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Recollections on our 25th Anniversary

The Libertarian Party of Michigan Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Project

On the evening of Saturday, May 3, 1997 at the annual convention of the Libertarian Party of Michigan a celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the party in Michigan was held after the convention banquet. A variety of memorabilia from the past 25 years was on display in the banquet hall and participants were invited to reminisce, enjoy "birthday party" games such as "Pin the Indictment on Bill and Hillary" and write "birthday cards" to share their hopes and expectations for the party's future. Among the treats presented to the participants was a booklet of essays sharing the memories of people who were either present at the party's founding or had played an active role in the party at one point or another in its history. These essays are presented below. The compilation and printing of this chronicle of our party's history was made possible through the hard work of then outgoing LPM Chair, Emily Hopp Salvette.

About The Project

By Emily Hopp Salvette, State Chairman,
Libertarian Party of Michigan, 1995-97

This evening is just the beginning of our twenty-fifth anniversary celebration; there is so much history to collect, organize and present that we can't quit now.

We have gathered ideas and things from people who have been instrumental in our party's history. Their written memories follow and items from our first 25 years are on display tonight in the banquet hall. We will continue collecting papers, campaign items, and other materials this year. We will also continue talking and writing to compile a complete history of the LPM. We will share it all with you then send whatever we can to the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan's Hatcher Graduate Library in Ann Arbor. That will allow future generations of students, scholars, and libertarians to learn from what we have done.

The Libertarian Party of Michigan is one of the oldest state parties in the national Libertarian Party structure. Through the years we have earned a reputation for activism, professionalism, and independence (some less kindly say "troublemaking" but we take that as a compliment). The roster of first activists includes Pete McAlpine, Bob Delaney, Kay Augustin, James Hudler, Jeff Doan, Bill Krebaum, Greg Clark, Dennis Starner, Jack Thompson, Harry Veryser, and others. Many of these people are no longer active in the Party, but some are. I would guess they all still believe in the dream even if they no longer participate in LP politics. We would not be here today if not for the vision and optimism of these first champions of freedom. And, too, we would not be here today had all the activists who followed those first leaders given up in the face of unlimited obstacles. To all who went before us, tonight we say thank you. Thanks for keeping alive our dream of achieving peace, prosperity, and freedom in our lifetime.

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Gathering in the Name of Freedom
By Kathryn Augustin, Hostess,
Libertarian Party of Michigan Founding Convention

We never took an official tally. There was no sign-in sheet...but well over 100 people showed up that summer evening in Taylor, MI. And some stayed, preferring to sleep on our living room, dining room and hallway floors rather than driving home. I'm describing the Party party, the first Michigan Libertarian Party gathering.

Where did they come from?

Goldwater supporters. Karl Hess's rhetoric inspired many citizens in a country torn over the Vietnam War. Defining liberty and its defense becomes more than academic when you have a draft card in one hand and a rifle in the other. Later, many supporters became active in Young Americans for Freedom and College Republicans.

Objectivists. Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Brandon had split and the two sides didn't always talk with each other. Many people had awakened to politics through Rand's writings. Brandon's psychological insights fed the quest for a very personal freedom.

Austrian School economists. The clear logical writings of Von Mises, Hayek, Bastiat and other free market advocates convinced many people that politics was a useful tool in the fight to reverse the encroachment of socialism into our lives. The popular saying at the time--"If we can put a man on the moon, we can eliminate poverty"--terrified those of us who realized the havoc unlimited social spending could cause.

The attendees came out of curiosity and hope. They were generous with their time, money and ideas. We were not seeking power nor money nor control. We wanted to move the political spectrum and redefine the issues. We wanted the "govern" of government out of our lives.

Most members fit into more than one category. Many belong in all three. At the University of Michigan, I embarrassed my roommate when she was the Michigan Daily editor by questioning Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda's ex-husband, as the three of us hung around during the wee hours of the morning. During 1968, Pet McAlpine lent me his copy of Human Action and I couldn't put it down. At that time, I was the faculty advisor to the College Republicans at Wayne State University and attended lectures presented by the Students of Objectivism. A few years later, William F. Buckley opened his home to all of the attendees of YAF 10. I admired his graciousness and remember his comment, "Don't get discouraged if sometimes you feel like an ant farting into a windstorm."

