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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Death of the Libertarian Party Part 1

The death of the Libertarian Party has not come to a complete surprise, although it has been a sad yet disappointing outcome at the conclusion of the convention's presidential nomination process. I must say that I am not surprised with the final results, but it is yet disturbing that the political party with which I once supported (considering it was the Party of Principle) has completed its transformation into the Party of Opportunism, Compromise, Personalities, Infighting, and Pro-Big Government.

The events of the last 24 to 48 hours at the Denver convention have greatly proven to me that the political process is unworkable, especially within the confines of the Libertarian Party and the third party movement in general. This even goes for the process to "reform" the federal government, especially when and if your goal is to push for petitions at the federal level, join a caucus within the GOP or Democratic parties, or even run as a major party candidate or even work within the one of the two major parties (the Democrats and the Republicans).

A few of the top reasons that stand out for me are as follows:

Third Parties, Even The Libertarian Party, Just Don't Work

The first reason is pretty simple. The third party movement just doesn't work. Third parties have electorally and politically been marginalized and the system discourages any chance for the presidential, vice presidential, and other candidates for political office to get any massive support by the masses whatsoever. More importantly, the candidates don't even have a shot at winning the elections for which they are running. Even if the candidate(s) get more than 1 percent of the vote, so what? Rarely do third party candidates ever get noticed or even a mention from the mainstream media. Unless you're a multimillionaire or a high-profile public figure, or, in the case of Bob Barr, a former congressman who was just coronated as the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee, the average third party presidential candidate doesn't stand a chance of getting beyond the 1 percent vote margin.

Even the Libertarian Party doesn't work. The Libertarian Party, which has historically been an ideological political party, doesn't work for quite a number of reasons. One reason that it doesn't -- and can't -- work is that it is an ideological party that, although was started by former Republican Party activist David Nolan and a bunch of pro-freedom activists, cannot work within the realm of third party politics, even in politics in general. It was initially established as an educational vehicle, but that was the problem with the methodology in the first place. Education and politics just don't mix. They can't exist within the same room together. Either the LP can be an educational and research think tank, or it must be a political party. Political parties, by their own nature, are formed to impose an ideology upon the public, and that imposition is done via coercion. There are no such things as political parties being "private organizations" because they are the arms of the state (although some parties are only formed at the state level).

Moreover, the Libertarian Party's Pledge is worthless. The Pledge, which is designed to keep impure new members from joining the Party, is signed only to gain entry into the organization, not to ensure that the person who signed it really believes in the Pledge. As KN@PPSTER blogger Tom Knapp pointed out in an interview with CATO Liberty's Radio Free Liberty talk radio show in 2006, Libertarians who have just joined the Party for the first time are either:

  1. New members who signed the Pledge to join the Party, but changed their mind about the Pledge after they came on board;

  2. New members who signed the Pledge to join the Party, but lied when they signed it and join up;

  3. or

  4. New members who signed the Pledge to join the Party, but didn't really understand the Pledge when they signed it in the first place.

Third Parties, Unlike The Major Parties, Have No Internal Funding Base

The second reason is even more problematic for third party supporters. Aside from the first reason, the reason third parties can't get anywhere politically (that is, by getting their candidates elected to public office) is that the third party movement is terribly restricted and constrained by the campaign finance rules and regulations established by the two major parties. Those campaign finance regulations make it significantly difficult -- if not, almost impossible -- for third parties to gain any traction financially.

Basically these machinations make it extremely difficult -- if not, almost impossible -- for third parties and their respective candidates to secure large financial donations from a very few wealthy donors. The reason for these regulations is that they are supposed to prohibit unethical "hard money" and "soft money" contributions by limiting the amounts so that ethical candidates are elected to Congress and the Oval Office. After all, during each election season, people eventually discover that the major parties, which have a monstrous built-in funding base, are able to funnel large, unlimited amounts of campaign finance money into their political campaigns. Third parties are not able to do that because they possess no such funding base (the same goes for their candidates). Besides, a third party candidate, even Libertarian candidates, knows that you can't get anywhere with a $2,300 maximum campaign contribution limit.

That is why Congress, in the midst of every election season or so, and congressional and presidential candidates on both sides of the Republican and Democratic aisles push for such statist boondoggles -- to make it impossible for third party candidates to get anywhere with their campaigns. As a result, third parties and their candidates resort to "softening" their messages or radically overhauling them in desperate attempts to put them on the political map and get themselves elected to power. Thus, as a result, they become permanently marginalized, never to be taken seriously as contenders for the races for which they campaign.

Part 2 will be available in the next few days.


Tully said...


If you what you mean is the death of a meaningless party, the death of scorched-earth purity, the death of individual egos and the death of extremist issues that the majority of Americans dont crae about - good riddance!

What we are witnessing is the maturing of a party that has had the maturity of a 5 year old for too long...what we need is a ticket that will articulate PRAGMATIC libertarian solutions to REAL problems...and thats just what we got.

Rather than 'death,' what we have here is re-birth..and not a minute to soon!

Todd Andrew Barnett said...


