In What Universe Does This Promote Liberty?

Here’s another reason I don’t take the Libertarian Party seriously. Bob Barr, the last Libertarian Party candidate for President in 2008, is supporting Newt Gingrich. And they wonder why many people just see libertarians as Republicans who have smoked marijuana.

Rand Paul’s View On The Civil Rights Act Displays More On The Fallacy of Libertarianism Than On Racism

Rand Paul’s position on the Civil Rights Act has raised questions of racism. Such questions are understandable considering the racist writings of his father, Ron Paul, and the connections by both of them to racist elements of the right wing. Rand’s position actually says far more about the fallacious thinking of many libertarians as opposed to saying anything conclusive about his racial beliefs.

Libertarians and true small government conservatives could oppose the Civil Rights Act without being at all racist due their general opposition to government action. This is the major problem with libertarianism–confusing opposition to government with liberty in all situations and denying that at times government action can be beneficial.

If we were dealing with isolated business establishments refusing to do business with African Americans then I would agree there would be no need for government action, and would hope that market forces would punish those who restricted their potential customers. The reality is that market forces did not work here, as Bruce Bartlett explained:

As we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation. Indeed, it got much worse, not just because it was enforced by law but because it was mandated by self-reinforcing societal pressure. Any store owner in the South who chose to serve blacks would certainly have lost far more business among whites than he gained. There is no reason to believe that this system wouldn’t have perpetuated itself absent outside pressure for change.

In short, the libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. The gains made by the former slaves in the years after the Civil War were completely reversed once the Supreme Court effectively prevented the federal government from protecting them. Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn’t work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.

James Joyner is another who has found justification for the Civil Rights Act, while maintaining understandable concern about further expansion of government involvement in what should be private business decisions:

There’s no question in my mind that private individuals have a right to freely associate, that telling owners of private businesses whom they must serve amounts to an unconstitutional taking, and that it’s none of the Federal government’s business, anyway.   Further, in the context of 2010 America, I absolutely think that business owners ought to be able to serve whomever they damned well please — whether it’s a bar owner wishing to cater to smokers, a racist wanting to exclude blacks, or a member of a subculture wishing to carve out a place for members of said subculture to freely associate with only their kind out of purely benign purposes.

The problem, circa 1964, was that there really was not right to freely associate in this manner in much of the country.   Even once state-mandated segregation was ended, the community put enormous pressure on business owners to maintain the policy.   That meant that, say, a hotel owner who wished to rent rooms without regard to color really weren’t free to do so.   More importantly, it meant that, say, a black traveling salesman couldn’t easily conduct his business without an in-depth knowledge of which hotels, restaurants, and other establishments catered to blacks.   Otherwise, his life would be inordinately frustrating and, quite possibly, dangerous.

In such an environment, the discrimination is institutionalized and directly affecting interstate commerce.   It was therefore not unreasonable for the Federal government to step in using their broad powers under the 14th Amendment.    I’m still not sure parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (especially the issue in question here) or the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (especially treating individual states differently from others) are strictly Constitutional.   But they were necessary and proper in the context of the times.

The Civil Rights Act was a situation in which government action led to increased freedom, contrary to libertarian beliefs. A strict libertarian would be expected to oppose the Civil Rights Act out of consistency in opposing any government action. However, in the real world a very large percentage of libertarians do not strictly adhere to libertarian views in all cases. While there are some anarcho-capitalists who share the beliefs of libertarians such as Murray Rothbard, many libertarians do find exceptions where they do support government action.

Rand Paul’s position here very well could be a consequence of mindless consistency in following libertarian dogma but there are reasons he cannot easily escape being tainted with racism here unless he makes a meaningful effort to dispel this. One problem Rand Paul has is that he has already made so many compromises with libertarianism, from supporting restrictions on civil liberties to supporting using government to interfere with a woman’s right to chose to have an abortion. I would understand if a pure libertarian cold not support government intervention to stop the type of infringements on liberty which were present prior to the Civil Rights Act. It is harder to understand why Rand Paul could not make another exception when he has already compromised libertarian principles to such a great extent.

The other questions surrounding Rand Paul might be matters of guilt by association, but they do create an even greater need now for Paul to distance himself from the racist elements of the far right which he associates with. It is understandable that he would not want to disassociate himself from his father but speaking at a rally of the racist and theocratic Constitution Party in 2009 is a different matter. Regardless of whether Rand Paul has any racist feelings, there is little doubt that his public statements on the Civil Rights Act are going to lead to some expressions of support from racist groups. It will be interesting to see if Rand Paul does the right thing and refuses to associate with them and refuses their contributions. His father failed this test, losing the support of many libertarians, in contrast to Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr who did have the integrity to repudiate their support.

