Barrwatch, with Special Guest Star Ralph Nader


As you can see in the video linked below, Bob Barr's appearance on the Colbert Report did him some good. I was struck by how much he returned to the theme of "third parties," generally, relative to how much he talked about Libertarianism. There's a clear reason for this. There is, indeed, a high-information slice of the electorate that simply hates the parties. Some of them voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and 2004. Some of them voted for Ron Paul this year. Some of them were praying for Michael Bloomberg to jump into this race. They care about the issues, kind of, sort of. But they think the two-party system is at fault for so many problems that it needs to be ended before said problems can be solved.

It's good for Barr that he's filling that niche this year—not since 1988 has the LP actually placed third in a national election. (It was the second time it had done so.) And Ralph Nader is ceding the sort of third-party excitement that he rode in 2000. Back then, Nader was the outsider appearing on talk shows (Politically Correct, The Tonight Show) and making the "everyone hates the parties" argument. He's still making that argument in a wholly unserious way, as seen here:

(Are there actually people who will vote in November 2008 on the matter of "impeaching Bush"? And can they introduce me to their dealer?)

Nader, quixotically, is passing on a Green Party nomination he could easily win in order to raise awareness about how hard it is for independents to get on state ballots. That's an outgrowth of the "bad two parties," issue, but it's the wonkiest and least compelling outgrowth of it. It's allowing libertarians (big and small "L") to become the "disgruntled voter" of 2008, a role that belonged to the Left in 2000 and 2004 and the populist right in 1996 and 1992.

For takes on Barr's Colbert Report appearance, here's Aaron Gould Sheinin in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Robert Stacy McCain in the American Spectator (as one wit put it, the only magazine whose staff evenly divided between support for Rudy Giuliani and support for Ron Paul).