There are occasional references to the vast expense and difficulty of launching a new party, references backstopped by the tens of millions of dollars Mayor Bloomberg of New York reportedly spent for a project that succeeded and then was cancelled. It should be understood that these claims refer to a specific project based on an idee fixe of the Libertarian national party, the holy grail of putting their Presidential candidate on the ballot in all fifty states. That’s not a sensible project, unless you have large amounts of money to toss into a single campaign that come December of the presidential election year will have vanished like a desert mirage.
I’m instead going to discuss the more practical question of launching a new political party in your state, in the circumstance that your former party has been taken over by the Revolutionary Vegetarians (or whoever) and you prefer not to fight a long and possibly fruitless battle to regain control.
The first issue is that you want to be sure you understand how your state handles party names and how a minor party, however named, puts candidates on the ballot. Having said that, you want to be sure you have some reasonable level of support from activists who have fled your party. What is challenging for one person is much easier if a half-dozen people split the work.
There is a temptation to start by writing a set of bylaws; you may be better off borrowing a set from elsewhere. You might reasonably include the provision that the bylaws are meant to be temporary. As a general suggestion, do not go near Roberts or its multihundred page imitators for running meetings. A few particular thoughts: Voting members should be people with a multi-year record of activism: Putting themselves on the ballot and running for office, collecting names on petitions, manning outreach booths, actually getting work done for state committees, and the like. The hordes of the Klattering Keyboard Kommandos, sitting at their desks and posting noxious tweets, are not activists and should be sent on their way.
You do not want to go the state convention route for elections and bylaws changes. State conventions are a good way to throw away money and select for people who can travel long distances. Mail ballots are much more practical, and harder for invaders to pack.
Having said that, what are needed steps? (0) Choose a name for the party. Then the fundraising steps: (i) procure an EIN, needed for bank accounts. (ii) procure a treasurer who will handle FEC and perhaps state filings. (iii) File with the FEC. (iv) Raise at least a bit of money and set up a bank account, two if you must segregate state PAC money.
There are also the organizational steps. Your contacts around the state need to know what is going on, before you have gone too far. They need to be led to the conclusion that a new party is the right answer, not be presented with a fait accompli. You need an editor for your newsletter — under modern conditions, MailChimp and imitators make the distribution straightforward. At least bimonthly, though in early states weekly or twice a month may be better.
You are going to be running candidates. The most common reason that someone decided to run for state and local office is that someone else asked them to please run. You need an organized list of deadlines for state and local elections. In some states, obstacles will be serious, for example the Top Two voting system. That’s someone who does research. Researcher also, e.g., identifies polls in your state, identifying what issues are locally said to be important.
I could go on. Literature for handouts at outreach events can be helpful.
You build it, advertise it, and people may well come.
None of this costs anything like tens of millions of dollars.
I think one of the first steps is to document a charter that identifies what the priorities and principles are. Not a long document, but one that is easy to summarize and articulate.
Great article, George.
National parties can also run Presidential candidates only for each state i.e. 50 candidates Last I looked this had some potential benefits. It would certainly flip the script in reporting elections.
You are absolutely right that the details of how you organize depend on state law. It may very well be that your best choice is to set up a private Association that supports political activity, with the corresponding ‘political party’ being relatively inactive.
This is useful in some states where it’s much easier to qualify and retain a party than it is for independent candidates. In other states your “party” is better off being a pac or some other private association that’s less subjectable to state control, future takeovers, etc. It can endorse candidates, or not. Independent candidates generally do better than third party candidates and increasing numbers of people, especially young people, are sick of political parties in general.
Comments are closed.