Discouraged? The Berlin Wall has fallen, municipal services are being privatized, home schooling is becoming respectable, alternative medicine practitioners are challenging the FDA, more people believe in UFO's than Social Security's survival and Welfare is no longer automatically a "right."

The people and memories would fill a book. Rather than slight someone, I will mention only one name--James Hudler. He is more than deserving of an LP lifetime achievement award.

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Present at the Founding
By Keith Edwards, State Chairman,
Libertarian Party of Michigan, 1991-95

The founding meeting of the LPM included a range of people including conservatives such as Harry Veryser and some former students of Objectivism. My part in the discussion over starting the LPM was to suggest that we become a think tank-pressure group rather than go through the noxious process of ballot access and state laws. Such was not the mood of the group which quickly deep-sixed my idea. (This was during my radical anarchist stage. When will it end?)

We elected as state chair a young fellow named Rick who was there with his father. Rick disappeared soon after and was replaced by Jeff Doan.

Many of our early meetings were in Ann Arbor due to the activism of some of the students. Unfortunately, we spent too much time arguing who was the most consistent libertarian among us instead of getting to work.

I wrote the first by-laws.

We ran a write-in campaign for the presidential ticket of John Hospers and Tonie Nathan. Tonie came to Michigan and was interviewed by media in Detroit and Ann Arbor.

We learned many years later that we were under surveillance by Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's "Red Squad" (so much for liberal pretensions to the ideas of political freedom) which concluded that we were "opposed to socialistic collectivist trends, oppose (sic) the coercive legislation the other parties sponsor (sic) and is opposed to guaranteed income, foreign aid, the United Nation, publicly funded education and forced busing." They were accurate if ungrammatical.

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Recollections of the History of the Libertarian Party of Michigan
By James Hudler, State Chairman,
Libertarian Party of Michigan, 1973, 1975-78, 1979-80, 1985-86

The Libertarian Party of Michigan was founded in Taylor, Michigan in June 1972, just before the first National Convention was held in Denver, Colorado; I attended both events. Pete McAlpine and Kay Augustin, then husband and wife, organized the first LPM meeting in the clubhouse of their condominium complex in Taylor. Among those gathered were disaffected Republicans and Democrats, disillusioned liberals, radicalized conservatives, Ayn Rand fans, former Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and former Young Americans for Freedom (YAF). I was one of the Ayn Rand persons.

Many of us, I included, were University of Michigan students. We students were influential enough to be elected first officers of the LPM: Stuart Weiner was chosen LPM Chair; Bill Krebaum, Vice Chair; Howard Victor, Treasurer; and Alan Harris, Secretary. Weiner left the LPM for a secluded Mormon existence in Utah later that autumn (just before the campaigning started for the first LP presidential slate of John Hospers and Tonie Nathan), so Bill Krebaum succeeded to Chair and I became Vice Chair. That first presidential race was the only one in the history of the LPM where we were not on the state ballot. We therefore ran a write-in campaign for Hospers/Nathan, printing up several thousand stickers. We received about 250 votes in Michigan in November 1972.

In summer, 1976 under my chairmanship the LPM gained ballot status for the fall presidential elections. At the nominating convention in May of that year in Dearborn, the LPM nominated over 75 candidates. Roger MacBride/David Bergland (presidential and vice presidential) and Bette Erwin (US Senate candidate) received over 15,000 votes each on election day. The Party was well on its way to becoming a force in Michigan politics with which the Democrats and Republicans would have to deal. And deal they did! In June, 1976 the "Demopublicrats," self-professed champions of democracy, attempted to sweep the Libertarian Party of Michigan and all other minor parties off the ballot by boosting the requirements for ballot status. Under their new rules, supporters would have to vote for their party in the August primary, winning at least one-half percent of the total vote in order to stay on the November ballot. In response to this tyranny, the LPM sued the state with the help of one of our most esteemed mentors and members, attorney Richard Durant. Our suit, Hudler et al. v. the State of Michigan, was according to Tom Jones, LPM founder and legal scholar, one of the pivotal election suits in the history of the country. Although the case was not resolved until late August of 1980 on appeal, the LPM finally prevailed and the law was struck down.

