The denizens of Venice and tourists alike eat him up. His clowning gathers crowds. He makes people look and listen with his uncompromising professional delivery and powerful engagement. He entertains and he resonates. Everyone that hears him walks away laughing and thinking. The world is his stage and he commands it with his performance.

Since the Dinner, a few weeks ago, Vermin Supreme has officially entered the race for President in 2016. I am looking forward to see what he does but it does raise a question for me. One that is looming larger in importance the more I consider it.

The World Needs More Showmen (and Less Suits)

For me, politics is about people. The philosophy is not politics. Anarchism and Libertarianism are social ethical constructs. But, the effort to inculcate those mores in society is all about politics. It is not merely about elections or government. Politics is about connecting with people and getting them to consider society in new ways, to motivate them to join in a change. Elections demonstrate some aspect of present social trajectory. Politics is the effort to change that trajectory by engaging your fellow man.

On the front of engagement, the Libertarian Party was once a fun group to be a part of. They were the party party. It was among the freaks and geeks of Venice Beach that I was hooked as a college kid. My environmental club’s sponsor exploited us for signature gathering and thanks to him and his side business, I became dedicated to Freedom. Registering to vote put me on a mailing list and I liked the radical stuff I read from the LP as a young man. I had known the truth of liberty all my life, but here were people putting it down in plain language and actually engaging the system, throwing themselves on the gears of the machinery in a sense. From there I read Ayn Rand and Robert Anton Wilson and I loved every word of it as i graduated to Lysander Spooner and Larkin Rose.

Vermin Supreme – The Nation’s Funniest Presidential CandidateThe old LP was full of Vermin Supremes, back when we had 10 times our numbers. That is a significant thing to understand. The people who really make other people look and get socially involved, they are a mixed bag of nuts. Not all of them run for President. Some do, but many are artists and engineers – people who live creating new things – free thinkers. Societies producers, the ones that Ayn Rand illustrated in her novels were not suit wearing normal people. They were self defining people who rejected imposed ideals from all institutions.

Today the party, in an effort to look more mainstream on one hand, and in an effort to maintain “purity” on the other has gutted its soul. I try to imagine what it might be like for someone like Vermin Supreme to be a part of the Party today and it is not pretty. LP conventions are run by people who learned politics from the GOP, there is not a lot of fun going on on the floor.

The Libertarian Party used to be a place where the wild people went. Our conventions were booming and costumes, laughter and pot smoking in the hall was common place despite the hazard of far stricter laws. The artists and communicators used to flock to the party bringing their wide audiences with them, but the Party is devoid of their boon now. Once the people of Venice Beach, the Burning Man throngs, the agorists, the voluntaryists and the anarcho-whichevers all called themselves Libertarians and the party was larger by an order of magnitude.  Where are they now?

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The Libertarian Party SoCal Conference Opens Tickets to Activists First

The Libertarian Party in Southern California Holds its Seventh Annual Conference

The Libertarian Party Southern California Regional Conference has been a fun and fantastic experience for seven years running. This coming year’s tickets have finally gone on sale and organizers are encouraging stalwart attendees to get tickets now.

No speakers have been announced yet but early purchase tickets have been made available to Libertarian activists ahead of time to allow pre-purchase. There is some concern this year that the conference may out-sell it’s venue with some big names. Last month internet sensation Vermin Supreme did a fund raiser for the conference, raising money to defray costs, but it is not known if the conference will bring the satirical candidate out from New Hampshire.

Traditionally the conference is an outreach event and candidates are not a focus. The organizers, a caucus of Libertarians from multiple Southern California Counties, have concentrated on getting speakers from outside the LP to talk to Libertarian activists and also in finding speakers and workshops that encourage and instruct strong activism for liberty. They also keep the price reasonable in the extreme: $35 for a day of speakers and lunch is included.

Privacy, the Death Penalty and the End to Marijuana Prohibition are sure to be hot topics this year in California. While we wait for a speakers list to be announced, we can only guess whom may be headlining this year’s conference. It ought to be great!

Tickets are available here on Event Bee:
7th Annual Southern California Libertarian Party Conference

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McAfee and Libertarian Party Appearances

Should the Libertarian Party be looking only at electable candidates,
or are colorful public figures like John McAfee good for the effort?

