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May 27, 2008

Open Thread Question of the Day: Will the Barr/Root Ticket Help or Hurt the Libertarian Party?

by Stephen Littau

I think it’s too early to tell. There are some very legitimate concerns that many Libertarians have about Barr’s commitment to Libertarian principles. Barr defeated Ruwart 54% to 46% and I can tell you from being there that many of the delegates who supported Ruwart were very dissatisfied with the outcome. It’s very unclear to me whether Barr can win their support.

The main concerns Libertarians have (large L and small l) concern his congressional career, namely his support for the USA PATRIOT Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, and his work as a notable drug warrior. Barr has since denounced and apologized for these policies and is working toward their repeal.

The question Libertarians have to ask is whether or not this conversion is authentic or opportunistic. Personally, my approach is “trust but verify.” I am willing to take Barr at his word.

Why? He is a politician after all!

I truly think his conversion is authentic because people CAN and DO change. I have a great deal of respect for both Bob Barr and his running mate Wayne Allyn Root because they both admitted their mistakes and say they want to correct them rather than pretend that they were always staunch Libertarians all along. I’m sympathetic to this because I too have evolved a great deal in my thinking over the last year or so and have made a near 180 degree turn on certain critical issues (I’ll write a complete treatise on this someday soon).

If you believe that this conversion is opportunistic rather than authentic, then by all means I would urge you to not support Bob Barr. If, however; you do think this conversion is real and if you believe he does support the goals of less taxation, less government, and more freedom then I urge you to support Bob Barr in the general election.

Sure, many of Barr’s policies have been very destructive toward these ends but what do we gain by beating someone over the head for making mistakes one has apologized for and promises to make right. Isn’t the whole point of debate to persuade your opponents to your side? And who makes a better argument for a position than the converted?

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24 Comments

  1. I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head here. Especially this:

    “Sure, many of Barr’s policies have been very destructive toward these ends but what do we gain by beating someone over the head for making mistakes one has apologized for and promises to make right. Isn’t the whole point of debate to persuade your opponents to your side? And who makes a better argument for a position than the converted?”

    To which I would point out that one of the greatest problems libertarians often have is the meme that we just don’t live in the real world. Well, who better to destroy that argument than someone who once was one of the group making that argument? Who better to talk about the problems of the system than one who was part of the system?

    Comment by Mark — May 27, 2008 @ 12:28 pm
  2. I think that the LP will survive this ticket, but it will take some time for cleanup. It is the issues Barr refused to address that cause me much more concern than the ones he did address.

    Comment by Ayn R. Key — May 27, 2008 @ 1:11 pm
  3. Stephen,

    At this point, I’d say that there’s not really another candidate for libertarians (small or big L) to vote for besides Bob Barr, for those who choose to vote. So besides the standard protest of just staying home on Election Day, what are the absolute hardliners who can’t stomach his nomination going to do? Vote for McCain in protest? Write in Ron Paul or Mary Ruwart’s name in protest? What percentage of the vote would that really rob Barr of (taking into account past LP election returns)? Maybe .3%? That’s statistically insignificant…it’ll be fodder for people disconnected from reality to claim they snubbed what is essentially (at this point) a protest vote, and if .3% is enough to be noticeable in Barr’s results, then in 4 years nobody outside of the hardcore LP junkies is going to care.

    As for Barr, I have no doubt that on some issues he remains very conservative…too much for my liking (particularly on immigration, where I find his positions far too populist). But on other key issues (drug legalization, fiscal spending, civil liberties) he’s saying the right things, over the last two years he’s seemed genuinely committed to undoing the damage he did as a legislator, and (perhaps most importantly) he’s a competent campaigner (unlike so many other libertarians) who intends to try and win (and not just fundraise or play for a “moral victory”). Frankly, I don’t give a damn what a politician’s party affiliation is so long as the candidate’s pushing the right issues, plans to follow through on them and displays some competence and leadership. Barr’s doing that and currently he appears to be the best candidate in the 2008 presidential race, so I’m planning to vote for him whether he’s the perfect embodiment of “Libertarian Party ideals” or not.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 27, 2008 @ 1:43 pm
  4. Let’s put things in perspective here.

