Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Buy the ticket, take the ride

Ron Paul has endorsed Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party's candidate for President of the United States.

Readers of this blog know that I'm no Paul cultist. And, while I haven't belabored the point (I prefer to ignore them), I keep the Constitution Party lower than the Democrats, lower even than the Republicans, on my preference list. Put a gun to my head, I might vote for John McCain to save my miserable life. If it's Baldwin, though, go ahead and pull the trigger. You can splatter my brains all over the wall before you can have my vote for him. Cigarette, blindfold and mason jar full of cheap bourbon first, if you don't mind too terribly much.

Thing is, it didn't have to be this way. It could have been prevented. Hell, it took herculean efforts on the part of the Libertarian Party and Bob Barr's presidential campaign to make it happen.

The Libertarian Party could have held out for a libertarian presidential slate. It had several good candidates to choose from. Instead, it decided to play cargo cult dress-up games and nominate a duplicate Republican ticket.

Bob Barr could have shown up to the Campaign For Liberty event he committed to participate in, smiled, accepted a handshake from Paul, and walked out without an exclusive endorsement but with more money and more votes than he had walked in with. Instead, he chose to cancel at the last minute, make an ass of himself (and his party) in public by trying to upstage Paul, and piss off the voter bloc that constitutes the closest thing to a libertarian groundswell since at least the 1964 Goldwater campaign, probably since Grover Cleveland's 1892 anti-tariff/hard-money run for a second non-consecutive term, and just maybe since 1776.

Even after that, the Libertarian National Committee could have minimized the damage. It could have issued an apology to Paul and C4L, on the LP's behalf, for Barr's antics. It could have even, in extremis, removed Barr as the party's presidential nominee. Instead, the LNC gridlocked -- its Irresponsibility Caucus met proposals for an apology with proposals for further insult, and neither side prevailed. Unfortunately, either the Irresponsibility Caucus or the Barr campaign apparently has de facto operational control of LPHQ, which has issued a stream of communiques designed to make the situation worse, not better.

It took three massive systemic failures -- at the convention level, at the campaign level, and at the national committee level -- to bring about the current situation. All of those failures were avoidable. The party and the campaign chose not to prevent them. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

The LP is broken, big-time. This year is pretty much shot. Barr looks set to raise a little more money, and probably pull down a few more votes on his name recognition, than Michael Badnarik, the LP's 2004 candidate whom Barr's acolytes have so much enjoyed laughing down their noses at. I doubt more than ever that Barr will bust the 1980 Ed Clark ceiling and reach a million votes, and even if he did, it would be a poison pill -- the more attention he attracts, the more silly and less serious the LP looks.

Can the LP be fixed? Should it be fixed, at least in anything resembling its current form? So far as I can tell, The Libertarian National Committee's main function at this point is to serve as a live demonstration of the futility of central planning and top-down politics.

The LNC also no longer has a monopoly on libertarian partisan politics at the national level. The Boston Tea Party may only be on the ballot in three states this year, but I seem to recall that that's one more ballot line than the LP made its first time out. If the LNC system continues to fail partisan libertarians, they -- as individuals, and as state Libertarian Party organizations -- have somewhere else to go.

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