In November 1976 the LPM lost its ballot status in spite of our great slate, including Presidential candidate Roger McBride, literary personality and producer of "Little House on the Prairie" television series. In an effort to boost our morale, I (Chair of the LPM once again), staged a star-studded state Convention in February 1978 at the Flying Dutchman Motor Inn in Warren. The stars included Dr. John Hospers; Chris Hocker, LPN director; Karl Bray, famous tax resistor; Walter Block, economist and libertarian activist; and Roy Childs, famous libertarian writer and activist.

In spite of the fact that this February 1978 convention was inspirational, there was a coup d'etat afoot. The majority of the members of the LPM were disillusioned with the Party's lack of success. In the words of Dr. Bette Erwin "the LPM needs a catharsis." That catharsis/coup d'etat was the deposing of me as Chair and my loyal friend Barb Rowe as Secretary. The coup was successful and Larry McKenna, an Ann Arbor pet store owner, was elected Chair (Michael Freese, Vice Chair; Raymond Warner, Secretary; and Anne Bilinski, Treasurer). But the euphoria of this new administration was short-lived. At the time of the February 1978 state convention, the LPM was in the middle of a petition drive to get on the ballot for the fall gubernatorial election. The ballot drive failed for lack of signatures. Mr. McKenna and Mr. Freese, depressed over the failure, quit the Party. The fall elections came and went without much participation of the LPM membership except some write-in campaigns.

In the winter of 1979, Anne Bilinski, Judy Steinberger (another LPM founder, who prior to 1972 used to play taped lectures by Nathaniel Branden for the future objectivist members of the LPM who gathered for weekly discussions at her Southfield home), Ray Warner, James Greenshields and I picked up the broken pieces of the LPM at a small one-day convention held at the Campus Inn in Ann Arbor. I was elected Chair again and Brian Wright (another of the objectivists who up until this time had shunned the Party from his Randian ivory tower) was elected Vice Chair.

The LPM from 1979 to the fall of 1980 moved into an active successful period. Brian Wright was elected Chair in 1980 which began the "Wright era" of the LPM (see Mr. Wright's article in this brochure) and I was Vice Chair. With a lot of help from the National LP, the LPM regained ballot status with a successful petition drive. Because the tyrannical ballot access law was still in effect (the favorable appellate decision of Hudler vs. the State of Michigan had yet to be handed down), we had to garner around 8,000 votes in the August primary. We triumphed in that election due to a lot of campaigning during the Ann Arbor Art Fair, with mailings and with a phone bank to get out the vote.

With our ballot status in hand, the LPM launched into the fall 1980 presidential elections and one of the best LP presidential campaigns ever, the Clark/Koch Presidential/VP ticket. This was a full-blown campaign due in a large part to the financial backing of VP candidate David Koch, billionaire oil tycoon. There was even an alternative presidential debate for the minor parties that was televised right at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. And we won_well, rather we, the LPM, for the first time in our history retained ballot status through the ballot box. This brings the history of the LPM to the early 1980s which is covered in Mr. Brian Wright's article. I shall write my recollections of that period in a forthcoming booklet about the history of the LPM.

After Brian Wright retired from the leadership of the Party, I again was elected Chair from 1984 to 1986. This was the Lansing office era of the LPM. We had a large and very user friendly office on Allegan Street in downtown Lansing, one block from the Capitol building. This era of LPM history was moderately successful, with ballot status too! One of the highlights was our presence in the Capitol building lobbying for libertarian ideas and legislation. I will write a more complete history of this era for the booklet. But it ended when (1) I began an altercation with the IRS, (2) Denise Kline, the LPM director at the time (1986) moved away, and (3) the Lansing office was closed. At that time Janet Parkes won an uncontested race for Chair.

