Barr/Root: A Point-Counterpoint

As I reported in my write-up of the Bob Barr election night party, VP candidate Wayne Allyn Root promised the crowd that he'd be back in 2012: "Maybe as your president-elect!" Root e-mailed me later to reflect on how the ticket had performed.

Barr/Root got the 2nd highest raw vote total in the 37 year history of LP, we did it in perhaps the worst environment for Third Parties ever (because of the hype, fear, and excitement over Obama)... and we did it on a virtually non-existent campaign budget. Obama won with almost $700 million. We did it with no money. Only nonstop media appearances... and IDEAS!

In all prior elections, the LP VP candidates were literaly MIA  and invisible for the entire campaign. They received zero media attention. In 2008 I changed all that with 800+ media appearances, including FOX News Channel nonstop in the last month of the campaign. What I accomplished is remarkable for a third party VP candidate. That is a SMALL sign of things to come.

I campaigned for over a year with one theme at every event, every media appearance, every debate, every speech, every conversation with voters: that Barry Goldwater had great ideas, yet still lost in a landslide. Reagan took the same ideas and won in two landslides. The only difference was his ability to communicate, educate and motivate voters. I'm a Reagan/Obama for the LP and the Ron Paul freedom movement. Obama's election proves a good communicator can change everything.

Now instead of running for President for a short period of time, or a spur-of-the-minute idea. I have four years to hit the ground running. Four years of nonstop media appearances. Four years of serious fundraising. Four years of contrasting my ideas for smaller government with those of our President Barack Obama, my college classmate, my Libertarian book out with one of the world's biggest publishers in May, and serious interest from major radio syndicators for my own national political radio show called (what else?) ROOT FOR AMERICA.

A little while later I heard from Steve Kubby, the medical marijuana activist who narrowly lost the party's VP nomination to Root and beseeched LP "radicals" not to bolt the party. (Given how few people voted for the breakaway Boston Tea/Personal Choice Party, I think Kubby succeeded.) Kubby has put out a public statement on this year's LP campaign.

The bottom line for this ticket is that they promised $30 million in campaign contributions and a popular vote of 5%. Instead, they raised just over $1 million and failed to break 0.5% of the vote, landing them a 4th place finish for LP presidential campaigns. Barr and Root received a record amount of media coverage and they are celebrities in their own right, but it didn’t work out the way we were told it would.

So much for media and celebrity.

The Barr/Root campaign was an honest test of media and celebrity and the results are clear. Media and celebrity is not the answer. Our ideas and our ability to communicate those ideas, is what sets us apart and earns us serious attention. The hunger for new ideas has never been greater and our ideas, about limited government, ending personal income taxes and upholding personal freedom are more mainstream than ever.

If we dilute our message and rely upon celebrity, it gets us nothing but empty rhetoric. On the other hand, if we transmit a pure signal and only a handful get it, but they totally and earnestly get it, then that is revolutionary.

I think the poor showing of Ralph Nader—on more ballots than ever, but registering his lowest vote totals ever in most states—is the best evidence that this was just a bad third party year, as Root suggests. But there were two other directions the LP could have gone in. One minor change would have been the selection of Kubby instead of Root as VP. Kubby would have soothed most of the people who went online and agitated against Barr/Root, and given the campaign an extra media hook (the drug warrior and the drug war victim!), but it's unlikely Kubby would have done as much media as Root or appealed directly to conservatives.

A major change would have been the nomination of Dr. Mary Ruwart over Barr. Ruwart might have secured the endorsement of Ron Paul. She certainly wouldn't have spooked him into endorsing Chuck Baldwin. But the low vote totals of the Baldwin campaign don't suggest that Paul could have boosted any candidate that much, given that his endorsement wasn't backed up by campaign appearences or fundraising. And Ruwart would have alienated Barr supporters (and Root) to the degree that they might have sat the election out. With no media profile outside of the movement, she would have gotten a level of coverage comparable, probably, to Cynthia McKinney. There was no one "right" way to boost the LP in 2008.

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  • D.A. Ridgely||

    There was no one "right" way to boost the LP in 2008.



    Short of, say, strapping the whole kit and kaboodle of them to a Saturn V, that is.

  • Nigel Watt||

    Kubby might have been able to pull serious contributions, though.

  • ||

    I would've stayed home on election day had Ruwart been the nominee. Kubby might've been a better VP nominee, but otherwise I'm not sure what else the LP could've done to get more votes than they did.

  • Dormouse||

    Root is an....interesting person.

  • ||

    Root is ... the counterpoint.

  • ||

    I think a lot of people talk a good game about voting or considering third parties, but when they step in that booth, they panic, think they're "throwing their vote away", and instead go with one of the big two. Especially in a year where everyone was getting way too worked up with identity politics.

  • Lefiti||

    "Our ideas and our ability to communicate those ideas, is what sets us apart and earns us serious attention."

    Uh, no. Keep the ideas under wraps and go for better looking candidates. Geez, this is like listening to two ants planning to rape an elephant. Isn't it possible to accept being an irrelevant fringe party, make the most of it, and skip the ludicrous delusions?

  • ||

    The Barr/Root campaign was an honest test of media and celebrity and the results are clear. Media and celebrity is not the answer. Our ideas and our ability to communicate those ideas, is what sets us apart and earns us serious attention. The hunger for new ideas has never been greater and our ideas, about limited government, ending personal income taxes and upholding personal freedom are more mainstream than ever.


    Amen, Amen, and Amen

    ROOT,
    Your self aggrandizement is merely the product of your deluded and defective mind. Go crawl back into whatever hole your crawled out of. Or find a new one. Just get the fuck out of my party. Next to the likes of Badnarik, you are an embarrassment.

  • Boston||

    Me loves pointless counterfactuals.

  • ||

    I think you underestimate the soothing effect a Barr/Kubby unity ticket would have had for the LP base. Barr's inability to secure his base, in part because of his past and in part because of the way he ran his campaign, was the reason he was never able to get a solid enough fundraising and volunteer base of support to build on. I don't think it would have made that big a difference in the ultimate vote total, but it would have been a more productive and less acrimonious campaign. No one on Barr's team had any long-term roots in the LP and the libertarian movement, which I think is why he so often blundered into stepping on their toes. Kubby would have provided a much needed- and no doubt insistent- Libertarian conscience for Barr's campaign.

