Monday, June 16, 2008

Bob Barr v. Ron Paul reveals more about Libertarians than it does about the candidates

Among any number of pieces comparing R3volution heartthrob Ron Paul with the far less charismatic (mustached) Bob Barr have been running on Libertarian blogs since Barr grasped the LP nomination and Paul gave up his presidential aspirations, Brian Miller has generated a lot of interest with his post at Last Free Voice.

The question of whether the Paulistas will rally around Barr, hold their noses and vote for McCain, or just stay home is potentially critical to both Libertarians and the general electorate.

Paul captured over a million votes in the Republican primaries--more than twice the total either of the last two LP presidential candidates managed to tally--and thus his supporters are key to Libertarian hopes for finally breaking the 1 million vote mark for their presidential candidate.

Likewise, between them the former Paulistas, the Libertarians, the Greens, and the Naderites potentially hold the balance between Senators McCain and Obama in at least half a dozen battleground states.

Finally, many Libertarians (including me!) remain skeptical or even outright hostile (not me) to the idea of Barr as an LP candidate.

Miller, a key player in the LGBT group Outright Libertarians, argues that on at least two issues Barr derives a significant advantage from the comparison:

On Immigration:

The LP platform says that “Economic freedom demands the unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders.” Where do Bob Barr and Ron Paul stand on this?

Barr says that “we must be aggressive in securing our borders while at the same time, vigilantly fighting the nanny state that seeks to coddle even those capable of providing for their own personal prosperity.” He proposes an approach identical to the LP platform — maintaining control over the borders to allow peaceful people in, while denying entry to criminals.

Ron Paul, in contrast, favors the imposition of visas, including demanding that federal bureaucrats “track visa holders and deport anyone who overstays their visa.” He also complains that open borders will “allow up to 60 million more immigrants into our country, according to the [arch-conservative] Heritage Foundation. This is insanity.” He advocates an end to citizenship by birth, a concept of American law since the beginning of the Republic. He also ran one of the most anti-immigrant television advertisements in the Republican primary.


On personal relationships:

Barr has advocated a repeal of the DOMA provisions that force the federal government not to recognize same-sex marriages performed by states that do recognize them. In his nomination speech at the Libertarian National Convention, he declared that “The Defense of Marriage Act, insofar as it provided the federal government a club to club down the rights of law abiding citizens has been abused, misused and should be repealed. And I will work to repeal that.” This position moves the federal stance on this issue significantly closer to the Libertarian Party platform.

Ron Paul, in contrast, has declared that “I would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act… to ensure that no state would be forced to recognize a ’same sex’ marriage license.” That’s directly opposed to the Libertarian Platform.


The most interesting part, however, is the comments:

Hugh Jass dismisses Miller's comparison:

Very well then, I’ll concede Barr’s superiority on those two minor-level issues. However, when we go to top issues, we see Paul’s libertarianism outshine Barr’s. For example, whereas Paul would legalize competing currencies to help abolish the Fed, Barr thinks a magic wand is required. Whereas Paul believes in replacing the income tax with nothing, Barr wishes to replace the income tax with a national sales tax.


disinter asks,

Since when was Barf [sic] running against Ron Paul?


Steve LaBianca challenges Miller's take that Barr has actually changed his mind on DOMA, or that Paul is anti-same-sex marriage:

Let’s not forget that Barr is the one who authored the DOMA. While I have said that I disagree with Ron Paul on a few issues, I believe that Miller is mistaken on this front . . . Ron Paul doesn’t oppose civil unions. If the traditional definition of “marriage” is one man and one woman, who cares? Ron Paul has said repeatedly that is none of the government’s business in regulating private behavior. Can Bob Barr, the author of DOMA say the same thing. If he can or has, I have yet to hear it.


