My Liberal Party Resignation Letter I Never Sent

Back in January 2007 it would be somewhat of an understatement to say I was feeling rather glum about the Liberal Party, and to some degree this was affecting me personally. I looked at how much time I was spending, and the opportunity cost to me. And I threw up my hands and asked “why?”

So, one night, with a bottle of wine in hand, I typed up a letter of resignation from the Liberal Party. I never finished it – in fact you can read at the very end a list of things I wanted to “add” to, but a version remains. Nor did I ever intend to send it – it was more a cathartic process to get things off my chest. Similarly, I certainly don’t agree with all of the sentiments now. But it is an accurate snapshot of how I felt at the time, and to some degree at least did affect my decision to move overseas.

Since I no longer have anything to lose, I post it here now. I will be posting a response – or rather an argument as to why people should stay in the Liberal Party shortly. In the meantime, if I may make the request, do try to be nice in comments and not call me a coward, criticise me for being overly melodramatic, or tell me to “harden the f**k up).

So here it goes. Raw and unedited Tim:

“I swear upon the altar of God, eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man”. I am daily reminded of Jefferson’s pledge, merely by looking at the coffee mug standing just above my computer. It was many years ago that I pledged to dedicate my life to improving the political paradigm in which we all live. Politics has always been with me. It is what I wake up with in the mornings. It is what I go to bed with at night. It is the blood that rushes through my veins. Yet, for all those of us who are involved in the great game that is politics, there are always times that doubts arise. Little things that pop up from time to time, making you question what you do. They get brushed off, and you move on. Continuing along the same path, moving them aside as of no consequence. Sometimes, however, very rarely, these little voices in your head become joined by others. And one voice becomes ten. And ten voices become a hundred, until you are threatened to be overwhelmed by a cacophony of voices screaming at you. I can not live with intellectual denial. I can not cast such feelings asunder. I’ve been forced to become increasingly introspective, and confront some ugly realities. It is often painful to confront one’s inner demons, to peel back the layers and discover the inner truth within. One hopes it is worth it. Know thyself, after all. Yet the truth hurts. A lot.

A fortnight ago, I was having coffee with a friend of another political persuasion. As part of our conversation, I indicated my displeasure with many Liberal Party policies. In return, I was asked the question as to why I remained a member. My answer, as always, was to make a difference. To affect change from the inside. To reform the party. She asked me if I had achieved this. If I had made a difference. If I had changed anything. Obviously I answered in the affirmative. And as soon as the words left my mouth, I realised it was a lie.

I went home and I read an article on the fusionism between libertarians/conservatives. I start to search my beliefs, and began to realise that many things I argue for, the beliefs are not mine, but that of The Party. On so many things I am in intellectual denial. It is becoming more and more difficult as each day goes past to defend the decision to invade Iraq with a straight face. And I thought of the many times times, of the the surreptitious meetings, I had within the party, when we recognise the policy is a farce, the government is a joke, yet we have not the courage to say it.

A few days later, I was reading up on the history of the IEA in London. In 1946, Antony Fisher travels to London, seeking out Hayek at the LSE. He asks “What can I do? Should I enter politics?” As quoted, “With Fisher’s war record, good looks, gift for speaking, and excellent education, it is no idle question. ‘No,’ replies Hayek. ‘Society’s course will be changed only by a change in ideas. First you must reach the intellectuals, the teachers and writers, with reasoned argument. It will be their influence on society which will prevail, and the politicians will follow.” The IEA was formed, and Thatcherism followed.

The following week I was presented with a vote I had to cast at NUS National Executive. One candidate offered me a deal, which I benefited from considerably personally. I asked the other what she could offer me. The response was nothing, other than the knowledge that, unlike the first candidate, she would act ethically and do the right thing – an argument so genuine and naïve in its child-like innocence that I couldn’t help but smile at hearing it. I voted against her. I could not get to sleep that night. Two months on, I feel guilty about it still.

