Mickey, Me and the LP
Mickey, me and the LP.
In the beginning was David Nolan...
I became predisposed to the idea of a libertarian political thought by reading Felix Morley's Freedom and Federalism and Ayn Rand's Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged in the early 1960s. After a tour in the USAF, I returned to Oklahoma City in 1966, attended the University of Oklahoma and met Mickey Edwards. Mr. Edwards was a rising star in the state GOP and he and I soon became political allies in local politics because we both knew and understood libertarian ideas. In 1971 we were in the YRs and proposed a debate for a YR meeting on the recently imposed wage and prices controls of Richard Nixon. I admit to a visceral dislike for Mr. Nixon from seeing him deliver a speech in Oklahoma City in 1968. My opinion was known in GOP circles. Mickey Edwards, Roger Phares, I, and others proposed a debate between YR members on wage and price controls. The senior party leaders nixed the idea of a "debate" in our YR group. Instead we were treated to a lecture by an economics writer from the local newspaper defending Nixon. I admit this incensed me even further against the local GOP functionaries. Mickey Edwards will return in this narrative later.
With this background, I read a notice in Reason magazine announcing the formation of a Libertarian Party in late 1971 (December?). I responded and I called David Nolan or he called me and invited me to come up to Denver for a chat. There were four of us in the group from Oklahoma who met David, his wife and attorney Pipp Boyles in David's living room and talked about what needed to be done. We returned to Oklahoma encouraged. I began to try to recruit some dissident young Republicans to join in forming a new pro-freedom political party organization. The result was rather underwhelming. Mr. Edwards encouraged me to go ahead but declined to participate himself. I resigned my insignificant office in the GOP.
Next came David's first loose cannon...
We issued a press release, held a convention of about thirty people and launched the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma in April of 1972. Soon thereafter David asked me to Chair the Constitution, Rules and By-Laws Committee for the founding convention to be held in Denver that June. I fancied myself something of a parliamentarian at that time from having jousted in GOP conventions and committees resisting efforts to mold me into a rubber stamp. So I set about building on the framework provide by Pipp Boyles as an outline for a governing document. In preparing for my responsibility I was impressed with how easy it was for political parties to drift from the original central focus by adapting to issues with platforms that were opportunistic and unprincipled. I was convinced that the LP could start off on a good footing, but would likely behave like all other American parties in history eventually and drift from its original vision. I wanted to see if rules could be fashioned that would retard what seemed to be an inevitable trend. The best way to slow down what seemed to me virtually inevitable was to borrow the idea of a Supreme Court to arbitrate the platform and staff it with the best possible libertarian intellectuals. I had no idea of requiring a Statement of Principles to set out core statement. I merely assumed that the standard would be the initial platform.
The Convention Crossfire...
When our delegation arrived in Denver I went immediately in Committee work with people who were unknown to me. From my point of view this turned out to be easier than I thought it would be. I was impressed with the sincerity and intelligence of the members. As best I recall, it was Ed Carlson of the New Mexico who first suggested a Statement of Principles and gave me an "ah, Hah" moment. Ed Carlson was the father of the SOP. Support for the idea was nearly unanimous on the committee I believe. With that addition, my notion of a Judicial Committee became more acceptable. This lead us to the idea of super-majorities to alter the SOP, but simple majorities of a convention could throw out "dead wood" planks on issues that had become irrelevant. New language for the platform could be adopted so long as it would not be found inconsistent with the SOP upon appeal the Judicial Committee. Now all this improvisation and innovation created some problems for David on the floor. Time was limited. Most people wanted to haggle out a platform and get out of town with an ideological victory even if it might be temporary. There was one other consideration in the back of some of our minds, and mine in particular. I had spent about six years developing a real resentment against the way I saw things done in the Oklahoma Republican Party. I could envision a comparatively small group of Republicans joining the LP just to sabotage it. "For what it's worth- paranoia strikes deep." (Buffalo Springfield) I wanted to make it necessary and costly for a group to flood a national convention in order to take it over pass ludicrous statements.