What I take away from all this (and I encourage you to read all the comments) is two-fold:

1) Libertarians still have not decided among themselves whether to be a philosophical debating society or a political party. This is essentially the distinction between the pragmatic and radical Libertarians, far more so than whether we should go for a minarchist government or unvarnished anarcho-capitalism. Those who aren't sure they want to become a political party don't want a candidate who pitches his answers toward small-L libertarians and libertarian-leaning fellow travelers. I'm with Brian Miller on this one--but the argument is not over.

2) Most Libertarians have too much time on their hands. I'm not kidding here, even though to write it is going to piss a lot of people off. I think about Brad Paisley's So Much Better On Line, and the fact there aren't too many Libertarians (Jason Gatties, Allen Buckley, and Michael Munger come to mind as exceptions) willing to get away from their computers and engage their local and state communities on the real nitty-gritty issues of day-to-day government operations. I look too often in vain for Libertarians at school board meetings or zoning variance hearings, where the Democrats and GOPers break in their minor leaguers in the actual rough-and-tumble of compromise and consensus. So, when the LP announces every four years that it's running somebody for president who has no discernible political track record, it is understandable that people around the country say, "Who? What? You're kidding, aren't you?"

A candidate like Bob Barr brings positives and negatives to the table. Your take on their relative importance will depend on your own ideology.

18 comments:

janeforfreedom said...

Has anyone else seen these rumors about Ron Paul being VEEP on the LP ticket. I thought they were crazy becuase any one who knows anything about Paul knows that he probably doesnt want it. But I read an article on a website this morning that said Its actually in the works, that the LP is thinking about dumping Root and putting Paul on the ticket because they are not raising the kind of money that they thought they would for the presidential run.? The Barr Root ticket no more>? If you want to read the article I will leave the link. It has some silly stuff there too about Obama being the anti christ or something I didnt pay it much attention. LOL the link is www.BarrRoot.com

Steve Newton said...

It is my understanding that Paul could not run for one major party's presidential ticket while also seeking re-election as a Republican in his own district.

Cal Ulmann said...

I like Barr's mustache.

Tyler Nixon said...

Paul started the Campaign for Liberty to support liberty-minded candidates at all levels, and otherwise support liberty every way possible with a citizen movement.

http://www.campaignforliberty.com/

The intensity of support for his message, him as merely a gathering point, is unmatched by any other figure on the scene.

The extent of his common sense libertarian approach and the consistency is hard to refute, beyond marginal disagreements. Even so, the default ethic behind it all is personal liberty and limited government.

His issues :

http://www.ronpaul2008.com/issues/

The Libertarian Party will have a time gathering that force en masse, as long as Paul is smart enough to keep it diffuse and able to attract anyone from any party, rather than mass-migrating to any one party label home.

The diversity of those who identify with his message, and him as a person nominally, makes them not susceptible to being mass-assigned to any one sector of contentious partisan politics. The big picture requires the long-term approach Paul is seeking to solidify.

Also, Steve you may want to omit that you are quoting "Hugh Jass".

His friends "Anita Bath" "Seymour Butz", and "Mike Hunt" would agree.

Brian Miller said...

Paul started the Campaign for Liberty to support liberty-minded candidates at all levels, and otherwise support liberty every way possible with a citizen movement.

Let me amend that.

Paul started the Campaign for Liberty to make the Republican Party appear more supportive of liberty-minded candidates at all levels.

Ultimately, the Ron Paul group is an effort to keep the libertarians as a marginalized component of the GOP, represented by a socially conservative standard-bearer, rather than as an actual movement in and of its own right.

Brian said...

I have nothing against Bob Barr after ejecting my inital skepticism. Ron Paul launched a movement for human liberty, and I think missed a real chance by not running on the LP ticket, but who knows if Barr supports liberty, why all the debate? What I hope does not happen is that the party of principle decides its principles are not as important as winning elections. Lady Liberty needs an electorial reconquista in both parties.

Tyler Nixon said...

Sure, and Paul ran for President to make the other Republican candidates look more appealing to the neocons and churchies.