I shall end my recollections at the year 1986_to be continued later. But I would like to leave you the future leaders and activist of the LPM with this observation. The reason the LPM has survived and succeeded in influencing Michigan politics is because it has stuck to its principles and not compromised. We are, after all, the only party of principle.

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By Brian Wright, State Chairman,
Libertarian Party of Michigan 1980-81, 1982-84

Best wishes to all the faithful on the occasion of our 25 years as a state LP party.

Sorry I can't be there because of the extreme distance involved, though that was an argument made by several people back in `83 or `84 when, as Chair, it was my own bonehead idea to hold the convention in Traverse City! Keith, you were right then, and you're probably right now! I remember even thinking people would be able to swim in the lake in late May! Ah youth!

But I'm actually more than a few hours away, down here in Houston for a spell. Unfortunately, I won't be able to deliver any documentation for this convention of the major memories, key events during my reign--I believe my terms as chairman were 82/83 and 83/84. I do remember the original founding "party" in one of those southwestern Detroit suburbs where the McAlpines had their apartment and clubhouse. I recall it as more of a party than a normal Robert's Rules founding, which may have occurred a few days later. Someone mentioned once that I was the original party secretary, but that doesn't trigger any affirming brain cells, many of which were kilt that evening.

I do remember several months after helping to found the party--I'm sure I contributed something in the way of actual work--I became a "thoroughgoing" anarchist, and eschewed any significant party ctivity. This proved to be convenient in terms of having a life of sorts, finishing my engineering degree at Wayne, getting married, and finding a good job. But I remained active in neo-Objectivist and small-l libertarian causes. Stayed connected with all the main players in the party, as well, and knew more or less all the significant work that was proceeding.

In `79, for one reason or another I decided to reemerge and play a role. I'd rationalized the irony between anarchy and practical political activity, and was rarin' to go. Became the newsletter editor that watershed year, and Rose and I went to the national convention in LA where Ed Clark was elected. Speaking of peak experiences, that was it, and I doubt anything has yet excelled it in terms of semireasonable hope and the feeling of being at the center of a universe unfolding in the way freedom's lonely, loving partisans felt it should.

Sure the results of the `80 election were disappointing, and Ed Clark could not walk on water as many of us figured he'd damned well better be up to. But nearly a million votes ain't bad, and you had to understand the times. Huge amount of political noise still from the Left. And as always, the LP got torpedoed by frivolous candidacies, that year I believe it was that pompous, pious, intellectually and morally pretentious John Anderson, the supposed "thinking man's" candidate. Mainstream media sucked up to him like zebra mussels to a ragged foreign freighter hull.

Following that election, Dick Jacobs appeared and decided to run for governor. Dick had the appearance and four-square demeanor of an Eagle Scout. He also came to understand the civil liberties angles of libertarianism without missing a beat from his repeal the Single-Business-Tax-and-free-up-the-Michigan-economy message. In retrospect, Dick was one of the most admirable people I've ever met in the party or elsewhere. You look under integrity in the dictionary and his picture's beside it. He was a bulldog, too, tireless in traveling the state, a massive person-to-person campaign.

Alas, that one, too, was majorly disappointing. We failed to retain ballot status. As chairman that year, I had some influence over what we were going to do. These were days when paid petitioning was relatively uncommon, although the Clark campaign, funded by the Koch brothers, was an exception. But on a state level, in between election years, the notion of being able to pay people to petition was not realistic.

Further, the prospect of a successful all-volunteer petition drive to regain ballot status in a major state like Michigan was considered a pipedream. So, without much thinking, but with probably the most determination I'd ever mustered, I decided we were going to do exactly that. I realized then that I'd be doing a lot of it. But I'd had a lot of experience petitioning, and I knew a friend of mine, Bill Hollander, would also give up a bunch of hours to gather signatures. So I sold it to the central committee, and basically put it together.