I’ve been re-watching The Godfather trilogy on DVD at home. The more I look at it, the more I see it as a perfect analogy for party politics, how it ensnares, captures and corrupts you. And how there is no escape.

I look at the Liberal Party, and I see nothing in it I recognise. I see no commitment to small government. I see no commitment to individual freedom. I see no commitment to the free market. I see a party obsessed about clinging onto winning the next election at all costs. I see the rise of big-government. Of an increase in the welfare state. Of pre-election pork-barrelling bribes and handouts. There is no commitment to Liberal values. I see more and more legislation passed that is anathema to me. In contrast, I look at members of the Broad Left on campus. I see people unconstrained by Party rules and dictates. Free to express their beliefs and opinions. And I am jealous. I wish I could stand up and denounce so much of what my party does. The party that in so many ways I view in contempt. To publicly voice my shame of the unconstitutional re-regulation & Kremlin-like centralisation brought about by WorkChoices. Of the betrayal of conservative values. Of the attack on all the things I hold dear.

More recently I was flicking TV channels and Babylon 5 appeared. The episode was one which detailed the importance of standing up for your beliefs, for fighting for what you know is right, regardless of the personal cost. And immediately though of how many times I stay silent, let things I violently oppose go through because to stand up for my beliefs would cost me politically. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. For too long I have stood by and done nothing. What, after all, have I ever done that has required true courage. Strength of character. An iron will. The only opportunity I had, I sacrificed an innocent friend for political expediency, an act I can still not forgive myself for. To manipulate, to influence, to trigger events from the back room may well get results, but it is the mark of a coward.

There remain many great people in the Liberal Party & the Young Liberals. Men like Alex Hawke, who has done more to promote true liberalism within the party more than most MP’s combined, for which he shall always have my complete respect, loyalty and support. Yet I see so many people constantly join in whom I recognise nothing of Liberalism, whether they be socially conservative lefties, power-hungry ambition-ites, or simply brain dead.

People joke about wanting to change the world. I actually want to do it. And the more I look at The Party, the more disillusioned I get. Every day it becomes harder and harder for me to profess faith. To campaign. I can no longer see how party members can genuinely swing public opinion.

I think about the chance I shall have to genuinely reform the Liberal Party, and I realise how impossible it is. And the higher up I rise, the more corrupted my beliefs become. This is not to claim angelic-like ethics for myself; I have never professed to having them. To the contrary, I have always been a believer that, when it comes to politics, unlike in other areas of life, the end justifies the means. I have done many things people may consider unethical, but without shame, and always for the greater good. Yet, I am starting to see, how the process corrupts. How power corrupts, and how the more you have, the more you lose sight of the greater good.

And then I look at the effect it has had upon my life. I speak to people who have quit the Young Liberals and how happier they have become. I remember me in the early days. The days when I had genuine friends. When I was involved in the Red Cross, Free Tibet Societies, UNSOC, comedy club, Sutekh, bridge club. All the university clubs and societies that brought me so much joy. No longer. The Party has sucked out all my time, all my friends, all my joy. The friends I have, the people whose company I truly enjoy can be counted on one hand. And they all drop by. And who I am left with. My school friends are gone, friends in name alone, certainly not deed. I look around at Liberals, and see  we have nothing in common. As the conservative movement worldwide is increasingly been taken over by big government conservatives, who abandoned traditional conservative values of  small government, and replaced it with a powerful over-arching state, designed to achieve their aims.

Politics is a self-sacrificial business. For those of us who are truly part of The Great Game for the right reasons, we never get any joy out of it. We sacrifice our lives in the service of others. I accept that. It is a decision I made long ago, and one I can never turn back from. It is not merely a part of me, it is who I am. My life is dedicated to the advancement of Liberty. This is not a task I shirk away from. To the contrary, the older I get the more passionate about it I become. I simply can not see it happening in the Liberal Party.

I used to look at people who quit the Liberal party to take up jobs at think tanks as cowards. As throwing away their best opportunity to affect change. As giving up. Defeatists. I am starting to come to the conclusion that they may be right.