    The Libertarian Party hasn’t exactly been on the up-tick lately. In fact, I think you could make the case that the 2004 election, when Badarnik finished in 4th place behind Ralph Nader’s independent campaign, was a low-point so bad that the LP seemed like it wasn’t entirely relevant anymore.

    Like others, I do have concerns about the positions that Barr took while he was a Republican in Congress, but let’s think about that for a second.

    He’s talked more than once about his transition to the Libertarian Party, including at the convention, and while I was skeptical at first, I think that he really has changed his mind on several important issues.

    I think Mark has it right when he says:

    [W]ho better to destroy that argument than someone who once was one of the group making that argument? Who better to talk about the problems of the system than one who was part of the system?

    In some sense, it’s like Ron Paul’s 1988 candidacy on steroids. Back then, Ron Paul was a nobody. Yea, he was a former Republican Congressman who left the party to run for President, but he didn’t get much media attention.

    That certainly hasn’t been the case with Barr. Both because of his history and notoriety, the media has been covering him ever since he announced that he was leaving the GOP to join the LP.

    There is some value in that, for the movement if not the party.

    And, quite honestly, if it turns out that the story of November 2008 turns out to be how Bob Barr cost John McCain enough Electoral Votes to lose the Presidency, then, well, the GOP will have some serious thinking to do during it’s time in exile.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 27, 2008 @ 1:48 pm
  5. UCrawford,

    If the LP had nominated Mary Ruwart, I officially would have given up on them.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 27, 2008 @ 1:56 pm
  6. Doug,

    If the LP had nominated Mary Ruwart, I officially would have given up on them.

    The second she signed that “truther” statement, she was dead to me. As was every other one of the LP candidates who did the same.

    As for the LP, even now that’s definitely an uphill battle for them to be considered a serious political party, but nominating the Barr/Root faction of the party to lead was a big step in the right direction.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 27, 2008 @ 2:05 pm
  7. Doug,

    As for the spoiler factor…after a lot of consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that even though I don’t like a lot of Obama’s stated positions (particularly in regards to free trade and health care) and even though I won’t vote for him, I think he’s probably the lesser of two evils in this presidential election so I’m okay with casting my protest vote for Barr, costing McCain the election, and doing my small part to hopefully either a) spur the GOP to nominate candidates I can live with or b) convince the LP to get it’s act together and become a serious party…even if it means that Obama is our next president.

    Honestly, I find it highly unlikely that he will be worse than George W. Bush…even with a Democratic Congress. And if he’s as bad as Clinton was in his first two years, that’ll probably create some changes in Congress as well, as it did in 1994 (not a bad thing considering the current state of Congress).

    Comment by UCrawford — May 27, 2008 @ 2:13 pm
  8. UCrawford,

    The truther statement was the last straw.

    The first straw was the kiddie porn crap. Seriously, we don’t need a Presidential candidate defending the idea that 12 year olds have the mental capacity to consent to sex.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 27, 2008 @ 2:17 pm
  9. UCrawford,

    Your comments about Obama make a post I put up on my home site very relevant, so I’ll cross-post them here.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 27, 2008 @ 2:17 pm
  10. Stephen,

    One other thought.

    For me, the question isn’t so much whether the Barr/Root ticket helps the LP as whether it helps the fight to advance the cause of individual liberty.

    Given the fact that I see the GOP going down in flames in November at least on the Congressional/Senatorial level, I think the answer that question is yes.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 27, 2008 @ 2:27 pm
  11. Point taken Doug. I think I’m in full agreement with you and U.C. on this one.