Brian Miller said...

Ron Paul has nothing to offer civil libertarians. The mistake that his "movement" keeps making is the assumption that they can claim a mantle of libertarianism simply because Paul shares some libertarian views on taxes and the war in Iraq. That's a bit like saying that Dennis Kucinich is a libertarian leader because he shares libertarians' opposition to the war and opposition to government as a tool in the culture wars.

Ron Paul doesn't have the whole package, and all his supporters' claims to the contrary won't change that fact. His close affiliation to (and persistent loyalty) to the Republican Party also means that at the end of the day, he's just another Republican. One with views less odious on certain issues than, say, Denny Hastert -- but still just another Republican.

Craig Porterfield said...

If you want to know why people liked Paul, I would point to the long consistency of Paul's record, the courage and wisdom of his assertions, and the depth of his character (turning down his congressional pension, etc.). Sure, you can find issues here and there that raise eyebrows. Paul's immigration policy was perhaps my least favorite. DOMA was a federalist position; Paul said during the debates that government ideally should stay out of sanctioning marriages.

On (what I humbly suggest is) the main issue of our time, preemptive war, Barr compromised to gain the nomination by selecting a neocon VP. Paul *never* would have compromised, and that's why so many people love him.

The choices aren't limited to Barr, McCain, and staying home. Some people will vote for Chuck Baldwin. He is running without a neocon VP.

Brian, Paul said at Republican debates that he would release all the nonviolent drug offenders. *Nothing* to offer civil libertarians? Just another Republican? I don't follow your reasoning at all.

Brian Shields said...

I don't know what the heck Paul is about, but he lost my support when he authored a book with a title including the word 'Manifesto'.

He sold out to the GOP months ago, and I'm sad that it took me this long to see it.

Talking about change won't do squat. Arguing about who's dream gov't is better won't do squat. Steve is right, we need action, we need people, and we need both to happen at the same time.

Brian Miller said...

I would point to the long consistency of Paul's record

Consistency is not necessarily a virtue. For instance, Paul has been consistently anti-gay, and consistently profited to the tune of millions of dollars -- for decades -- selling a "Ron Paul Political Report" newsletter filled with the worst and lowest forms of racist, antisemitic and homophobic bigotry.

Some people will vote for Chuck Baldwin.

A lunatic fringe theocrat who no Libertarian (or libertarian) could support based on his crazy stances on the issues.

Paul said at Republican debates that he would release all the nonviolent drug offenders.

Dennis Kucinich made similar comments at the Democratic debates. Does that make him the libertarian standard bearer too?

*Nothing* to offer civil libertarians? Just another Republican?

Yes, just another Republican with nothing to offer civil libertarians. His soft-peddling on drug war reform isn't enough to make up for his long-standing war on the individual rights of gay people, non-Christians, immigrants, and other groups he doesn't like.

He's just another social conservative with a couple of "blips" where he deviates from the GOP -- on the Iraq War and drug policy. He's as libertarian as Pat Buchanan.

He sold out to the GOP months ago

He sold out to the GOP *years* ago. Remember, Ron Paul has been a Republican Party stalwart -- and federal employee -- for over two decades.

He catered to the worst elements of right-wing bigotry with his newsletters, and continues to cater to that bigotry with his legislative proposals to create and implement a huge new federal immigration bureaucracy and to undo the advances in individual liberties that LGBT Americans have made.

While I fully understand that Ron Paul's supporters are willing to infringe upon my liberties in order to get what they want, and have utterly no regard whatsoever for the freedoms of people who aren't like them, I am going to beg to differ -- loudly -- when they advance his candidacy as some sort of libertarian revolution.

It's not. It's a white separatist social conservative movement -- wholly at odds in its ideological underpinnings with the Libertarian Party itself.

Brian Miller said...

Paul said during the debates that government ideally should stay out of sanctioning marriages.

