Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Libertarian National Committee continues to make the case for its own obsolescence

So Ron Paul convened a press event to showcase third party candidates, including the Constitution Party's Chuck Baldwin, the Green Party's Cynthia McKinney, Independent Ralph Nader, and the Libertarian Party's Bob Barr....

Only Bob Barr decided not to show up, leading to the usual feeding frenzy among Libertarians of all persuasions, which earned the name snubgate among the blogs critical of the Barr/Root ticket. The most passionate among them began circulating a petition for Barr to be removed from the Libertarian ticket, and demanding that at least one LNC member stand up and offer a motion to remove Barr from the ticket....

For the high crime of insulting Ron Paul??

Then there were the competing motions at the LNC--that proposed by Aaron Starr which criticized Paul for not endorsing Barr and another to be offered by either Mary Ruwart or Rachel Hawkbridge to apologize to Dr No.

You can follow the unfolding drama at either Last Free Voice or Independent Political Report.

But, frankly folks, the details are not what interest me.

What interests me is the continuing case for the irrelevancy of the Libertarian National Committee, and the strange fascination of my Libertarian sisters and brothers for engaging in passionate, meaningless fights that do nothing to advance the cause of limited government or individual liberty.

Instead, they invest the dinosaur with relevance it does not deserve.

My friend Chris Cole, the Libertarian candidate for Senate in North Carolina, thinks I go too far when I want to eliminate the LNC and rebuild the Libertarian movement from a decentralized emergent base:

I think this overstates the case. A presidential candidate is essential for three reasons. From least to most important: first, it guarantees that every person (at least in most states) will have a chance to see and vote for a Libertarian candidate, even when there are no local candidates; second, it supports the credibility of the entire LP ticket, verifying that the local guy isn't just a lone ranger; and third, and most importantly, in many states, the presidential candidate counts for ballot status (here in NC, ONLY the votes for president or governor count toward ballot status). Local candidates are the face of the party, and can best reach their neighbors, but that is why the laws remove those votes from consideration for ballot status. Where I do agree is on the emphasis of resources. Just as the top of the ticket validates the rest of the candidates, the down-ticket candidates direct voters up the line. We ignore them at our peril.

George Donnelly also makes an important point:

To cede the presidential elections is a big step. There is a lot of power there that can be used to advance the liberty agenda. And more votes for president can mean savings on future ballot access.

OK, two legitimate points here: ballot access and the appearance of an up-ticket.

Take the second one first. Granting that it's in general nice to have a presidential candidate running for exposure, I would counter that one of the great failures of the Libertarian Party is not to emphasize off-year elections and use them as building blocks for long-term success. The great opportunity offered by off-year elections is that overall voter turn-out among the Demopublicans tends to be depressed, therefore leaving an energized Libertarian base as a larger overall percentage of the vote. Moreover, I'd argue that people who have never considered voting third-party are much more likely to experiment in their choices.

As for ballot access, that's problematic no matter what form of organization the Libertarian movement takes. The system is clearly and intentionally rigged.

But here's a thought to chew on: Ralph Nader is currently leading the LNC in terms of states on the ballot, and he's doing so with a jury-rigged independent movement that--while it apparently enjoys more cash than the LNC--should be operating at a distinct disadvantage against the better-organized LP.

Except that it isn't.

Perhaps that has something to do (just maybe) with the fact that the LNC wastes its time trying to expel Angela Keaton or debating whether or not Ron Paul has been insulted or has insulted the LP.

Ya know, organizations with a purpose tend to act like they have one.

Organizations that have outlived their purpose tend to spend a lot of time chasing their tails.

1 comment:

Brian Miller said...

You've hit the nail on the head, Steve. I've disaffiliated with the LNC because it's an ineffective wanna-be Student Council at a cliquish high school.

I mean, how damning can you get? At a time when the federal government has socialized most of the credit system, provided massive bailouts to two major investment banks and a massive insurance company, and is prepping for a multi-hundred-billion-dollar bailout of failing banks and thrifts, the "Libertarian" National Committee focuses on three more important initiatives:

1) Booting out their most popular at-large member in a bullshit pogrom;

2) Grovelling to a 20-year federal employee who is a notorious racist and homophobe;

3) Launching a grudge lawsuit to kick a guy off the ballot in NH who has done more legwork and financial work for ballot access in New England than anybody else.

Clearly the LNC has outlasted its usefulness. The degree of work required to "recapture" it is better applied directly promoting the cause of liberty. If the LNC doesn't come to its senses and get oriented towards real causes, it will go out of business.

The massive plunge in donations already show that it's well on its way to extinction.

Angela's work for AntiWar.com is much more important to the liberty movement at this point in time than her LNC seat -- the LNC has wiped her out with bullshit.

If I was in her place, I'd have walked out with a dismissive laugh weeks ago. I admire her strength and tenacity, but I'm not sure it's going to be enough to make the rest of the dead weight on the LNC suddenly relevant.