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June 11, 2008

Stormfront, Ron Paul, and Bob Barr — aka Why I Hate Politics

by Brad Warbiany

Yes, I hate politics. That may surprise some of you. After all, I administer The Liberty Papers, and you’d be likely to wonder why someone who administers a political blog can hate politics so much. But politics is a dirty, nasty business, and nothing makes that more clear than the Stormfront fiasco.

Back in the thick of the Republican nomination process, Don Black of a racist group called Stormfront donated $500 to Ron Paul’s campaign, and the campaign kept the money. At the time, they were widely criticized for this decision, largely by other libertarians (including a few who contribute to this blog). I myself tried to stay out of the fray, but eventually penned a post discussing why I thought Ron Paul was morally correct but politically inept. I specifically stated that the money in Ron Paul’s hands is a lot more of a force for good than the money in Don Black’s hands. Ron Paul would be likely to put it to a more liberty-friendly use than Don Black, and thus he was morally correct to keep the money and not return it to Black. But from a political standpoint, keeping the money raises a lot of questions about whether or not it means Ron Paul actually agrees with Don Black, even though his history shows that he doesn’t. And it was Ron Paul’s attempt to play by moral rules rather than political rules that scuttled his campaign. That’s why I hate politics.

You see, in politics the rules don’t follow logic, nor ethics, and certainly don’t reward honesty. Ron Paul made a cardinal sin, not only in this instance, but in his entire campaign– he actually stated what he believes! You see, Ron Paul is a principled and honest person, and was more than willing to treat potential voters like adults. He’s willing to explain what he believes and then explain why. And that just doesn’t fly in the political arena.

Ron Paul would tell you what he thought on most issues. On half of his issues, it annoyed conservatives and made them think he wasn’t “one of them”. On the other half, it annoyed libertarians and made them think he wasn’t “one of them”. For law-and-order conservatives, the idea that we should scrap the PATRIOT act and RealID, end the war on drugs, and no longer act as the world’s policeman made them think Ron Paul was “soft”. For libertarians (a movement known for cannibalizing their own), his positions on immigration and abortion were a major sticking point, making many believe that he was libertarian on many issues but not quite libertarian “enough”. Each time he opened his mouth, he alienated another voting bloc, simply by being honest about his principles.

Contrast this with Bob Barr. I suggested when I saw Barr’s appearance on The Colbert Report that I thought his response to the question about the war on drugs was duplicitous. He could clearly have stated that he was against the war on drugs as an infringement of personal liberty. But that might have scared away the conservatives. He could have claimed that the war on drugs should be fought on the state and local level, where it would be more effective than at the federal level, but that would have caused us more doctrinaire libertarians to believe his conversion wasn’t genuine. So he tried to play the middle ground and claim the “current” war on drugs isn’t working, but without really stating any belief.

And it worked! In the comments to my post, I saw different readers interpret his response through their own ideological spectrum. He was able to play the middle ground with his answer, and everyone came off thinking that he agreed with their own preconceived notions. In fact, this is what makes Barack Obama such a masterful politician. In the early months of the Democratic nomination process, he was very bland about wanting “change” but without really getting into definite principles. I heard libertarians, Republicans, and Democrats who all interpreted his comments as if he would pursue policies similar to what they desired.

Which brings me back to Bob Barr and Stormfront. Stormfront attempted to donate to Barr’s campaign, to see what would occur (and likely, to try to gain publicity for themselves). Bob Barr played the political side of this to the book. In fact, he overplayed it. Listen to the tone of his campaign’s response to Stormfront (which drew praise from my fellow contributor Doug):

The Barr campaign is not going to be a vehicle for every fringe and hate group to promote itself. We do not want and will not accept the support of haters. Anyone with love in their heart for our country and for every resident of our country regardless of race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation is welcome with open arms.

Tell the haters I said don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your way out!

Particularly in that last sentence, you see the “Look at how politically smart we are! We hate racists as much as fellow libertarians do!” tone. Which is fine, and which is how I’d hope a campaign to feel about giving the donation back. But the self-congratulatory nature of the statement was purely for political effect.