    U.C.: what other candidates signed on to the truther statement? I know the truthers were there but they didn’t seem to have that large of a presence. Jason might have a better idea on that since he was voting on the platform.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — May 27, 2008 @ 3:00 pm
  12. Does anyone think that Barr will poll high enough to get into the debates? IF he does, I think he will have a huge impact on the race.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — May 27, 2008 @ 3:02 pm
  13. Stephen,

    Well, that depends. I think the League of Women Voters (which has usually sponsored the Presidential debates in the past) threshold has traditionally been 10%, but, ever since Perot, the Demoblicans have bypassed the LWV and set up their own debates so I’m not sure what the situation in 2008 will be.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — May 27, 2008 @ 3:14 pm
  14. Stephen,

    All of the Libertarian presidential candidates signed the “truther” statement except Barr, Root and Phillies.

    I don’t doubt that their presence was pretty small…to my mind that just made the signing of the statement all the more odious. They hacked off on a bunch of lunacy and lies for a handful of idiots who weren’t even a factor in the primary. So either they believed what the “truthers” were saying or they were pandering…either should be grounds for ridicule, derision, and exclusion from serious political debate.

    Does anyone think that Barr will poll high enough to get into the debates? IF he does, I think he will have a huge impact on the race.

    No clue, but I hope so.

    Comment by UCrawford — May 27, 2008 @ 3:26 pm
  15. Crawford and Doug,

    Ruwart was pushing the Twin Towers were destroyed by implosion bullshit at the convention.

    Doug,

    And, quite honestly, if it turns out that the story of November 2008 turns out to be how Bob Barr cost John McCain enough Electoral Votes to lose the Presidency, then, well, the GOP will have some serious thinking to do during it’s time in exile.

    That really worked for Republicans in 2006, but hopefully Barr will cost McLame the presidency.

    Comment by Kevin — May 27, 2008 @ 4:54 pm
  16. [...] Barr is interesting. I suspect he was always something of a constitutionalist and that thinking through the implications led him to think of himself as more libertarian. I think his conversion is mostly genuine, but I can understand those who have doubts. [...]

    Pingback by Horserace ‘08 » Blog Archive » Libertarians pick Bob Barr - OCRegister.com — May 27, 2008 @ 5:23 pm
  17. It will help the LP party destroy itself faster.

    Perhaps the political libertarians can stop making excuses as to why political means never seem to go in their favor, unless of course they start abandoning their principles & ideas for the sake of being more palatable.

    I guess in this case it means getting A republican on board (Barr), and Mike “:throws a rock in the lake:” Gravel.

    Who knows, maybe reformism will work this 2345th time? I mean it wouldn’t hurt, I guess.

    Comment by Nitroadict — May 27, 2008 @ 6:30 pm
  18. I am one of several Ron Paul Republicans who will vote for the libertarian Barr in November.

    So sorry GOP, you have failed us.

    Comment by Jonathan Hodges — May 27, 2008 @ 10:15 pm
  19. A flyer circulated at the Denver convention says, “LP Founder David Nolan is seeking election to the Libertarian National Committee. He is doing this because he believes we need a strong LNC that will work to rebuild party membership, keep the national headquarters staff under control, assure that all our public communications are LIBERTARIAN in their content, and support our national candidates whomever they turn out to be.

    “The sad fact is that membership is barely half what it was at the time of the Harry Browne campaign in 2000. Our national website is bland and boring. The national staff and many members of the current LNC have been blatantly biased in favor of one particular Presidential hopeful. It’s time for a change.”

    Obviously, the problems with membership leaving in droves because of corruption and compromise of principles did not start in 2004, nor in 2000. These problems were evident as far back as 1996, as Neil Smith and I wrote in considerable detail in the pages of The Libertarian Enterprise ncc-1776.org.

