Press "Enter" to skip to content

Letters on Libertarian Strategy #8 Running Candidates for Office

I return to a basic theme:

The purpose of a political party is: To Advance its Agenda via Political Action. To run Candidates for Office and Win Elections. To Use Electoral Victory to Put Its Program into Effect.

What sort of candidates can we run for office? I’m going to identify four levels of candidate commitment: The paper candidate. The minimum-commitment candidate. The serious candidate. The running-to-win candidate

The paper candidate has the effort made to put himself on the ballot. He may do no more than agree that his name can be used by the party. He then disappears from public view. He raises no money, does no campaigning, and ends as a statistic on election day.

The minimum-commitment candidate gets on the ballot. She answers candidate questionnaires, appears at debates, and answers questions from the press, so that she is never seen by the public as “missing-in-action”. However, her campaign raises no money, does no advertising, and schedules no appearances.

The serious candidate brings into operation — within the limitation of budget — all of the tools of a political campaign. He advertises, has lawn signs and a web site, mobilizes available volunteers, runs phones banks and a get-out- the-vote drive. The candidate may or may not win, but defeat will not be due to lack of effort.

“Running-to-win” differs from “serious” in that the candidate not only is making a maximum effort to win the election, but also has objective substantial reasons for supposing that her victory is likely. There are two obvious reasons for supposing that victory is likely: 1) The candidate is an incumbent defending a friendly district. 2) Objective polling data shows opponents with majority-negatives, while the candidate has strong name recognition, majority-positives, and leads among likely voters.

Note that “ability to spend money” is not listed. If you don’t believe me, ask any staffer on President Forbes’ re-election campaign committee how Forbes beat President Perot in ’96.

Note also that many winning candidates did not make it to the “running-to-win” level. Some were serious candidates who overcame adversity. Some were minimum-commitment candidates prepared to accept victory and running in uncontested races.

Not everyone is prepared to make a maximum effort, to sacrifice friends and family for months on end, in order to be elected. Many Libertarians are able to lend their good names to the party, to Stand Up for Liberty! by occupying a place on the ballot, but don’t have the money or time or contacts to make more of a run for office. The candidates who represent the party, talk to reporters, appear at debates, and work the media, without a campaign organization, should be recognized as making a significant positive contribution to our party.

Local Organizations and the local candidates that they develop are the path to a Libertarian future.


  1. Nicholas Hensley Nicholas Hensley April 22, 2023

    This is a good article, I am going to post a link to the Reform Party discord.

  2. NewFederalist NewFederalist April 16, 2023

    Good article, George. I agree completely. Even “paper candidates” serve a valuable function insofar as the make the party look “real” to voters on Election Day. When one goes into the voting booth and see only two parties with a near complete set of nominees, all the other parties look incomplete in contrast. When a party has only one or two nominees (usually at the top of the ballot where the chance of electoral success is minimal) the impression left with the voter is that it probably isn’t a serious party. With a nearly complete slate this is not the case.

Comments are closed.