Bob Barr Defends Obama

Bob Barr, former Republican and former Libertarian Party candidate for president, defended Barack Obama from those using the recent attempted bombing attempt to attack him:

Critics of Obama way off base on this one

Yes — the not-so-bright, would-be terrorist from Nigeria got though international and domestic security mechanisms supposed to have stopped him long before the jerk lit his underwear afire before landing in Detroit.  And yes — the incident happened during the administration of President Barack Obama.  But the sniping at the president by Republicans, including former Vice President Cheney, and by conservative radio and TV commentators, borders on — if not passing into — asinine.

The criticism has included such childishness as blasting Obama for waiting a few days before making a national speech on the incident.  For heaven’s sake, the president was briefed on the incident from the moment it occured; he made statements almost immediately indicating his concern and that he was being regularly briefed; he took time to gather the facts and meet with his national security team; and then he appeared publicly to give a rational, measured, but hard-hitting response.  And for this, a former vice president criticizes him.

Partisanship truly has pervasively infected our political system when a reasonable, measured, factual, timely and substantive response by a president to a single security incident — the roots of which clearly indicate long-simmering problems that predated his tenure in office — is publicly blasted as irresponsible.  In point of fact, those levelling such counterproductive attacks are the ones engaging in irresponsible behavior.

The Failure of The Republican Party And How They Might Recover

Writing obituaries for the Republican Party, or predicting how they might recover, has become a very popular topic. As Bob Barr told CNN, “The Republican Party is in very deep trouble right now.” Bruce Bartlett has written about The Dismal Failure Of The GOP for Forbes.

Bartlett took a historical view of the two major political parties, showing how their relative power has varied over the years. After looking at eras which have little relevance to our current political situation, Bartlett discussed how the Republicans became the majority party after the Democrats became “a more purely liberal party no longer restrained by a conservative Southern wing.” What the Republicans failed to recognize is that you can either have a majority party or a party which consistently supports a single ideology. You cannot have both. Bartlett wrote:

After winning control of Congress and the White House in 2000, Republicans were as full of themselves as Democrats had been after achieving the same goal in 1976 and 1992. Cooperation with the other party was viewed as a sell-out by partisans of the party in control. The dominant element of each party–liberals in 1977 and 1993, and conservatives in 2001–moved quickly to implement long-cherished measures that had been blocked by a lack of unified control of the executive and legislative branches.

As the Republicans moved to the extreme right and purged those who did not follow the party line, the Democrats built the big tent:

At this point, Democrats finally accepted that applying ideological litmus tests was self-defeating. If some moderate or conservative wanted to run in a district that would only elect a moderate or conservative, then it was stupid to insist that they endorse every liberal item in the Democratic agenda. Moderates and conservatives were permitted to dissent from the party line on issues such as gun control if that was what it took to win.

This “big tent” approach was highly successful and greatly helped Democrats retake control of Congress in 2006. What probably hurt congressional Republicans the most, however, was their down-the-line support for every action by George W. Bush, no matter how ill-conceived, poorly implemented or at odds with the party’s basic philosophy, such as when he insisted on a massive expansion of Medicare in 2003.

As a consequence, the Republican brand was destroyed. The party is now widely viewed as corrupt, incompetent, ideologically rigid and out of step with the American mainstream. It should be engaging in self-examination, developing an agenda that addresses the real problems faced by Americans and reaching out to the millions of voters who have left the GOP in recent years. Instead, Republicans are pushing out the last of the party’s moderates as if that will somehow make them more popular with the very moderates whose votes are essential if they are to regain power.

I think Republicans desperately need a group that will do for them what the DLC did for the Democrats. Unfortunately, I see no such organization or any resources available for those that might start one. Those with such resources are either turned off by Republican pandering to its right wing and have left the party or they agree with it. Either way, no one in the Republican Party seems to have any interest in victory, and they prefer to wear defeat as some kind of badge of honor.

Eventually, Republicans will tire of being out of power just as Democrats did, and they will do what it takes to win. But I fear that Republicans will have to at least lose in 2010 and again in 2012 before they start to come to their senses. Perhaps by 2014, some leader with maturity, resources, vision and discipline will find a way of leading the GOP out of the wilderness. But I see no one even in a position to start that process today.

