This article was originally published in the Sept. 2015 issue of LP News (page 11).
Alive Free Happy founders Jason Wu (left) and Boomer Shannon (middle, back) work the crowd at the Palos Verdes Estates street fair in Los Angeles County.
Jason Wu and Matthew “Boomer” Shannon know how to have fun while helping young people develop marketable skills and activating new Libertarian volunteers.
Now in their twenties, Wu and Shannon have been active with the LP since their teens, and were elected in May to the LPCA Executive Committee. They’re recruiting other young activists in droves with their friendly style, calling their growing social network of activists “Alive Free Happy.”
“It was a matter of reaching a tipping point,” Wu said at a local gathering of Libertarians. “At first it was a handful of us working on [California ballot initiative] ‘Regulate Marijuana Like Wine,’ then it started to take off.”
Wu, Shannon, and their crew hold regular social events as one of their recruiting methods.
“It started casually,” Shannon said. “We would hang out together. We are all friends, and in between petitioning missions, we would have a good time playing board games and whatnot. Before we knew it, more of our friends were also hanging out and in no time were identifying as Libertarians themselves. Those friends started bringing more friends and now we are hurting; we have run out of space.”
“It’s not just game time,” Wu said, “Some of these guys are developing professionally thanks to local members willing to mentor them. Our hard work on the streets got the attention of some really talented members established in their professions — Libertarians who saw potential for more than activism out of these young folks.”
Shannon, who previously served a term as the LPCA Southern Vice Chair, said that more than one college-aged activist has gone from rags to riches, thanks to the skills they picked up from their group’s support.
“Networking is powerful stuff,” he said. “These guys learn early how to talk to people by doing tabling. Either hawking a petition or doing an Operation Politically Homeless booth, we get our new guys calling out to people to take our quiz, while others help prospects score themselves. After learning how to break down the barriers of reaching for a goal, these young activists get primed for wanting to succeed in more, and they do.”
More seasoned Libertarians also participate with the group’s outreach.
“Older Libertarians are important for inculcating the new young prospects with Libertarian philosophy and applying it effectively to campaigns,” Wu said. “We always have an anchor guy, someone to talk more in-depth about libertarianism, with those who show more interest.”
To Wu and Shannon, closing the deal on a new prospect means making a friend who has promised to come to their next meeting or gathering. They even have a maxim to guide them: Politics is about people, and the number one skill for success is making friends.
“We don’t argue with them or tell them where they are wrong when we do the World’s Smallest Political Quiz,” Wu noted. “We tell them why we are alike. We also tell them about the beautiful world we might live in if we were more free. People already know that the system is rotten; we don’t have to sell that. What people really want to know is that we have a plan.”
Alive Free Happy members are aiming high for the coming election cycle. Their group of activists is lining up venues for getting party members together and talking strategy. The Southern California Regional Conference is one such project they have been involved in for the last seven years.
“It’s the members that make the wins in a party. We have to keep recruiting and building our base or we are sunk,” Wu said.
“Everything we do involves us having a pool of people,” he continued. “We want to recruit candidates, but it is only from membership we can do that. Without membership, we have no donors or anything. It is activism that draws in the people and it is activism that moves the wheels of a campaign,” Shannon said.
Shannon has worked as a professional political consultant and was the campaign manager for several moderately funded LP campaigns, including the Steve Collett for 32nd Congressional in 2012 and a special election for the 36th Congressional in 2011. He was also the assistant state coordinator for a marijuana ballot initiative.
“When you have a small army of determined young activists you can do a lot with very little,” he said. “We didn’t win those campaigns, but we did build a remarkable group that is only getting bigger by the day. Next year, in 2016, we are going to have a lot of support for our candidates.”
Wu added, “By resolutely filling the ballot with Libertarian candidates, the state that leads the country in members hopes to once again lead the country in election success.”