Tim Andrews
Factional Warrior
President Sydney University Liberal Club
President Australian Liberal Students’ Federation
Vice-President (Policy) Young Liberal Movement of Australia (NSW Division)

To add:

How I slip away in Lib meetings to ‘abstain’ when a motion I disagree with is on to not displease others
Courage
Danger of big government conservatives
Why I’m friends with lefties.Beliefs and feelings that have lain latent within me.
What we do with student unions – the examples etc.Getting off the road
Alamo
Stupid people & Boring people
Shades of grey
Far too often I see people on my side of politics become involved for reasons other than the ideals I espouse. For bigotry. Hatred. Fear. Fear of anyone different. Fear of change. Fear of acceptance. And yet I am meant to tolerate this? To support such people? To laugh at their jokes? To take their hate as granted? At ever step I see the dangers inherent in state power, police power, coercive power. They, to the contrary, delight in it.

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20 Responses to “My Liberal Party Resignation Letter I Never Sent”

  1. Clinton Mead Says:

    Considering my own political future, I conducted this thought experiment. Lets say best case scenario of remaining in a major political party: I become Prime Minster in 20 years.

    What could I really do to change things? My policy choices would be ultimately constraied by party politics and special interests.

    And I also have the fear, that if I did dedicate my life to major party politics, even if I did become Prime Minister, I would look back on a life in politics and see that things are worse now than when I began. All I would have done is contribute to a system which I oppose.

    So I’m eagerly awaiting your self-response.

  2. Tim Andrews Says:

    I would direct you to my earlier post about my personal plans on starting a free market advocacy organisation 🙂

  3. Justin Lee Says:

    I’ve got good news and bad news for you.

    First, the bad news. You have are suffering from a condition. It’s called youth.

    The good news is that the prognosis for youth is very good. Apart from the odd few that do stupid things and get themselves killed or maimed, you’re guaranteed to recover.

    Youth can particularly impact those who are very passionate about achieving their goals in life as they learn that their ideals and the real world tend to diverge more often than they once believed. The ugly truth is that these ideals that our education system teaches us to take for granted are rarely realised in a world that is made up of ordinary human beings. This is not to suggest that it is right and you should stand by and do nothing – far from it – but don’t allow yourself to be defeated by the inevitable bitter disappointment of discovering that things aren’t the way you expect them to be.

  4. Tim Andrews Says:

    Which is why I never sent the letter 🙂

  5. John Humphreys Says:

    The best revenge is living a good life.

  6. Jake the Muss Says:

    Oh yeah, I remember you sending that to me. I’m not sure it was so much a letter as the rantings of a desperate man at the end of his pitiful rope 🙂

    I’ll be interested to read your post (not just because my own thoughts on the matter may be included). As I emailed to you, despite my own utter failure, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad idea to join the Liberal Party. People need to judge for themselves whether they are the right fit for the Party, and whether the Party is the right fit for them. They need to do their own ‘cost/benefit analysis’.

    It was a few months ago when I accidentally did my own ‘cost/benefit analysis’. When I stopped and considered all the friends I had neglected, all the things I could have done and learned, the experiences I spurned, because of some Liberal Party commitment, my spirit for the Liberal Party was instantly and inescapably crushed.

    As Clinton alluded to, people need to understand that they won’t be ‘the man’ and even if they are, the true horror of it all is waking up ten years down the track and realising you have actively contributed to making things worse.

  7. pete2whelan Says:

    But the good news is that so many ex-liberals have now joined the fight for small government and low taxes at the Liberal Democratic Party; “The True Liberals”!

  8. TerjeP (say tay-a) Says:

    Tim – Now there’s a hint. Even the president of the LDP is ringing your doorbell. How long can you lock yourself away? How long must your brilliance remain in obsurity?

    If you do harbour long term aspirations to be a government MP in a major centrist party then like Peter Garett you can always sell out on all your ideals latter on in life when your old. In the mean time you why not try your hand in a little party that actual has ideals whilst you can still blame it on youth. Now is the time for risks.