    Ultimately, though, Barr's biggest problem is that he didn't even try to build the broad libertarian coalition at the heart of the LP Reform strategy. He didn't go from radical niche to broad coalition, he just tried (and failed) to target a different niche: disgruntled conservatives. That and the infuriating incompetence of his campaign- Badnarik tooting around the country in his beat-up car managed ballot access better- killed all enthusiasm. At the end of the day the same ~400,000 voters the LP gets every 4 years still voted for Barr, but none of them felt energized or inspired by him to go out and campaign, volunteer, etc.

  • The Democratic Republican||

    "ideas" and "communication" don't matter. Root and Kubby both need to have their heads examined.

    Winning elections will always be about 3 things (among others):

    1. money
    2. the perception that the candidate can win
    3. a monster grassroots campaign

    If you don't have that, don't even talk about making a difference, let alone winning. Money talks and bullshit walks. That applies to both Root and Kubby.

  • Brian Defferding||

    I wouldn't mind Ruwart as the nomination next time around.

  • Travis2||

    I love Wayne Allen Root.

  • Boston||

    Given how few people voted for the breakaway Boston Tea/Personal Choice Party, I think Kubby succeeded

    Wouldn't it be possible that these 'radicals' just didn't for Pres instead of voting for Charlie J?

  • Brian Defferding||

    The Democratic Republican: I really think it has a lot to do with being a great communicator. You have to excite the people and be knowledgeable about the world. John Kerry, Dole and McCain were as exciting as watching paint dry. And Sarah Palin...well, need I say more. Clinton, Reagan and Obama got people excited, and they all came off as smart (even if we disagreed with their views). Just my thoughts.

  • Lefiti||

    "I think you underestimate the soothing effect a Barr/Kubby unity ticket would have had for the LP base."

    One bottle of Valium would have a soothing effect on the LP base, and you'd have pills left over. Much cheaper.

  • ||

    Listening to sports talk yesterday I noticed that W.A.R. is back on the air hyping his Monday Night Specials and so forth. I wonder how much money running for VP cost him?

  • NotThatDavid||

    Oh, God, not the "raw vote total" nonsense. A higher number (not percentage) of voters turned out this year than in any other election in history. Of course you got a lot of zeroes in your vote total. It doesn't help much when your percentage still starts with a decimal point.

    I am more convinced than ever that the Libertarian Party needs to start focusing on electing city councils and mayors, and working up from there. You can't build a party with presidential candidates alone. Successful third-party runs (and I use the term loosely) - Teddy Roosevelt, Ross Perot, John Anderson, etc. - got votes because people thought they were unique candidates, not because they represented a political party they agreed with. And the few who were associated with third parties instead of being independent candidates never got those parties off the ground after their own stars faded.

    We don't need a cult of personality, we need a party. You don't build a party by waiting for lightning to strike - you build it by cultivating talent, running in local elections, getting people comfortable with your brand, and only moving up for the larger prizes when you've got people with records to run on. It's slow, but it also doesn't look make you look like a big publicity stunt.

    If the hunger for new ideas is there, and the principle of limited government is "more mainstream than ever," then that only makes this campaign an even more dismal failure.

  • ||

    A Paul/Barr ticket might have worked. Current and former Republican congressmen offering a major change on war/drug war/fiscal policy from both the current Republicans and Democrats. Paul's ability to raise money and bring in young people. Barr's ability to not sound like a loon on national TV. Might have been harder to keep them out of the national debates.

    I must say, I don't know why a man in his 70s is trying to keep his place in the Republican party when his place is to be ignored. If he wasn't going to endorse McCain, Paul should have run as an independent or Libertarian.

  • B||

    Maybe there's something more fundamental at work here in the LP's relatively sorry showing this time out.

    My sense (though I don't have firm numbers to back it up...perhaps someone knows for sure) is that third parties generally have fared better in presidential elections that involve an incumbent (or the incumbent's VP). In "open" years like this one, both the major parties are more energized b/c their guy hasn't been a proven disaster (yet).

    I'm thinking mostly this year compared with 1992 in particular.

  • Lefiti||

    "If the hunger for new ideas is there, and the principle of limited government is "more mainstream than ever..."

    Jesus, you must come to such conclusuions by listening only to the noise in your head. The limited-government Republican party is imploding, the government just nationalized several banks, and Paul Krugman has the ear of the incoming Democtaic administration. Even your moronic ideology has to be based on more than wishful thinking. Maybe not.

  • Mike Linksvayer||

    In 2012 libertarians should use the market rather than listening to the promises of politicians (claimed libertarians or not) when selecting a candidate -- http://www.midasoracle.org/2008/11/09/analysis-of-barr-and-nader-2008-intrade-contracts/

  • ||

    We are on the threshold of decade or more of economic Depression wherein "ideas" will be anathema.
    Sorry.

    Ruthless

  • cmace||

    I think it was just a bad year for 3rd party pres candidates. In my area of Johnson County, Ks, (KC suburb) Barr got .54% while the LP senate and house candidates got 2.3% and 2.9% respectively.

  • ||

    A twoparty shill sez Clinton, Reagan and Obama got people excited, and they all came off as smart (even if we disagreed with their views).

    Hell, Tony Robbins excites people too. So good luck with that politics of personality thing. I mean, there isn't a chance in the world that it could come back to bite you in the ass or anything.

    A truebeliever sez If we dilute our message and rely upon celebrity, it gets us nothing but empty rhetoric. On the other hand, if we transmit a pure signal and only a handful get it, but they totally and earnestly get it, then that is revolutionary.

    Of course you don't have to go the "celebrity" route, you could modulate the message so that it resonates better. But that would run afoul of that purity thingee. Ideological puritans, sheesh. Right in the same theater of the absurd as the Marxists who plea that it just hasn't been done right.

  • Urkobold™||

    Uh, no. Keep the ideas under wraps and go for better looking candidates. Geez, this is like listening to two ants planning to rape an elephant. Isn't it possible to accept being an irrelevant fringe party, make the most of it, and skip the ludicrous delusions?