Bob Barr understand the rules of politics much better than Ron Paul. He follows the rules, and those people who accept the “game” applaud him for playing it well. Ron Paul rejects the rules of the game, and acts accordingly. This caused his supporters to respect him, but they never quite realized that his refusal to play by the rules wouldn’t inspire quite the same response in non-politicos.

The political game is pure farce from start to finish. To win, you need to be a megalomaniacal sociopath. You need to care more about winning than about principle. You need to be a chameleon, telling every group you’re in front of that you’re going to do exactly what they expect you to do. And above all, you need to hide your true beliefs, because every expression of opinion turns off some voters.

So where do I stand this political cycle? I don’t care which unprincipled chameleon gets elected. I simply don’t believe either of them are the lesser of evils. They’re just taking us down a different lane on the highway to ruin.

My personal goal here at The Liberty Papers is to point out that the system itself is flawed. I do my best to try not to blog about elections; rather I point out that elections aren’t actually going to solve the problem the candidates promise to solve. We’ll never get out of this hole by trying to elect a savior. Rather, we need to understand that the government can’t save us, and get off our asses and do it ourselves.

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34 Comments

  1. Brad,

    Excellent post. I think you hit the nail squarely on the head.

    That said, a vote for McCain is still a vote for fascism :)

    Comment by UCrawford — June 11, 2008 @ 9:57 pm
  2. True that. 2 party system sucks.

    Comment by DA — June 11, 2008 @ 10:07 pm
  3. none of this matters anymore. i suggest you get your household affairs as liquid as possible right now. as in, before the Summer is over. nothing has to do with Paul for awhile now. this nation is truly in emergency times, moreso than the actual 911. you should be looking after your own right now. earnestly preparing for emergency times is the best you can do right now, and that includes shifting your investment portfolio into the most value-sustaining position now.

    Comment by oilnwater — June 11, 2008 @ 10:29 pm
  4. Thank you. Posts like this keep a glimmer of hope left in me for our society. I do disagree with the “lesser of two evils” though. I, of course, could be wrong, but when I hypothesize about what will be 10 years from now, I see a lesser evil. I feared Hillary the most. McCain was second. And the winner, by a landslide, for the least evil goes to Obama.

    Comment by Joe B — June 11, 2008 @ 10:40 pm
  5. Bravo!

    Comment by Tatonka — June 11, 2008 @ 11:16 pm
  6. Wow, for the first time in a year, someone nails the reasons Ron Paul has such a tremendous bloc of support. Good article. Insightful, too.

    Comment by Matt — June 12, 2008 @ 12:11 am
  7. Superb.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — June 12, 2008 @ 5:08 am
  8. [...] Warbiany tells “Why I hate politics” on TheLibertyPapers.org, and uses as his example how the two campaigns reacted to donations [...]

    Pingback by Third Party Watch » Blog Archive » The difference between Paul and Barr — June 12, 2008 @ 5:34 am
  9. I am so qouting you the next time someone accuses me of being unpatriotic by supporting Ron Paul. Thanks for being sane.

    Comment by Brandy B — June 12, 2008 @ 5:41 am
  10. Brad,

    Not a bad post… In my view it’s rather funny to note that this blogg is called Liberty Papers when many of the very posts are an attack on the only man who supports true liberty. This time the expression of why is postive.

    Only Paul!

    Comment by Darel — June 12, 2008 @ 5:44 am
  11. Darel,

    I don’t want to speak for Brad but I think what he’s really saying is that achieving “true liberty” (however that may be defined) isn’t something that you can achieve politically.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — June 12, 2008 @ 6:48 am
  12. Brad,

    Apropos of your comment about Barr’s statements about the drug war on The Colbert Report, you might want to check this out:

    http://tinyurl.com/5wjujb

    Yes, it’s largely a utilitarian argument rather than a moral one, but there are a lot of people who became libertarians for utilitarian reasons and reject moral arguments for liberty. Ludwig von Mises and Fredrich Hayek come to mind.

    More importantly, I think more Americans are going to be convinced on drug legalization by pointing out that it doesn’t work rather than by an argument that starts out by saying people have a moral right to inject heroin into their veins.

    Yea, it’s politics, but that’s the world we’ve been living in for a long time and I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon.

