Sunday, August 09, 2009

Stacy McCain is a friend ...

... and therefore I will give due diligence to his response to my take on his analysis ... geez, this is turning into a long chain of tort and retort already, isn't it? I suspect there's only so much gold to mine here, but I'll give it one more go.

Quoth The Other McCain:

One of the reasons that the Barr campaign got so much national media attention in Spring 2008 was the widespread belief that, given the strength of the Ron Paul GOP campaign -- especially in terms of online fundraising -- and furthermore considering an established personal friendship between Barr and Paul, if the LP nominated Barr, he would bring much of Paul's financial and grassroots support with him.

It may be the case that that belief was "widespread" ... but I never put much stock in it, nor did I consider the possibility to represent a positive development. Remember, I was not a Ron Paul supporter (see here and here for some reasons why).

There has been a good deal of behind-the-scenes finger-pointing among Libertarians as to what went wrong after the LP convention in May, but a falling-out between Paul and Barr (which seems to have happened in June) could not have been anticipated when Team Barr organized its nomination campaign.

The falling-out between Paul and Barr is a convenient explanation for Barr's poor results, but it isn't an explanation which, ummm, explains those results.

As you'll recall, Paul did end up endorsing a presidential candidate (Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party), and Paul's support and fundraising success didn't magically transfer there, either.

Nor, for that matter, did Paul himself poll especially well where he appeared on the ballot.

Believe it or not, most of Paul's supporters from the GOP primary period ended up voting for the GOP nominee. I'd claim credit for predicting that, but that would be like claiming credit for predicting that water will freeze at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. Republicans voted Republican ... whodathunkit?

Tom and I met as part of the vanload of "smelly libertarians" who made the road trip to the Denver LP convention. Tom represents a sizeable faction in the Libertarian Party who hate and despise anything "conservative" or Republican.

This, I think, is an impression I should take a moment to correct.

I am not a conservative, but I don't "despise" honest conservatives. I am not a Republican, but I don't "despise" honest Republicans.

I do consider conservatism a philosophical dead end if the standard of relevance is the preservation and expansion of human freedom. Thus I must consider conservatives benighted to the extent that they hold to ideas which diverge from libertarianism. That doesn't make them bad people. It doesn't even make them stupid (lots of smart people have really bad political ideas). It just makes them wrong, and I decline to join them in, or humor, their error.

And since I am a partisan Libertarian, I must perforce consider the Republican Party and its candidates for office opponents -- in exactly the same way as, and to exactly the same extent as, the Democratic Party and its candidates.

That doesn't mean I have to personally dislike every conservative or Republican I run into. And I don't. Heck, I even give them credit when, as on occasion happens, one of them does the right thing. But from a pragmatic standpoint, I don't see that Libertarians have anything to gain by allowing -- nay, courting -- identification of ourselves with philosophies and political organizations to which we are, from our foundations up, unalterably opposed.

Personally, I have attempted to describe "Libertarian Populism" as a potential locus for opposition to both Democratic Party progressive statism and the Progressive Lite go-along-to-get-along approach of GOP "moderates," by offering freedom as the basic answer to populist grievances.

I consider myself a libertarian populist -- but most manifestly of a different type than that described by The Other McCain.

What is at stake in all this is something much more important than divergent estimates of individual candidates or disagreements about campaign strategy. What is at stake is nothing less than liberty itself.

Liberty itself is always at stake, every minute of every hour of every day. And to paraphrase Gideon J. Tucker, no man's life, liberty or property are safe while a Democrat or Republican legislature is in session.

This may be true of a Libertarian legislature as well -- but I'd like to find out. The only way to find out is to break one or both of those other two parties, and we're not going to be able to exploit such a breakage if we've allowed ourselves to get wrapped up in playing junior partner in a coalition with either of them.

If our nation's future is to be entrusted to Nancy Pelosi and her ilk, then the disagreements between Tom Knapp and myself are moot, no more relevant to contemporary politics than an historical discussion of how the Whigs self-destructed after 1844.

I agree. Now substitute "John Boehner and his ilk" and I'll still agree.

In the present crisis, friends of liberty must prioritize their efforts and focus on practical activism to stop ObamaCare, Waxman-Markey and EFCA -- the Big Three legislative initiatives being pushed through Congress with every resource that can be mustered by the special interests who control the Democratic Party.

Ah, now we're getting somewhere.

I'll put this as plainly as I know how to put it:

If "friends of liberty" are serious about stopping ObamaCare, Waxman-Markey and EFCA, they'll unhitch their wagon from the philosophy of (random pick) William F. Buckley, Jr. and the party of Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind and "Right to Work [sic]."

The Republican Party and the conservative philosophy are not useful instruments for the defense of liberty. Never have been, aren't now, aren't ever gonna be, at least on any kind of consistent basis.

If Bob Barr had made that ideological and partisan break, I'd have supported him all the way and would still be supporting him today, and there might, at this very moment, be a genuine pro-liberty framework for the Tea Parties and the various efforts against Obama's initiatives to coalesce around. But he didn't. Instead, the GOP is coopting those efforts with all its might, and the choice they're offering America is "heads big government wins, tails you lose to big government."

I'm not going to attempt to tell you that the Libertarian Party is the political instrument which can break this cycle of bouncing back and forth between two parties of big government. That remains to be seen. I do know that we won't break it by throwing our weight on one end of that seesaw. We've got to get America off the seesaw.

More later ... maybe. There were some other points I wanted to respond to, but it's late ... er, early ... I'm tired, and I doubt this is something we're going to suddenly come to some kind of agreement on. See you at the barricades, wearing my "If I had half a mind, I'd be a Republican" button.

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