    LEFITI, IF LENIN HAD THOUGHT THE WAY YOU DO, THE WORLD WOULD'VE BEEN DENIED THE BRILLIANT BEACON OF SUCCESS THAT WAS THE COMMUNIST REVOLUTION! THANK MARX THAT THE PROLETARIAT IS MADE OF STERNER STUFF THAN YOU. YOU MUST ADORN YOURSELF WITH STEEL, LIKE OUR BELOVED COMRADE STALIN!

  • cunnivore||

    If Kubby or Ruwart had gotten the LP nom, I probably would have voted for either, though voting for Ruwart would have been difficult as I always got the impression from her public appearances that she thought she was talking to first-graders.

    Badnarik tooting around the country in his beat-up car managed ballot access better

    Badnarik was not perceived as a threat to the GOP, so he didn't have to deal with GOP henchmen suing to keep him off the ballot. Also, a lot of the experienced LP ballot access people stayed home and pouted over Ruwart not getting the nom, so you had fewer and less experienced people working on ballot access drives.

  • cunnivore||

    One minor change would have been the selection of Kubby instead of Root as VP. Kubby would have soothed most of the people who went online and agitated against Barr/Root, and given the campaign an extra media hook (the drug warrior and the drug war victim!), but it's unlikely Kubby would have done as much media as Root or appealed directly to conservatives.

    Kubby or Ruwart could have had the VP slot on a silver platter had they given their delegates to Barr at the convention after it was clear neither could win. If you prefer to stand on principle rather than doing what's necessary to get on the ticket, fine. Just don't complain about not getting on the ticket afterwards. That was your choice.

  • ||

    No one on Barr's team had any long-term roots in the LP and the libertarian movement

    Steve Gordon, since at least 2000.

  • Ken Hagler||

    Given how few people voted for the breakaway Boston Tea/Personal Choice Party, I think Kubby succeeded.

    I think the credit for that goes more to "ballot access" laws than to Kubby.

  • You Koch suckers||

    reason sucks

  • Craig||

    At the end of the day the same ~400,000 voters the LP gets every 4 years still voted for Barr

    My guess is that only 200,000 of the usual LP voters voted for Barr, and he drew in about 300,000 disgruntled conservatives who couldn't stomach McCain and who weren't placated by Palin.

  • Craig||

    We are on the threshold of decade or more of economic Depression wherein "ideas" will be anathema.

    Or we are on the threshold of a decade or more of incompetent and overreaching government intervention, providing an unprecedented teaching opportunity for libertarian ideas. Lew Rockwell has certainly seen his site's readership go way up since the ill-conceived bailouts started.

  • ||

    The problem with Root is that he always looked like he just did a huge line of blow and was waiting to go back to his hotel room for a night of auto-erotic asphyxiation. He just seemed like that guy. Barr unfortunately doesn't have any Libertarian credentials based on his incredibly dick headed past voting record. His only explanation for his personal record was basically "Sorry, I fucked up." Doesn't cut it.

    The biggest problem is how does the Libertarian party overcome the myth that Republicans are actually for fiscally responsibility of any kind. We have 30 years of proof they have no fiscal morals and no area of your life they don't want to control. I'm slowly working on my Republican family to turn Libertarian and I think many Republicans realize they are Libertarians but haven't come to realize Republicans don't actually represent their beliefs. I think Libertarians should also do more to embrace social groups that normally vote Democratic as a result of wanting equal rights. That along with the concpet stated earlier of getting involved in more local and state elections could really help.

  • paulie||


    Badnarik was not perceived as a threat to the GOP, so he didn't have to deal with GOP henchmen suing to keep him off the ballot. Also, a lot of the experienced LP ballot access people stayed home and pouted over Ruwart not getting the nom, so you had fewer and less experienced people working on ballot access drives.



    Who pouted and stayed home? Some of us were actively prevented by LPHQ from working. Others, just prevented from being most effective. I know of no one that was offered the opportunity to work and turned it down.

    The ballot access this year was severely mismanaged. For example, I was a mile and a half from the Connecticut border when the Massachusetts drive ended. I could have gone to Connecticut and Rhode Island, but they had me go to Alabama. We finished Alabama with plenty of time to spare.

    In the meantime, they had a crisis in West Virginia, and we weren't even asked to go there. They didn't call us once. One of our guys, Jake, did go there, and got screwed around big time. He tried to get other petitioners to come in, but they preferred to spend the money to advertise in newspapers and on the radio for inexperienced locals (a time tested way to fail).

    Throughout the campaign, they showed a preference for high raw number, low validity, non-libertarian petitioners. They paid them at higher rates than us, more promptly, with better expense deals, and recommended them more highly to other campaigns.

    Then they made a show of "firing" us.

    Getting back to West Virginia, they rejected the Constitution Party and Nader campaign's offer to have their petitioners carry the Libertarian petitions as well, until very late (too late to make a difference). Stupid!

    In the meantime, several of us were stuck carrying Nader and Baldwin petitions in Alabama after the Barr petition here ended, while they were scrambling to finish the New England states (and failed in several of them).

    At the very same time, they gathered thousands more signatures in West Virginia after the deadline was already past in a futile attempt to sue their way on the ballot.

    They also insisted on inserting themselves into the Louisiana paperwork process (this does not involve any petitioning, just filing fees and paperwork) and screwed it up.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as the mismanagement goes.

  • ||

    There was no one "right" way to boost the LP in 2008.

    ...but nominating an actual libertarian would have helped.

  • ||

    Lew Rockwell has certainly seen his site's readership go way up since the ill-conceived bailouts started.

    Not true. Alexa and Google Trends back me up here. Why do LRC fans feel the need to lie about the numbers?

    nominating an actual libertarian would have helped

    Maybe you should break out your Libertarian Holy Water and the Libertarian Rack and torture Barr into confessing he's not a member of the One True Faith.

  • ||

    Craig,
    I may be overly pessimistic today, but history never provides teaching opportunities. Hell, the present doesn't provide teaching opportunities. Societal progress is just "swarm behavior."

    Sort of an example of what I'm saying is the "accepted wisdom" that deregulation of the financial markets was the cause of the depression we're entering.

    Be content to be a "keeper of the flame."

    We--speaking for myself alone--peaceful anarchists are patient observers.

