Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reflections on the Libertarian Party of Ohio Annual State Convention

The Libertarian Party of Ohio held their annual State Convention this past weekend. I would have blogged about it sooner but for a couple of intervening factors: one, the hotel had absolutely atrocious internet connectivity so getting online was a logistical nightmare, and two, a quick trip to Fort Meyers, Florida for a friend's wedding on Sunday-Monday sapped a lot of my energy (and not to mention sleeping hours).

The event went off beautifully. It was held at Mohican State Park, and felt more like a "retreat" than a convention. The landscape was beautiful, and the lodge where the Convention was held over looked a lake. There were plenty of side activities going on – hiking, a tour of nearby Malabar Farms, and so on – so that the spouse/significant others of the delegates could have an enjoyable weekend while we political wonks were busy conducting our business.

The highlights?

At the business meeting, the party elected a new State Chair, John Stewart from Columbus. Stewart is a small businessman – he owns a trucking company – a fact that ties into the party’s recent emphasis on reaching out to small business people, who are often overlooked by Democrats and Republicans alike. Having an independent businessman in the party’s top leadership position will help the party’s credibility as it attempts to develop support from an already overburdened constituency.

There was a luncheon with gubernatorial candidate Bill Peirce. In fact, throughout the weekend, much was heard from Dr. Peirce, as he spoke to the attendees. His most stirring moment when he sought to inspire and motivate his fellow party members by saying, "I’m willing to take this fight to the streets, but I need you to show me which streets." Dr. Peirce implored all those in attendence to help him find speaking engagements, candidate forums, and the like – ways to get out and talk to as many people in Ohio as possible. He’s already been traveling back and forth across Ohio, and everywhere he’s gone, he’s found that most people are sick and tired of the status quo. If this campaign can get an effective outreach program going, it will be amazing to see how much support it will garner.

There were a number of breakout sessions in the afternoon portion, which allowed the delegates to select from a range of choices. There were some non-political seminars, like one on investing in stocks, bonds, and precious metals, as well as one on the mechanics of homeschooling. The most useful session, I found, was one on "branding" – or how organizations create their focus and their image. The libertarian party (and libertarianism in general) has long suffered from being misviewed by the public, as well as their own members, if they are viewed at all. The speaker was an expert in marketing and pointed out a couple of ways the LPO could attempt to take a more aggressive approach to marketing itself. Afterwards, a number of attendees brainstormed on goals for the LPO, and how to accomplish them. One other breakout session that I did not get to attend was a presentation on the land value tax. I’ve become increasingly interested in this proposal lately, mostly because Bill Peirce speaks highly of it as a key to property tax reform.

The banquet that night featured some great speakers. Former candidate for LP Presidential nomination, Gary Nolan, MC’ed the evening. He spoke about an initiative to fight a statewide smoking ban (more will be blogged on that at a later date), as well as a very touching eulogy on the passing of Harry Browne. Many Libertarians were inspired by Harry Browne, and suffered a loss when he passed. Nolan’s words were echoed by the featured speaker of the evening, Libertarian Party founder David Nolan (no relation to Gary). Nolan (David, that is) gave his opinion on the party’s growth from inception, through the 2000 election, and its subsequent decline in membership and fundraising since then, and what the party needs to do to get back on track.

Overall, it was a very invigorating event. There is always something I found refreshing when I am in the company of fellow libertarians. Its one of the few times I can walk into a room, and hold a conversation of something relevant, without having to explain certain things – like why gun control is bad, or prohibition is counter-productive, for instance. Any libertarian readers out there will know what I mean. (As I’m sure Conservatives and Liberals get the same enjoyment from being in the company of their fellow travelers.)

Can’t wait for next year!

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