I have often argued that the Republicans must either change their views or go the way of the Whigs. While there is no guarantee of this happening, I also tend to think that at some point we will have a restoration of a two party system, either by the Republicans coming to their senses and recovering or by a new party developing from splits in the Democratic majority.

There are a number of potential ways to see the Republicans coming back into power. Hopefully this will be from them coming to their senses and moving back from the extreme far right. There are also other possibilities.

The Democrats might commit political suicide by following the path of the Republicans should they move to the far left and act to oust those who fail to show ideological purity. At present this is contrary to the direction the Democrats have been moving in, but there are some who do show such tendencies. As I noted a few days ago, it is also possible that Democratic successes could also lead to people no longer having the same reasons to vote Democratic in order to achieve plans offered by the Democrats such as increased access to health care once this is accomplished.

Conditions in the country and the world will play a part in the fortunes of the two political parties. Democratic prospects will be far better if the economy improves over the next few years. Often unpredictable events have a tremendous influence over politics. When George Bush was (questionably) elected in 2000 we could not have predicted that the Republicans would benefit from a terrorist attack in 2001, despite the fact that they mishandled it so badly. When Bush was reelected in 2004 we also could not have predicted that his poor response to Katrina would so quickly demonstrate the incompetence of the Republicans even to many former Republican voters.

Time could work to the benefit of the Republicans. An increasing number of Democratic House and Senate seats are now from areas which have been Republican until recently, making them harder to defend. Historically the party out of office does better in off year elections. Americans tend to both have a short memory and a tendency to grow tired of the party in power. At present this might not help the Republicans as they continue to remind people of why they were voted out as they claim they lost because they were not conservative enough.

Republicans might also return to power based upon their rhetorical ability and tendency to distort the truth. As people forget the disasters of past Republican rule, Voodoo economics might again look attractive. While Republicans policies don’t work in the real world, it sure does sound attractive to be able to cut taxes and simultaneously bring in more revenue. While Republican scare tactics about what Democrats will do are repeatedly contradicted by reality, there’s also a sucker born every minute. There are still many who believe that Democrats want to take away their guns and Bibles, with some conservative claims, such as those spread by Glenn Beck, becoming even more paranoid

The best chance for the Republicans would be, as Bartlett says, to “come to their senses.” At present Bartlett is right that this appears difficult. The general trend of history has been towards freedom and reason while the Republicans try to fight these trends. A party which has many members which support creationism over evolution and modern biology, fights stem cell research on religious grounds, and denies the scientific consensus on climate change will not be taken seriously by most educated and intelligent people in the 21st century.

In order to survive in the modern world, the Republicans must acknowledge both that abortion rights is a settled issue and that the state has no right to tell a woman what she can do with her body. Republicans must realize the government should not intervene in other personal decisions, ranging from contraception to end of life decisions (as in the Terri Schiavo case). Republicans must realize that although they were able to capitalize on homophobia in 2004 with votes to prevent gay marriage, the attitude of the country is rapidly changing on gay marriage and other social issues.

Republicans must realize understand the significance of the decision of the founding fathers to create a secular government characterized by separation of church and state, as opposed to promoting a revisionist history which denies this and falsely claiming that the United States was established as a Christian nation.

Some Republicans would claim that saying Republicans should abandon these views is to say they should not be Republicans as they consider these views to be essential components of conservatism. In actuality there is no contradiction between rejecting the extremism of the religious right and conservatism. Doing this would be a return to the philosophy of Barry Goldwater, which many contemporary conservatives falsely claim to be following.

Bob Barr Admits He Was Wrong, Again

Bob Barr, writing in The Los Angeles Times, states that he wrote the Defense of Marriage Act and is now calling for its repeal.

This is not the first time I’ve noted that Barr has changed his views for the better. Last June he admitted he was wrong in his support for the drug war.

Posted in Bob Barr, Social Issues. Tags: . No Comments »

Third Party Presidential Candidate Results

While thrid party candidates have won some local offices, they did not have a meaningful effect on the presidential race. Straight Talk has summarized the results of the major third party candidates:

In 2004, Independent Candidate, Ralph Nader earned .38% of the total vote with 463,655 votes and in 2008 so far, Ralph Nader has earned 656,670 votes which equals to.53% of the total vote thus far.

