The Shotgun Blog
Friday, July 11, 2008
Time on libertarianism & Bob Barr & Ron Paul
Time magazine delves into an odd fact about this year: The rise of libertarianism. "Maybe you haven't heard," writes Nathan Thornburgh for Time, "but this is the year of freedom."
The article, entitled "The (Not So) Lunatic Fringe," cites only electoral politics references to prove the thesis. "First there was the Ron Paul revolution, in which an avuncular 10-term Representative from Brazoria County, Texas, raised more than $34 million as a pseudo-Republican candidate, garnered more than a million primary votes and outperformed Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson, all on the back of a get-government-off-my-back platform. Now there's the Libertarian Party, which sold a little bit of its hard-line liberty-loving soul in exchange for the most respectable candidate it has ever had: recently converted former Republican Congressman Bob Barr, who's polling nationally near 6% and could conceivably Naderize John McCain in a few key states and help nudge the presidency to Barack Obama."
It's true. Ron Paul whooped Giuliani and Thompson, even if he didn't win in the end. "America's mayor" and a man with huge name recognition thanks to his role as D.A. in the popular TV series Law & Order, couldn't muster more support than "Dr. No," a congressman renowned for voting down just about every piece of legislation and every bill that went to Congress.
Meanwhile, Bob Barr's poll numbers are beginning to look surprisingly good. Take a look at the break down. Already, McCain's supporters are busy blaming Barr for losing an election that hasn't yet been had. If Barr hits 10 per cent in a national poll, he'll get into the debates. And if Barr gets into the debates, the Republicans will be in serious trouble. Maybe that's why Republicans are keeping their mouths shut about Barr, and why McCain is awkward as all hell when Barr's name is mentioned.
But, of course, there's a difference between the electoral libertarians and other libertarians. There's a difference between the Reason/Cato/Penn & Teller kind of libertarians and the Lew Rockwell and Ron Paul kind of libertarians. Sometimes they'll argue about who is the "real" libertarian, but that's just nonsense. Both wings count as libertarian, even though they have different reasons for wanting small government, individual liberty, private property protection, and so on.
So this bit from the article doesn't do justice to the many reasons libertarians have for wanting to see more individual liberty: "This sense that progress has gone too far and too fast unites a large swath of Libertarians from coast to coast. To many, modernity just means having our daily lives ruled by mechanisms that have grown so complex that they are beyond comprehension or control. It's a notion that bonds anti-WTO progressives and anti-U.N. conservatives alike--and if the party has any real hope of becoming powerful, those seemingly disparate points on the political continuum will have to get closer."
It's hard to square these luddite libertarians with the Milton Friedman and Virginia Postrel types of libertarians. They both want individual liberty, but the former want it so they can slow things down and prevent at least some forms of progress, while the latter are all about progress and, to use a memorable word from Postrel's book, "dynamism." But nowhere does Time mention that this newly-popular version of libertarianism is different from what used to be the most popular version of libertarianism, spurned on by the square-jawed, individualist, and progress-oriented heroes and heroines found in the pages of Rand's The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged.
But never mind. This article is about electoral politics, after all, and not political philosophy. And as far as electoral politics goes, Libertarians have the best opportunity they have ever had. In part, this is because, over time, what Barr called the McBama Party--a play on McCain and Obama intended to convey the message that they're just two sides of the same coin--is becoming a reality. "The current general election has seemed at times a contest about who can crib off the other party's platform more, from McCain's enthusiasm for using government to fight global warming to Obama's hedging on warrantless wiretapping."
And those are just two examples of a general trend. Obama's rhetoric is turning right, while McCain is emphasizing what we've already known, that he's no conservative Republican.
Will Libertarians do well in this election? I don't know. But I certainly hope so.
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I think Paul should run on the LP ticket with Barr. The current Vp root just doesnt even make the news. No one even knows who he is. He can go to http://www.BarrPaul08.com
Sign the petition asking the LP to put Paul on ticket. I was also wondering if anyone thinks that T. Boone Pickets Plan and energy campaign is going to have any effect on the election?? Maybe boone and Paul should team up.?? If you dont know about boones plan you can go to http://www.tboonpickens.com
Posted by: John | 2008-07-11 1:05:36 PM
"If Barr hits 10 per cent in a national poll, he'll get into the debates."
