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