In 2004, Libertarian Party Candidate, Michael Badnarik earned .32% of the total vote with 397,265 votes and in 2008 so far, Libertarian Candidate Bob Barr earned 488,873 votes which equals to .40% of the total vote thus far

In 2004, Constitution Party candidate, Michael Peroutka earned .12% of the total vote with 143,630 votes and in 2008 so far, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin earned 174,634 votes which equals to .14% of the total vote thus far.

In 2004, Green Party candidate David Cobb earned .10% of the total vote with 119,859 votes and in 2008 so far, Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney earned 142,785 votes which equals to roughly .12% of the total vote thus far.

These results are with 98 percent of the vote in so the popular vote totals might get a little higher for some but the percentages are unlikely to change significantly. Overall the third party candidates only received about one percent of the vote. As might be expected with a higher turn out, all four received more votes than their party four years go. They also have increased their percentage of the vote, but not by enough to be meaningful.

Many Libertarians were disappointed that the Libertarian Party nominated what they considered a conservative Republican ticket with Bob Barr and Wayne Allyn Root. Many voted for the nomination of Barr believing that, being better known, he might be able to receive a significantly higher vote total than previous nominees. It didn’t turn out this way as seen by a review of all the results for all of the Libertarian Party presidential candidates:


2008 (Barr) 0.4% (45 states)
2004 (Badnarik) 0.3% (48 states plus DC)
2000 (Browne) 0.4% (49 states plus DC, plus Smith in Arizona)
1996 (Browne) 0.5% (50 states plus DC)
1992 (Marrou) 0.3% (50 states plus DC)
1988 (Paul) 0.5% (46 states plus DC)
1984 (Bergland) 0.3% (39 states)
1980 (Clark) 1.1% (50 states plus DC)
1976 (MacBride) 0.2% (32 states)
1972 (Hospers) statistically insignificant (2 states)

Libertarian Party History and Bob Barr

It might be time for the Libertarian Party to rewrite the page of their web site on their history. On a tip from The Rothenberg Political Report I found a curious item in their history. Among their claimed accomplishments for 2002 is this item:

The “Incumbent Killer” strategy was used to control elections the LP could not yet win. It led to the defeat of Republican Congressman Bob Barr and Democratic Senator Max Cleland. It was also credited with controlling the outcome of the governor’s races in Alabama, Wisconsin, and Oregon, and the US Senate race in South Dakota.

I’m not sure that anyone outside of the Libertarian Party has ever given them credit for defeating incumbents such as Bob Barr and Max Cleland. Besides the questionable validity of this claim, do they really want to brag about having defeated the person who they nominated as their presidential candidate this year?

Bob Barr Repudiates Racist Endorsement Showing Contrast with Ron Paul

Bob Barr might be seeking much of the support which Ron Paul received during the primaries, but at least he knows where to draw the line. While Ron Paul received considerable criticism, including from libertarians, for his associations with right wing extremists, Barr most likely realizes associating with the extreme right will prevent his campaign from being taken seriously. Reason notes that, ” One of the bigger media blunders the Ron Paul campaign made was its handling of endorsements from the bigots at Stormfront” and that, “White nationalists slithered around the fringes of the Paul movement.”

Barr received a racist endorsement yesterday, and this was promptly repudiated with this statement:

Tell the haters I said don’t let the door hit you on the backside on your way out!Barr consultant Steve Gordon sent me the statement and added: “We denounce anybody who doesn’t want to treat everybody equally under the law.”

The Barr campaign is not going to be a vehicle for every fringe and hate group to promote itself. We do not want and will not accept the support of haters. Anyone with love in their heart for our country and for every resident of our country regardless of race, religion, nationality or sexual orientation is welcome with open arms.

Barr consultant Steve Gordon sent the statement to Reason and added: “We denounce anybody who doesn’t want to treat everybody equally under the law.”

When I and other bloggers criticized Paul for his association with white supremacists his more fanatic supporters often claimed that this was “guilt by association” and sometimes rationalized this by arguing that support for Paul was a justified exercise of their rights by extremist groups. Barr demonstrates that a candidate can control who they are associated with, and that such endorsements can be repudiated without violating anyone’s right to freedom of expression.

Posted in Bob Barr, Ron Paul. Tags: , . No Comments »

Unity Among Democrats or Realignment?

Despite all the protests seen from the most rabid Clinton supporters, most likely after the final primaries are over Hillary Clinton will realize that further fighting is futile and will accept a dignified settlement from the Obama campaign and begin unifying the party.