  • ||

    The Libertarian Party is going to fail and will always fail because of the label "libertarian". It triggers infighting, purity tests and purity wars and vicious arguments about who is and who is not a "libertarian".

    People coming together with a dedication towards civil liberties, fiscal responsibility and peace abroad and at home might do pretty well. But LPers would be too quick to flay any moderates like that because they don't wear Guy Fawkes' masks on national television.

    So, ditch the name "Libertarian".

  • ||

    Maybe you should break out your Libertarian Holy Water and the Libertarian Rack and torture Barr into confessing he's not a member of the One True Faith.

    No need - he already did. None of his official campaign signs or bumper stickers contained the word "Libertarian". He grabbed the LP nomination and then ran as fast as he could away from the party.

  • ||

    The label "Libertarian", as you so dismissively put it, is who we are; it's our reason for being. It is the *Libertarian* Party. Take away the word Libertarian, and we might as well be the Tupperware Party or the Indistingishable From Every Other Party Party.

    It is a word I carry proudly with me every single day, and our party's nominee should better darned well do the same.

  • cunnivore||

    rah62, that's nonsense. Every bumper sticker, t-shirt, etc that I saw had "Libertarian" on it. Apparently REAL libertarians aren't opposed to lying.

  • ||

    rah62: What does this say?

    Take away the word Libertarian, and we might as well be the Tupperware Party

    Uh, no...the Democratic Party is more liberal and the Republican Party is more conservative. Neither of their Party labels are related to the character of their Parties.

    *You* want to keep the label Libertarian so we can do all these hand-wringing purges every four or eight years. Yippee.

  • ||

    There are lots of good comments in this thread. Here are some responses from a Libertarian in Santa Cruz CA (a town once described by a UC Berkeley instructor as "more Berkeley than Berkeley"):

    * I remember previous VP candidates doing media tours in previous years (Jo Jorgensen in 1996 comes particularly to mind; also Nancy Lord and Art Olivier). They just didn't get as much play as the POTUS candidates, naturally. Interestingly enough, this year I kept encountering Barr in video, print, and web media. Root, not so much. I'll take him at his word that he was busy with media this year; but you can't prove it by me.

    * Steve Kubby rightly contrasts the promise of Barr/Root with the reality. But the silver lining there was that Barr/Root was an extremely efficient converter of campaign dollars to votes. If Barr raised around a million and got 0.4% of the vote, then we might reasonably hope that the expected $30M would have commanded around 10-12% of the vote -- an outcome that nobody would have bet on, I think, so why spend so much money? Conversely, 5% of the vote should have only cost us between $12-15M, and had we achieved that goal while spending so little, we definitely would have made some big news. My point is that, if we were going to run a losing campaign anyway, it would be best to spend minimal money per vote, get maximal media, and improve our ballot access. All of this seems to have been accomplished by Barr/Root, AND they also got the 2nd-highest vote total for POTUS in LP history (503,919 and still rising -- slowly! -- as I write this). We're all disappointed not to have made a huge splash this year. But Kubby was right again: Celebrity and media weren't the "silver bullet." The actual results we did get are a pretty good consolation prize, for those who want to think positive and look forward to the next campaign. I am particularly encouraged by huge totals/percentages that some of our downticket candidates earned, even in three-way races, and by the re-election of Libertarian incumbents.

    * I love having Ralph Nader in the race. I agree with Weigel that his results tend to calibrate our measurement of the public's real hunger for, and willingness to embrace, alternative candidates. Nader tanked this year, but not as badly as in 2004. This and other indicators gave me, too, the definite sense of "1992" in terms of the public's embrace of third-parties: not a horrible third-party year, but not a great one, either. (1992 was a horrible year for the LP, though. Andre Marrou didn't break 300,000 votes for POTUS, as I recall.)

    * Paul/Barr would probably have been a force to be reckoned with. Too bad that wasn't in the cards. Otherwise, a Barr/Kubby ticket would have been the one I would have wanted most, but in retrospect, I wish we had had TWO guys who were credible as POTUS, one agreeing to stand for VP. This year, as in no other previous LP campaign (including Ron Paul's run in '88), NOBODY who conversed or corresponded with me ever questioned the LP guy's ability to do the job, except in the sense of comparing his ability against that of one or both of the major candidates: I think that's the situation we WANT, and I can't recommend strongly enough that we henceforth resolve to nominate and run for high office only candidates whom the public can see as credible in those roles. If we can't find someone like that who truly understands and intends to apply libertarianism in office, then we would be better off not to run anyone.

    * We need to continue with the POTUS campaigns because of what they can do for ballot access and also for the "free-media" opportunities that they can provide to downticket candidates. But that said, I definitely agree that getting more libertarians in office at lower levels is key. There are enough LP members in office now to begin thinking seriously about boosting some of them up to the next level in 2010, and then we will need people who can run to replace them in their current slots.

    * Root as POTUS candidate in 2012? I was a bit squeamish about having him as VP candidate this year, and it is hard for me to imagine that he will improve or remake himself well enough in 4 years to be credible as POTUS. But I guess we'll see. I was impressed by Gary Johnson's speech at Ron Paul's Minnesota shindig this year. Maybe we should consider running him as POTUS in 2012, if he'd be willing.

    * Dumping the "Libertarian" name. Bad idea. There are some people out there who are doing bad things to the public's perception of "libertarian," but if we can't counter that, they'll just do the same to any name to which we DO retreat. We need to stand tall and proud as libertarians and refuse to yield the ground. That's one thing that more media can do for us -- allow real libertarians to define their own label, rather than letting opponents command the term. The fact of the matter is that libertarians have won substantial office while being criticized by opponents as being libertarian. It's not the label, and it's not the party platform: blaming those things is to make excuses for poor candidates and bumbling campaigns. In every party, there are radicals and purists who come out with their long knives to eviscerate any candidate whom they perceive as not being up to snuff. It's good to listen to what they have to say; it's good to vet libertarian candidates for their understanding of and commitment to libertarianism. But a candidate is much more than that, and it will frequently be the case that someone who is a master of libertarian orthodoxy will be a loser candidate, and that someone who is "less pure" might have all the qualities necessary to win, and thenceforth to make a positive, libertarian difference in the world. As a party, we need to be able to deal with this simple truth and turn it to our advantage. We don't have to change our name to straighten ourselves out on this point.

