Immediately after the election, I was pretty down on my results. I'm not used to losing, and while I accepted going in that the overwhelming odds were against me and that I needed to take stock in the secondary objectives, I found that easier to say than to do.
Mainly, my numbers were less than our candidate for the same office the last time around. Indiana Libertarians improved in every category but one- mine. So, I found myself questioning my strategies.
I am convinced that in terms of this years results, making 200 campaign appearances made no difference. I could have done 1000, and my numbers would have been the same. I was actually advised not to run a real campaign, but to sit back and raise money exclusively. I rejected that advice, so I can't complain too stridently. In short term thinking, I was plainly wrong.
Long term, though, I believe the results will be better for future candidates because of the full-scale campaign. I was at so many events where my R & D counterparts failed to turn up that it was literally becoming front page news. We improved relationships with the media and the hosts of events, especially by turning up in Clark County, Knox County, LaPorte County, and others on the remote corners of the state.
Also, the bar has been raised up high. It will be tough for any future statewide candidate to run the way we used to, as paper candidates, and not have some scrutiny come their way. This is good, because if we are going to compete, running a real campaign is one key component. Raising a million remains the other significant one.
I also came to question my focused message. Having heard the complaints from media and voters while observing other campaigns about irrelevant candidacies (running on drug war opposition while seeking the office of surveyor!), I was determined to be germaine. I was running for Secretary of State, so I endeavored to learn about the office and to formulate policy positions aimed at improving that office to the extent I could. This means, I couldn't eliminate the office, but I could make it less wasteful, less a tool for self-promotion, more adherent to the core functions prescribed by the Constitution and by law. I could further lobby to change the law.
This bored our base and the undecided voters alike, but especially our base. While very few had enough interest in improving my campaign, or even the courage of their convictions to question my message directly to me, there was plenty of sniping going on about the boring nature of the campaign. Well, Secretary of State is a boring office. I don't think you get anywhere by turning the campaign into a circus. Some Libertarian candidates get short-term media hits by flashing part of their anatomy, but many of those hits happen on News of the Weird. Oscar Wilde was wrong. Sometimes it is better to be ignored than covered, if you're being an idiot. No, the goal was to further the growing opinion that Libertarian candidates are serious candidates and not charlatans.
You have to know that I really questioned this after seeing the results. It would have been a lot more fun for me to talk about the issues that really rile me up. Many times I said to myself, "I should have cut loose! I should have just gone off! The results would have at least been the same, but maybe a bit higher." But really, while that would have been self-satisfying, I was running for something bigger than my own short-term satisfaction. I was running to assure continued Libertarian Party ballot access as a minimum, and to build the esteem of the Libertarian Party of Indiana. This was achieved. That will give me long-term satisfaction.
I began seeing this with greater clarity once Bob Barr signed on to be a representative on the Libertarian National Committee. Bob Barr is a former Republican Congressman. As it happens, the LP was instrumental in defeating Barr in his re-election attempt, as we targeted him on his drug message, running a candidate in that race and turning the district over to the Democrat. Barr hasn't entirely walked away from his position on drugs, and this has upset many Libertarians. This recalled for me the fact that there isn't a single person alive that I agree with 100%. Believe me, I've looked.
So, Barr is with us enough to become a life member with a contribution of $1,000 and to take a large leadership role. Why isn't that good enough? So, he doesn't agree with the whole platform? He is willing to advance the Party, thus, the platform and the principles that the candidates will espouse.
There was a great comment on Reason Hit & Run from a Gerry Tripwell:
Welcome Mr. Barr to the party and give him some time and slack. I became a Libertarian 15 years, mostly in response to Bush I's war in the middle-east. I accepted the party's positions one-by-one and the last one that I accepted was the oppposition to the war on drugs.
Liberty applies to the whole scope of human affairs. Is it better to embrace a man who has a 95% appreciation of liberty, or to alienate him for the 5% he can't see?
I say it's better to embrace one who even only gets liberty on one issue. Show appreciation and affection, and soon enough that person will begin to see it on more and more issues. Indeed, some of the more ardent Libertarians I know came from other parties and with reservations. Today, they are the staunchest, most stalwart Libertarians you could ever hope to meet.
I was a Democrat as a teen. I got liberty on exactly three issues. For the rest, the coercive power of the state was excellent, as far as I was concerned, especially where money was involved. In time, I came to see the injustice of state interference in every area of life. It took time- until I was 25. If a Libertarian had gotten in my face about an issue, it would have hindered my acceptance of liberty, not accelerated it.
So, I did what I thought was the respectful thing, and tried to find the area where a person had affinity with liberty, and talked it up. It seemed so entirely pointless to learn the area where we had disagreement and to zero in on that and let the person know he was wrong and stupid, and that I had the right answer. No, I worked to build a bridge on our agreement and encouraged them to seek out our positions in other areas of life.
After seeing the comments on Barr I finally got over my disappointment with the numbers. I found some peace with my campaign. I have no regrets. I believe I did it correctly, long term.
Update: Bob Barr's position on the War on Drugs is already moving towards a more pure libertarian philosophy, per Reason Hit & Run.