Sunday, December 19, 2021

Part Of The ... er, My ... Problem with Dave Smith's Libertarian Party Strategy Recommendations


Back when I was a union factory worker, my fellow union members laughed it up when I pointed out that unions supporting a government "social safety net" is pretty much the definition of being anti-union.

Here's the trick that labor unions are playing on themselves -- intentionally or not -- when they support minimum wage/overtime laws, government unemployment "insurance," Social Security, etc.:

Suppose I work at McDonald's and am thinking about supporting unionization. What birds are in the bush?

Well, higher wages, better overtime pay, a benefit package that provides income during layoffs, and a better pension plan are all things that a union could bargain for.

But trying to unionize is risky (the boss just might lock you out and hire workers who aren't interested in unionizing) ... and the government already provides bare minimums on all that. Those bare minimums -- the birds in my hand -- are a disincentive to taking the risks involved in unionizing. At least in theory, they keep things less bad than they might otherwise be. If I risk getting fired or laid off over unionization, I'm risking more than I'd be risking if I didn't already have inferior versions of all that stuff I want. The signal is "yeah, settle for what you already have." Why would unions support such a thing?

Well, that's a question for a different post. I just bring it up because what brought it to mind this morning was listening to Dave Smith ("Part Of The Problem" podcast embed at the end of this post) prove himself to political strategy as Saddam Hussein was to military strategy.

Smith opines that "we" -- by which he means the Libertarian Party, which he seems to think is some kind of centrally organized monolith, as opposed to 50-odd state organizations consisting of very independent cats who decline to be herded -- shouldn't "primary" certain "good" Republicans and Democrats when contesting elections.

Two of the examples he cited were Tulsi Gabbard (Republicans' favorite Democratic hawk until she realized that antiwar donors were naive enough that she could milk them for money while still being fully in favor of killing Muslims just as long as it's done with drone strikes instead of risking American troops' lives) and Ron DeSantis, (one of what Smith called the "best" governors on COVID-19 despite the fact that he placed state troopers at the state's borders to flag down travelers and force them to quarantine, and has ordered private businesses to "bake the cake" for the unvaccinated/unmasked, their freedom of association be damned).

But let's just roll for a moment with pretending that Gabbard or DeSantis have anything significant to offer from a libertarian standpoint -- that they're not "as bad as," say, Tom Cotton or Gavin Newsom.

Standing aside for "not quite as bad" candidates so that "worse" candidates may not win is pretty much the equivalent of wanting a good pension plan but supporting Social Security until that better pension plan just magically appears out of thin air with no effort or risk on your part. You're not going to get what you want. At best, you're going to get a pale, unsatisfactory substitute. Because why the hell would anyone give you what you want when you've already cheerfully agreed to settle for less rather than risk anything at all?

As Frederick Douglass said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both."

Deciding not to run libertarian candidates against "not quite as bad" authoritarian candidates is, in four words, quietly submitting to authoritarianism (unless the strategy involves ignoring electoral politics altogether and making our demands in some different venue than elections, for which there are some good arguments). It's accepting the occasional bone thrown our way rather than taking the risks involved in getting what we actually want.

Libertarians may or may not ever get what we demand -- but not even bothering to demand it is a fuck-silly strategy for getting it.

And getting back to the cat-herding practicalities mentioned above, in many if not most states "the Libertarian Party" has almost no control over whether there's a Libertarian candidate on the ballot for a particular office or not.

If you want to run for, say, Congress as a Libertarian, you pay a filing fee or gather signatures from voters, and you're on the ballot. If more than one person seeks the Libertarian Party's nomination, there's a primary; if not, you pass Go, collect your $200, and proceed to the general election as the Libertarian candidate for that office. There is no "we" in the party apparatus that gets to wave a magic wand and decide not to run a Libertarian candidate against a "less bad" Republican or Democrat.

Smith's strategy recommendations make no sense whatsoever from either an ideological or practical perspective.



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