    I’ll have more to say about this, probably in post form, later today.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — June 12, 2008 @ 7:05 am
  13. Brad,

    You said: “We’ll never get out of this hole by trying to elect a savior. Rather, we need to understand that the government can’t save us, and get off our asses and do it ourselves.”

    This is the nub of the reason why I am a Ron Paul supporter. He was the only candidate promising to keep Government from running in to “save” us every time there was a problem. Whether he could actually keep such a promise will be left as an exercise for the student.

    Every other candidate was/is promising to “save” us from whatever demon fear they think is going to motivate us the greatest. It isn’t that the politician lies about his intensions and plans, it’s that he lies about the nature and severity of the problem(s) so that the stated plans and intentions look like reasonable responses.

    On the economy, Ron Paul has correctly identified the problem: an out-of-control Federal Reserve printing more money than there are goods and services in the country. In such an environment, prices of all things must rise, especially those things which are imported.

    I think his lack of ability to sugar-coat his prescriptions is due to his medical training. Doctors are trained to not manipulate paitents into making good medical decisions and to give factual information to whatever questions the patient has.

    I don’t think it’s in Dr. Paul’s nature to give the weasely middle-of-road answer (I’m not trying to say anything bad about Bob Barr’s answer; I’m just pointing out what I have observed about Ron Paul from his record.)

    Later.

    Comment by Kevin Houston — June 12, 2008 @ 7:09 am
  14. Kevin,

    The other side of the coin, though, is that there are some people (and I won’t count you among them) who had a near-messianic view of Ron Paul.

    There’s an idea that I’ve run into, especially from some of the, shall I say more vociferous commentators to nearly every Ron Paul post I’ve written (positive or negative) that “only” Ron Paul can save America, typified most recently by a Lew Rockwell post I wrote about here:

    http://tinyurl.com/5cueh6

    When I read the sentence from Brad’s post that you quoted, I take from it the lesson that no one man is essential to the battle to preserve freedom.

    Not even Ron Paul.

    Comment by Doug Mataconis — June 12, 2008 @ 7:13 am
  15. I’ve often said, anyone who wants to be elected (to any office) shows, by that want, that they aren’t qualified for the job.

    Comment by tfr — June 12, 2008 @ 7:16 am
  16. I’m not really able to find anything of consequence in this post with which I disagree.

    I’ve made the precise same point about allowing others to project onto one’s vague ‘feel good’ rhetoric whatever they wish to convince themselves that you stand with them, and how clearly it operated with Ross Perot whose popularity peaked when he explained very clearly how everything was screwed up and then declined every time he opened his mouth and alienated those initially attracted to him as he stated a specific policy position (most of which were pretty flaky because Perot didn’t have any consistent framework or set of general principles from which he was operating, just a box of disconnected cobbled-together band-aids.)

    I would add that while for the typical older ‘non-politico’ voter the rules of the game work pretty much as stated, it was paradoxically Paul’s refreshing candor of speaking the truth as he saw it in each and every instance, that MADE him so attractive to the core constituency of young people whose political views range across the traditional political spectrum. They are used to honesty in all other aspects of life and find the flagrant lies and machinations of the politicians to be intolerable.

    (Paul had the older libertarians and Taft Old Right Republicans from the outset because we knew him and had come to terms with his minor quirks, although his surreal statement on evolution made us all wonder if he’s slipped a cog and made some folks associated with the Duke University Medical School where Paul received his MD degree shudder.)

    A couple weeks ago an earnest enthusiastic man of perhaps 22 turned up at my folks’ door in Minneapolis with a petition regarding healthcare cost containment. The goal was to find a way to control the problem and his group had a specific ‘solution’ that somehow would have capped everyone’s healthcare expenditures at 5 percent of their income.

    It was Ross Perot all over again. I hated to disappoint the guy because I could see he was passionately committed to dealing with a problem we all recognize and I admired his personal willingness to work on it. The whole approach was arbitrary, superficial and half-baked — imagine the bureaucracy to implement such a scheme, the fact that those for whom it was intended would be the least able to manage the paperwork, not to mention the costs and the obvious misunderstanding of the role of government, etc. — but it raised the whole question of selling detailed band-aid schemes to a wary public.

