Six months before the general election, an unknown Libertarian files for political office. He holds a news conference in front of the federal building. His statement catalogs the evils of the State, stresses the importance of individual rights, and gives compelling reasons for electing him to office. Newspapers, radio, and television carry his message to the voters.
Day after day, for six months, this Libertarian speaks out at civic events, public gatherings, high schools, and the like. He grants newspaper interviews, appears on radio and television talk shows, and goes before endorsement committees.
His message gets through. The voters come to their senses, realize their true interests, and catapult the Libertarian into office.
This scenario is neat, simple, and wrong. It's the myth of mushrooms in the night.
A young boy goes to bed on a warm spring evening. The next morning, he awakens to a front yard covered with legions of mushrooms. Yesterday, the yard was uninterrupted green. Today, without any effort or time, mushrooms have sprung up. Without planning or cause. A touch of magic, a hint of the miraculous have entered his life.
It may be several years before the lad learns the natural causes of mushroom growth. Until then, he sees magic, not science. He believes in the Easter Bunny. Santa Claus. The Tooth Fairy. Elves -- and mushrooms that magically spring up in the night.
As the boy matures, he discards these childhood fantasies. Or, rather, most of them. Many otherwise mature adults nourish and cherish a belief in the magical. They cling to the myth of mushrooms in the night.
Everyone has dreamed of becoming an overnight success. Wouldn't it be wonderful to wake up one morning and find you've inherited a million dollars? Or written a best-selling novel? Or become a rock and roll star?
Wouldn't it be wonderful to awaken one morning to discover that you're the first Libertarian Congressman or Senator or President?
These dreams of overnight accomplishment can be a pleasant diversion. They can fuel our efforts to make something of our lives.
But some people forget that "the overnight success" is a myth, and begin to treat it as a real possibility. They rationalize and cultivate it as "a long shot."
In the Libertarian Party, many activists subscribe to the myth of mushrooms in the night. Some never gave up their childhood longing for magic. Others have failed to rationally examine their beliefs and assumptions.
Many Libertarians were captivated by Atlas Shrugged. They remember John Galt's three hour radio speech -- and the effect it had on the millions who heard it.
Some Libertarians were "overnight converts." On the basis of a conversation or a book, these individuals joined the Libertarian movement. These rare individuals may assume that there are thousands more like them.
Individuals act on the basis of their beliefs and assumptions. Suppose that Libertarians harbor a belief in overnight success, in the myth of mushrooms in the night. What will they do? They'll do news releases to snag "free publicity."
They'll create and attend media events. They'll leaflet crowds and give speeches at open public events. They'll predict high vote totals and the election of local Libertarians "any day."
They'll beg, borrow, and steal money to pay for brochures, white papers, fliers, and commercials. They'll harass every Libertarian in their area to give as much time and money as they have. They will raise the intensity of activists to a fever pitch.
On election night, one thing will be clear: They failed. They didn't deliver on their promises and predictions.
So they rationalize. They explain. And justify.
In their wake, one finds the burnt-out passions of dedicated activists, the mutilated hopes of idealists, and the mortgaged futures of those who thought they were investing in liberty.
The American Revolution of 1776 was sold out slowly. Not overnight. It won't be brought back with a quick fix. Restoring liberty will take planning, effort, and time. A permanent freedom must begin in the hearts and minds of informed and committed Libertarians.
The Libertarian Party must Recruit, Educate, and Activate -- if we hope to Liberate. We must locate those who already agree with us and persuade others. We must bring these men and women into the Libertarian movement and Party. Then we must educate these new Libertarians. Some of them will not see all the implications and applications of the libertarian philosophy. A few may already know how eloquently the facts speak for freedom. Because of this ongoing internal educational effort, these new Libertarians will become more consistent and committed -- and better able to recruit more new Libertarians.
But it's not enough to join and know and tell. We must act. To activate these Libertarians, we must give them the skills and tools necessary to advance the libertarian cause. They must know how to present libertarian ideas effectively. How to handle a news interview. How to run an effective political campaign. How to organize initiatives to roll back taxes. How to raise funds for these projects.
As we Recruit, Educate, and Activate. The Libertarian Party is sowing the seeds of its long-term success. Not the spores of mushrooms. Rather the seeds of oaks and redwoods. They take longer to mature. But their forests last for generations.
[By Michael Cloud ©1982]