Almost right - If Barr polls "no less than 10 percent of the voting age population intending to vote, as measured by at least three nationally-recognized public opinion surveys" he'll get into the Google/Youtube presidential debate in New Orleans on September 18th. Then it gets a little tougher, the next 3 presidential debates (on September 26, October 7th, and October 15th) are sponsored by the Commission of Presidential Debates, which was created and is still controlled by the Republican and Democratic Parties. The CPD will require Barr (or any other 3rd party candidate) to be polling an average of 15% to get in.
It's no cake-walk, but Barr's looking like he's got a chance of getting into the debates. He's quickly climbing in the polls, he may have the support of Obama and the Dems since he's being viewed as a spoiler for McCain, and McCain and the GOP haven't (yet) showed any indication that they'll try to sabotage his campaign by keeping him off the ballot or out of the debates as the Dems have done to Nader in the last couple elections.
Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-07-11 1:50:58 PM
The biggest obstacle Barr has is the belief among many that he has no chance and is just a spoiler who will make Obama win. If people would get past this mindset (perhaps consider McCain a Barr spoiler) I think it would be amazing. To anyone witholding support from Barr because of spoiler concerns, please *act* like a Barr support in polls and otherwise at least until election day. If Barr is still low in the polls, then go ahead and vote for the lesser of the evils.
Posted by: Chuck | 2008-07-11 2:20:42 PM
Just as I was puzzling over the strange and uncharacteristic GOP behaviour which I mentioned in that last sentence, from the Bob Barr 2008 blog comes this quotation by Russ Verney, Barr's campaign manager (he played the same role in Ross Perot's campaign):
"Republicans are trying not to acknowledge Barr is a candidate in hopes of denying him news coverage while at the same time they are using his candidacy to establish a scapegoat for losing the election four months before a single vote has been cast."
Since Barr is polling highest in key swing states, the GOP are not going to be able to keep the media from chattering about him more and more. It won't be long until the current line changes. On MSNBC's Morning Joe, here's what John McBlinky claimed he had to say to Bob Barr: "Welcome, I look forward to his campaign, come on in the race, it's fine, I'm confident that at the end of the day Republicans, and Democrats, and independents, and libertarians and vegetarians will vote for me."
The youtube of the very uncomfortable looking McCain is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcvarOa9Va4
Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-07-11 2:20:55 PM
It's curious, Kalim. I'm sort of wondering what will happen over time. I mention it in my post above, but it's worth repeating: "Maybe that's why Republicans are keeping their mouths shut about Barr, and why McCain is awkward as all hell when Barr's name is mentioned."
Link 1 was to Politico on GOPpers staying mum about Barr, and Link 2 was to the video you cited.
It'll be an interesting race to watch.
Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-07-11 2:28:07 PM
If McCain picks Romney I will vote Republican. If not I am voting for Barr.
Posted by: larry | 2008-07-11 6:37:02 PM
One line of reasoning that I have heard is that the Dems will inevitably take the country to new lows through Congress and Republicans will wear it if they have the White House so why not vote for Barr and let the Dems wear responsibility for the backslide. The GOP supporters are then saving face until 2012 (2010 for Congress) while elevating Libertarian name recognition.
Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-07-11 10:01:40 PM
If libertarians want to influence policy, it seems that they, as "social-liberals," "war-liberals," and "economic-conservatives," would have much more success by, instead of running 3rd party candidates, becoming an organized interest group that, on a race-by race basis, can legitimately threaten to support either the Democratic or Republican candidate on the basis of their support for those libertarian positions that are more acceptable to their respective parties (e.g., vote for the Republican if his trade stance is more libertarian than is the Democrat's drug war stance). Back "spread-the-message candidates," like Ron Paul, in the primaries, but once he loses, adopt the "interest group" strategy." At a minimum, vie with "Soccer Moms," "Office Park Dads," and "Security Moms," etc. for "swing voter" status. Or, there's always the option of powerless purity :)
Posted by: Interloper | 2008-07-12 10:48:41 AM
I see the motivation, Interloper, but why not do both? Vote for pro-liberty candidates, and engage in special interest group sorts of things?
One reason not to do both is because libertarians might lose the influence they would otherwise have as special interest group types if the major parties already know that these people won't vote for them anyways. And that's a reason to ignore these types.
Still, I think a lot of people get motivated by electoral politics. And while it may not lead to the best outcome of all--more liberty!--it might still interest and engage more people overall.
Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-07-16 9:45:55 AM
I like Wayne Allyn Root and think he will be a great Vice President. It was Root that made me realize I was a Libertarian. I now support Bob Barr and hope he wins by a landslide.
Posted by: Michael Micelli | 2008-07-28 8:06:44 PM
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