Bob Barr

Mary Ruwart talks about the LP in 2008 & 2012


Las Vegas – At the 2008 Libertarian National Convention seasoned party activist Mary Ruwart came up just 48 votes short of Bob Barr on the sixth ballot of voting for the presidential nomination. This time around, Ruwart is backing her former campaign manager, Lee Wrights, in his quest to become the Libertarian Party's 2012 presidential nominee.

During a sit-down interview with Reason outside the convention halls Ruwart expressed concern over the similarities she sees between Gary Johnson and Barr. Even though she is worried about the state of the Libertarian Party, she said sounded an optimistic tone on the future of the greater libertarian movement.

"We aren't gaining anything by having a famous person at the top of our ticket, in terms of votes. We may be losing a lot if that person does not give a strong libertarian message," said Ruwart.

In the off-camera portion of the interview Ruwart declined to say if she voted for Barr in 2008.

"My initial impressions of Gary Johnson are much more favorable than they were of Bob Barr, who endorsed Newt Gingrich for president," she said.

When asked if Johnson is a libertarian, Ruwart said she believed he is.

"I would definitely say he is in the libertarian quadrant," she answered. 

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Bob Barr Gary Johnson Libertarian Party Election 2012 Libertarian Convention 2012 Mary Ruwart Lee Wrights

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37 responses to “Mary Ruwart talks about the LP in 2008 & 2012

  1. Storytime: When I was going through my political involvement phase (as opposed to my current snarky disengagement phase) I worked a little bit with the LP in 2004, when the nominated the purist but charmless Michael Badnarik.

    I’ve never seen a candidate, at any level, visibly turn off as many people as rapidly as he did when he visited my campus. He came off like a petulant community college kid and at one point turned his guns on me (the guy who was running the campus libertarians) because I dared to try and persuade a dubious fellow student that, no, we don’t necessarily need to abolish everything immediately on day 1. He got one whiff of my gradualism and went full Godwin.

    Basically the LP is full of amateurs who have no idea how to run a competent political campaign. Maybe we’ll get burned again like we did with Barr. But nominating libertarian equivalents of Joe the Plumber with no large campaign experience doesn’t fulfill either the “get elected” goal or the “educate and outreach” goal.

    1. Yikes. Badnarik was never supposed to be the candidate in 2004. He kinda would up with the nomination on accident because of the extreme acrimony between the Russo and Nolan camps. As for 2008, a Ruwart/Kubby duo would’ve been much better than what we ended up with. I don’t understand what the conventioneers were thinking.

      1. a Ruwart/Kubby duo would’ve been much better than what we ended up with

        By what metric? Warm fuzzies in neopagan hearts?

      2. Badnarik won the nomination fair and square. He campaigned tirelessly across the country before the LP convention, and gave by far the best speech there. Russo was viewed as a Hollywood gradualist, and Nolan had little charisma. Badnarik would have been a great candidate, if he hadn’t let the LP strip him of his straight-talking populist appeal and replace it with a bland LP platform platform.

    2. Yup. “Absolute Freedom IMMEDIATELY!!!11!” isn’t going to 1) win elections or even 2) get heard, because it will be instantly dismissed.

      That said, I actually voted for Mikey, simply b/c he was still far better than the other choices.

      1. I got to meet Richard Campagna, and have a beer with him. Nice guy.

      2. Badnarik was borderline insane.

        Of course, it’s hard to give Bush or Kerry the benefit of “borderline”.

  2. I didn’t know liquid propane was a political party, too.

    Good to know. Thanks

    1. Hank Hill, were he a real person, would give you such a lecture about propane.

      And propane accessories.

  3. Gary Johnson is famous? That’s news to just about everyone I have tried telling about him. Usually the response is “Who?”.

    1. It’s all relative Zeb.

    2. He’s more famous than Mike Badnarik or Andre Marrou.

      He’s also won elections, which is the equivalent of skunk-smell to LP mandarins like Ruwart and Philles.

  4. “She doesn’t look anything like her photo!”

    “They never do.”

  5. When Garrett interviewed Gary Johnson on radio, Johnson said that he didn’t himself vote for Bob Barr (he’s said elsewhere that he voted for the Constitution Party, which he probably didn’t mention to Garrett, since Garrett called it a “far right” party). Gary also mentions that he debated Bob Barr about the war on drugs ten years ago — like Ruwart, Gary Johnson never accepted that Bob Barr was a libertarian. As for Ruwart’s claims that Johnson isn’t enough of a tax hawk… Johnson supports bigger spending cuts than Ron Paul does. At this point, we can’t cut taxes until we cut spending.

