Sunday, July 10, 2005

Taking stands is part of politics


On a state Libertarian Party-related email discussion list, one long-time member expresses his dissatisfaction with the LP's "Exit Strategy for Iraq" thusly:

"It would make much more sense for us to acknowledge a difference of opinion among libertarians, but the anti-defense wing prefers a purge."

There are several things wrong with this statement, among them the fact that the pro-defense wing of the Libertarian Party is firmly opposed to the non-defensive war in Iraq, and that taking a position on an issue is not a "purge." But the biggest flaw is this:

Political parties take positions. That's what they do. When issues are divisive in society, they're going to be divisive among parties as well, but ultimately a party has to decide what it stands for ... and stand for it, even if that means that some members leave, and even if they throw around terms like "purge" on the way out the door that they are voluntarily walking through.

In the past, this particular poster has expressed no problem with the Libertarian Party staking out firm positions. For example, he is radically "pro-choice" on the abortion issue, and he firmly supports the "pro-choice" plank in the Libertarian Party's platform.

Now, abortion is far more divisive for Libertarians than the war issue is. A hefty minority of LP members are "pro-life" to one degree or another; depending on how you quantify it, either three or four of its last five presidential candidates have been at least nominally "pro-life;" the party came within a couple percent of deleting the abortion plank from its platform in 2002. Yet our "can't we just admit we have differences of opinion on the war and drop the issue" poster doesn't think that the LP should drop the abortion issue ... because he's got the party advocating his position on it.

LP members are far more united in opposition to the war on Iraq than they are in support of the "pro-choice" side of the abortion debate. The pro-war faction in the LP isn't infinitesimal in size, but it is small.

Furthermore, the war issue is the preeminent policy issue of the day. Abortion is, to put it bluntly, a minor side issue for the simple reason that it is vanishingly unlikely that there will be any change whatsoever in the status quo created by Roe v. Wade. Those who support abortion have nothing to worry about, and those who oppose it are wasting their time if they put too much energy into it. It's a deadlock.

What this poster is saying is that the LP must toe his line on minor, irrelevant issues upon which it is deeply divided, but that on major issues where it is substantially united, it should simply keep its trap shut so that he doesn't have to make a tough decision on whether to support or not support it.

That's a recipe for failure in politics. Political parties either aggressively address the issues of the day, or they remain irrelevant. The LP had to take a position on the war. Now it has. Taking a position is not a "purge." As the author of the resolution which resulted in his state party's own first actual purge -- i.e. involuntary removal -- of a member, our dissatisfied poster should know this.

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