McAfee Runs For President under the LP Banner

McAfee Antivirus inventor John McAfee’s announcement that he will run for President as a Libertarian has sparked a lot of conversation in some large media properties. Many of the comments, interestingly enough seem to criticize the LP for being on the sidelines with guys like McAfee.

When poked, it is my experience that these detractors are largely not in the LP, but in the GOP and are just doing their routine sniping. It brings me to ask the question: Are we really sidelined when we run colorful characters in the LP?

Here are some posts regarding McAfee’s announcement and other sites useful for research: | | Wikipedia

Reason Article | Newsweek Article | Gizmodo Article

Even with all of this reading, at this moment I do not know much about the guy. I do not know if he would well represent the philosophy and spread it, but I do know something about how the LP operates, and “from the sidelines” is where the LP thrives for now.

The LP on the Game Field

The LP does operate from the sidelines. It seems to me that it is only allowed to exist because the powers that be, have to maintain an illusion of the principles encoded in the first and strongest constitution based on freedom ever written. It would have been easiest to simply outlaw the LP, and today that effort seems to be gaining traction under the guise of National Security but it has been hard to do and not get exposed. Instead they just change the rules of elections whenever there is a gain by any independent movement. By the rule of law, the sidelines is where the LP must play.

As I can foresee, it will be that way until one of two things happens:

1) We change our system to be more parliamentary in nature.

2) One of the corrupt so-called parties, falters in it’s ability to turn out even the tiny minority they need to keep their power and it collapses.

The first option is too foreign to people in the US and is not supported in the Constitution. Most people seem to agree with me thinking that this is not likely going to happen without a catastrophic crash of the economy and political structure.

The second option, however, is looming.  Both parties are ruled far from the voters and in controvert to the wishes of their base.  The Republicans are nearly defunct. This is especially obvious in states like California where they are no more than a zombie institution locally, and an ATM machine for the east coast masters of the party. They have been rigid and exclusive for decades, pushing out all who disobey. Goldwater scared the crap out of them.

The Democrats are far less rigid than the GOP keeping their leadership in place in a complex of winks and nods. Their structure is more tolerant of converse movement at the top as the base is allowed to move more or less on its own.  Control happens through less direct routes than in the GOP. But that same structure makes flexible makes them more prone to pieces breaking off on their own.

Political Change

The LP is on the sidelines and fighting the good fight. One day there will be a shake-up; likely shattering the GOP. At the same time an influence vacuum will form that will detach large pieces of the Democrat’s base as the people on top, fat with power, eschew the need to cater to the inconvenient. At this time, a new “team” will try and form to take the field.

Some think that this change is imminent in just two presidential cycles. I think that a Donald Trump could make it happen in one. One thing is for sure: A minority of people in the US are eligible to vote; a minority of the eligible bother to register; a minority of those registered go to the polls – and elections are won with tiny percentages of the population. The sham is actively falling apart… right now.

Success or Ruin

It will be after this time that the LP has it’s chance. People will be seeking “genuine” and “honest” representatives like people who are attracted to Bernie Sanders exemplify. If the LP has maintained their “pure” message the “kookiness of dissent” becomes “the wisdom of the people” and society will move forward toward freedom.

The other outcome that might happen is that we become a single party system officially. What is really scary is that this is our current trajectory as I see it. The GOP and Democrats are already shells for the same interests. Those interests have no want to have to keep paying twice the “cost of influence.” There will be a lot of pressure to keep the GOP extant but tiny as the token “minority party” institutionalized in the constitution and legislative processes.

Politics is About People

We are unprepared. The LP was at its strongest when radicals were out front and making noise.  Where is the Doctor Demento’s of the 21st century in the LP? Where is the Church of the Subgenius and the other such counter culture groups?McAfee and Libertarian Party Appearances

I can tell you. They were chased out by people who were afraid of statements like “peanut gallery” – suits, who following the examples of the dragon they once fought, took a page from the GOP vs. Goldwater and started purging the “unseemly” activists and “povertarians” from the party. In effect they chased out 90% of the party.