Our Rules Cmte report was adopted with very little change as I remember.
The convention called for drafts of a statement of principles and Dr. Hospers and Mark Frasier presented the best drafts and Hosper's statement with minor amendment prevailed.
At one time there existed and there may still exist somewhere a set of reel to reel tapes (everybody loved to tape stuff back then remember) of the floor proceeding of that convention. I had copies at one time, but I think they deteriorated to become unintelligible before I could copy them to cassettes. I had intended to use those tapes as the basis for a masters degree at one time. If such tapes still exist, I think they would merit at least a dissertation now.
David asked if would serve on the National Executive Committee at the convention and I was elected as an at-large member. I don't recall making any particular notable contributions while serving on the NatComm. It seemed mostly like administrative and routine affairs. I did not seek re-election.
In the meanwhile Mickey Edwards, who was Editor of Private Practice magazine, hired me as his editorial assistant in the spring of 1973. Mickey departed the magazine in late 1973 and ran for Congress in 1974. I stayed on the Private Practice until the arrival of Lew Rockwell as the new editor. I joined Mickey's shoe-string campaign staff as Director of Research to compile data on the opponent's legislative record and do some local polling. The opponent was John Jarman, who had held the 5CD seat since just after WW II and had not been seriously challenged for re-election in years. The conventional opinion was that Jarman's seat was safe and he was unbeatable. Mickey knew better and proved it. He narrowly lost to Jarman by less than 4,000 votes. That close call led Jarman to defect to the Republican Party, but it was clear that he could not win re-election in 1976 and he retired. Mickey Edwards was well funded in his 1976 and won handily. Libertarians looked with great favor on this development and hoped that Edwards would present, at least a moderate libertarian presence in the Congress. I chose to take no role in the successful 1976 Edwards campaign. A Clash of Strategic Vision
Before the 1980 Libertarian Presidential candidacy of Ed Clark I became concerned that the LP should have a more balanced strategy between national campaign every four years and seeking to elect Libertarian party candidates to the Congress. I admit I felt that if Edwards could unseat long-sitting congressman, then Libertarians ought to find other congressmen who were vulnerable elsewhere and run well funded campaigns against them. I called my strategy LINC 80. Libertarians IN Congress 80 was envisioned as a decade long strategy to elected at least six people to the Congress as Libertarians or Independents who could switch to the LP after the election. I must confess that it also my secret hope that Mickey Edwards might be prevailed upon to switch the LP if Libertarians were elected which might form a Libertarian caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.
I ran for the LP Congressional nomination to oppose Mickey in 1980. It was the first LP primary election ever held in Oklahoma. I lost by four votes. But that did not bother me because I had recruited Mickey's Libertarian opponent to run against me in the first place. Jim Rushing, the winner, was a sound Libertarian and in my opinion covered Mickey's "right-wing" flank. My opinion was that having a Libertarian party candidate in the race made Mickey less susceptible to liberal attack from the Democrats. Perhaps, this was unnecessary, but I also want Edwards in office to pave the way for an eventual Libertarian successor. Never gonna happen in the 20th century. This approach never made headway in LP circles. I accept that the fault was probably mine. I was not persuasive enough. But I have never get go of the conviction that it is a sound strategy. What has happened is that I have learned to appreciate the barriers to entry in U.S. politics. Since then I have enlarged by vision to include not just the idea of electing Libertarian to the U.S. House, but I have sought to craft a reform agenda for those candidates to change the American electoral system.
