Young Americans for Liberty
For Libertarians who are becoming frustrated with working hard to support good candidates only to result in vote totals in the single digits on election day, there is an organization that is actually moving the liberty movement in a positive direction. Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) is a spin-off from the Ron Paul Presidential campaigns along with Campaign for Liberty. YAL, as its name suggests, focuses on recruiting college-age students to the cause of liberty.
YAL was founded in 2008 during Dr. Paul’s campaign that year. The founder and first president was Jeff Frazee, the national youth coordinator for Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign. Initially, it focused on creating chapters on college campuses all over the country. Recently the number of such chapters has grown to over 900, and over 2,500 student members. In 2016 Cliff Maloney, who had been the national youth director for Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, took over as president.
Mr. Maloney expanded YAL’s mission into training students in political activism and putting them to work on political campaigns. They concentrate on state legislative races because most such districts are small enough that YAL activists can make a difference, while large enough to have an impact on state politics. Their total budget has increased to over $8 million since he took over the organization.
Their preferred campaign method is to send a team of students into a district and knock on doors, which is a proven way to impact a campaign. The typical team has a goal of knocking on 30,000 doors. Of course, the first step is to identify liberty-oriented candidates worthy of support. They have a very detailed questionnaire they use to vet potential candidates. If the candidate passes that test and is seen to be viable, they go to work. In most cases, the first obstacle is a primary election, and then if successful they campaign again in the general.
Their results so far are impressive. They have endorsed 107 candidates, and of those 56 have been elected. Many of their races have been decided by under 100 votes, and so it is clear that the YAL team has made a difference. They believe that such a campaign can “move the needle” in the race by 10 percentage points. Once elected, YAL does not forget their candidate; they monitor how they are voting and hold them accountable for the answers they provided on the questionnaire.
Most of the candidates that they have supported are Republicans. (Only 4 were Libertarian Party candidates, and they were not among the victories,) However, even though they do not have the “Libertarian” label, they can still accomplish libertarian results. A good example is a Kentucky candidate, Savannah Maddox, who won her race for the Kentucky legislature in 2018 with YAL support. Last year she introduced a bill to legalize Constitutional carry in Kentucky and got it passed. For a freshman legislator, this is quite an accomplishment!
YAL has ambitious plans for 2020. Their budget target is $12.5 million, a 50% increase from last year. As of now, they are well on the way having raised several million dollars in January. Their goals include 4,000 campus recruitment events, 150 endorsed candidates, 1,000 door knockers, and 2 million doors knocked. By 2022 they hope to have elected 250 liberty legislators, representing 5% of all state legislators. Not only will this move state governments in a liberty direction, but it will also provide a “bench” of candidates for higher office.
It is said that the Socialist Party of 100 years ago achieved most of their platform’s goals without electing any significant number of legislators; the Democrats did it for them. Perhaps YAL represents a path towards achieving libertarian goals without electing many Libertarian Party members. Their website is https://yaliberty.org, from which donations can be made.