  • ||

    rah: Take away the word Libertarian, and we might as well be the Tupperware Party

    TAO: Uh, no...the Democratic Party is more liberal and the Republican Party is more conservative. Neither of their Party labels are related to the character of their Parties.

    Optimist's last statement may be true: Neither of the party labels seem to be related to the character of their parties. And Libertarians should emulate that ... why, exactly? Also, I wouldn't say that the Republican Party is anymore that much more conservative. But if that's how you're going to categorize them, then perhaps "Democratic" ideals do seem more in keeping with a liberal party (in the sense that "liberal" is used today), while a "Republican" approach is inherently more conservative, in terms of insulating the nation from mob rule. So there may indeed be a relationship between the party names and their "characters" after all. Of course, this assumes that the two major parties have definable "characters" in the first place. Mostly, they look like two big gangs to me, with few or no ingrained principles other than "power by hook or by crook" and "hooray for our side." Oh yeah, and they have gang colors: one red and one blue (although why the socialist Demos didn't get "red" baffles me).

  • egosumabbas||

    Philosophically I consider myself a voluntarist. However, I will never vote for a starry-eyed idealistic loser like Ruwart. Why? Putting forward an anarchist candidate in electoral politics is an exercise in futility. Anarchists have a perfectly good reason for staying at home since they don't believe in voting anyway. There are only a few limited ways to actually get a libertarian form of government (or non-government).

    1) Work to get limited government candidates elected in the two-party system, because face it, the deck is stacked against third parties.
    2) Find somebody amazingly popular with billions of dollars to head the libertarian party. Ross Perot almost won the presidency this way. I'm thinking somebody like Warren Buffet.
    3) Use the agorist strategy to undermine the one-state by engaging in black/gray market activity. This strategy helped bring down the Soviet Union, prohibition and other authoritarian policies.
    4) Pull a Naomi Klein and wait for a government crisis to start a full-scale libertarian revolt.

    Wayne Allyn Root, though many here find him annoying, was a good idea, because he is a businessman, is larger than life, and gets lots of media. Pair him with a famous civil libertarian in 2012 (such as Kubby, or maybe Radley Balko) and we'll be going in the right direction. If we can get Warren Buffet and a Hollywood actor as VP (Wesley Snipes?), even better.

  • Nash||

    Unless you actually win, the vote totals don't matter. What does matter is the hype and attention your campaign receives leading up to election day. The easiest way to achieve this is with money.

    Ron Paul didn't do much when people actually decided to vote, but he achieved much in hype and press leading up to the primaries. Barr/Root couldn't achieve this.

    Even if Barr had managed 5% of the vote, Ron Paul still accomplished more. Nobody cares if the Libertarian gets 10% and loses. Ross Perot accomplished nothing after the elections What people care about is how much attention they get leading up to the election.

    Get someone who speaks well in front of the camera with good ideas and credibility and then figure out a way to raise him millions dollars for ads and hype and press and maybe a debate appearance and you'll have a successful campaign regardless of the actual outcome.

  • ||

    OHMMMM....the cult of Ron Paul continues.

    Like someone said earier, the Paultards went out and wrote him in / got him on the ballot even when he asked them NOT to.

    Dude, if I were RP and about 30 years younger, I'd start banging some Truther groupies.

  • ||

    Note to LP party members... the rest of the electorate just doesn't care.

  • ||

    Root should get in a steel cage with Donald Trump and have a pompous, self-aggrandizing douchebag-off.

  • NotThatDavid||

    although why the socialist Demos didn't get "red" baffles me

    It used to alternate every presidential election, but it was only ever used on election night, and after that people would rarely, if ever, look at the election map again. We only got stuck on red=GOP and blue=Dems after staring at the damned Bush/Gore map on every daily news report for six weeks.

  • ||

    The way for any party to succeed is to build up local campaigns. State senators, representatives and other influential, but less visible than president. They have influence and will allow people to become comfortable with the LP. Blowing resources on the presidential election is a Sisyphean task.

  • ||

    Mo - I go back and forth on that. Imagine if you were State Senator Candidate Mo from the LP:

    SSCM: hi, I'm Mo and I'm running for Senate for the Libertarian Party!

    Voter: Hm, never heard of them. Who's your presidential candidate?

    SSCM: Um, we don't have one.

  • ||

    I think one of the merits of ditching the name "Libertarian" is that we don't have to have these constant battles over whether someone is or is not "libertarian enough" to be a "Libertarian".

  • ||

    Mo - I go back and forth on that. Imagine if you were State Senator Candidate Mo from the LP:

    SSCM: hi, I'm Mo and I'm running for Senate for the Libertarian Party!

    Voter: Hm, never heard of them. Who's your presidential candidate?

    SSCM: Um, we don't have one.


    I can't imagine that question coming up. Besides, if SSCM said, "Michael Badnarik" or "Bob Barr," do you think anyone would jump on board. For the former, they'd probably say, "Who?" At least at the level of those races, you're selling ideas more than party loyalty.

    TAO, doesn't matter if the name changed. The purity tests still occur in the big parties. Hence the term RINO.

  • cunnivore||

    TAO, the damned leftists keep stealing our labels. How the hell did "liberal" wind up meaning someone who supported state control of everything outside one's pelvis?

  • Derrick||

    I think one of the merits of ditching the name "Libertarian" is that we don't have to have these constant battles over whether someone is or is not "libertarian enough" to be a "Libertarian".

    I dunno about that, but I've been thinking lately that we should ditch the terms "capitalism" and "free-market" since their meanings have become so distorted. Instead, we could start saying that we stand for a "free choice" system.

  • ||

    I think one of the merits of ditching the name "Libertarian" is that we don't have to have these constant battles over whether someone is or is not "libertarian enough" to be a "Libertarian".

    As an exercise in branding, what should we name our new party?

    I think we should call it the "Majority Party." Kind of a ironic nod to the Bolsheviks, there, as I understand that is a loose translation of "bolshevik". Plus, it would make all the right people puff up and turn red in the face.