  6. I could understand Ruwart’s discomfort with Bob Barr being the LP nominee; he had a lot of statist skeletons in his closet. I disagreed with her position, but understood it at least.

    But now that she’s dogging Gary Johnson the same way she did Barr, it’s clear she’s just picky as hell (not surprising for an LP mandarin). I don’t particularly like Johnson either but it’s not because he’s not libertarian enough.

    1. LP mandarin

      A bit like being the admiral of a rowboat.

      1. Stroke!

  7. So what’s the deal with all you libertarians here, and the LP? I’ve been lurking around here for about a year and it seems like most of the comments here about the LP, are less than glowing.

    I’m not knocking you, just curious. I’m not a member of the LP, but I will vote for a LP candidate if there is one. The LP doesn’t seem to be serious about winning elections, but maybe it’s just me.

    1. Basically the LP is stuck in a vicious cycle whereby any libertarian with political talent ends up either shilling for a “tolerable” Republican or works for a non-partisan organization representing their pet cause. It’s not fair, but that’s what happens.

      Thus, the LP ends up being a bunch of ultra-marginal kooks with no political talent who decide the real purpose of the party is to “educate” rather than get elected. Unfortunately they’re not good at education either, they either endlessly preach to the choir or alienate bougies.

      The LP is basically an embodiment of the Geek Social Fallacy, a bunch of clueless kooks who can just barely manage to tread water with ballot access by running endless paper candidates and have no interest in doing anything substantive because that would require selling out, man.

      1. “have no interest in doing anything substantive because that would require selling out, man.”
        I’d agree on a local basis; in SF we get Starchild as a candidate.
        Re national elections, there’s simply little chance of an LP candidate getting elected even if they ‘sold out’.
        Regardless, the LP commonly gets my vote since they offer an alternative, and I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it versus the opposite.
        Hey, I’m going to vote against all the local and state taxes anyhow, so I have someplace to check for the presidential election while I’m at it.

    2. I admit I don’t follow the ins and outs of the LP, but it has seemed rudderless for a long time and unsure of its purpose. It’s telling that the party seems to be withering despite evidence of increasing support for libertarian ideas among the young.

      The winner-takes-all nature of American politics hurts the LP. In a parliamentary system, I’m convinced the LP could peel off a lot of Republicans and maybe a few Democrats.

      Obama winning this year might be the best thing that could happen for the LP. There is a lot of unhappiness within the GOP right now, and a Romney loss would shoot down the legitimacy of the establishment wing of the party.

    3. I can’t speak for anyone else here, but I find that even a flawlessly run LP would face insurmountable obstacles for relevance much less actually winning anything of note.

      And as has been noted, the LP has been run anything but “flawlessly.”

      Say what you want about both, but it looks like between the Tea Party and OWS, the way to achieve any relevance at all in the political process is not by trying to beat Dem/GOP at their own game, but by circumventing the party process altogether. That’s no miracle cure either, but it’s something at least.

  8. Sort of makes you long for the good old LP days of Browne and Badnarik….

  9. For what it’s worth, I think Bob Barr’s biggest failure was his unwillingness to bury the hatchet with Ron Paul, which led to Paul’s half-assed group endorsement and allowed the establishment shills to seize the Tea Party gimmick.

    You can argue that this was just as much Paul’s fault, but Barr needed Paul’s support a lot more than Paul needed Barr’s.

    1. I’m a big fan of your paintings

    2. Er, the Tea Party didn’t exist in 2008.

  10. Local candidates, really the lifeblood of any real populist movement are really hit or miss. In state house races in FL over the years we’ve had guys who’ve ranged from excellent to stereotype.

  11. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me dude.

  12. I liked Mary Ruwart when she ran for LP’s presidential nomination in 1983, and would have voted for her had I been a delegate at that convention (a role I did not wish). She came in 3rd on the 1st 2 ballots, and might’ve won had she not dropped out at that point and endorsed Bergland.

    However, I’m disappointed to see she’s still in LP in 2012. and read the essays linked at the bottom to see why nobody should be in the LP.

  13. Very good article.

  14. Very good article.

  15. I hear hacks claim far too often that the LP has to choose between educating people about libertarian ideas and winning elections. This false dichotomy has plagued the LP for far too long.

