by Thomas R. Eddlem
The spin-off group claiming to be the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts, the group created on February 26 by former LAMA board members who refused to recognize the results of the special state convention, did something unexpected Wednesday night.
They passed the following resolution by a 7-1-1 vote (with only Tara DeSisto voting “nay” and Derek Newhall abstaining):
“The decision of the previous State Committee regarding membership on Jan 10th is rescinded”
It means the #47Mass allegedly expelled on January 10 are free to join their organization if they choose.
I could sarcastically quip “Does this mean that the board no longer accepts the idea propounded by Derek Newhall that the #47Mass were a pack of racists on the basis of Tweets that none of the #47Mass wrote? Or does it mean they just want to invite racists to their group?” But it’s clear the majority any longer accept the idea propounded by Tara DeSisto that the #47Mass were a “disease” that needed to be purged from the Libertarian Party.
This was an objectively decent move to no longer exclude many of our members, including me personally, as I was among the #47Mass deemed persona non grata.
There are a couple of ways to look at that decision by the organization, whose chairman is now Don Graham.
It is possible they’ve virtually all had a sincere change of heart, that their board has been converted like St. Paul on the road to Damascus. It wasn’t that long ago, April 23 at their convention, that only two of the nine currently serving board members voted to invite the #47Mass into their organization. But people do sometimes have a sincere change of heart.
It’s also possible the move Wednesday night was solely due to a cynical measure of calculated desperation, looking forward to advancing their cause to be credentialed at the national convention Reno in two weeks and retaining their affiliate status that was unjustly stolen from the rightful LAMA on February 26.
And these two views are not mutually exclusive. There’s a real possibility their board is divided, even as our board remains united.
And I’d also stress the rescission of the January 10 vote was done without any apology, or any concession that the purge of the #47Mass was wrong in either the moral or the procedurally proper sense. To the contrary, the Graham board remains of the apparently uniform opinion that the purge was constitutionally proper under the LAMA constitution and by-laws, and that the ability of their board to expel members is without limitation. Their position was and remains that their state committee may expel any number of members – or even all of the members – with a single vote, without cause.
They regard the vote last night as a forbearance rather than as a statement of principle that purges are wrong for a political party seeking growth.
Indeed, the Graham board could, at least in theory, welcome all the #47Mass to their membership and then purge and disenfranchise them just before the next convention, like the board run by Ashley Shade tried and failed to do on January 10. And the Graham board members would consider it a perfectly proper application of the LAMA constitution.
Now, the Graham board will tell you they won’t do another mass-expulsion, and that their conversion from a 2-5-2 vote to a 7-1-1 vote in a month is permanent because it’s a new board with new leadership. It reminds me of Thomas Jefferson’s statement in his draft of the Kentucky Resolutions that “In questions of power let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”
It’s part of the reason we’re doing a constitutional re-write over the next few months, to strengthen the role of the membership over the state committee, who are stewards of the organization and not owners of it.
Our view is that an organization founded on the principle of “We, the Libertarians of Massachusetts, do hereby unite to form the Libertarian Association of Massachusetts” does not mean “we, the state committee of LAMA” and that when the LAMA Constitution allows the state committee to “expel a member” with “a vote” that it at a minimum requires a separate vote for each expulsion.
The spin-off group vote changes nothing about the necessity of maintaining our delegates being credentialed and restoring our affiliate status that was removed on February 26. It also changes nothing regarding our pending appeal before the national Judicial Committee.
It should be stressed that the purge of #47Mass on January 10 was attempted for the sole reason that the existing board would not be re-elected at a special state convention for which the members had properly petitioned. Sure, there were fake reasons manufactured later as a cover for their power grab; they vaguely claimed it was because #47Mass were any number of bad actors (including Newhall’s laughable claim of racism) or that it was about saving money for the regular annual convention.
None of those arguments appeared in the official notes of the January 10 state committee meeting where the purge was voted upon. The official minutes only talk about a “takeover,” meaning their poor performance would likely not lead to their own re-election.
And let’s face it, from the perspective of the Shade board, the April 23 convention they organized was “Mission accomplished!”
Sure, Jeremy Thompson (who initiated the purge discussion) went off to a better fit in the Democratic Party and is now Political Director for the Northeastern University College Democrats. And Ashley Shade (who called the question on the vote) rage-quit the Libertarian Party. Andrew Moore had already moved out of state. But all the rest of the #DeathSpiral7 who sought re-election won re-election on April 23, and Cris Crawford even had her husband added to the board as well.
Had the #47Mass never been purged, and the Shade board accepted the special state convention which the LAMA constitution says the state committee “must” call, that wouldn’t have happened. Nor would a by-laws change severely limiting the ability of members to petition for a special convention to hold new elections for state committee have passed, as it did at their April 23 convention.
If the national party credentials the Graham group after such blatant and open ballot manipulation by disenfranchisement, it will cement the principle that purgers will be rewarded in the party – not just in Massachusetts but in every state affiliate. This is particularly the case if the credentialing is done with full knowledge that the Graham group remains of the opinion they feel empowered to engage in mass membership purges for any reason as constitutionally appropriate.
Libertarians must occasionally remove a member for violating the NAP, of course. But the real LAMA, led by Andrew Cordio, has purged no one. We haven’t even expelled members like Tara DeSisto who insist our members must be banned from their groups. Every single one of their members, if they signed up before February 26, are also our members in good standing.
In the end:
There was only one convention where all dues-paying Libertarian Party members were welcome to attend and vote.
There was only one convention where all members of both groups were free to be nominated for state committee positions, and were nominated for state committee positions.
There was only one convention where board members of the opposite group were elected as delegates to the national convention at Reno.
And that was the convention that elected Andrew Cordio’s state committee.
The rightful LAMA.