  • ||

    People in the Land of the Free... Land of liberty and justice for all, etc. can't get jiggy with the word, libertarian?
    It doesn't seem overly restrictive or intimidating to me.
    But then I'm a peaceful anarchist.

    Ruthless

  • ||

    How about:

    Voter: Hm, never heard of them. Who's your presidential candidate?

    SSCM: We don't have one, because the two party system is too entrenched at the national level. We are a grassroots organization trying to make a difference to people in their towns on the issues that matter to them most. For example: getting school choice, lowering property taxes, preventing the state from stealing peoples houses, and rooting out corruption like the kind both the GOP and the DNC are full of.

  • ||

    rah62: What does this say?

    That was being sold by "LP Stuff". If you looked at the official stuff being sold by Bob Barr's website and signs put out by the Barr campaign, the word "Libertarian" was nowhere to be found.

  • NotThatDavid||

    Mo - I go back and forth on that. Imagine if you were State Senator Candidate Mo from the LP:

    SSCM: hi, I'm Mo and I'm running for Senate for the Libertarian Party!

    Voter: Hm, never heard of them. Who's your presidential candidate?

    SSCM: Um, we don't have one.


    What about "I'm running for Senate, and look at what I've helped do to make government smaller and cheaper in our (state/city/town), with X, Y and Z benefits for taxpayers and businesses." Even if the person you're talking to knows who Bar, Badnarik etc. are, it doesn't do much for the party's image to be identified with a nonentity. What's this voter supposed to think - "he's in the same party as the guy who almost one person in 150 voted for - he must be on the right track"?

  • ||

    rah62 - the word "Libertarian" is at the top of the friggin' website.

    I understand that you're going to construe anything just to "prove" Barr wasn't a "real Libertarian" (like I am sure you undoubtedly are) and I don't have time to argue with Religionistas.

    Land of liberty and justice for all, etc. can't get jiggy with the word, libertarian?

    I will always call myself libertarian. The question is, how do we prevent other libertarians from doing what rah62 is doing, and driving out people who fail Purity Tests?

    The answer is to not tie a party with ideological purity. I want Barr to come back, I want Gravel to come back, I want Root to come back. Sometimes I think that the hardcore LPers want another purge...as if that's the right answer.

  • ||

    Prime example: here in Ohio, Robert Owens received 5% of the vote in the Ohio AG election. He's a member of the Constitution Party...but he didn't run with that label. He was endorsed by the LPO...but he didn't run with THAT label, either.

    He ran as an independent. And garnered five percent.

    People like independents.

  • ||

    TAO: I think one of the merits of ditching the name "Libertarian" is that we don't have to have these constant battles over whether someone is or is not "libertarian enough" to be a "Libertarian".

    OK then. By that logic, we need to come up with a name that has no associations, against which candidates could be found wanting by long-knived purists. We could retain those people who come up with new names for designer drugs. Anyone for the Lumaplavistaticon party? Or maybe something simpler: How about the NotThem party? Clearly, anyone we run will be "NotThem." Can't have any internecine wars over THAT!

    The trick isn't changing the name. It is in finding substantial roles for the purists in the organization, so that their time and energies are effectively occupied in finding and selecting real libertarians (though not necessarily 99 44/100% pure libertarians) as candidates, and then getting them elected to office. It should be OK for less-than-"pure" libertarians to be in the party, and to seek and win office under the party banner. The goal shouldn't be to find the most doctrinaire libertarians to carry the party's standard, but rather the candidates who are able to spearhead winning campaigns, and, after winning, to go on to make the most positive libertarian difference in office -- probably with the advice and assistance of many of the purists who participated in the candidate vetting and selection process. Such an approach lies somewhere between "victory at any cost," and "principle over victory" -- in other words, within the region in which the political game usually seems to be played.

    The good news about "libertarian" is precisely that somebody else wants to co-opt it and corrupt its meaning. That indicates that the public makes -- or, as seen by our enemies, COULD make -- positive associations with that term, rendering it attractive and valuable. Rather than abandoning the label, we need to retain it, enhance its positive associations, and "out" the faux-libertarians outside the party as the insincere or clueless posers they are. We need to take command of the Libertarian brand. Perhaps this is a job for the party purists. It would seem to me that a faux-libertarian trying to lure people into the GOP or some other fruitless direction is more of a worthwhile target than an LP candidate who only makes it to 80-80 on the Nolan chart but who is attractive to voters and who really does want to leave government more libertarian at the end of a term in office than it was at the beginning. This last goal is (or should be) at the heart of all we do.

  • ||

    Was at my local LP meeting last night and had a very similar conversation to what J.A.M. just said. The LP needs to adopt a "big tent" philosophy to recruiting and advertising. Lets say you are for school choice - fine, vote LP, even if you are not ok with gay rights. You want to lower spending? fine, just vote your conscience and don't worry about the drug legalization people. Peel off disaffected single issue voters from both parties who fall under a corner of our tent and cobble together a sense of community and tolerance in our own party. The purges have to stop.

  • ||

    Mr. Merrit, the more you let the purists define who is (and is not) a libertarian, the less chance you are going to have to find those "libertarians who can spearhead campaigns".

  • ||

    After all these years Libertarians still think they can actually win elections? Elections are just insulting pacifiers. Serious, practical people know that the one true purpose of government is uniting to steal from the wealthy and/or foreigners. Now if that unrelenting ruthless process can continue with just a little more "liberty" in the recipe...
    Can it?
    Of course not.

    Ruthless

  • ||

    TAO: "The answer is to not tie a party with ideological purity. I want Barr to come back, I want Gravel to come back, I want Root to come back."

    We certainly agree there, but I think it is possible to remain "the party of principle" if we are clear that principles are our "ideals" -- our targets to shoot for -- and not absolute expectations of performance or ideological purity.

    What we have seen in recent decades with the GOP and Demos is that they really don't stand for anything except "our side good." If I wanted to be in that kind of party, I would be in one or the other of them now. Principle is attractive to me and many others. But anyone who has lived in the real world knows that people frequently fail -- after sincerely striving -- to live up to principle, or that some principles take precedence over others in making real-world decisions.