    The fact is that the LP cannot win anything if it does not also commit to some modicum of educating voters as to why libertarian solutions will benefit the people.

    Allow me to share a personal anecdote.

    A decade ago, I was a liberal (in the modern, American sense of the term).

    Back then, the LP website ran articles from the newspaper LP News. Some of these articles focused on libertarian solutions to political problems. These articles were great, and they helped me to become libertarian.

    Likewise, the late, great Harry Browne had a website. I read his articles, and listened to his radio programme, which was archived on his site. I listened to his speeches, too, and particularly loved his speech, “We Believe in You,” which he delivered at an LP convention. Browne, likewise, helped turn me into a libertarian.

    Imagine how many fewer libertarians and LP voters there would be today if the LP and its candidates were never to promote libertarian solutions to problems.

    Must we choose between education and winning elections? No. Quite to the contrary, there obviously will be no winning of elections without education.

    1. With that out of the way, I will now analyse the present election as well as Ruwart’s comments.

      Gary Johnson, unlike Bob Barr, is a libertarian. Of that I have no doubt.

      While I held my nose and voted for Barr in 2008, I now regret that decision. I will vote for Johnson this year, and, assuming nothing unexpected happens between now and the election, I will have no regrets about that decision.

      Barr was an utter disgrace. But, while I completely reject Johnson’s strategy of supporting the so-called “Fair” Tax, and while I believe that R. Lee Wrights would do a much better job as our presidential candidate, Johnson strikes me as a real libertarian, and a person ten times better than Barr.

      1. I read the responses here before viewing the video. Someone claimed that Ruwart, in the video, was “dogging Gary Johnson the same way she did Barr.” I have to disagree with this assessment. I feel her comments about Johnson were completely fair.

        What was Ruwart doing in this interview? Was it being some sort of mean contrarian? Was it throwing a good and innocent man under the bus?

        No. All she was doing was trying to convince people to support her candidate, Mr. R. Lee Wrights. And what’s wrong with that? Nothing. Is Ruwart supposed to keep her mouth shut, and not say that she wants you to nominate Wrights? Is she supposed to keep her mouth shut, and not express her concerns about certain potential presidential candidates, or about the direction in which the party is headed? Of course not.

        1. Nothing Ruwart said in this video, notwithstanding the unnecessary consternation of certain posters here, was inappropriate. In fact, Ruwart makes an important point, namely, that the so-called “Fair” Tax is a bad idea. This is her opinion, and it happens to be one I share. Now, we could debate whether this opinion is correct or not, but let’s not. Instead, let’s simply acknowledge that there is nothing inappropriate about Ruwart (or I, for that matter) holding or promoting this view. One may also disagree with Ruwart’s and my opinion that Wrights would make a better candidate than Johnson, and that’s fine. Again, let’s not debate that here, but let us instead simply acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with a LP member trying to convince fellow LP members to vote to nominate a man like Wrights.

          1. I wish to add that I agree with Ruwart that we gain little by nominating candidates with relatively more fame than other candidates, and can potentially lose a great deal by nominating presidential candidates who do not president a clear and consistent libertarian message. Why is it so important for our presidential candidate to present a clear and consistent libertarian message? As Harry Browne pointed out, it is because the presidential candidate is often the only Libertarian that the average voter will hear from. The presidential candidate therefore serves as a representative to our local and state candidates, who have a far greater shot of winning elections and thus enacting change. If our presidential candidate fails, as Barr did, to present a clear and consistent libertarian message, this will necessarily confuse voters and thus invariably hurt our other candidates.

            I believe Johnson is flawed, but I also believe (and hope) that he will do a much better job at presenting the libertarian message to voters than Barr did, and therefore confuse voters far less. I also believe that Johnson will do better Barr, although we will have to wait and see.

            1. I wish to be clear, however, that I am not saying we have to choose between fame and a proper libertarian message. If the LP were to nominate Penn Jillette, not only would we have a man with name recognition who is an excellent public speaker, but we would moreover have a man who knows how to present a clear and consistent libertarian message. I bring up Jillette as an example here so that no one will mistakenly think I am promoting some sort of false dichotomy. The point in being sceptical about “famous” candidates is not that there is something inherently “bad” about fame, but rather that, as Ruwart said, the tradeoff is not necessarily pragmatic as far as promoting LP electoral success is concerned.

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