Just Another Hustler in the Hustler Kingdom

The passion of Wayne Allyn Root

Less than two months ago, after former Rep. Bob Barr started to edge into the Libertarian Party's presidential race, I had an idea. Former Sen. Mike Gravel, a former Democrat, was already gunning for the nomination. It wasn't every year that politicians of the Left and the Right ditched the parties they'd spent their entire careers in to become Libertarians. I started planning an event with both candidates, jokingly promoting it on Facebook as a "great debate."

I got a call from Wayne Allyn Root.

What's this I'm hearing about a Libertarian debate?" Root said. "How are you going to have a Libertarian debate without the guy who's going to be the nominee?"

He laughed, but he was serious about this. When I wrote an early prognosis on the Libertarian race, I said Root—a sports prognosticator and gambling guru who's hosted TV shows, radio shows, and motivational speaking junkets—was running third behind Barr and movement speaker and author Mary Ruwart. Root had called to point out that he, not anyone else making a run at the nomination, was on the phone with delegates every spare minute he had. Every minute, at least, that he wasn't spending with me. "I'm calling up every one of these people who will actually be voting for the nominee!" Root said. "I talk to 25 or 30 of them every day!"

Root did talk to those delegates, missing only a handful, leaving messages on their machines. And he charmed his way into the forum I set up with Barr and Gravel. I watched as reporters flipped out cameras and digital recorders to capture the wisdom of the former senator and the lion of the Clinton impeachment, then saw Root struggling to convince them that he, too was a frontrunner. The day after the forum, Root called to laugh about the Washington Post's photo of the event, which cropped him out. "I'm going to frame that and put it on my wall." He laughed again.

In Denver, as the LP settled on its ticket, Root got his bragging rights. On the party's fifth ballot, he fell short of the party's nomination but held a stockpile of delegate votes that made more than the difference between Barr and Ruwart. He took the stage, pumping his fists. "I want to spend the next year learning from the master," Root said. "Barr/Root '08! Come on, let's bring it home!" The guy the national media mostly ignored ended up on the highest-polling (at this moment, at least) Libertarian ticket since the Reagan years.

Wayne Allyn Root is a failure. He'll tell you as much. He's "the world's most successful failure," a man who stumbled from job to job, succeeding at none of them, before he found the one that made him a millionaire. He used to be a Republican, then decided to become the Libertarian Party's presidential nominee. When he fell short, he threw his votes to Bob Barr and became the ex-congressman's running mate. What Wayne Root wants, Wayne Root gets. Sort of.

The little attention that the LP's ticket has received has centered, mostly, on Barr. The evolution of a Republican drug warrior into a Libertarian war horse is an odd, twisty story. Root's story is almost as entertaining. He is, in his own words, "the world's most successful failure." His first general-interest book (he's written six of them, most about the art of gambling) was titled The Joy of Failure, and it revealed how he'd basically talked his way into a glamorous career with a bullish sales plan papering over his lack of qualifications.

As Root tells it, he tried, and failed, at thirteen different careers. He was rejected from law school. He failed as a realtor four different times, blowing tens of thousands of dollars on brochures for properties no one bought. He managed a Manhattan restaurant, then "got bored and quit." He became an entertainment agent, signing one client, and snagging him one job—in six months. His biggest innovation was "Ivy League Home Cleaners," a maid service staffed with college graduates, none of whom, quite understandably, wanted to become maids.

Root's breakthrough came when he realized what he really wanted: to be a sports prognosticator. He decided to become "greatest sports prognosticator in the world," officially, sending out hundreds of press releases with that tagline, assuring reporters that they had to know about Wayne Allyn Root. Thanks to a few newspapers with feature holes to fill, the P.R. offensive paid off. Root founded a company (which failed) and wrote a book on risk (also a failure), but every little piece of credibility got him closer to TV personality status. Once he made it on TV, he was in: No one could take his fame away from him. His formula for success, he discovered, was something he could bottle and give to everybody. He taught it to his wife when she put on 80 pounds during her pregnancy. "She started living my program. The pounds started to melt off!"

With all of that behind him, how could Wayne Root not get into politics, the domain of district attorneys and trial lawyers and promotion-seeking chiefs of staff? "My entire life has been a PERFECT preparation for politics," Root told the Gambling Newswire in 2005. "I've spent the last 20 years giving interviews with the media. I'm on national TV more than any politician in the state of Nevada!" (This was before the still-mystifying triumph of Sen. Harry Reid.) In 2005, Root published a sort of sequel to his first self-help tome dubbed Millionaire Republican, telling readers that "thinking like a Republican," taking risks and cutting throats, was the surest path to success.

