Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing Government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”     Abraham Lincoln,    First Inaugural Address, 4 March, 1861

November 5, 2008

Bob Barr: “This Is Just The Beginning”

by Doug Mataconis

Bob Barr has issued the following press release on the election results:

ATLANTA, GA – “This is just the beginning of the new Libertarian Party,” says Bob Barr, the 2008 Libertarian Party nominee for president. “In these next four years, there will be an even greater need for a political party fully dedicated to lower taxes, smaller government and more individual freedom—a voice for liberty.”

“This year, we set a solid foundation for freedom, on which we will build a strong and united political organization that advances freedom and liberty in the United States,” says Barr. “I, and all Americans who support true liberty, owe a great debt of gratitude to our staff, donors, volunteers and voters who helped support this campaign.”

It sounds great, but it’s pretty much the same thing I’ve heard from the Libertarian Party every four years or so. 485,000 votes does not mean very much in a nation of 300,000,000 people and it’s hard to see where the LP goes from here that’s any different from what it’s done every election cycle since 1980.

I’m proud of my vote for Bob Barr. Except for a few missteps, I think he ran a better campaign for President than any recent Libertarian Party nominee. I’d love to see the LP become successful enough that it’s taken seriously as a force in American politics, I just don’t think that’s very likely at this point. This election was a chance to make a statement. Apparently, there weren’t enough people willing to vote for freedom to do that, and that is depressing.

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9 Comments

  1. The Libertarian party will never get anywhere pinning its hopes on presidential campaigns. They will never get anything but an irrelevancy vote total until they concentrates on building a cadre of elected/appointed non-anarchist libertarians at the local level. This strategy requires a level of long range planning that most Libertarians are incapable of comprehending much less executing. One or two local election victories every few years is not enough.

    Comment by John Famularo — November 5, 2008 @ 2:19 pm
  2. It seems that, by the nature of libertarianism itself, it would be a difficult task to organize a national party. By that I mean there are so many differing views within the libertarian movement that it would be difficult to find a uniting figure or figures. Of course that’s true of all parties to some extent, but perhaps more so with this one.

    Comment by RobbBond — November 5, 2008 @ 2:23 pm
  3. I know I didn’t pay attention the past few months so I might have missed this, but the main problem I saw with the Barr campaign was on trying to make a difference. It is odd, but I think the campaign would have been better served by asking people in non-competitive states for their vote. My vote in Michigan was utterly worthless, but by voting for Barr, I at least helped raise his totals. What would have happened if he had actively campaigned, not on actually making a difference this election, but by appealing to people to help create a third option in the future? Making that appeal to both Republicans and Democrats in the states where it was obvious who was going to win (e.g. Michigan and California for Obama, Texas and Arizona for McCain) would have given people who disliked both candidates a way to vote for more options next time, something I think many people would want to see happen.

    Accepting defeat and fighting for the future may seem wrong, but that was the reality of the Barr campaign. Being a protest vote isn’t a bad thing; Barr should have picked up on that and used it better to his advantage.

    Comment by trumpetbob15 — November 5, 2008 @ 2:24 pm
  4. Part of the problem is that these parties get shut out of the political debates and so don’t really have the forum to have their views expressed.

    Comment by RobbBond — November 5, 2008 @ 2:35 pm
  5. No, new laws are needed to give 3rd parties a fair shot.
    What holds back the Libertarian Party–and all 3rd parties–is the real possibility of “throwing away a vote.”
    A vote is only “thrown away” if neither major candidate gets 50% in the state. In such a case, there SHOULD be a runoff, to be fair. With today’s technology, it should be EASY to have an instant run-off–just have the voter mark a “second choice.”
    Many, MANY more people would vote Libertarian if they could then choose a major party candidate as their second choice to ENSURE their vote is not thrown away.
    The Libertarian Party, perhaps with the help of other third parties, should choose a couple states and concentrate on getting the law changed. The snowball effect will eventually get the law changed in all 50 states.

    Comment by James Sweatt — November 5, 2008 @ 3:25 pm
  6. I was hopeful with Ron Paul’s press conf with all the third party candidates that a concerted effort would be made to point out how severely handicapped 3rd parties are by ballot access, press coverage, and debates. But that didn’t happen.

    Until these systemic problems are addressed 3rd parties are going nowhere. Third parties must unite behind this common goal to create a level playing field for everyone that gets on the ballot. Otherwise we are doomed to ride the pendulum back and forth between the two major parties in its long slow march toward socialism.

    Comment by Norm — November 5, 2008 @ 3:50 pm
  7. The problem is both major parties wield so much power in the process that I think they are the major obstacles behind the advancement of third parties.

    Comment by RobbBond — November 5, 2008 @ 5:27 pm
  8. To expand on John’s comments, we libertarians also need to start learning how to govern. We believe we can keep the streets pave better by relying on private enterprise. But how do we insure that it gets done? The devil is in the details, and the mainstream parties have many decades experience working out the pesky details of their approach.

    Comment by EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy — November 5, 2008 @ 5:58 pm
  9. I agree with Trumpetbob that one failing of the Barr campaign as well as the LP party in general is that they always spend their recources in swing states rather than non-competitive states. We will gain more votes by focusing on states such as Texas, Kansas, California, Alabama then states such as Virginia, Ohio, and Florida. Once we start getting more votes then we can focus on these other states as we can postion ourselves as a viable alternative.

    Barr also made two other major mistakes that likely kept him from getting to the 1 million vote barrier. First, he should have included and courted the more activist wing of the party, first by asking for either Ruwart or Kubby as the vice presidential candidate instead of Root. Then he should have asked for their votes instead of just ignoring them or looking down on them. Second he should have went directly to Ron Paul and built up a relationship, asking Mr. Paul how he would want to be involved in the campaign and how could the coordinate to improve both of their chances of pushing thier goals. Mr. Barr’s and Mr. Paul’s egos got in the way of them forming a coalition that would have greatly helped the party. I lost respect for both of them for the way they handled the situation. The both put themselves in front of the freedom movement.

    In the future our national party, presidential as well as senatorial and congressional candidates need to focus less on winning and more on building the party by focusing on just a few ideas/issues that are important to the voters, selling freedom/responsibility in more general terms, and keeping the focus in building votes in non-competitive states and districts.

    Barring other better campaign reform, in the meantime I also like James idea of an instant run-off in states where a candidate doesn’t get 50% of the vote. You would rank candidates instead of just voting for one.

    Comment by TerryP — November 6, 2008 @ 9:40 am

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