NUVO spoke with Klopfenstein regarding the highs and lows of his tenure as well as what the future might hold for the state party.
NUVO: Burned out?
BK: No, I’m not burned out. This — working with the Libertarian Party — was a job I could have done for the rest of my life. An opportunity with the Indiana Licensed Beverage Association opened up and I just felt like I couldn’t pass it up. And the timing is good. We don’t have an election bearing down on us. Only once every four years do we not have an election and this happens to be the year.
NUVO: The party hit some new highs under your leadership. What did you do differently?
BK: I think the two things that I did differently were, from day one, I went around and made sure that everyone in the media knew who I was and who the Libertarians were. We made it clear that the party had viable candidates and that we should be a part of their political coverage. Secondly, we changed our message. Previously, too many Libertarian candidates got caught up in the philosophies of the parties, which are important, but we encouraged our candidates to take the next step and use those philosophies to develop solutions to address the problems affecting their local constituencies. We also did a detailed analysis of who our natural constituents should be. What we found was that small business owners were being ignored by both the Republicans and Democrats and we began actively courting those individuals. We felt that they were a natural fit for our party.
NUVO: What accomplishment makes you most proud?
BK: Certainly, I’d have to say our seven victories in partisan races. For a Libertarian candidate to knock off a Democratic or Republican candidate, and in many cases an incumbent, is unheard of.
NUVO: What’s at the top of your “Wish We’d Accomplished It” list?
BK: I wish we would have organized more counties and done a better job of building our infrastructure. Right now we have an organized presence in about 40 counties. By this time, we wanted that number to be closer to 70.
NUVO: How has the climate for third parties changed over the last five years?
BK: The event that has hurt us, and all other third parties, was Sept, 11. It was such a galvanizing event that it really put the kibosh on alternative parties. All of a sudden political choices were reduced to liking President Bush or hating him. We no longer had political parties — we had likes and hates. It killed the growth of third parties. Since Sept. 11, the Green Party and the Natural Law Party are all but gone. The fact that the Indiana Libertarian Party has been able to achieve some modest growth over the last few years really bucks the national trend.
NUVO: What will be the biggest challenge for incoming Executive Director Dan Drexler?
BK: Dan is going to have to build the organization, the network of people who get things done. That’s one of the things I wish I had done better. We need to reach the voters who currently aren’t with us but who should be. The biggest thing that the Indiana Libertarian Party needs to do is to realize that you aren’t going to bring in the extra voters we need by sitting behind a computer. We need to get out and meet people and explain who we are and what we believe in.