To partisan Democrats that is the only rational outcome. To an independent such as myself, this is the most probable outcome. It is also the most realistic outcome to home for if the Democrats are going to defeat John McCain. As I hope to see the defeat of any supporter of the Iraq war (including both McCain and Clinton) as well as the defeat of any social conservative (again including both McCain and Clinton), unity between the diverse Democratic factions appears to be the desirable goal in the short run.

This isn’t the only possible result. I discount the claims of Clinton supporters that they will vote for McCain. The videos I posted earlier with such claims are a product of both the passions of the moment and of the tendency of both the media and internet to report the most controversial and extreme views. Still, the fact remains that both parties contain diverse groups which are unified more out of political expediency than common views. Congressional votes deliberately organized to fall along party lines often provides a false sense of two unified parties when candidates are evaluated based upon their voting records as opposed to core beliefs.

The divisions among the Republicans, ranging from near-libertarian to the religious right, are far more obvious, but similar divisions exist among the Democrats. This division is increased with the trend, started before the 2006 elections and greatly accelerated by support for Obama, for independents and moderate Republicans (such as the Starbucks Republicans) to vote Democratic. While older (and often bitter) Democrats have tried to cling to the New Deal coalition, losing election after election in the process, younger voters working in the information age have a different view of government. Many of us independents voting Democratic are more interested in matters such as government reform, changing our disastrous foreign policy, stopping both the Iraq war and the drug war, increasing civil liberties, and strengthening the wall of separation between church and state. We have no love for “tax and spend” liberalism of recent years. This is quite different from the big government, nanny state views of Clinton and her supporters.

The Obama campaign has walked a fine line to present policies which will most likely be backed by both factions of the Democratic Party. While Obama seeks a more inclusive party, the Clinton camp has written off the views of Obama’s supporters and declared us to be a band of elitists. In many ways the Clinton supporters would be much more at home with the party of George W. Bush, Richard Milhouse Nixon, and Sprio T. Agnew. While Barack Obama has been compared to John F. Kennedy, the Clinton supporters remind me more of Spiro Agnew who condemned liberals as an “effete corps of impudent snobs.” The Clintonists might have come up with such a line if not for their anti-intellectualism which prevents them from expressing their views as well as the right wing, even when their views coincide.

While I believe the most likely outcome, for better or for worse ,is that the Democrats will become reunited, Cernig has presented a plausible alternative:

It seems to me that the schizophrenic nature of the Democratic Party may finally resolve itself. There’s a good chance that the right wing of the party will follow the Clintons into GOP-land. They always were “compassionate conservatives” and that’s probably where they belong. The Dems could end up looking a lot more like a European social democrat party as a result and if so the GOP will most likely fracture in its turn too. The far right won’t be able to call the shots quite so much, with what will then be a massively enhanced left wing of the Republicans able to steamroller them, and they’ll head for the exits to form a new hard right bunch of God-bothering, xenophobic helicopter-chasers. That way lies their consignment to history as a part of a ruling coalition, although they’ll be able to exert pressure from the finges. It’s probably the most positive role they could possibly play. Likewise, on the other flank of the main two, I think we’ll come to see democratic socialists and greens providing pressure from smaller but still influential partries on specific issues. The GOP will be left looking far more like a European conservative party.

If we don’t see Clintonista defections in droves, then it will be because the Republican hard right is just too odious for them to contemplate making common cause with. That will have pretty much the same efect, since in that case the GOP leadership is going to have to engineer a move leftwards just to recapture that party’s electability. The same fallout would then ensue as the hard right will still decamp following such a move and the Dem tent now has so many holes in it that a lot of those further left than right of the Dem center are likely to look to other parties to support so that they don’t have to relive the feuds of this primary season. Their trust that the Clinton camp has roughly the same aims as they do has been seriously eroded.

Either way, then, I think change is coming. The US has been further Right than the international mean for decades now, mainly due to the interplay of power centers in both the main parties rather than any intrinsic rightwingedness in the nation as a whole – but the adjustment has to come sometime.