You're missing my point. The point is that, because of the collectivistic, statist stranglehold that the Barr and Root people took at the convention, the LP will be further marginalized -- perhaps even more so than ever, even when the platform is going to be diluted even further than it already has.

The LP has died a very slow but expected death. You can lie to yourself, thinking that diluting the principles are going to make a significant difference. If anything, the LP is committing false advertising (when marketing itself as "The Party of Principle") and deluding itself if the base thinks that Barr will NEVER, ever turn on them, especially with respect to many issues on which he is very wishy washy anyhow.

Like I said, you can lie to yourself all you like; it just might make you feel better at the end of the day. But when all is said and done, the LP will never get anywhere with this new direction, no matter how bad the compromisers and the sell outs want things to be and how they turn out in the final analysis.

As for the other stuff I pointed out in the first part of this blog post, the points I made can be backed up.

Besides, Barr is GOING to support Republican candidates, not Libertarian candidates. What does THAT tell you in the grand scheme of things?

Real Time host Bill Maher once said on his show: "Republicans are loyal to personalities and not principles." The same can be said of the LP.

CorkyAgain said...

Given the obstacles to third parties that Todd listed, I think it's presumptuous to call the new LP direction "pragmatic". Pragmatism is about doing what works, and there is little reason to believe that becoming the party of disaffected Republicans is going to "work" any better than any of the LP's previous electoral strategies. Now that we've abandoned principle, the goal must be to win (rather than educate), and gaining a percentage point or two doesn't count as winning.

With Chuck Baldwin also bidding for those disaffected Republicans, it isn't even certain that we will see a 1-2% gain. Barr needs to take enough of the GOP pie to offset the losses he'll incur from disaffected libertarians. Those "reforms" won't come at no cost!

It might seem odd to put it this way, but the educational goal is actually the pragmatic one. Because it's a goal that can be achieved, and one where meaningful progress can be made.

Tully said...

No, Education is NOT the goal.IN fact, in politics, it is THE death-knell. Political races are NOT for 'educating' people. The public sees that as condescending and ivory-tower. If you want to educate, join a think-tank, write books, or teach.

The purpose of political races is to identify your natural allies, and get them to vote for you. That *may* be within a Repubican Party in some places, it *may* be as a Democrat, it *may* be as an independent...and it may be as a Libertarian. ALL politics is local, and all victories are built through progamatic coalitions.

A political realignment is possible...but not with purists.

Todd Andrew Barnett said...

Once again, you are truly missing the point, Tully.

Politics isn't the be-all and end-all of life in the Unitd States. It isn't the salvation of our society, as you erroneously think it is. As objective as I can be about this, the fact of the matter is that the Libertarian Party and other third parties won't get anywhere, whether it waters down its principles or not. It will still be marginalized, especially in races at the state and federal level. Converting the Party into a Republican-lite vehicle won't bring Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root a gigantic leap closer to the Presidency and Vice Presidency.

Americans will never accept Libertarians and third parties who want to use the state for their own political interests. Libertarians are only interested in codifying a state-mandated form of libertarianism ("economic fascism") to the American people. That's why people will never trust you guys. They will associate you guys with Republicans, because it will be the Party of Opportunism. Hell, it's already that as I speak.

Humans must willingly embrace the philosophy of freedom. Politics will only force people to accept by shoving it down their throat. Political activism will never work, because you are forcing people to accept liberty with the barrel of a gun. The state will only color libertarianism, and the statists behind that effort in the LP will color it to be what they want it to be.

Let's suppose, in theory, you're right....that Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root will bring more votes to the Party. So what if they will bring in more votes? They will probably get a least a minimum of 0.6 percent of the vote, which is not even close to breaking that 1 percent vote threshold. They could go for 0.8 percent tops. Anywhere between 3 or 4 percent of the vote? Not likely. 12 percent? Impossible. Will people accept the LP then? Hardly.

That's why the LP should have been an education center like the Foundation for Economic Education, not a political party. Libertarians need to stay out of politics. They can't save the country, but they can save themselves and secede from the country. Forget about saving the republic; it's lost. Any fool who thinks that the country can be saved is off his/her rocker. Politics is the kiss of death for the libertarian movement, not its savior. If you think it is, then you are a fool and a naive one at that.

Besides, Bob Barr, with his political disciples, is NOT the Jesus Christ of the libertarian movement, let alone the Party.

Libertarians think that we have a free market, yet we don't have one if the state is so heavily involved. It's called "economic fascism" to many, "corporatism" to others, etc. To me, it's vulgar libertarianism, the brand of libertarianism in which the free market and the state can somehow coexist with each other on an economic level.

No, politics isn't the answer. The Republicans, for decades, have tried to create that Big Tent, and look where it has gotten itself. The same for the Democrats. Both parties have widened their tents to include everyone who are in the game for political expediency, even if it's done at the cost of liberty.

The LP has done the same thing. Big Tent libertarianism on a political level doesn't work and will never work. There are no studies and documented evidence proving that it does work. If you believe otherwise, then you are a fool.

The state is a religion unto itself. It's a religion that forces me to worship it. You, on the political level, want to compromise my freedom for your safety.

Religionists bring chaos and doom. You certainly seem to fit the bill.