Bob Barr, Mike Gravel . . . .
What do you bet there won't be at least one more?
It is heady and seductive stuff, this flirtation with names that many Americans might actually know in a presidential candidate, and it's pretty evident that a lot of people think Gravel or Barr could just waltz in and dance out with the nomination.
Hell, Barr even wants you to start giving money to his Exploratory Committee before he's willing to tell you he's going to run (video courtesy Crazy for Liberty):
The problem with all this notoriety--as my good friend Waldo specifies--is
Maybe it's an inbuilt, irresolvable challenge for a party so devoted to individualism to nail its ideological bona fides down to a simple set of principles. When Mike Gravel and Bob Barr both declare the Libertarian Party's where they feel ideologically at home, we feel way beyond a big tent: we feel we've been transported into a Unitarian Universalist camp meeting.
I find it difficult to accept--thinking about Barr--one of the architects of the Defense of Marriage Act as a Libertarian standard-bear, no matter his narrowly reasoned, highly technical decision not to support a Constitutional Amendment to outlaw gay marriage.
And while I am by no means a Wayne Allyn Root fan, I have to agree with him about Mike Gravel (courtesy Third Party Watch):
“[Gravel]’s not a Libertarian,” said Root. “There’s nothing about him that is Libertarian. I don’t think the Libertarian Party has any interest in a senator that was defeated twenty-five years ago who doesn’t believe in anything that resembles Libertarian philosophy.”
The real problem with figures like Barr and Gravel thinking they can steamroller in and walk off with the nomination is that they're not only playing fast and loose with the principles of The Party of Principle, but they're also casting a long, dark shadow over some serious, principled Libertarian candidates.
None of these people are going to be the next President of the United States, but the 2008 Libertarian Party candidate is going to be in an excellent position to (a) influence the outcome of the race, and (b) achieve some major chipping away at the idea that voting for a third party is a waste.
I've been pretty clear over the past few months that I think Wayne Allyn Root is a buffoon regardless of his uncanny ability to gather the critical endorsement of Mancow Muller.
Nor do I have much use for Steve Kubby or Mike Jingozian; not sure precisely why--they've just never interested me.
I tend to think about three Libertarian candidates: George Phillies, Christine Smith, and Mary Ruwart.
Phillies is not a lovable character--at least that's the impression you get if you listen to longtime Libertarians (I, however, remember him fondly as a wargamer from the 1970s)--but he has been consistently more down-the-middle of what I consider Libertarian thought than anyone else. I've criticized his health care and education proposals, but on Iraq, American foreign policy, and gay rights, he's on the mark.
More to the point: Phillies understands that Libertarians are not Conservatives:
“We real libertarians have a challenge,” Phillies said. “Some conservatives pretend to be Libertarians. Fifty years ago, conservatives claimed states had a right to keep persons of color from voting. Conservatives were wrong. Now, conservatives claim states have a right to keep women from having abortions. That claim is the same old racist Jim-Crow states’ rights doctrine. It’s still wrong. Our Constitution’s 14th Amendment makes things crystal clear. If Congress isn’t allowed to do it, neither are individual states.
Phillies urged fellow Libertarians to be prepared. “Yes, we have challenges. But we’re up against the Bush Republican War Party, and that’s a huge advantage. Just don’t let conservatives take over our party. America already has two conservative parties, Republican and Constitution. We shouldn’t become the third.”
Phillies probably isn't a contender for the nomination (he's polling at about 9.7%), but he should be.
Christine Smith bills herself as the Peace-driven candidate, and while I've criticized her initially rather sketchy plans for education and health care, if you take the time to read the Issues section of her web site, you'll discover a thoughtful, truly Libertarian candidate. Moreover, while polls show her trailing very badly (she's running on a shoestring even for a Libertarian Party candidate, which is probably better characterized as a frayed thread), she's hanging in there with a consistent message.
I'll admit that I am also biased by the fact about two weeks ago I wrote to various LP presidential hopefuls through their communications directors requesting an e-mail interview. Christine Smith was the only candidate even to respond to the request (she's going to do it, by the way).
There's also Dr. Mary Ruwart, the author of Healing Our World in an Age of Aggression, one of the perennial favorites of long-standing Libertarians. She' a bit more touchy-feely in a way that harkens back to the "I'm OK, you're OK" days than many people will be comfortable with, but she's spot on regarding the need to (a) completely revamp our foreign policy, (b) get government out of people's lives, and (c) make the people who aggress against others pay the consequences of their acts. More to the point, perhaps, her announcement of her candidacy vaulted her right into contention with Root, Barr, etc.
My point (and I do have one) is that the Libertarian Party is not so bereft of talented individuals capable of carrying our message into the national election that we have to stoop to a homophobic like Barr or a failed party hack like Gravel when they come asking for us to kiss the ring.