  9. Will Church Says:

    Tim,

    I have not sacrificed nearly as much for the Liberal Party as you. However, through my experience I have come to a similar pessimistic realisation. For years I had refused to join the party believing it to be directionless, ineffectual and anti-intellectual. I joined during an inexplicable burst of new found optimism in politics and in the world at large. I believed that with my intelligence and belief in the power of reason I could affect change. I believed in liberal enlightenment ideals and that political change can be achieved by reason. I have since rejected optimism, and reverted to my initial cynicism. My reignited pessimism has also precipitated a gradual ideological shift – away from liberalism in the direction of a profound conservativism.

    Before I raise two important points I would like to say something of my experience in the liberal party. From early on I sensed knives were out. This has been the usual pattern for much of my life. I guess if you’re a formidable person then it’s to be expected that you will be either viciously attacked or undermined covertly. This was made crystal clear in a restaurant in Canberra during the federal election campaign when I was being consciously ignored. I was told by someone with good intentions that I was widely disliked and perceived as ‘weird.’ People that were quoted had only ever had help from me and I had only had friendly interaction with them. I decided then that it was best to revert to my high school survival strategy – to become a source of entertainment. I guess the down side was ruling myself from being regarded a so called serious contender or player in the bear pit that is YL Politics. But a major turning point for me was during the YL 2008 ball. I overheard a certain YL (who’s IQ is probably 40 points lower than mine and is flamboyantly homosexual) say to rising star in the movement that he hated me because I was a joke. (I guess I was not supposed to hear that.) I realised then that if someone of that low intelligence, lack of social poise and ability had greater credibility than me then my membership and participation was a waste of time. As for ‘opportunity cost’: I’ve actually read Burke, Locke, Hobbes and modern thinkers like Nozick and Hayek. I’ve got a keen interest in constitutional law, and I am an avid reader of politics generally. Can’t think of many Young Liberals that could say the same. I am considered by most people to be a thinker, and yet I was never offered any opportunities to write policy papers, work as researcher or sit on the policy committee. Tim, I know that it either irked or embarrassed you to hear constant remarks about the similarity between me and you (and for the record I like to think there are some NOT SO SUBTLE differences) but you didn’t exactly help your own. I think you’re right in your verdict that you sat silent and aided the ascendency of “socially conservative lefties, ambition-ites and the plain brain dead.” I don’t intend this as an attack. But I too would like an outlet to pour forth my anecdotal experiences, which are responsible for the realisation of what I knew but had denied to myself about politics and political parties.

    Re: Hayek & Fisher anecdote. I’ve come to the realisation that it’s futile trying to shift the direction of our civilization from within the straight jacket of politics itself. The cultural and intellectual edifice off which politics feeds must be changed. For this reason I want to pursue a career in academia, and have enrolled in a thesis. I know it’s a tired platitude, but what is needed is a great march through the institutions.

    Re: fusionism. I am interested to know if you came to doubt the coherence of fusionism. Do you see it as a pragmatic construct or a legitimate new synthesis? I happen to think that thanks to Hayek, who is in many ways a Burkean, that a synthesis is both achievable and desirable.

  10. Jake the Muss Says:

    I do remember getting the impression when I first met you that some people thought you were weird Will, although I don’t think they were particularly important or noteworthy people. In the beginning, you struck me as a bit paranoid about it all which seemed somewhat self reinforcing. Not that I’m particularly a fantastic example of confidence and extroversion. Since then though I don’t think I’ve witnessed anyone shitting on you behind your back either explicitly or implicitly.

    Although I think your arrogance and self belief far outweighs your actual ability (HAHA pot calling the kettle black) you are a smart cookie. I’ve always liked you at least.

