Socialism’s New Best Friend: The Libertarian Party?

by John Hawkins | April 15, 2008 7:51 am

A lot of Libertarians are getting hyped up about the latest oddball who may be carrying the Libertarian Party banner forward in 2008, Bob Barr. Here’s what George Will[1] has to say about Barr as a nominee for the Libertarian Party,

Compact and Feisty Bob Barr, 59, probably will seek and get the presidential nomination of the Libertarian Party, which convenes in Denver on Memorial Day weekend. Given the recent fund-raising prowess of a kindred spirit–Ron Paul’s campaign for the Republican nomination siphoned up $35 million, mostly off the Internet–libertarians are feeling their oats. Come November, Barr conceivably could be to John McCain what Ralph Nader was to Al Gore in 2000–ruinous. Nader was a weak third-party candidate but was the most consequential in American history. He won only 2,882,955 popular votes nationwide (2.7 percent), but 97,488 of them were in Florida, where, because of Nader, George W. Bush won by 537 votes.

…Shane Cory, the Libertarian Party’s executive director, knows that directing libertarians is like herding cats–almost a contradiction in terms. But he thinks his party is upwardly mobile. In 2004, its presidential candidate received just 397,265 votes, a mere .32 percent of the national popular vote. The party did best in Indiana (18,058 votes, .73 percent). But in no state was the Libertarian vote larger than the winning candidate’s margin of victory. This year, however, Cory thinks the party can far surpass its best national performance–921,299 votes (1.1 percent of the total) in 1980. It has recruited 600 down-ballot candidates around the nation (including Michael Munger, chairman of the political-science department at Duke, who is running for governor of North Carolina) and expects to have 1,500 by Election Day.

Tell you what; let’s say the Libertarian Party doubles its best performance ever and grabs 2.2% of the national vote.

So what? You don’t win elections with 2.2% of the vote.

The only thing that the Libertarian Party can “accomplish,” if they get really lucky, is to take enough votes from Republicans to put socialistic liberals, like Barack Obama, in office.

Let’s say that happens. Let’s say that Bob Barr gets 2.2% of the vote and costs McCain the election. What does that do for Libertarians or, for that matter, the country?

If the idea is supposed to be that Republicans would try to cater to Libertarian Party members after a loss like that, then that’s pure fantasy because the numbers just don’t work.

The Libertarian Party is very small and has an agenda that is extremely unpopular with most Americans, so the GOP cannot move significantly towards Libertarian positions. Moreover, Libertarian voters tend to have views that are so far out of the mainstream that it’s impossible to pull them into the GOP by simply making some minor changes on an issue or two.

This election is a perfect example of that. The biggest issue that Libertarians, at least rightward leaning Libertarians, tend to say that they have is fiscal conservatism. Well, John McCain is one of the single most fiscally conservative members of the Congress. Sure, there are other things Libertarians — and for that matter, conservatives — have to complain about, but therein lies the rub; any Republican who is capable of capturing the nomination and winning the general election is going to disagree with Libertarians on lots of key issues. Like it or not, that’s just the world we live in.

If you’re a Libertarian and you want to make a real difference, you’re not going to do it through the Libertarian Party. The only way you can make a real difference is by expanding the number of Libertarians in the country and I believe the best way to do that is to join the Republican Party and try to convince conservatives, from the inside, that Libertarians have it right philosophically.

  1. George Will:

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