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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Is Bob Barr a threat to John McCain?

Bob_barr_2008 There have been countless articles on newly elected Libertarian Party leader Bob Barr, but there is something uniquely authoritative about the Economist that makes it worth citing:

On May 25th a dysfunctional minor party picked a grumpy ex-Republican as its presidential candidate. This may be just another quirk in the quirky history of the Libertarian Party. But it just might be something more than this: a further sign that the Republican coalition is splintering under John McCain's feet.

Of course, next to the Economist, I trust the insights of Western Standard writers. Read what Marc Emery, Peter Jaworski and Kalim Kassam have said about the Bob Barr.

Posted by Matthew Johnston on May 29, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink


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If Barr is going to hurt McCain, why is McCain pulling away from Barack Obama in the Rasmussen poll?

Posted by: D.J. McGuire | 2008-05-29 10:09:15 PM

Well, first, the Economist might be wrong, DJ. And, second, he only won the leadership contest last weekend. Give him some time to get organized before you write him off.

Can someone explain to me why he chose Wayne Allyn Root as his running mate, and why he made his decision so quickly?

Was he healing Party wounds?

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-29 10:30:56 PM

Great analysis, Kalim. Thanks. I think the strategy of targeting conservatives is sound, but why not someone like Buchanan as a running mate? Perhaps someone from the paleo-conservative movement would have been too offensive to LP members.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-29 11:48:01 PM

Sorry Matthew, I deleted my comment but here it is again so that this thread makes sense
I'm not sure why Barr chose W.A.R as his running mate so quickly, I haven't read anything which would suggest that there was a prior arrangement. He certainly wasn't healing party wounds, if he wanted to do that he would have picked Steve Kubby who is from the radical wing of the party and is perceived to have much more credibility on the drug prohibition issue.

A number of commentators who were happy with Barr as the nominee noted that for the purposes of party unity, Kubby would have been a better choice. In fact since many delegates had similar apprehensions about both former Republicans, it was as if he was pouring salt into some deep wounds which arose from a very divisive convention. If you recall, there were rumours of a walk-out if Barr was nominated just like 1983.

I suspect that Barr endorsed Root for VP because he fit best into the electoral strategy which Barr wants to pursue which is to target the conservative and disenchanted Republican vote. If Barr figured that many conservatives would be turned off of voting for a marijuana activist who needs to smoke weed to stay alive, he was probably right.

You can watch his endorsement from the convention here:

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-05-29 11:52:54 PM

There are a number of reasons why having a paleoconservative VP would not work, make sense, or even be possible:

1. There already is a party with a paleoconservative candidate: the Constitution Party with Chuck Baldwin. If paleos are looking for one of their own to vote for, that's probably where they'll turn.

2. Barr and Root both barely passed the LP purity test, someone like Patrick Buchanan would never make it. He doesn't call himself a libertarian, nor does he have any claim to be one.

3. Someone with anti free-trade views like Buchanan and other paleos would be unpopular not only with many libertarians, but with many pro-business and free-market conservatives (think Club for Growth). Root, a small-business owner himself, is a much better fit for that group.

4. Buchanan is a very cogent critic of American empire, he writes one of the best columns on the topic of foreign policy and brings up his criticisms frequently on MSNBC. Though Barr has stood against nation-building for all of his career, he (like Root) is a Johnny-come-lately to the non-interventionist position. From what I've seen so far, Barr doesn't want to talk about foreign policy issues like blowback when discussing Iraq and Afghanistan, but prefers to take the fiscally conservative "we just can't afford it" line. This is probably a wise tack if he's trying to attract the large group of mainstream conservatives who can't stomach McCain's views on campaign finance reform or global warming policy etc, but aren't quite with the LP on foreign policy (again, think Club for Growth).

4. I'm pretty sure Buchanan is done with politics. He said as much at the end of this interview with Ali G: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwEd_tcKBfU . Also a reasonable person can't write a book about how WWII was an "unnecessary war" and then expect to ever have a career in politics again.

5. It was impossible. There are probably very few paleoconservatives in the LP and there were none running for VP. The only way this could have happened would be if NOTA (none of the above) won and the VP was selected after the convention. Interestingly, there was a small campaign for NOTA with the intention that Ron Paul could be chosen for VP after the GOP national convention.

Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2008-05-30 12:18:24 AM

I am a LP member and was at the convention in Denver. As far as WR is concerned, the party picks the VP not the presidential nominee. Barr was far from the concensus choice. It took six votes to get him in. It came down to Barr (37%), Mary Rewart (38%) and WR (25%). Barr and Root cut a deal. Root endorsed Barr for Pres and Barr endorsed root for VP. The hard core LP'ers were disgusted as they wanted Rewart who was considered the "pure" candidate. I personally would have loved to have a female, but she is a research scientist, not a politician or saleswoman. Those that are really upset about this outcome tend to be the most extreme of the party. In a sense, their distancing themselves from Barr/Root helps Barr/Root by making Barr/Root appear more "mainstream."

Posted by: Greg D. | 2008-05-30 7:39:38 AM

Thanks for that first hand account and explaination, Greg D.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-05-30 9:46:49 AM

Bob who?

Posted by: Epsilon | 2008-05-30 10:08:04 AM

I was involved with Canada's first Libertarian Party formation (Libertarian Alternative - Alberta 1973), held elected office for 9 years in local Government on Vancouver Island and have come to agree with the thinking that Libertarians are generally not suited for the political process. Libertarian philosophy is best implemented by real politicians / leaders a la Reagan / Thatcher. Any measurable support gained in libertarian ideas reflected by polling will be unashamedly assimilated by traditional party policies (poling whores). The residual value in a Libertarian Party is to further the cause/name recognition. However, given the burn-out rate of Party activists and near-static real voter support, I question that use as well. Would liberty be better served if say, that energy otherwise directed to the LP was focused on dissemination of libertarian ideas through Think Tanks, Blogs, Papers, Media, Journals, action groups keeping the heat on PMSH for example?

Some thoughts from a recovering politician.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2008-05-30 11:53:17 AM

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