So, I would recommend that we embrace every colorful character that will sell the philosophy; that we “own” the sidelines with an excellent show. We need people like McAfee to fill the roles of the likes of Aaron Burr, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. People with the courage to stand up are often people who have colorful pasts. People who know how to make waves do not learn that skill by having led an unassuming life. Look up George Washington’s early career for instance or Thomas Jefferson’s constant battle with solvency.

People Love the Circus, and Hate the Opera

We need showmen and risk takers, and men with views askew that highlight truth. We need people to look, to remember our name and the earnestness behind it. We need people who want to join in the circus that is an insurgent movement, we need to make it fun, and we need to make it effective in one thing: Winning people over to liberty and building our base. From that base, everything else naturally follows including elections.

If we do not do this duty; if good liberty loving people do not get on board and start making noise along with us; if they give into irrational fears of not getting elected; if we reject the unsightly or unseemly and lose their support: The fascists will immanentize their single party strategy and true liberty will be lost from its first and last vestige on Earth.


Several questions worthy of discussion are raised and I invite your comment: Is McAfee someone who will represent the philosophy? Do colorful people spoil the chances of the LP getting elected. Does the LP need to better embrace the strange? Can the LP be effective for liberty even when it does not take offices? I invite your comment!


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The Mean Streets and Private Police

A community fires its police force for private security. Is this a manifestation of freedom?

Article on The Blaze

When considering this question, I asked myself a different query than I think most libertarians might: How well might this work out in South Central Los Angeles? It is a tough place full of racial tension and strife. For fans of trivia it may interest you to know that Los Angeles is the 10th most segregated city in the US.

Racial Segregation
The blue dots are South Central.

In South Central one ethic group, the majority of the residents, rent their homes and apartments and do not find a lot of local jobs.  All of the stores in the area are run by another exclusive ethnic group (green dots) that treats the residents like they are less than human.  They hire only family and treat their captive customer base like dog shit.

Yet another ethnic group (pink dots) owns nearly all of the property and manages it through companies. Off in the distance, a mega-city city council manages all of the services, including police that treat the neighborhood as a training ground. Every couple of decades the locals raize the place in defiance to oppression, some injustice sparking the ever drying tinder. Like the chaparral in the hollywood hills, South Central has to burn when the dead wood stacks too high. People ask, “how can they burn their own homes? How can they rob the stores they shop in?” They have never lived in South Central or in a rent only neighborhood. They have never shopped in stores that transact with you only though an inch of Plexiglas.

How does a neighborhood like this do a damn thing about private security? That is the real problem we are dealing with. I think that the fact that these people are used as an anti-paragon, held up as the dregs of society is really profitable for a lot of people. These people have no political influence. Who is going to give them the clout to determine their own policing?

Private Police on the Mean Streets

I thought about the effects. If private policing could take hold in South Central, it would be tremendous. If local residents hired security for the neighborhood there would be a major challenge at least at first. I believe the real challenge would be to keep neighborhoods from seeking to hire a company affiliated with one group of “local entrepreneurs” and then used as a tool against rival “business interests”.

I think that it could be possible. If the neighborhoods were small enough, and the security firms held to the law, I think that graft or aggression would balance out very quickly. Perhaps the role for government police would be oversight of the actions of the firms. That might be a huge savings all around but I still think we miss the point.

Even if this libertarian utopia could exist in South Central, who would let them? I think that there is a multi-headed powerful interest for keeping the area, oppressed, pissed off, poor and consuming massive quantities of bad ideas in a bottle or bag. I think that there is a powerful political interest in keeping the area dangerous and the residents frightened and the HUD dollars flowing. I think that there is also an unfortunate and shameful racially biased feeling of self righteousness derived from the situation perpetuated by ethnic groups that identify the residents as less than human. They exploit their misery with a relish of satisfaction.

Privatization does not Equate to Freedom

While these wealthy folk in a gated community have the pleasure of tossing off their local police; and certainly enjoying a freer lifestyle than most, how could our brothers and sisters in a place like South Central ever hope to be able to secede from the city of Los Angeles? Self determination? Not for these people, forget it.

In autocratic nations the privileged always have their own protection. This private police force is not an ideal of Capitalism, it isn’t a manifestation of freedom either, freedom that has to be bought isn’t freedom, it is Fascism.

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