Saturday, May 19, 2007

1984 - California Retailing Liberty

Marshall Fritz, a computer salesman from Fresno, California, first learned about the Libertarian Party while living in Torrance, California from a bumper sticker. He commented to the driver that the only place the Liberal Party was on the ballot was New York. He then learned that the LP was not the Liberal Party and received literature, including the State Newsletter, CalLiber, the newsletter for Los Angeles County, then edited by Sandy Webb, and a brochure titled, Uninflation, by Murray Rothbard. He went on to read Rothbard's, “

For a New Liberty,” and was hooked. 1980 found him living with his wife and many children in Fresno, where he began becoming active for the Clark Campaign, making calls to registered Libertarians, an innovation in Fresno, and passing out literature. In 1982 Marshall ran for office and after election night he knew that he wanted to sell Libertarianism for a living. 
Encouraged by such figures as Murray Rothbard, Sharon Ayres, David Bergland and others he decided to apply for the post of Executive Director for the LP of California. His long time friend and mentor in politics, John Hix, the man whose ability to win floor elections was unparalleled, helped him put together a proposal which was accepted in February of 1983. Marshall's tenure in the position lasted until June, 1984. The separation had come about because his position depended on raising the money to fund his position and this had never happened. The effective management of the LPC did not integrate Marshall's efforts into their own. Yet Marshall was a gifted salesman for the ideas of freedom. The problem, which would play out again and again, was the lack of a strategically sound plan on the part of those in charge of the direction of the LP of California. 
In the immediate wake of his resignation Fritz received a call from Paul Grant, then National Chairman of the LP, asking him to come to work as a ballot drive consultant. Marshall was surprised; he had never been involved in a signature gathering effort. After a consultation with John Hix, Marshall accepted, service to start when his first month's salary was in the bank. Over the next three months Marshall learned the business of signature collection on the ground, from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and Missouri. Marshall was paid many times the $900.00 a month paid to the previous, very experienced, consultant, John Robertson. 
Ballot access was an enormously important aspect for the presidential campaign. Marshall performed but it would have made more sense to continue to use Robertson. Personnel problems continued to plague the campaign.

Soon, Mary Gingell would be asking Robertson to work for them again – without paying what he was already owed. The Bergland Campaign consistently failed to honor its commitments to anyone who was not a close friend of its 'in' group. Demanding payment in advance was the only way to ensure you would be paid unless you were a member of that group. 
After a brief consideration of the position of National Director, Marshall founded The Advocates for Self Government in January of 1985. Its mission was to take the educational functions of the LP and focus on these, thus supporting the LP. Over the years Advocates would make a variety of educational materials available across the country. 
Their inability to use the skills of individuals in ways that promoted positive growth for the Libertarian Party would continue. At the core of this was a world view that saw control as necessarily centralized. 
The lack of strategic planning, connecting the ultimate goal to the means through well thought out, rational steps, again took the LP and its Movement in directions that failed to advance the cause. Political action is undertaken by a group to accomplish specific ends and these were not taken into account, either by Marshall or by those who were then running the Libertarian Party. In this those in charge of the course of the Party were more guilty than was Marshall. It had been their overlooked duty to oversee the management of the Libertarian Party of California and they should have foreseen the consequences of hiring someone whose salary needs outstripped the resources of their organization. Marshall's skills, applied nationally for candidate trainings or membership could have created real forward progress for the LP. Instead, the tendency and centralize control continued. 
The lack of professional standards for hiring, the lack of a strategic vision and intermediate goals, and the influence of those who were profiting by the use of the rhetoric in ways that did not advance the reality of freedom acted to further skew the course of events. 
This oversight made the Party and Movement vulnerable to become a means for manipulating opinion. This opportunity was not overlooked. 
The road to hell is paved with good intentions and the lines are painted on later by the greedy.

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