A Lesson for the LP

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The
2008 presidential election should serve as a good lesson for the
Libertarian Party (LP). Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman
(who ironically many Libertarians helped defeat in Congress), received
about 0.4% of the total vote. Barr was chosen as the nominee back
in May at the LP convention. There were many candidates and it took
several ballots before it came down to Bob Barr vs. Mary Ruwart
for the Libertarian Party's nominee.

Mary Ruwart,
author of Healing
Our World in an Age of Aggression
, is a radical, principled,
and long-time Libertarian. She was narrowly defeated by Barr for
the nomination, with Ruwart receiving about 44% of the vote on the
final ballot. The 2008 presidential election might have played out
much differently had she been the LP's nominee. It probably would
not have changed Obama winning the election, but it could have conceivably
advanced liberty at a much greater pace.

There seem
to be three different groups that make up most of the Libertarian
Party these days. There are the principled radicals like Mary Ruwart.
There are the disaffected Republicans, who are mostly pro-war, but
are somewhat fiscally conservative. And there is a third group that
is fairly libertarian, but not necessarily radical and perhaps looking
too much for political solutions for change.

The first group
understands what the liberty movement is all about. The second group
is mostly hopeless and is trying to wreck the LP with its watered
down Republican policies. Perhaps some individuals in this group
will change, but I am not here to change their minds today. Instead,
I would like to address the third group. Many in this third group
saw Bob Barr as a celebrity ticket that would finally gain the necessary
exposure for the Libertarian Party from the mainstream media.

Most people
want to be rich. Some realize that you have to work hard, save money,
come up with a creative business, or some combination of those things.
It usually doesn't come easy. Others go a different route and play
the lottery. Occasionally someone gets lucky and wins, but even
then it doesn't always turn out so well. But most lottery players
never win.

The group that
supported Bob Barr as the LP nominee was playing the lottery. They
were looking for an easy ticket to riches. They had hopes and dreams
that the media would finally pay attention to their candidate. With
someone like Barr, maybe this was the time that we could finally
become a force to be reckoned with, they reasoned. Needless to say,
the Barr campaign has been a huge disappointment. In fact, it was
almost a large waste.

Bob Barr never
fully repudiated many of the awful positions he took in the past.
He certainly sounded better than McCain or Obama on the campaign
trail, but he always left much to be desired. He talked about smaller
government, but most of the things he said could have been said
by any establishment Republican candidate. Ronald Reagan probably
sounded more radical in his time than Bob Barr has this past year.
Why would people get excited about a third-party candidate, who
has no shot of winning, when his ideas aren't even that radical
or exciting?

The Bob Barr
supporters playing the lottery ticket forgot, or never learned,
the key component to advancing liberty. It isn't vote total or media
exposure that counts the most. It is educating others on the benefits
of liberty. Perhaps Barr reached a few new people and drove them
in a more libertarian direction. But it was a fraction of what Ron
Paul did in his latest presidential run. And the biggest factor
is that Barr did close to nothing in recruiting radical libertarians
that can always be counted on to oppose the state.

Harry
Browne
understood well in his two presidential campaigns that
education is the key to success. He knew he had no chance of winning
and he would admit that. His goal was to spread the message of liberty
and to teach people how much better off their lives could be without
government interference. This point was completely missed by Bob
Barr and his supporters.

The ironic
thing is that this could have truly been a breakout year for the
Libertarian Party. I don't want to put words into Ron Paul's mouth,
but I have a feeling that if Mary Ruwart had been the nominee, then
she would have received an endorsement from Ron Paul. Either way
though, she would have been a perfect place to go for a large number
of the approximately 1.2 million people that voted for Ron Paul
in the primaries. She would have been a rallying point for the liberty
movement, much as Ron Paul was in the primaries. But regardless
of the number of supporters and voters she would have received,
she would have continued to educate people and had people excited
about freedom, just as Ron Paul did in his campaign.

This should
all be a lesson to those in the LP. Don't get sucked in by the celebrity
candidate. Don't get sucked in by someone saying that he will get
more media attention than ever before. Certainly don't get sucked
in by someone who says he can win. It turns out that Barr didn't
receive that much more media coverage than past candidates anyway.
And he received around the same percentage of votes as what had
been typical
for the LP
.

It will be
interesting to see where the party goes from here. If the disaffected
Republicans, who aren't really libertarians, continue to take over
the party, then the party will become completely irrelevant in a
short period of time. If the radical libertarians get back in control
of the party, then the LP can resume educating people, much like
Harry Browne did. The libertarian movement will go on with or without
the Libertarian Party, but it will certainly be better if the LP
can help us instead of wasting time like it did in the 2008 presidential
campaign.

November
7, 2008

Geoffrey
Pike [send him mail]
currently resides in Florida. In his spare time, he enjoys sports,
music, investing, and studying libertarianism.

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