The Robinson Agenda
The first of these ideas came directly out of my association with Mickey Edwards at Private Practice magazine in 1973. In the post-Watergate era there was a big push to control campaign finance funding. The result was a major overhaul on the 1971 Campaign Finance legislation in 1974. Mickey asked me to research the proposed reforms for a possible article in the future. So I began to collect, assimilate and critique the proposals I was following in the NY Times and Washington Post and other sources. At some point I asked myself the question: "Why can't dollars be treated as if they were ballots cast secretly?" Why wouldn't this cut the basis for charges of corruption and free the donors to give as much as they want and candidates to accept everything they got?
Out of these questions came my initial proposal I called the 'Secret Voucher Plan for Anonymous Political Contributions' in 1973. I tried to explain it to Mickey Edwards. The way I had it structured, he didn't think it was practical. He was probably right about that. But supposing that the administrative problems could be solved, wasn't it desirable? Mickey was also skeptical about the desirability. He opined that not many people would contribute to challengers and incumbents would have even more advantages. I admit that shut me up for a while. Mickey's objections lead me to a research project that continues even today. Would anonymous donations give incumbents an advantage over challengers and, if so, why? Would people give anonymously to a challenger? Why not? I pondered these and other questions into the 1980s.
But meanwhile technology moved possible solutions to answer my questions. First came the automated teller machine in 1977. This device meant that I could abandon my clumsy procedures for handing the transactions of donors. Just use a special ATM. But many questions remained.
Then in 1991 came Phil Zimmerman's PGP or Pretty Good Privacy encryption program. I saw this as solving the last major stumbling block to implementing a secure system for anonymity. By 1994 I rewrote my earlier papers and copyrighted my ideas as "Slashing the Gordian Knot of Campaign Finance Reform: A Plan for Anonymous Contributions." (TXu 620-390)  (http://geocities.com/dfrank_robinson/)
Throughout the 1980s I became increasingly critical of ballot access restrictions as a result of Libertarian Party experiences in Oklahoma and across the country. I finally came to the conclusion that is there no rational basis for any restrictions on a citizen seeking to run for public office - ZERO! I now advocate the total abolition of restrictions on ballot access for candidates and political parties.
So, if barriers to the ballot are illegitimate (citizens should have as many choices as possible) ; and, campaign finance barriers are illegitimate (citizens should be able to give as much as they want to as many choices as possible); and, so long as contributions can be conveyed with confidentially like ballot choices, then, these two issues should be in the forefront of any Libertarian's candidacy. Because of these two principles I consider myself a libertarian-populist. If we're going to have elections, then they must be as free and fair as we can make them, else secede and start over.
In 1973 Mickey Edwards set off a chain reaction in me that led to the idea of (1) anonymous campaign financing. Campaign financing led me down a long and winding road to (2) the abolition of ballot access rationing of candidates. Abolishing restrictions of candidate access to the ballot lead me to the idea of (3) enlarging the U.S. House of Representatives to 1776 members after the 2010 census. My son. Branden, let me appreciate the Condorset voting system and to the idea of (4) free choice constitutencies for voters or open districts to destroy the effectivesness of partisan gerrymandering. The latest reform proposal I advocate is (5) multiple means for voters to select candidates for general elections with parties alone selecting the method for their nominations.
This last idea may require a brief explanation which I am only too happy to provide. Historically, Americans have used five different procedures to nominate candidates: self-nomination, caucus, conventions-with and without the proverbial smoke filled rooms, a variety of primary election schemes, and petitions. Non-partisan or independent candidates are still self-nominated with or w/o petition requirements. All these methods are constitutionally permissible. All methods are can be legally manipulated by state laws to advantage the dominant parties except self-nomination . Self-nomination is the simplest and most open and therefore the most difficult to rig legally. Once the state steps in with regulations and restrictions the process becomes more and more like gerrymandering of candidates. The short of it is that no person, no group, and no government should exclude citizens from nominating candidates in any way they choose-it's protected First Amendment activity at the very least.
I may submit a sixth reform proposal, but I'm still working it. My self imposed limit is seven because most people cannot remember a list longer than seven of anything without devices like paper and pencil. I said most people, not everybody.
But that is still not all...