Some sections of the book didn't hold up so well. "This professional prognosticator," Root wrote then, "believes that the GOP will dominate American politics (on all levels) for the foreseeable future." But by mid-2006, Root was telling Republicans that they were throttling their message and their voters by building up big government, and by cracking down on gamblers. By early 2007, he was exploring his Libertarian Party bid. And by the time he took the stage with Bob Barr, on a national political ticket at last, Root was crowing about making his old party irrelevant, for reasons no other Libertarian had thought of. Like:

"There are 50 million poker players in this country, and 12 million online poker players. For the first time, they have a candidate they can support!"

And:

"I am the first small businessman to run on a national ticket!"

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  • Elemenope||

    Interesting fellow.

    Not so sue I want him heading NASA or moderating the Senate, though.

  • Elemenope||

    *sure

  • Colin||

    He's certainly a bozo -- but you got to admire his tenacity. If he could bottle that, he'd be a billionaire.

    Elemenope: doesn't it suck that there's no edit function?

  • the innominate one||

    you forgot "expert impressionist of cheesy used car salesman"

  • ||

    Is there any relationship between this Mr. Root and Damon W. Root, who writes for Reason?

    Enquiring minds want to know.

  • ||

    He is a bit "Guy Smiley from Sesame Street like." Yet, beneath his veneer of dumb blonde, he is pretty knowledgable and well-spoken about the issues. I also think that his optimism and ennthusiasm are a charming counterpoint to the (often true) stereotype of libertarians as an angry, unhappy lot.

  • jj||

    A decent, informative article, Weigel.

  • John||

    You also forgot "loud blowhard".

  • ||

    I'm not a big fan of Root, but he is right about a few things:

    1. 12 million online poker players SHOULD be voting Libertarian.

    2. Allowing parents to determine how to best educate their own children IS the biggest civil rights issue of our time. It's a fundamental issue of human liberty -- do children belong to the state, or their parents?

  • ||

    I would love to see Wayne Allyn Root moderating the Senate -- finally, a reason to watch C-SPAN!

  • ||

    If you watched the Libertarian convention, you could tell how mad this guy was getting when things weren't going his way. He looked like he was about to throttle somebody! I'm surprised he didn't strangle Mike Gravel when he refused to give Root his endorsement. Even when he was giving his speech to declare himself Barr's running mate, he sounded like he was about to snap at the crowd just for cheering him on!

    He's definitely got a mean streak beneath his "happy guy" persona. The guy's a psycho.

  • ||

    I really like the article.

    I confess, almost as a guilty pleasure, that I read Root's Millionaire Republican. I have to grudgingly give him my respect and admiration. At some point it struck me, I don't know why Ayn Rand would WANT to make one of her heroes a salesman, gambler, and self-promoter, but if she did, this guy pretty much fills the bill.

    I think he has some way to go on ideology; at least as of February, he wasn't for Out Of Iraq Now. But, he has a lot to contribute to the Party in terms of the vision thing.

    We can all laugh at the thought of Libertarians embracing the author of Joy Of Failure, but it makes sense -- in a good way. His point is that you believe in your dream and just pursue it relentlessly. I think that's more or less what it takes for freedom to succeed in the political realm.

    I would also note that he got endorsements from John Hospers and Manny Klausner, who are pretty heavy hitters in Liberworld.

    Needs to take a class in "Statesman-like Comportment", however.

    I'm a little surprised that I'm not hearing more about him in the election, since, you know, he's kind of big on people hearing about him. And then there seems to be this rumor that the Barr campaign has locked him in the attic (like, THAT would hold him...).

  • Rimfax||

    Two glaring grammatical errors in the first four words is a bit difficult to overlook.

  • ||

    I haven't read the article yet but if Dave didn't ask Root the hard hitting questions about IllegalImmigration that the MSM is too afraid to ask, then uploaded the responses to youtube, possibly set to Natalie Merchant music, then Dave is a hack in the pocket of ScaryCorporation, Inc.

  • e||

    Does he live in a van down by the river?

  • ||

    Root said at the convention that Winston Churchill was his hero. I thought that was an odd person for a libertarian to have as his hero.

  • David Weigel||

    Two glaring grammatical errors in the first four words is a bit difficult to overlook.

    Ugh. I had to change the lede to update the timing, and somehow inserted two errors. Fixed now.

  • ||

    If he had a bit more tact, he could be a great campaigner.

    As it is, "the deportment of a Ronco pitchman with a squirrel in his pants" pretty much sums it up. He strikes the viewer as a hyped-up infomercial salesman. Which is essentially what he is.

    Barr would have been much better off with Kubby, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out he regrets not getting him.

  • ||

    After shaking hands with Root one has two immediate impulses. First, you count your fingers. Second, you wash your hands.