Between November of `82 and April of `83, the LP volunteers of Michigan, without any national funding, without any paid people, but with a good executive director, I believe Steve O'Keefe, and some fine petitioning organization, gathered the 25,000+ (someone is bound to have the numbers) needed to get back on the ballot. For me, it was like Valley Forge, a winter drive when hope was at a low ebb. Several people exceeded the 1,000 mark (and I hope someone does publish the names for the faithful); Bill gathered approximately 5,000 volunteer signatures, and I gathered approximately 6,000 volunteer signatures. It may have been an inspiration to some, and it was certainly my finest hour as a productive libertarian.

So there we were ready for the `84 election without national having to worry about it. It looked good going into the `83 convention in New York City. Now this is going to sound like insider talk, but as chair again having come off that drive, and Michigan being qualified to send a platform committee delegate, I had a hand in the origin of Mary Ruwart's emergence on the national scene. The decision on the delegate was to be made by the central committee, and it came down to a choice between Ross Levatter, a Craniac of long-standing (and in my mind a fine individual) and Mary.

In the discussion, I brought up--rightly or wrongly--the importance of putting one's activism on the line and made an issue of how many signatures each of them had gathered. Mary was in the 1,000+ club by a handy margin, and ol' Ross, bless his soul, had don a handful. My recollection is I helped (rather absurdly I now believe) draw this distinction as a reflection on one's worth as a freedom-loving human being, much more a worthwhile platform committee candidate, and in the vote, Mary won.

At the convention in New York, it was a pitched battle between the Crane candidate, relative outsider Earl Ravenal and stalwart David Bergland. Our delegation, with few exceptions was of the Crane orientation. We liked the professionalism and the money, in a nutshell, again, rightly or wrongly. Well, Mary had gone to Texas for the platform committee proceedings, and while there, people had convinced her or she had convinced them, or a little of both, that she merited consideration as a presidential nominee.

And the convention loved the idea. So she became a major force in the course of history, namely as a third candidate drawing much support from both sides. It was an electric atmosphere on the day of the vote, and when the smoke had cleared, Bergland had won. The Michigan delegation, most of whom Mary had not really discussed her plans with, voted almost as a block for Ravenal! But the tide had changed and, in my mind, emotion had won over the intellect of the party. At the time I was upset, but in retrospect, it was probably the right thing.

The diehard Crane people left the party and founded or furthered [?] the Cato Institute, one of the most important and influential libertarian intellectual forces in history. Bergland and Lewis did the best they could; I forgot who the LP-torpedo, third-party, media suck-up candidate was that year. We persevered as a party. Mary Ruwart became a national figure, an influential writer and coalescer of "soft" libertarians from the mainstream. In Michigan, Emily Salvette sprang from the head of Zeus and the next era began.

I was still hanging around. Got a few thousand signatures for the `88 ballot status, this time being paid--a volunteer signature is a different breed of cat from a paid signature, and I got better results as a volunteer. The `87 convention in Seattle was one of a kind, too. And the whole Russell Means experience is worth a bunch of ink. Turns out, I actually wrote up my diary of the `87 convention, and will dust it off for the archives before the next celebration.

I do want to make a personal note on my interaction with Mr. Means, too. My activism had faded a bit. I think `86 was an odd year, in which the party hadn't really qualified for formal status, but the law pertaining to independent candidates didn't prevent people from running for office. I ran for secretary of state in `86, and I believe I have the privilege of participating in an election having the hugest vote percentage for a winning candidate, Richard Austin, in Michigan history!

Okay, so those are my reminiscences for the moment. I have many more, with the campaigns, riding to Lansing in the helmet protests, addressing the bikers as the secretary of state candidate for the LP, getting the raised fists, etc. My activism had waned in the late 80s and early 90s, but others have picked up the banner and the story. I'll be back in a year or so. Best wishes to all on this historic commemorative year. We have made a difference and will continue to do so.

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Special thanks to everyone who helped with the 25th Anniversary Project including:

Kathryn Augustin
James Hudler
Keith Edwards
Helen Weaver
Bette Erwin
Brian Wright
Arthur Gulick
Rose Wright

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Last Updated:11/12/00 - by webmaster@lpmich.org.