    As he trudged away clipboard in hand I sadly wished I could have sat down with him over a beer and discussed why that general approach, especially when laden with arbitrary specifics rather than principles, was inherently flawed and doomed to failure, in an effort to re-channel his energy in trying to grapple with the issue more productively. Unfortunately by the time we live long enough to understand the nature of these things, generally we no longer possess the free time and energy of our youth with which to act on them.

    Comment by steve richardson — June 12, 2008 @ 7:47 am
  17. I was never a believer in the “Ron Paul is the ‘only’ one who can save us” meme.

    But rather than this being a post about how I disagree with the people suggesting such a thing, it’s a post about the process in general. It wouldn’t have mattered if Ron Paul was the ONLY one who could save us. The political process is such that it was going to grind him up and spit him out, regardless of the truth of his ideas.

    The point is that in democratic countries, the way to win is to appeal to as many potential groups as possible. When you’re honest, you’re forced to tell some groups “I won’t give you what you want”, and that’s political suicide. Thus, trying to put an honest politician through the political meat-grinder and expecting him to survive it is delusional.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — June 12, 2008 @ 7:48 am
  18. The guy’s last name was Black?!? Man, that is too funny.

    Comment by MikeF — June 12, 2008 @ 7:55 am
  19. Doug,

    I don’t want to speak for Brad but I think what he’s really saying is that achieving “true liberty” (however that may be defined) isn’t something that you can achieve politically.

    Partly true. I’m an engineer and an economic-thinking type of person, who likes to look at complex systems and break down the interactions within. Over time, I look at descriptive theories of politics like Public Choice as a way to understand what is going on.

    The conclusion I’ve come to is that politics isn’t broken. It’s working exactly the way a system of this type would be EXPECTED to work. And as such, it’s a system that simply doesn’t reward people like Ron Paul, and it’s a system that tends not to produce policies which reduce the power of the political class.

    Does that mean that you can’t achieve liberty politically? Maybe. I think that to achieve liberty, you need a cultural change from the ground up which the filters through the political process. My hope is that the information age is going to be a powerful force effecting that change, and then the resultant changes in politics will grow from the culture. My goal at The Liberty Papers is to be an agent of that cultural change, because I think it flows from culture to politics, not the other way around.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — June 12, 2008 @ 8:09 am
  20. [...] on the Ron Paul/Bob Barr/Stormfront fiasco, Brad Warbiany of The Liberty Papers blogs: My personal goal here at The Liberty Papers is to point out that the system itself is [...]

    Pingback by …no third solution » Blog Archive » Smartest Thing I’ve Read About the Election — June 12, 2008 @ 8:23 am
  21. And it worked! In the comments to my post, I saw different readers interpret his response through their own ideological spectrum.

    I didn’t read the other comments, but as for mine, I didn’t interpret his response all.

    I think the single best thing libertarians can do these days is spread the message that we have different ideas and they’re not far-fetched. We’re not going to get anywhere until we at least build up that much credibility.

    Barr’s statement succeeded on that point, so I was happy. I don’t care one bit whether or not he would actually govern under libertarian principles because he can’t possibly win as a third party candidate.

    Comment by Jeff Molby — June 12, 2008 @ 8:46 am
  22. If RP can’t win as a Libertarian, Bob Barr certainly can’t. McCain is a neo-con (meaning pro-war socialist). I won’t be voting unless I can write-in Dr. Paul.

    Personally, I don’t think our democracy can be restored through the political process. Such is the degree of corruption we are dealing with. Revolution, though perhaps many years away, is inevitable.

    Comment by Duke — June 12, 2008 @ 8:50 am
  23. Jeff,

    To be fair, I left out the third option, which you espoused. Mainly, that since the LP won’t win, they might at least try to put together a coherent enough platform to attract people to liberty in the general sense, without allowing the crazier elements in the movement to scare people away.

    Perhaps a better option would have been his position on the defense of marriage act, which is a very pro-”states rights” position. States rights, as I pointed out here, often is a mealy-mouthed way to suggest “hey, if those crazy Californians want to let the gays get married, so be it, but we god-fearing folks in Georgia won’t have it.” It can be interpreted in wildly different manners in different places, and it allows Barr to pander to gay rights groups while also not forcing him to say that the government shouldn’t be discriminating against gay people. He’s saying, instead, that the federal government shouldn’t be the one doing the discrimination, but that individual states should be free to interfere.

