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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.


Good morning to you all from Washington, D.C. Todd Andrew Barnett, whom I know solely by reputation, has kindly invited me to become a contributor to Let Liberty Ring, and I have happily accepted. Some of you may remember my political news website,, which existed from 1997 through 2002 and which carried a wide array of third-party news. I tried to be fair and to treat alternative candidates with the same respect and scrutiny as those of the more established parties. (In September 2000, I interviewed Harry Browne, for example.) I was also the editor of the Web White and Blue 2000 online presidential debate, and was active in making sure alternative candidates were invited to participate.

I also briefly served as Deputy Director of Communications of the Libertarian Party in 1999 and 2000. I fear I did not acquit myself very well in the role and left abruptly. (I have since offered my apologies to my colleagues of the time. I hope I have matured somewhat in the intervening years.) I was an off-and-on LP member throughout this decade, and have recently rejoined, resolved to show a greater commitment. Hopefully my contributions here will be a part of that.

While I will have chances to write more about my reasons for rejoining in the days to come, as well as my thoughts on the LP in 2008, I do want to say one more thing this morning. Some of you know that I supported candidates other than our ultimate nominees for the presidency and vice presidency. I see no reason to rehash the intense but largely respectful campaign for the nomination here. Some committed Libertarians are not sure if they can support the 2008 national ticket, and I respect that. It is a matter of personal choice, and what could be more Libertarian than that? As for myself, I am not yet sure what I will do.

But as the heroic Steve Kubby said in Denver, "This party is not breaking apart. This is not 1983." That year, a large segment of the LP decided to put faction ahead of future possibilities. This year, no one is doing that -- Mary Ruwart and Michael Jingozian have both been elected to LNC roles, for example. The efforts toward unity in the wake of the heated contest in Denver are inspiring.