[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]
While I think the primary focus of libertarian activism should be on rendering society ungovernable (via education and building alternative institutions) rather than on electoral politics, unlike my more austere agorist comrades I still see libertarian political campaigns as serving a legitimate and useful auxiliary role – and so I still care about the fate of the Libertarian Party, whose presidential nominating convention begins this week.
It looks like the convention will decide not just the nominee but the future of the party: will it return to its principles by nominating a radical libertarian like Mary Ruwart (my preference – see my statement on her endorsements page) or Steve Kubby, or will it allow itself to be highjacked by the right, the result for which Bob Barr’s forces appear to be scheming? (See this press release from the party’s founder about the shenanigans of the Barr forces.) This may well be the starkest choice the party has faced.
Barr is positioning himself as the natural continuator of the Ron Paul Revolution; but for all my problems with Ron Paul he is far more solidly libertarian than Barr, who favours an aggressive foreign policy (albeit in Latin America rather than the Middle East) and still supports drug prohibition (albeit at the state rather than the federal level). It will be ironic if the Ron Paul Revolution, by bringing disaffected Republicans into the LP, contributes to the effective destruction of the Libertarian Party.
Agorist Demerit Count: 2
Mary would wonderfully represent the Libertarian Party in the presidential election. I got to know her in 2004, when after using her classic “Healing our World” as a civics text while teaching school in India, I recruited her interest in the FLOW movement founded by Whole Foods CEO and libertarian John Mackey. While Mary’s pure in libertarianism, her approach is quite conscious and could appeal to the cultural creatives, whom some demographers say are the fastest growing demographic. She has crossover appeal, in other words. Think how wonderful that could be for the LP. She keeps the base of the party, while bringing some of the anti-war progressives initially attracted to the Ron Paul movement, and also invites into her Big Tent progressives attracted to her soft touch. I blogged about this at http://dcflow.gaia.com/blog and invite comments.
If she wins, she should recruit as her VP John Mackey (Whole Foods CEO) or former New Mexico GOP Governor Gary Johnson (who’s also a libertarian).
I basically agree with your analysis except the last sentence: it isn’t Ron Paul Republicans who are causing the problem. They are, by and large, sticking with Paul in the Republican party, at least for the time being.
Moreover, Paul supporters have no interest in an interventionist foreign policy or continuation of the drug war at any level. Although many Barr supporters are acting as if Barr is somehow our chance to tap the Ron Paul Revolution, the Ron Paul Nation site’s polls suggest that most of Paul’s activist support consists of people who’d never voted Republican in their life and, interestingly, most of them are pro-choice, and quite a large percentage pro-immigration.
In fact, Ruwart is the candidate who would most appeal to the Ron Paul Youth: these people call themselves Revolutionaries (with love, of course), and are not offended by radicalism: they are offended by political compromisers, flip-floppers, and hypocrites. Her other links to Paul are stronger than Barr’s: Barr was actually on the opposite side of Paul on most of the key issues of the last several years, while Paul endorsed Ruwart’s libertarian primer and lobbied to get her the post of FDA Commissioner.
So the irony is that Barr is the worst possible candidate for the LP to nominate if we want to cash in on the Ron Paul Revolution, and Ruwart the best. A true opportunist should be supporting Ruwart.
Here’s why I support Barr.
Of all the atrocities of Big Government, the one we’re most likely to roll back–in the short-term–is this monstrous War in Iraq. It costs $120 billion a year; it has killed or injured hundreds of thousands of Iraqi persons and American troops; it has made the world poorer, more unstable, more dangerous.
The LP needs to concentrate on things it CAN do. One thing it CAN do is educate. But this time, it CAN do something more. We can make it marginally less-likely that the warmonger John McCain is the next president. This is a chance to save lives, help America regain its footing, advance the cause of peace, and WE CAN STILL EDUCATE.
I have no illusions about Barack Obama. He might not cut the size of domestic government. We might not radically reduce our non-Iraq international commitments. But he sure as hell will try to get us out the desert. And this is good for everyone–except the neo-cons.
Would I love to see someone spitting 180-proof libertarianism, like Harry Browne, and getting the media coverage of a 2000 Nader or an ’08 Ron Paul? Fo shizzle!
But look, there are times in history in which you have to make a wee sacrifice for a greater good. Getting out of Iraq is the Greater Good. Getting Obama elected is the sacrifice. Bob Barr is God’s tool. He’s still a tool, but he could hasten peace. And that’s what matters, Professor Long.