    For my own part, I have no plans to vote for Bob Barr. The Boston Tea Party is considering its own nominee for president. http://www.bostontea.us

    Comment by Jim Davidson — May 28, 2008 @ 3:53 am
  20. Whether or not Barr will help the LP has nothing to do with whether his conversion was sincere. It rather has to do with the message he promotes for the next 160 days.

    If he continues to promote the more popular elements of Paul’s message–out of Iraq, smaller Federal government, and Constitutional rights–he will have done his job.

    If the possible “spoiler” effect leads to more media attention than usual, then the campaign will be successful.

    What we should look for are polling “positives,” (I like what he says,) polling results (I would vote for him,) and the results in November. All equally measure what the campaign will accomplish.

    The major threat of the campaign is that Barr will begin to focus on anti-libertarian themes. This would make any attention he receives counterproductive. I think this is unlikely, which is why I support Barr.

    The minor threat is that when he is pulled off message that he will give anti-libertarian answers to questions. I think this will happen sometimes. His off message responses will sometimes be better and othertimes worse. I believe that his current plan of following Paul in promoting federalism on controversial social issues is acceptable. In my opinion, the best answers, however, would express a personal opinion that governments at all levels should stay out of it. It is here that I see the minor “threat.”

    Gay marriage and abortion are highly controversial issues within the LP and the libertarian movement. Any candidate would have problems with those issues. Some of the opposition to Barr just refelcted the usual conflicts. While the “radicals” used these issues to try to stop Barr, it is normal. The people who reject Barr for these reasons would reject Paul too.

    The drug war, however, is different. This has been a major campaign issue for LP national
    candidates for many years. Browne made it a major theme. I think Barr’s general message is fine. The Drug War is failed and we need something new. No federal interference with states that liberalize drug laws. Stop interfering with states that legalize medical marijuana as an example. But, of course, prying journalists will want to know more. In
    my opinion, the best answer is omething like, “I’ve come to see that drug prohibition today is no more effective than alchohol prohibition in the twenties.” But, instead,
    we may here again, “I wouldn’t vote to legalize crack and meth.” It is not the end of the world, but not good.

    However, many libertarians insist that ending the drug war be a major capaign them. I disagree with that. It wasn’t a major them for Paul. And getting Paul voters should be the key focus of the 2008 race.

    Comment by Bill Woolsey — May 28, 2008 @ 5:04 am
  21. I’m another Ron Paul Republican that will gladly cast his vote for Bob Barr.

    The GOP has shot itself in the foot and is now looking around for the guilty party. While they search, I’m moving to the LP candidate.

    Comment by Carlene — May 29, 2008 @ 6:36 am
  22. Does anyone know where the official campaign site of Libertarian ticket Barr/Root is? I have not been able to find the official website of BarrRoot08 Ive been to
    http://www.BarrRoot.com
    wwwBarrRoot08.com
    the websites dont exist? Can any one tell me where the official BarrRoot site is? what I know of bob barr (which is very little) I like. I dont know much about wayne root. So I can figure out why they dont have theyre site up yet? If any one can tell me which BarrRoot2008 site is active Id be glad to hear from you thanks. However I did find an anti Mccain site called http://www.McCanes.com I already knew I wasnt voting for McCain but that site settled it in my mind. If anyone knows of the official libertarian party website let me know.

    Comment by charles — May 29, 2008 @ 3:10 pm
  23. Charles:

    The official Bob Barr website is http://www.bobbarr2008.com

    As for W.A.R., he still has his campaign website up at http://www.rootforamerica.com with the announcement that he was chosen as Barr’s running mate.

    Comment by Stephen Littau — May 29, 2008 @ 3:18 pm
  24. okay, lotsa talk here.

    If we are gonna survive, we must find an issue about which we can focus. I submit that issue is economic collapse – collapse of our dollar – and all the implications of that.

    If we Libertarians can’t get it together, what good are we to this world? Our time is here!

    http://morality101.net/blog/2008/05/29/barr-root_one-issue/

    Comment by Striker — May 29, 2008 @ 9:07 pm

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