ORLANDO, FL — Orlando’s Rosen Centre may be the most press-heavy location on Earth this Memorial Day weekend. With a ratio of about one credentialed journalist for every five 2016 Libertarian National Convention delegates, it feels like the proverbial 15 minutes of fame are in reach not just for the Libertarian Party but for everyone in it. We’ve made the big-time … for the moment, anyway.
But it’s work. I’ve been here since Thursday and expect to remain until Monday, perhaps Tuesday. Every Libertarian National Convention feels like it ages me five years. This is my sixth.
If you’ve ever followed a national political convention on television or in print media’s color commentary, you might believe it’s a sort of patriotic vacation for the participants. The pep rallies here are as red, white, blue and loud as any Republican or Democratic event. The days are fueled by Starbucks, the nights by alcohol (among other substances) with parties running into the next night and even bleeding into morning business sessions.
But ultimately the thousand or so delegates from 49 states and the District of Columbia (yes, 49 — Oregon’s Libertarians chose not to send a delegation for reasons too complex to explain, leading to the convention’s first floor fight only moments after the opening gavel) are here to get things done. Aside from nominating presidential and vice-presidential candidates and electing new officers, they’ll spend hours revising and updating our party’s bylaws and platform. If that sounds boring, well, it can be. Thus the caffeine.
The reward? Satisfaction of a job well done, of course. Renewing friendships that span decades. The belief that we are offering America not just a choice, but a BETTER choice. Expecting that at some point our shout-outs for freedom will be heard instead of disappearing silently into the vacuum of America’s moribund political system.
By the time you read this column, we will have nominated our 2016 presidential slate. You may be surprised by the composition of that slate based on what you’ve heard on the news. Our conventions aren’t coronations and sometimes we surprise everyone, including ourselves.
Either way, I can confidently state that this election year, as usual, the Libertarian Party will offer America its best chance at national revival and a rebirth of freedom. Not a tall order given the major parties’ likely slates, true. Their bad luck is our — and your — good fortune. Pay attention. November is right around the corner.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.