It Usually Begins With... Michael Badnarik?

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by Jerome Tuccille by Jerome Tuccille

I guess it was predictable. The Libertarian Party, faced with the opportunity to select a candidate for president who had millions to spend on his own campaign, who had achieved a measure of fame in Hollywood as a producer of films and a consort of celebrities on the order of Bette Midler, and someone else with no money and zero name recognition, chose…well you know the answer; I said it was predictable, didn't I?

Now, let me make it clear that I have nothing against the putative LP presidential nominee Michael Badnarik. How could I have anything against him since I know nothing whatsoever about him except for a brief litany of his achievements reported in the media? And that's precisely my point. Nobody knows anything about him. No one has ever heard of him except for a handful of troglodytes who bestowed the nomination upon him in Atlanta, Georgia, over the recent Memorial Day weekend. The LP has displayed a genius for assigning itself a role in American politics akin to irrelevance, and I am sad to say that this record of genius is likely to remain unbroken as campaign 2004 unfolds during the months ahead and Ralph Nader continues to capture all the attention given to third-party candidates for the highest office in the land.

It would be wonderful if Badnarik were able to find a way to transcend the morass of obscurity that third-party candidates with no name recognition and little or no money inevitably find themselves mired in, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. In fact, I would be more inclined to lay odds that this LP candidacy, like so many others in the past, will die a slow death by media neglect during the months remaining until November.

Sadly, it didn't have to be this way.

Aaron Russo was the one candidate (arguably one of two) who had some sliver of a chance to make a splash for the LP this time around, to make the media stand up and pay him some attention as he laid out his plan to trim the size of the overstuffed, all-powerful, gluttonous beast we call the federal government. Money and celebrity endorsements are two of the ingredients needed to insinuate oneself into the public's truncated attention span, and Russo had both of them at his disposal. Supposedly, Badnarik bested him and Gary Nolan (the third viable contender for the spot who inexplicably threw his own support to Badnarik) in a debate before the vote took place, and many libertarians are more interested in scoring ideological debating points than they are in having a genuine impact on the society we live in.

I have no idea how good a candidate Russo would have been had he been able to secure the LP nod. One esteemed libertarian told me he's "rich as Croesus and crazy as hell." But rich and crazy isn't bad when the society you live in is populated by obese, brain-dead couch potatoes who believe war crimes are perfectly fine as long as they're committed by red-blooded American "heroes," when the president of the country can barely string a sentence together without the aid of his speechwriters, when the same gentleman can scarcely make a policy decision without the imprimatur of his own vice president, when the nation's intelligence agencies make an end run around the accepted rules of warfare in an undefined "war against terror," and when an opposition party with any guts would be screaming for the president's impeachment the way the Republicans did over the adulterous behavior of his predecessor. The average American is criminally ignorant of his own heritage and about two cheeseburgers away from a coronary at any given moment. An LP candidate crazy enough to grab the electorate by the throat and shake it out of its comatose state would have been an ideal choice this year. An LP candidate with deep pockets and enough fire in his belly to make his voice heard above the usual cacophony of nonsense that fills the ether in an election year might have been the right ticket for success this year.

Too late. The LP has blown yet another opportunity to have a genuine impact on the political life of the country. I hope I'm wrong, but come November, chances are it will once again settle for the usual "less than one percent of the vote." Ralph Nader continues to give the Democrats fits that he could cost them the election. George Bush and Company have no such worries about an LP threat to their own constituency.

Jerome Tuccille [send him mail] is the author of 21 books, including It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand, It Still Begins With Ayn Rand, and most recently of Alan Shrugged, a biography of Fed chairman Alan Greenspan. In 1974 he was the Free Libertarian Party candidate for governor of New York.

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