Ron Paul and his wife Carol have a marriage license.

If Ron Paul is opposed to government marriage licenses, why does he himself have one?

More convenient "principle" from the right-wing fringe. Gays shouldn't be able to get marriage licenses because that's making government bigger, but I should have one because I need one (because I'm an upstanding normal American and not a "filthy faggot").

I'm not being hyperbolic, so much as crudely reflecting the so-called thought processes involved. It's beyond rich to argue against government marriage licenses for gays because it "grows the government" when one has a marriage license himself. All gay people are asking for is the same sort of "expansion of government" that Ron Paul himself supported when he and Carol got that license.

And Ron Paul has taken no meaningful effort to get rid of marriage licenses for all Americans -- he's just grabbing the anti-gay red-meat position that appeals to his fringe-right base and using fake libertarianism as a rhetorical fig leaf.

Sorry, no "principle" to be found there.

Tyler Nixon said...

Ah yes, the typical "racist" and "anti-gay" anti-Paul meme. So tiring and typical and exaggerated.

But I guess there will always be ideology police who make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Tyler Nixon said...

It's not. It's a white separatist social conservative movement -- wholly at odds in its ideological underpinnings with the Libertarian Party itself.

L.O.L.!!

Are you sure you're not an Obama supporter?

Shirley Vandever said...

Thanks, Steve for the reference to the Last Free Voice post. The comments following it were interesting, however it kind of makes me feel that the Libertarian party may be fated to be a philosophical debating society after all. I have never seen such nit-picking (well….then again….).

How the heck many people named Brian are on here? It seems as though I disagree with all (or one) of them:

Brian said:
Ultimately, the Ron Paul group is an effort to keep the libertarians as a marginalized component of the GOP, represented by a socially conservative standard-bearer, rather than as an actual movement in and of its own right.

No matter what you may think of Dr. Paul on the issues, he is in the end a realist. Why did he not run as a Libertarian in 2008? No one would ever have heard of him. As much as we may rail against the entrenched power of the two-party system, it nonetheless exists. Would it be more romantically noble to stand to principle and run as a Libertarian? Perhaps. But that is all it would have been: romantic. Paul would probably have never made the impact he did if he has run under the Libertarian banner.

Brian Miller said:
His close affiliation to (and persistent loyalty) to the Republican Party also means that at the end of the day, he's just another Republican.

I think the most Republicans would disagree with you on that ! I would call him an Independent or a Constitutionalist rather than a Republican or even a Libertarian. Party loyalty? That’s a joke.

Brian Miller said:
Dennis Kucinich made similar comments at the Democratic debates. Does that make him the libertarian standard bearer too?

And

…The mistake that his "movement" keeps making is the assumption that they can claim a mantle of libertarianism simply because Paul shares some libertarian views.

I do not see where Paul supporters are claiming that he is the “standard bearer” for libertarian values (whatever that term may mean). He ran as a Republican, not a Libertarian. He has libertarian leanings, but he will never fit into anyone’s niche-definition of what a Libertarian is, because that is virtually impossible. For every person, there is another definition. Just look at the wrangling over the Libertarian platform.

Brian Shields said:
I don't know what the heck Paul is about…

You might want to find out. Go to the Campaign for Liberty site.

Brian Miller said:
If Ron Paul is opposed to government marriage licenses, why does he himself have one?

That’s a bit disingenuous. I am opposed to government marriage licenses. I have one. It is simply a matter of being practical. It is the same now as it was when Paul was married over 50 years ago. Why waste time and energy on the small stuff when there are bigger issues to address?

Paul does not believe in a definition of marriage, and that any association that is voluntary should be permissible in a free society. He voted No on constitutionally defining marriage as between one man and one woman.


I think that the reason some people have a hard time understanding Ron Paul is that he is such a strict constructionist. For example, some of the comments on the Last Free Voice post refer to the Lawrence case in Texas. This is where the Supreme Court ruled that the sodomy laws in Texas were unconstitutional.

