The Crane Machine's Presidential Campaign
At the close of the '76 presidential campaign most Libertarian activists believed that the future was going to be about fighting for individual freedom. But behind the scenes personalities were beginning to grate on each other and the divergence of goals, personal, social, and political, were getting ready to unleash a tsunami of conflict.
Roger Mac Bride had a good friend named William Hunscher. Hunscher was a former Army Col. who had the unusual background in the LP of military training. Bill joined the military serving in Germany with the First Airborne Brigade. He found himself jumping out of airplanes - and also being trained to command and accept responsibility for a full range of needs related to his position. He had always been chosen as a leader in school, and so military life continued his life training in this regard. His military service lasted from 1960 - 1964.
He told friends he would not trade the years for anything because of what it taught him. Bill had four much older brothers who all served in World War II with distinction. He said also that he would not want to do it again. He was a strong, forceful man who was used to being in charge. His career after leaving the military would take him into the application of technology to business.
After leaving the military Bill’s first entrepreneurial start-up was Terminal Systems. This company became a success, first being listed on the the New York Stock Exchange, and then being bought out. After that success Bill started FasFax, producing point of sale terminals for fast food restaurants.
Hunscher, a model for American success, had been committed to the ideas of freedom his entire life, having encountered Ayn Rand while building his own career in business. In 1974 Bill met Roger Mac Bride. Over the next several years the two would become good friends. Both were committed to building a viable alternative to the political system that had brought the LP into existence. The Mac Bride campaign had accomplished much and Roger briefly considered running again to be told that there were factions within the LP who would actively oppose him. Instead, Hunscher agreed to seek the nomination.
While both Roger and Bill were very well off their money had come from the entrepreneurial efforts of Rose Wilder Lane, in Roger's case, and from his own business savvy in the case of Bill Hunscher. These sources for wealth, derived from books that carry a subtext for individuals living and caring for themselves, and wealth created from providing products to the market that would reduce the cost of doing business, epitomized everything that Libertarianism actually said. They would be opposed by even bigger money derived from big oil and government contracts.
Hunscher's model for a presidential campaign was for local organizing and a full time presidential candidate; this followed the Mac Bride model that had worked to empower local organizations in 1975 – 1976. Hunscher started his campaign for the nomination in 1978. He committed to a full 18 months of campaigning, self-funding part of the campaign, and to leaving the local organizations stronger and more autonomous.
In the period between the end of the Mac Bride Campaign and the nominating convention for the 1980 presidential ticket several things had happened in the Libertarian Movement that would impact the future direction of the LP and the action that would take place in the constellation of think tanks that spun off from that explosive energy.
The largest Libertarian National Convention ever held took place at the Bonaventure Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles in 1979. As had been the case four years before the need to qualify the ticket for the ballot made it essential that the ticket be known beyond doubt far in advance. When the first attendees started to trickle into the hotel that September 4th Roger Mac Bride and Bill Hunscher had been in town for several days meeting with delegates. The Hunscher Campaign had run into some problems early on due to needed changes in the head quarters, back on the East Coast. One of these changes had been the firing of Michael Emerling, later Michael Cloud, as Hunscher Campaign Manager for incompetence. Emerling – Cloud would play a pivotal part in later chapters of LP history that recycled the pattern for power conversion first seen with Ed Crane.
Hunscher had spent months traveling across the country, attending state conventions and meeting delegates. He had pledged to give the LP a full time candidacy and along with traditional fundraising put his hand in his own pocket.