D. Frank Robinson: Libertarian Party History & Ballot Access
D. Frank Robinson is one of the founding members of the Libertarian Party. The PolitiPeeps panel sat down with him to talk about the history of the libertarian party, the role he played, and what he thinks the party will see in the future.
About D. Frank Robinson
Frank has colon cancer but thinks his chemotherapy is going well and he should be in remission by next year. His health is improving and he’s finding it easier to work and plan.
When he was an editorial assistant to a medical magazine in the ’60s, Frank supported his editor, who ran for congress as a republican, but the publisher had issues with their activism so both Frank and his editor were fired.
Like the subset of libertarians who lean towards objectivism, Frank was a fan of Ayn Rand and read her books in the late ’50s, early ’60s. Despite being a republican, he wasn’t very active in the party because he had significant issues with the GOP party platform.
In 1971 Richard Nixon did away with the last influences of the gold standard. Combined with Nixon’s support for price and wage controls, Frank left the Republican party. He read in Reason magazine that Dave Nolan was forming a libertarian party so Frank contacted Dave and got involved.
The Libertarian Party Founding Convention of 1972
In December of 1971, the Libertarian Party was founded, and the founding convention of the Libertarian Party was held in 1972 with 89 delegates in attendance. Frank was among a handful of elected Co-Founders that included Susan Nolan as National Chair, Ed Clark as Vice-Chair, Diana Amsden as Secretary, Pipp Boyls as Treasurer, and David Nolan, James Bryan, D. Frank Robinson, and Pat Lowrie as At-Large members. Shortly after the founding, the party registered between 400 and 500 members.
During the convention, Frank headed up the bylaws and rules committee and was very busy from start to finish. He composed the Statement of Principles and also put forward that it could not be amended except by a 7/8ths vote. After some discussion, both the Statement of Principles and the 7/8ths rule were unanimously adopted. As a result, the Statement of Principles has remained entirely intact since 1972 despite many attempts by different factions wanting to alter the Statement.
The Anarchist vs. Minarchist Debate
One of the first controversies in the party has become known as the anarchist-minarchist debate, with followers of Murray Rothbard taking the anarchist side of the equation. By 1974 both sides of the debate came together and formed what is now known as the Dallas Accord made a few amendments to the verbiage to make anarchists feel welcome.
Run for Congress, Going Inactive, and Reactivating
Frank was one of 2 libertarian candidates for congress in 1980. He lost the primary to someone he respected and had personally recruited. Shortly thereafter, Frank then lost his business and got divorced and went back to the family farm. He entered a period of less activity until Dave Nolan died in until the 90’s, but continued to maintain and promote his principles.
When David Nolan died in 2010 it came as a shock to Frank so he increased his efforts to influence politics through the Libertarian Party. When Frank went to the 2016 Libertarian National Convention in Orlando, Florida, he brought with him the digitized recordings of the 1974 convention. He was shocked to receive a standing ovation by those in attendance, as he had always worked in the background and was more interested in promoting from behind the scenes. He didn’t realize how people felt about his contributions to the party over the year.
Frank wasn’t impressed by any of the candidates for president at the 2016 convention. He voted for Gary Johnson, but Bill Weld reminded him of Richard Nixon.
Frank’s Thoughts on Self-Ownership
Frank has always encouraged the full activity of as many members as possible, not only to support the idea of radical self-ownership but to ensure the Libertarian Party can have the best ideas from the most people. The Non-Aggression Principle, or NAP, is central to self-ownership. Together they trickle down through all levels of society, and Frank feels a better focus on non-aggression and personal responsibility would fundamentally change society for the better. While these ideas are Utopian in nature, Frank considers them worth pursuing.
Frank’s message has been consistent since the early days of the Libertarian Party. He believes getting Libertarians elected to congress is the fastest and most efficient use of resources and would promote rapid growth in the Party. He outlined his ideas in the LInC 80 document in 1980.
Next Steps: Obtaining Ballot Access as a Constitutional Right
As a result of his attempts to promote libertarians in Congress, Frank became familiar with ballot issues. He considers ballot restrictions to be invalid and possibly unconstitutional. After 1884, the states began to move toward a secret ballot, making it more difficult for 3rd parties to get on the ballot by adding restrictions and fees Frank considers unreasonable restrictions on the citizens and their right to run for office.
Frank has a propertarian theory of the ballot, which means the citizens should own the ballot. After 1884, the states moved to using a secret ballot that was mostly printed by the state. Before then you could write your own ballot and drop it in the box, and most people used ballots provided by the newspapers. With the passage of secret ballot laws, the states took ownership of the ballot and restricted access, two moves Frank considers an infringement on the constitutional rights of citizens.
Frank would like to see the Federal Write In Absentee Ballot as the uniform ballot across the country. No candidates are on this ballot so all votes have to be written in by the voter, which would remove many of the other rules and regulations surrounding ballots.
Frank will file again for congress in 2020, but he will use unconventional means. He will challenge the system as a write-in candidate in an attempt to overthrow the ballot regulations he considers illegitimate. When the state representative demands a fee and a list of signatures he will refuse, claiming a constitutional right to run without paying a fee or having a list of signatures.
When he is refused he will file a federal lawsuit and will encourage others to do the same. A coordinated effort with multiple candidates in as many states as possible could create public interest and attention.
Frank is writing a paper on ballot access he anticipates will be finished in the fall of 2019, wherein he will claim the states had no right to confiscate the ballot from the people.
To learn more, watch the full video series on Frank Robinson, here, and subscribe to PolitiPeeps for regular updates.