Why Senator Snort Is Not a Libertarian

Older readers will recognize Senator Snort. For decades in the cartoon strip, Grin and Bear It, he was the universal archetype of a United States Senator. He frequently appeared on Faze the Nation.

There has not been a libertarian U.S. Senator in my lifetime. Robert A. Taft was closer to the position than the others, but he buckled on Federally funded public housing. He was the best we had, but he was not ideologically consistent.

There was no one in second place.

There have been two libertarian Congressmen: Howard Buffett of Nebraska and Ron Paul of Texas. Only one of them has attained national prominence, and that because of a run for the Presidency. Without warning, individuals used the Web to raise tens of millions of dollars for his campaign. He did not foresee this when he announced his candidacy. Neither did anyone else.

He has collected a large database of people who sent money. This database can be used for political education. I hope this will be education on local political mobilization. Any office higher than mayor or state representative is a waste of time. It had better be a small-town mayor.


The Senate is carefully guarded by the Establishment. No libertarian has gotten elected in my memory.

A Senate race requires huge amounts of money. Only the two parties can supply this. A multimillionaire might be able to buy his way into a nomination if he was willing to do what New Jersey’s Jon Corzine did. But libertarians with this much money are suspicious of politics. They are not about to spend their money on a Don Quixote effort. Besides, even if elected, what would they get? Committee assignments. They would preside over the care and feeding of the beast.

A quarter of a century ago, I sat down with Paul Weyrich. I asked him about what it takes to get conservatives — not libertarians — to run for office. He was forthright. “They will not run for a local office. I can get lots of people to run for the Senate, if I agree to raise the money. But they refuse to put in years in the trenches. They are not interested in lower offices.”

I wrote my piece, “The Dogcatcher Strategy,” in response to his statement. It sat in my files unused for almost twenty years. A much-shortened version of it was published on in 2000.

The Senate is a vetted organization. The party’s hierarchy screens the candidates. Then the media screen the two rivals. If one of them deviates from the acceptable limits of discourse, the media come down on the side of the candidate who accepts today’s Federal government. No one gets through the party’s vetting who is hostile to the state.

This has been known by libertarians for decades. Leonard E. Read of the Foundation for Economic Education used to say of high-level politicians, “I do not drink tea with such people.” Read never drank tea, but you get the idea. Another aphorism on campaign rhetoric: “The higher you fly to get the office, the farther you’ll fall when you get it.” He dismissed all but Howard Buffett and Ron Paul with this phrase: “They leak.”

Local politics is regarded as meaningless to the parties except in cities. This is why principled people can occasionally get elected. But they get outvoted in the bodies to which they get elected. They rarely are re-elected. They will face challengers from their own party at the next election. The challengers will have access to deep pockets in the Good Old Boy network.

This extends all the way up the chain of command.

Ron Paul faces this tactic this year. He has not had a challenger inside the Republican Party for years. He always defeats the Democrat. This year, there is a challenger for the Party’s nomination. Paul has had to pull back from the national campaign until the Texas primary on March 4.

This is not random. The same phenomenon forced Kucinich out of the Presidential race last August: a challenger inside the Democrat Party.


The two parties screen candidates. They apply the rule articulated by House Speaker Sam Rayburn: “You’ve got to go along to get along.” Those elected local politicians who do not go along do not get along with the hierarchy, which controls the money.

We occasionally see someone with no political experience and no understanding of politics make a run for the Senate or other high office. I remember one back in 1966: William Penn Patrick. He ran for Governor of California against Reagan. I voted for him. I thought Reagan was just too liberal. In the Republican primary, Patrick got 1% of the vote, which anyone could get if he just got his name on the ballot. Patrick was a millionaire who had made his money with a multilevel marketing operation that sold cosmetics. He spent his own money. Nobody with an ounce of sense ever sent his campaign any money. It was a pure Don Quixote operation.

Nobody wants to be Sancho Panza at his own expense.

Neophytes get interested in politics, play around, spend some time, and may even write a check. But a neophyte who actually thinks he can do anything except waste his time and money running for high office is totally misguided. He is without political understanding. Anyone who would try this without great personal wealth to waste on a Don Quixote campaign is wasting his time. Nobody will send him any money. People smart enough to have much money are not ready to waste it on someone else’s soon-to-crash dream.


Politics is for our entertainment value. The system is rigged. It is not open to outsiders. The higher the office, the less it is open to outsiders. The more power the office seems to offer, the more guarded it is.

What can one person do? Develop a digital mailing list for sending out educational materials on the importance of self-government. “You mean he cannot effect political change at the national level?” That is exactly what I mean.

Senator Snort is not a libertarian. Ever.

February 20, 2008

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

Copyright © 2008