You may have heard, or will likely soon hear, of the South Carolina Candidate for Governor, James Smith‘s, recent attempt at gaining the nomination for three other minority parties after gaining the Democratic Party’s nomination.
After he withdrew his request, South Carolina county representatives of the Libertarian Party (LP), a group of 16, met and decided that he was not within his legal right to withdraw, and nominated None Of The Above (NOTA) as the LP’s candidate of choice; eliminating James Smith not just from acting as a fusion candidate for multiple parties, but also claiming that their vote of 16-to-0 means that all 240,468 people who voted in the Democratic Primary will not be able to vote for James Smith (their 1st choice by a wide margin).
They now must either quickly find another candidate, or not have any Democrat candidate on their ballot in November.
A good person doesn’t ask if something is legal or illegal, they ask rather, is this right or wrong.
First, consider the Libertarian pledge:
“I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.”
This oath should be seen as a clear directive against using, or even encouraging the use of the government (aka a monopoly of force) against a political opponent, like a competing political party or their chosen candidate.
The Libertarian Pledge is based on the Non-aggression principle or NAP, “The NAP is an ethical stance that asserts that aggression is inherently wrong. In this context, “aggression” is defined as initiating or threatening any forcible interference with an individual or individual’s property.”
When a libertarian, especially one in a position of leadership, says that they will not use force to achieve political goals, what does that actually mean?
To be fair, this would mean a variety of things based on the true priorities of the one speaking.
For instance, if one puts party over principle, this pledge might just be a nice sounding platitude for which an authoritarian can hide behind and claim anything aggressive was only done in self-defense, no matter how clearly false the claim may be. Or the pledge may be completely ignored when seen as an inconvenient limitation of his power.
If however, the one speaking is a principled libertarian, meaning that he puts principle ahead of party, then it is meant the way it was written; and “believe in or advocate” (or actively use) “the initiation of force” will clearly include using the force of government, especially in an aggressive or forceful way “as a means of achieving political goals” (such as using a legal trick to disqualify a political competitor).
So, it really should not matter what evil, or harm to another, a state law permits us to do (against a political competitor), a principled libertarian would refuse to use government force for political gain, maintaining his integrity and limited only by his libertarian pledge, standing on strict adherence to the non-aggression principle alone.
We can do better. Liberty demands it! Liberty is for everyone. We need liberty everywhere, and we desperately need liberty in South Carolina.
Excuses Running Wild
“But the ‘Sore Loser Law’ is not our fault, it merely exists, and we’re all subject to it.”
While that is true, couldn’t the exact same thing be said of all illegitimate laws, and their unlawful enforcement?
This is a bit like shooting your neighbor’s dog, because the cops shot your dog, and then claiming in was somehow in self-defense since it wouldn’t be fair unless we were all equally oppressed.
This bit of immoral “logic” sounds all too similar to every other justification ever used to excuse the use government force against another, but they do not sound at all libertarian in nature.
How about we just stop aggressing against each other? Show some leadership by example, and stop seeing political trickery for anything other than what it is: tyranny by using the force of government against easy marks. Those that employ this type of method ought to be given no quarter and rejected from any position of leadership within the party of liberty.
Essentially, a small group of individuals (claiming to represent libertarians from all over South Carolina, but who actually only represent at best 16 out of 46 counties and are in number less than one out of every 3,000 of us) led by a most interesting character, decided on his advice to make a bold attempt at completely disenfranchising all 240,468 who voted in the Democratic Primary.
First, let’s look at what should have been done, then at what was done, and finally ask yourself if those principles that you see as the principles of liberty are currently being properly displayed.
What Should Have Been Done
For those who truly are “classical liberals,” best described as those who consistently prioritize and respect liberty and justice for all, doing what is right may be difficult, but it’s not complicated.
- Boldly declare this specific law as removing a voice from the people, as such it ought to be immediately removed and, until that point, nullified in practice.
- Quietly convene the minority party meeting and, in the principles of liberty, vote only to stand behind the candidate’s right to withdraw.
- Send to the election commission the decision of the minority party’s agreement to accept the majority party candidate’s withdrawal from seeking the additional minority party’s nomination.
- Use the opportunity to encourage others to also nullify such protectionist and illegitimate laws by discouraging anyone else from suing and stating that our decision not to sue (presuming the law is not automatically enforced) is a principled one, and that we’d like to challenge others to follow our principled example by leaving it alone.
- Ask for a repeal of the offending law and encourage nullification until that time.
What Actually Happened
They did what was legally permitted yet morally wrong, this was an easy decision for some, yet handled in a much more complicated way than necessary. Instead of what I mentioned above, they instead:
- Boldly declared that this specific law must be upheld (knowing that it gives a big voice to a tiny party) and that it ought to be enforced, and great attention ought to be brought to it to encourage others to sue for its immediate enforcement.
- Loudly and quickly called a meeting of the minority party’s executive committee and voted against the majority party’s candidacy for the additional minority party’s nomination, which said candidate has already withdrawn from.
- Sent the unanimous rejection of said fusion candidate to the election commission with the statement that it was too late for the candidate to withdraw. So his withdrawal from the minority party’s nomination was rejected and he was instead voted against making him ineligible, by current law, to run at all on the ballot, including as a majority party’s candidate.
- Used the opportunity to speak to multiple newspapers and radio shows, explaining the law as it stands, the vote that was taken, and how even though we are not financially prepared to sue, that it is set up so that anyone else could sue, strongly encouraging others to do so.
- Never once asked for a repeal of the offending law, appearing to celebrate the attention that it brings to the minority party and the trouble that it causes for the much larger party.
The Take Away
Every individual must ask: are the principles of liberty currently being properly represented by those claiming to represent the “party of liberty”?
If liberty and the party of liberty don’t match up, which one ought to change?
Which matters more, principle or party? If you say party, then what have you gained if unprincipled politicians win seats in your party’s name? We already have some of the most unprincipled politicians in power. Instead we need those who will advocate for liberty.
Would you strongly encourage the enforcement of current oppressive laws on your political enemies? Or, would you apply the timeless principles of liberty, even to those who would not do so for you, in the hopes to show all a better way?
Some choose the former, I choose the latter. It’s not always the easiest path, but it’s the right thing to do. If you choose principle over party, then join your fellow liberty advocates in South Carolina.
Good choices make your food taste better. They make it easier to look yourself in the mirror, and easier to sleep at night. If you’re having trouble with any of those things, check your choices.
Remember, Liberty is for everyone!
“Those that truly believe in Liberty will refuse to use the tyranny of government force against their political competitors.” – Matt Wavle for Liberty
* Matt Wavle has been a liberty advocate since the late 1980’s, before the Berlin Wall fell. He is an advocate for self protection through groups that promote Constitutional Carry and Liberty in South Carolina. He can often be found speaking on the subject of natural rights libertarianism and protecting our freedoms through voluntaryism. You can reach him at Matt 4 Liberty and Liberty in SC on Facebook.