Paul opposed this ruling, which makes everyone automatically assume that he is against gay rights. That was not the issue; rather, it was the authority of the federal government to overrule states’ rights in social matters. Paul’s view is that the Supreme Court should have declined jurisdiction in the matter.

Whether one agrees with that position or not, it is the constitutional issue, not subject matter that Paul was making his point on. People immediately grab onto the subject matter rather than the principle.

In the same piece that refers to the Lawrence case, he goes on to say, “the Supreme Court is supreme only over other federal courts – not over the other branches of government…”. The issue could have been gun rights, abortion, taxes, gay marriage, or religion….his point is that, “…the Congress should make no law”.

On that he has been amazingly consistent.

craig porterfield said...

The Republican establishment has long marginalized Ron Paul because he is *not* part of what the party has become. After ending his candidacy, Ron Paul wants to elect libertarian-leaning Republicans. If you think that's counterproductive, then I am sure you can find other ways to advance liberty. Many ways to skin a cat. God bless.

Brian Shields said...

Shirley,

I have been to the Campaign for Liberty website, and saw it for exactly what the other Brian saw it as, an attempt from the GOP to lure Libertarian minded voters away, and keep them from supporting the Libertarian party during this time of voter discontent.

Brian Miller said...

I am opposed to government marriage licenses. I have one. It is simply a matter of being practical. It is the same now as it was when Paul was married over 50 years ago. Why waste time and energy on the small stuff when there are bigger issues to address?

Because lots of gay voters don't get to choose to get a marriage license, and have many practical restrictions imposed upon them by Ron Paul's anti-gay legislative record. Some want to be able to insure their spouses without being taxed for the insurance. Others want to sponsor their foreign spouses for green cards. Still others want to be able to pass property to their spouses without being taxed.

The same people talking about "bigger issues" are busy insisting that the guy who is separated from his spouse by immigration law, or taxed to the point of insolvency over his partner's health benefits, should ignore those priorities and focus on some other policy esoterica. Which isn't how politics in the real world works, unfortunately.

Paul does not believe in a definition of marriage

That's incorrect. He is a DOMA supporter, and that law creates a federal definition of marriage. He is also on record as a supporter of Texas's anti-gay marriage laws and stated he would fight to preserve those laws -- even if they failed judicial review on constitutional grounds.

What Ron Paul partisans fail to grasp is two-fold:

1) I, and most other GAY LIBERTARIANS, am not going to support Ron Paul or his agenda. If you cannot get gay LIBERTARIANS behind that agenda, selling it to the "mainstream" is going to be a real bust.

2) For all the pooh-poohing of the gay vote as "small and insignificant," this primary season, LGBT political activists have donated more money to Democrats and Republicans than Ron Paul raised -- by at least an order of magnitude. If 1/4 of LGBT voters voted for the Libertarian candidate in November of 2008, it would result in 4.5 million votes for the Libertarian Party -- 4.5x as many as Ron Paul's so-called "revolution."

You can mock me as a liberal Democrat because I choose not to support someone like Ron Paul, who has embraced the political expedience of racism and homophobia, but that's not going to make Ron Paul acceptable to the mainstream. It's also not going to advance the Libertarian movement, and will further pigeonhole it into the "right wing Republicans who just like to smoke pot" slot that the Democrats have attempted to create for it.

Ironically enough, the Ron Paul movement is a bizarre form of collectivism. LGBT voters, minority voters, and others are supposed to ignore our own interests (and liberties) and "take one for the team" and "think about the greater good." How's that different from what the Republicans and Democrats already demand of us?

The LP and libertarianism in general will not succeed until we do better at big-tent politics, and thinking about how to apply our principles to suit the aspirations of all Americans, not just the white straight guys who tend to dominate libertarian events today.

And yes, demographics and diversity do matter. Pretending otherwise is more self-deception.