    He’s said enough to make people feel warm and fuzzy, but he hasn’t really said much at all.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — June 12, 2008 @ 10:29 am
  24. Duke,

    Such is the degree of corruption we are dealing with.

    I work in the computer industry. We see “corruption” as what happens when information gets screwed up because of a breakdown– things working in ways they’re not designed to.

    My entire point here is that in a democratic political system, the system is working exactly as expected. Does that mean that we’re seeing what a computer guy would call “garbage-in, garbage out”? Exactly!

    We’re not seeing the system fail. We’re seeing the bad results of a flawed system working as expected.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — June 12, 2008 @ 10:33 am
  25. I’m not sure I agree that liberty cannot be achieved by electing the right people. Though I’m sure it will be far more difficult with the prevalence of this kind of attitude, and by promoting Bob Barr as some kind of valid alternative to Ron Paul. Bob Barr is the Libertarian Nader! Ron Paul presents a rare opportunity to reassert our constitution, and his principles and refusal to play “the game” are what make him a threat to those who attack, smear and marginalize him, rather than Bob Barr, who is nothing more than a pathetic protest vote, at best.

    Comment by Smithers — June 12, 2008 @ 11:59 am
  26. Smithers,

    Ron Paul’s presidential campaign is over. It’s done. It’s a waste of time to continue discussing it. So you can quit making ridiculous statements about how Barr is more of a longshot than Paul because Paul’s not even in the race.

    Comment by UCrawford — June 12, 2008 @ 1:43 pm
  27. Smithers,

    If that’s your opinion, write in Ron Paul for President (since he’s not going to be on the ballot). You probably have less of a chance of it ever being counted than a vote for Barr.

    But if you consider writing in Ron Paul to be less of a “pathetic protest vote” than voting third party, you might want to up the dose on your meds, man.

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — June 12, 2008 @ 2:01 pm
  28. My entire point here is that in a democratic political system, the system is working exactly as expected.

    I’d like to refer you to a favorite Twain quote of mine.

    “The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won’t sit upon a cold stove lid, either.”

    Obviously, a two-party constitutional republic doesn’t last for very long. I’m not convinced, yet, that a three-plus-party constitutional republic wouldn’t work.

    So you can quit making ridiculous statements about how Barr is more of a longshot than Paul because Paul’s not even in the race.

    Oh, i don’t know. I’d say they’re about neck and neck at this point. :-)

    Comment by Jeff Molby — June 12, 2008 @ 5:13 pm
  29. Jeff,

    He formally pulled the plug today. He’s not in the race. So it is pointless to vote for him. And it is utter stupidity for the Paulestinians to claim that that voting for Barr is more futile than voting for Paul.

    But then you know what I think about the Paulestinians’ grasp on reality…most of them are just a bunch of cultists looking for a master. Sort of like the idiots chasing Graham Chapman in “Life of Brian”.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQqq3e03EBQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krb2OdQksMc&feature=related

    Comment by UCrawford — June 12, 2008 @ 8:55 pm
  30. Outside of “making a point”, there isn’t much benefit to voting for either of them*. I wouldn’t even be terribly surprised if the Paul write-ins make a serious run at Barr for third place.

    *I will take 20 minutes out of my life to cast a virtually meaningless vote, but that’s simply because I don’t mind making small sacrifices for principle. I don’t kid myself about its effect.

    Comment by Jeff Molby (aka Mr. Grammar) — June 12, 2008 @ 10:11 pm
  31. Err, can someone delete one of the negatives from my second sentence? Either will be fine. :-)

    Comment by Jeff Molby — June 12, 2008 @ 10:13 pm
  32. And principal should have been principle. I think I should go to bed. :-)

    Comment by Jeff Molby — June 12, 2008 @ 10:14 pm
  33. Jeff,

    Fixed it for you :)

    Comment by UCrawford — June 13, 2008 @ 6:14 am
  34. [...] consistent with their current quotes. Russert was part of the media machine that incentivized bullshit, because only people who spout platitudes can avoid being criticized for changing their [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » RIP, George Carlin — June 23, 2008 @ 7:43 pm

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