Splitting the Vote, Sharing the Message

Written by: 
Nick Smith

On Sunday, at the California Libertarian Convention in Long Beach, delegates voted for two candidates to share the party endorsement in the Governor’s race. What follows is a recounting of events and an explanation of why that’s healthy for the party.

When the Chair, Ted Brown, opened the call for endorsements, our own Tim Ferreira approached the podium with an unorthodox motion. Rather than moving for the party to endorse either Nickolas Wildstar or Zoltan Istvan for Governor, Mr. Ferreira made his motion to endorse both of these candidates. Although the delegates were caught by surprise, the motion passed by a majority vote, and both candidates were endorsed.

However, it didn’t end there.

An hour or so later, our business was disrupted with a motion to suspend the rules in order to reconsider the earlier endorsement. Soon, we were back to where we started with the understanding that we should consider each of these endorsements separately.

What quickly followed was a motion for the party to endorse Mr. Wildstar. In a 10 minute speech, Nickolas Wildstar’s resounding optimism had the convention ballroom fired up, and the delegates echoed this by voting unanimously an emphatic “yea” for his endorsement. It all felt so right. Spirits were soaring and the energy level was high, but it quickly dropped off as the Chair surveyed the delegates for other endorsements. The crowd fell silent and for several seconds we sat waiting nervously for the moment to pass. Just as the call was about to close, I stood and made the motion for the party to endorse Zoltan Istvan.

Zoltan was not present to speak for himself. He had not attended the second day of the convention. On his behalf, Tim Ferreira again addressed the delegates with a simple message:

“Do what is best for the party.”

At this point, it bears mentioning that these candidates are both staunch Libertarians and, put to the test, they are aligned on 99% of the issues. Despite their similar beliefs, the way they lead their campaigns could not be more different. In the Governor’s debate which took place on the first night of the convention, the two held the stage like yin and yang. Wildstar’s unrelenting positivity neatly juxtaposed Istvan’s stalwart pragmatism. Nickolas is a man of the people, and his spirit and enthusiasm will lead us to victory through igniting a grassroots movement to #BringBackLiberty. Zoltan is a high profile entrepreneur who is focused on garnering as much media attention for himself as he can, speaking on technology and transhumanism and peppering in the Libertarian message when it makes sense. At the conclusion of the debate, the crowd had a clear favorite. Nickolas Wildstar is the one who will lead us to victory.

Having spent time with both candidates and gotten to know them personally, I know that both are intelligent, passionate, and firm believers in Libertarianism. I, personally, like and support both of them. But, for the party to endorse both sends a more powerful message. For the delegates (having just voted to endorse Nickolas Wildstar) to vote to endorse another candidate seems absurd. If they believe that Wildstar is the answer and that he can win the election, it would be foolish for us to encourage Libertarians across the state to split the vote and reduce our chances of making it past California’s awful top two primary.

However, the vote was counted with 45 delegates voting “yea” versus only 35 “nay”. The party had once again settled on endorsing both candidates.

So then, are these 45 delegates fools? Have they contradicted themselves? Have they sabotaged their own goals? I think no. I think this is healthy. The vote tells me that we are becoming more pragmatic and are carefully evaluating our priorities.

As that same morning kicked off with Nick Sarwark addressing the crowd  with the message that we need to start looking outside the party— to invite others in and find out why they are coming and how we can help them realize they belong— the Libertarian Party of California delegates took a close look at themselves and came to terms with the harsh reality that we don’t have a shot of winning the Governorship in 2018. As painful as it is to admit, all the energy and optimism in the room after Wildstar’s speech does not extend far beyond those walls— not nearly far enough to garner much of a share of the vote.

By endorsing both candidates, the delegates signal their understanding that our endorsement just doesn’t mean all that much right now and that our candidates have a slim chance of making it into the top two either way. We admitted that the primary objective of these campaigns— what we can realistically hope to achieve— is to spread the message of liberty as far as we can possibly reach. Nickolas Wildstar’s ground game of hitting the streets and engaging citizens directly, and Zoltan Istvan’s national media reach introducing curious minds to Libertarian ideas through speaking on technology and futurism— both of these strategies serve the party’s goals and both of these candidates are worthy and capable of spreading our message. And we are very fortunate to have both of them leading the charge to promote us.

I am not optimistic that we will get much of a showing in the Governor’s race this June primary, but nor am I discouraged. I will vote for and campaign for Nickolas Wildstar. I will help spread the message that there is another option. The efforts of these two candidates and their volunteers will continue to inspire a new wave of voters and activists and grow our party. One day, maybe not too far from now, if we are patient and determined, we will turn California gold. Our day may not be today, but it will come.

They can’t beat you if you never give up.

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