    I do see a bit of a similarity between you and Tim though. You both aren’t nearly as good as me! 😉

    Academia is a much better fit for you in my opinion. Your experiences are the norm as far as I am concerned. The development of raw ideas has no home in the Liberal Party. Even the ‘ideologically pure’ LDP seems to be having a semi public spat about the role of ideological/philosophical discussion/development within the Party. I think that’s very cute coming from a Party that most people don’t know about, is very much failing to utilise web 2.0, and where you need to print off and mail a membership form if you want to join.

    You are far better off concentrating on an academic career rather than dreaming of a future in the Liberal Party. Although I don’t think you can’t or shouldn’t be active in the Liberal Party while developing an academic career.

    As for me, I’m in a rather unintellectual mood lately. Video games and non political or academic pursuits are far more appealing to me at the moment than political meetings or even reading books. It’s still a part of my life but not as large as it used to be.

    It’s probably just because the Australian Taxpayers’ Union’s website is taking too long to be set up and that is where I want to concentrate my effort.

    That and I like money.

  11. Jake the Muss Says:

    ps, NAME AND SHAME WILL. I think I know who the flamboyantly homosexual person is (although there seem to be so many flamobyantly homosexual people in NSW right ;-)) but who was the rising star?

  12. Anon Says:

    [Moderation Privileges Invoked. Post Deleted.]

  13. Will Church Says:

    Jake,

    I agree with everything you said – and I don’t think anyone has been shitting on me. It’s just the nature of the beast. And like I said I am not bitter. And I intend to keep a foot in the party, but I think my efforts would be better expended elsewhere.

    I guess at the end of the day my motivations (not unlike yourself and Tim) for being in politics are different to most peoples. I don’t want memorial statues named after me or to be remembered for all posterity. It’s not a financial step up in the world to be in politics. And I don’t really like mindless self promotion. I am just obsessed with politics and political ideas, plain and simple.

  14. Me Says:

    I’d be curious to know why you didn’t send it. Coincidental that you would post it now… At the moment I am feeling much the same way about party politics as you did when you were writing that letter, for a variety of reasons.

  15. Jake the Muss Says:

    Well it looks like we are all cynical and burnt out.

    New plan, weed and civil disobedience?

  16. Tim Andrews Says:

    Jake – seasteading FTW! 🙂

  17. The Effect Of Australian Party-Political Culture On Your Soul « The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC Says:

    […] The Effect Of Australian Party-Political Culture On Your Soul By Tim Andrews Jake Zanoni has a post up today on Pimpin’ For Freedom on the effect youth politics in Australia has on people. I do not agree with all of his conclusions, and he is factually incorrect on a number of points, but at the core, I feel he is correct in that the Australian political machine does have an effect on you. It does change you, and the result often isn’t very pretty (you can read a post where I set out similar concerns here). […]

  18. My Blog: One Year On « The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC Says:

    […] The Liberal Party Resignation Letter I never Sent […]

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  20. Dom Vasta Says:

    I probably would have left the party quietly and let my membership lapse this year if my Mother hadn’t seen the renewal form on the bench and paid my membership for me. This current election cycle is making me feel like I don’t belong in a country, let alone a political party, where a key issue for the federal government is whether to send asylum seekers back to the war zones and dictatorships they came from or jail them in a country where they have as many rights as the place they came from. It frustrates me that the idea of not fining people or putting them in jail for victimless crimes like taking drugs or riding a bike without a helmet is considered crazy and anyone who opposes any nanny state legislation is instantly thought of as a redneck or a junkie and are seen as lacking both empathy and intellect.
    Most of the political people I’m friends with know that I’m staunchly against Government interfering in people’s personal affairs. They usually agree with pretty much every example I give of the Government making a problems worse, but when I say, “get the Government out X!” they look at me like I just don’t understand and that I just need to realize that If we just pass this one law: Everyone will stop taking drugs; no one will die on the roads; all the bikies will turn in their guns whilst renouncing violence forever and Jesus will come down from heaven on a unicorn that farts rainbows. That is what I hate about Australia, you can show them that drinking whiskey all day is bad for them, they’ll agree and start drinking rum.

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