  • ||

    "Barr would have been much better off with Kubby, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out he regrets not getting him."

    Obviously, Barr worked out a deal with Root to get his delegates to switch over to him on the last ballot to put him ahead of Ruwart.

  • ||

    bookworm-

    No, I think Root caught Barr by surprise.

  • ||

    Root is a blast. He's what the party needs. Root is wacky, but he's mainstream wacky. I think if put to the test Root would shock his opponents with his quick wit and reasonable answers. He speaks a language that mainstream Americans can understand and agree with. The libertarian party needs to become more excited, present optimism, and move from a puritan to a pragmatic platform that can be tailored to changing social norms. Barr and Root will go a long way in developing a more successful strategy for the LP.

  • ||

    Thanks for the new article that we all read already the first time it was published and linked from here.

  • Someone Who Doesn\'t Want to L||

    2. Allowing parents to determine how to best educate their own children IS the biggest civil rights issue of our time. It's a fundamental issue of human liberty -- do children belong to the state, or their parents?

    I gotta say it and probably cause someone to drink: but kids are people, not property. They don't belong to anyone except themselves.

  • Apaulogist||

    Any relation to Reason's own Damon Root?

  • ||

    I gotta say it and probably cause someone to drink: but kids are people, not property. They don't belong to anyone except themselves.


    Then can children exercise consent (to anything) at any age?

    Children are the sticking point in libertarian philosophy. Until a certain age* they are not considered capable of, nor responsible for decisions they make. Until that age or mental maturity level they are unable to actually "belong to themselves" and need to be cared for or be a ward of someone whether it be parents, guardians or even the state. You can argue that gradual introduction of rights is better than "wham-bam you're 18 hear you go" but to insist that children have full rights, particularly of consent, from birth is dubious in my book.

    *That age is open to debate, hence the arguments regarding age of consent for sex, marriage, military service and drinking on these here boards.

  • Eric Dondero||

    If Kubby had been picked for the VP spot besides Root, Barr might have lost a lot of support. Many Pro-Defense Libertarians are comfortable with Wayne Root, most especially Jewish Libertarians. Kubby is a Far Left Libertarian. Picking him would have created a great deal of concern and suspicion amongst Pro-Defense and Jewish Libertarians.

    Wayne Root is the absolute perfect pick for Bob Barr. This is the best Libertarian ticket ever. They couldn't have planned it any better if they had tried.

  • Someone Who Doesn\'t Want to L||

    Kwix, actually I wasn't arguing necessarily for full legal rights of consent and so forth, just that children be treated as something other than items to be labeled with the "Property of Bart Simpson" label-maker. In essence, I don't have trouble with consent laws, but I do have trouble with considering children the property of their parents. Children need more redress for parental abuse than what they have, including an easier way to legally separate themselves from parents.

    Part of my problem with the "children are property" (of parents, the state, or whomever) line is that I have pretty clear memories of my childhood going back to when I was three or four and less clear ones earlier than that. I remember what it was to be treated like property and I think some redress needs to be available, at the child's hands, rather than the state's.

  • My GF is from Mt Juliet||

    Pronounced Leb'nun
    two syllables

  • Travis||

    "Many Pro-Defense Libertarians are comfortable with Wayne Root, most especially Jewish Libertarians. Kubby is a Far Left Libertarian. Picking him would have created a great deal of concern and suspicion amongst Pro-Defense and Jewish Libertarians."

    I love Dondero he always makes me laugh.

  • Travis||

    Those ads for TheRichJerk.com are perfect for an article about WAR. The cartoon even looks like him a little bit.

  • Apaulogist||

    I never noticed that Root's initials are an acronym. A vote for Barr is a vote for W.A.R.!

  • J||

    As a (not religious, just familial) Jewish libertarian, I can say for sure that I would prefer Kubby.

    I would hate Root in person, I think, but he is enjoyable to watch - and I think he still might help raise the profile of the party, if he gets his act together.

  • TAO||

    I think that it can be definitively said that to run for president you've pretty much admitted your insanity to the public.

  • ||

    I remember what it was to be treated like property and I think some redress needs to be available, at the child's hands, rather than the state's.

    I have absolutely no idea what legal redress in a child's hands, rather than the state's, would look like. Are we talking about allowing 11 year old children to hire lawyers to sue their parents for damages? For legal separation? Once separated, who pays their bills?

  • ||

    I've liked Root ever since I heard him on Glenn Beck's radio program. Look, he's not going to be president, not anytime soon anyway. But in the bigger picture, he's an important character in the pro-liberty movement: he's fiery, he's consistent in his beliefs, and he's real - both for better and for worse. We need such colorful characters.

    Speaking of important characters, anyone else checked out Ron Paul's Campaign For Liberty yet?

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