    The "purity" I look for in a candidate doesn't come from having memorized the libertarian catechism. It is a basic commitment to free will and free choice, a fundamental respect for people as individuals, and not as members of a herd to be driven, which will draw the officeholder in the right direction when deciding tough questions. I also look for the intellectual honesty that compels a candidate to compare his or her decisions or prescriptions against those fundamental principles, to recognize discrepancies, and either to modify positions or justify the discrepancies in ways that preserve consistency with principle -- or simply to admit a defeat and take the consequences (and one's lumps) as appropriate. It was this quality -- of recommending Libertarian approaches and effectively articulating Libertarian principle, while apologizing for previous non-Libertarian positions and acts and attempting to make amends -- which ultimately convinced me to support Bob Barr and finally vote for him. I have never seen myself as a "pragmatist" or an LP "Reformer." My sympathies were and remain with the purists. But Steve Kubby was right: Once we had our candidates, we needed to concentrate on supporting a ticket that, if elected, would stand to leave the government and the nation in a more libertarian position than they currently occupy (or were likely to occupy under McCain or Obama).

  • voxpo||

    "irrelevant fringe party"

    Irrelevant parties don't throw elections, nor are they perceived as likely to do so.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/929jsrld.asp

    http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/05/13/libertarian_a_potential_spoiler_for_mccain/


    "moronic ideology

    How persuasive.

  • ||

    # The Angry Optimist | November 11, 2008, 3:07pm | #

    # Mr. Merrit (sic), the more you let the purists
    # define who is (and is not) a libertarian, the
    # less chance you are going to have to find
    # those "libertarians who can spearhead
    # campaigns".

    Maybe so, but I think there is a role for purists to point out where candidates are or are not consistent with "full-strength" libertarianism. Sometimes, this will have the effect of educating a candidate, and at other times a candidate can push back and explain where a particular position may not be optimally libertarian but is sufficiently libertarian as well as achievable. This seems to be what has happened anyway, in EVERY active LP campaign for any office that I have ever seen. The party needs its purists to keep it as "honest" as a political party can be. In the end, however, decisions must be made on more than ideological purity.

    Also, I think it is a good idea to loose the purists on those outside the party who claim to be libertarian. I have always said that the differences over which we wrangle internally are practically indistinguishable to the general public. But the differences between LP libertarians and posers outside the party are often pretty blatant, IF there is a reasonable yardstick available for the public to judge what a "real libertarian" is. Providing that yardstick is something that party purists can do: in comparing LP candidates against others -- especially opposing candidates -- who profess some sort of (faux?) libertarianism.

    This is one reason why libertarians need to be in debates. The Demo or GOP candidate can claim a sort of libertarianism in contrast to his or her opposite number, but usually not if a true libertarian is present to make clear what a real libertarian approach would be. In debates I have seen in the past decade or so, the contrast between LP and GOP/Demo is usually pretty striking; the contrast between GOP and Demo, not so much.

  • voxpo||

    I'm a little concerned that the term "purity test" is now just a pejorative used to club libertarians into agreeing to whatever the speaker is advocating. If I wake up one day and the [new name for Libertarian] candidate is pushing living wage laws or invasion of some third world country, I don't think I'll support that [new name for Libertarian] Party.

  • ||

    voxpo,

    Your fears would be a good problem to have. Compared to irrelevance, having a bad apple get elected and get out of line would be a dream come true. Not that it would be good - but it would be better than 0.40%.

  • ||

    Gary Johnson 2012...?

  • miche||

    Gawd (sorry-was home in NOLA all last week), I didn't want to do this but the timing may be perfect and I want to show that I can be as opportunist as Barr/Root.

    I'd like to officially announce the Keaton/Shinghal 2012 ticket. We already have some support on our Facebook page and we have BIG fundraising plans. (FWIW, our combined total- meaning Shinghal, Keaton and THE TICKET-includes more friends than Barr/Root 2008) The unofficial plan is called 'Stripping across Texas' but we're not like most strippers; we know we'll have neither diploma nor presidency in the end and we don't plan to sell it that way. With that plan in place alone, we guarandamntee that we can out raise Barr/Root by at least $100k.

    Now, I know that y'all might be worried about qualifications. Well, I haven't any except the abilities to balance a checkbook, drink like a fish and well, never mind. Let's just say that of all the men in my past I only count on 3 not voting for me. Keaton has a Masters in Poli-Sci and a law degree. (That's why she's the top of the ticket- that and Knapp came to our room in Denver and found her awake before I.) As far as media goes I think that perhaps reason might do us a solid and cover us in a non-judgmental way. Angela does have some rather racy pics on the web and I have the support of many from the cult of Ron Paul. (Disclosure crap makes me admit that I'm part of that cult...)

    There are 3 things about Keaton/Shinghal 2012 that set us apart from many others who might seek your delegate vote. They are: 3) We're both married to reputable men who are fastidious about their standings in the eyes of their peers and government. In other words, there will be nothing of substance to block our run in the eyes of the state. 2) We've no small children- retarded or otherwise- to occupy our thoughts on the campaign trail. 1) We're fucking Libertarians and we can make the most hostile people friendly in a face to face because we follow the guiding light of our political philosophy and all religions and that's the Golden Rule.

  • ||

    What I would really like a LP presidential candidate do is go around the country helping lower office candidates. It may help get these candidates' exposure and media attention if a presidential candidate comes into their community and campaigns for the lower office candidates.

    I also think our Presidential candidates need to focus on states where the outcome is not in doubt and basically go for the protest vote. Once we get more of these votes we can credibly start talking about being an alternative to the other candidates.

    I also think we waste a lot of time and effort in some states on ballot access. In my state, where the state party is pretty much non-existent we had no down party candidates, so we wasted time and money just to get Barr on the ballot, when we could have just written him in instead. If we spent the money just to get him on the ballot, since we were a state where the election was not in doubt, he may of had a chance to pull a number of votes if he came here, but I would have rather him gone to states where he could have helped down-line candidates even more.

    One good thing about my state is that the elections for our state legislature are non-partisan so we don't have to worry so much about nametags, but then again possibly because of this, it seems the LP never runs anybody for the state legislature. If our state party ever got its act together and found an electable candidate in a district we could put our resources behind that candidate even though they wouldn't have the LP behind their name. Once they were in office maybe they could build name recognition and credibly run for a bigger office and get the LP brand name out in the public.

  • ||

    Root clearly has no problems with a small ego. But he's still a clown that smacks of a salesman on a used car lot. Worse yet he's not rational on what he is saying.

    He looks at the raw vote count and not the percentage. There are more voters so it has to be adjusted to take that into account. And his 2nd place is barely in second place and well behind LP totals from 1980. In fact he is around half the vote the LP got 28 years ago. He is wrong to say it was the worst environment ever for third parties. Tight races hurt the LP but Obama was clearly in the lead and it wasn't tight.

    As for not having a budget isn't that their fault? They shafted LP activists along the way and ignored the party once they took over. And now they whine that they didn't do well due to a small budget. It was their job to raise the funds so it is their failure. As for all previous LP candidates being missing in action -- rubbish. If the man had been an LP member for more than a few months he would know he is talking pure b.s. -- but then pure b.s. is his speciality. Jim Lewis, for example, distributed 50,000 of Liberty Reclaimed during his campaign and it still has an impact recruiting new libertarians. David Koch traveled the country and did media appearances as well. And Root dishonestly combines an appearance for his gambling scam with appearances for the LP -- and these appearances were mostly done sitting in his living room by telephone.

    Root is a disaster. And the Barr/Root campaign got nowhere, accomplished nothing, missed ballot status in states where it had been secured before, and couldn't raise the funds it said it would raise. But Mr. Weigel again lets his biases get in the way. He assumes that since the Boston Tea Party didn't get a lot of votes (being on few ballots, a point he neglects mentioning) that means Kubby persauded people to stay with the LP. The reality is that most the LP people I know just didn't vote -- a third option that Weigel conveniently ignores.

    Weigel then tries to rescue Root (Weigel's bias for these conservatives has always been apparent including his misleading reports on Denver) by pointing to Nader's low total as proving it was a bad year for third parties. Nader's problem was that he is far Left and many on the far Left perceived Obama as being far Left. His total was lower because his supporters felt Obama was a decent option for their ideas. Libertarians didn't have that option -- ac

  • voxpo||

    domoarrigato | November 11, 2008, 3:42pm | #

    ...Compared to irrelevance, having a bad apple get elected and get out of line would be a dream come true.


    Point taken, but notice I said candidate, not elected official. My real point is that calling someone a purist does not, by itself, win the strategy debate. I think even the reformers apply purity tests. They're not suggesting we nominate Michael Moore, after all. Likewise, purist consider other factors too, such as name recognition. The difference seems to be one of weighting factors. I lean toward placing a high priority on purity (i.e., favoring small government on all issues) because I fear not doing so could result in a moderately, temporarily successful party (Reform Party?) with little reason to exist beyond replacing either the D's or the R's. If that were to happen, we would likely need a new Libertarian Party. And all that that implies.

  • ||

    I lean toward placing a high priority on purity (i.e., favoring small government on all issues) because I fear not doing so could result in a moderately, temporarily successful party (Reform Party?) with little reason to exist beyond replacing either the D's or the R's.

    We agree on the basics of what might happen. I lean towards not worrying too much about purity, because I welcome success of any form. Once success of some level is achieved, I would favor worrying then about the reason for existence and maintaining principles. Opinion only, but I am a pragmatist.

  • ||

    The best name change suggestion I've heard over the years is "Liberty Party." We already use the Statue of Liberty as our symbol and "liberty" has a long historic and beloved association with American ideals. We'd still be "Libertarians" of course.

    The next four years should be used building local affiliates that actually do something in their community between elections. The average voter never hears of Libertarian Party until they step into the voting booth and see it somewhere on their ballot next to some "never heard of her" candidate.

  • ||

    The reality is that most the LP people I know just didn't vote

    I've said this a thousand times, but as a moderate libertarian, it infuriates me that I pounded pavement for Badnarik in 2004 and the "purists" couldn't get off their lazy, pouty asses and reciprocate for 2008.

    Not to inflate myself, but we could nominate Starchild for 2012 and I'd still vote for him. But heaven forbid we get someone less than 100/100...

    I dig the idea of the "Liberty Party"...as long as we don't end up like the Freedom Party in those Turtledove books.

  • David F. Nolan||

    FACT CHECK: 2008 was NOT "a bad year for third parties." As of the moment I type this comment, the Presidential candidates of the four "major" third parties (Nader, LP, CP and Greens) have received 35% more votes among them than they did in 2004. All four saw gains. Nader is up by nearly 50%, while the LP, CP and Green candidates are up by about 25%. So any claim that this was an especially tough year for third party candidates is bogus. On the contrary, Barr/Root benefited somewhat from a rising tide that helped them along with the other alternative choices.

    Barr's campaign failed to take off for all the reasons cited above: cluelessness, failure to use the "L" word, botched ballot status drives, etc. A Barr-Kubby ticket, run by honest and competent people, would quite likely have outpolled Nader, and received 1,000,000 votes. But 5% was always a crack-pipe fantasy.

  • ||

    David Nolan talking about cluelessness is like Sarah Palin talking about dicklessness -- except that Palin can get dick any time she chooses but history has proven that Nolan will never be able to take a clue.

  • Mr. Chartreuse||

    I dig the idea of the "Liberty Party"...as long as we don't end up like the Freedom Party in those Turtledove books.

    Free-dom!

    I think we're safe as long as we don't nominate an artillery sergeant named Featherstone as the presidential candidate.

  • ||

    Let's make it a contest. Both Root and Kubby need to get out and start the 2012 campaign NOW! Give them four years to see who can drum up the most membership, most media appearances, most funds, etc, in four years. Kubby acts like he could have broken the 0.5% barrier, but that's a joke. It's not purity (or dilution) that gets votes for third parties, it's getting media recognition as a viable alternative. Barr/Root didn't get that, but I strongly suspect a realistic and pragmatic approach to the issues will get you closer to it than the purity/shock approach that the LP traditionally uses.

  • paulie ||

    I'm supporting Knapp so far

    read more

  • fester||

    For as much time, effort and money spent on the LP (including overhead and ballot access, etc.) it seems the LP has not made many tangible strides even after 36 years. Vote totals remain static, we are not electing libertarians into local office any more now than ever.

    Isn't it time to admit the LP is never going to work and start to focus time, money and effort on something else?

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