I’ve often stated that I do not vote for the Democratic Party when they nominate conservative populists such as Hillary Clinton and, if not for the fact that it would mean electoral defeat when the Democrats do have a liberal candidate such as Barack Obama, would not mind if they left the party. I have much more in common with the diminishing type of Republican who is moderate on social issues and stresses civil liberties as opposed to social conservatism and support for the war. There are both those such as myself who currently lean towards the Democrats as well as many disenchanted Republicans who would prefer a realignment in the parties. Such a desire is also expressed by Mark at Publius Endures:

The Clintonites now threaten to pick their ball up and go home if their candidate is not the nominee. Obama supporters should not have a problem with this- the Clintonites are as illiberal as could be and are an anchor that weighs down any claim that the Dem Party is a force for good in this country, as I explained here. Instead, the Obama campaign and the remnants of the Dem party should start looking at reforming their coalition- let the Republicans be the party of authoritarians. In the process, the Republicans will lose a pretty good number of their own members, who either vote for Bob Barr (like me) or for Obama, with whom they will have more in common than McCain and the Clintons.

Most likely the Democrats will reunite and the same divisions will persist. Our greatest hope is actually not that the party will fracture at this moment but that the new voters will change the nature of the Democratic Party for the better. Demographics favor this outcome as the views of the younger voters will have dominance over those of the older Democratic voters as long as they turn out to vote as they have in the primaries.

Libertarian Party Provides McCain With Strong Conservative Opposition

As I reported yesterday Bob Barr overcame considerable opposition by some Libertarian Party members to the non-libertarian candidates running to win the nomination on the sixth ballot. Barr spent much of the convention apologizing for his past votes such as for the Patriot Act. He won the nomination on the sixth ballot after Wayne Allyn Root threw his support to Barr, receiving the vice presidential nomination in return.

By going with the conservatives, as opposed to second place Mary Ruwart, the Barr/Root ticket will have far more impact on the general election than virtually any other likely outcome and does have the potential to draw votes away from John McCain in conservative states. In contrast, Ruwart would receive much less conservative support and her nomination would have led some conservative libertarians to bolt the party and vote Republican.

There is a common misconception among those who have not followed the libertarian movement that the Libertarian Party and supporters of libertarianism are equivalent. The Libertarian Party was actually formed with considerable opposition from libertarians, many of whom feared that entering politics would make the Libertarian Party increasingly indistinguishable from the mainstream politicians. The party has often been more conservative than consistently libertarian, with influence in the party varying over the years.

Tim Lee presents the view of many libertarians in writing yesterday:

Today the Libertarian Party nominated Bob Barr as its presidential standard-bearer for 2008. I’ve got a love-hate relationship with the Libertarian Party. As a small-L libertarian, I typically find the major party options to be wretched, and this year’s options are especially bad. So it will be nice to have someone on the ticket who I can be reasonably sure will mostly take positions I generally agree with.

Unfortunately, the LP has a knack for picking candidates who are not just uninspiring, but often acutely embarrassing. The 2004 candidate, Michael Badnarik, was a low point. As I wrote at the time, despite billing himself as a “constitutional scholar,” he was completely clueless about American government. His speeches and interviews were chock full of assertions that could have been corrected with 30 seconds of fact-checking, and his overall message was that of a paranoid, government-hating crank.

And because presidential elections are virtually the only time a lot of people pay attention to politics, a lot of people wind up associating libertarianism, the ideology, with whomever the LP chooses to nominate every four years. And since the LP’s candidates are often clueless, politically tone-deaf, or otherwise unappealing, small-L libertarians get stuck trying to explain that, no, most libertarians aren’t for legalizing child pornography, and no, not all of us have turned our skin blue by drinking a “homemade antibiotic laced with silver.”

Bob Barr isn’t in the same category. He understands the basics of public policy and appears able to get through an interview without embarrassing himself. However, he seems to have a whole different category of baggage: questions about whether he’s actually a libertarian. During his tenure in Congress, Barr showed few libertarian tendencies, voting for the Defense of Marriage Act, opposing medical marijuana, and signing on to the Patriot Act. I saw him speak here in Missouri last year and he gave a pretty convincing Road to Damascus speech, but libertarians are justifiably suspicious.

Personally, I’m doubly wary of supporting the guy after the Ron Paul fiasco. Like Will Wilkinson, I gave money to Paul in 2007, before I learned of his continuing association with the bigots who sent out racist newsletters under Paul’s name. In retrospect, Paul’s anti-immigration rhetoric and his tendency toward conspiracy theories (“Wall Street bankers” are a staple villain in his stump speeches) should have been red flags that temperamentally, Paul was more a conservative nationalist than a libertarian even if he happened to have reached libertarian conclusions on a lot of policy issues.

The issue section of Barr’s campaign website makes me nervous that we’re in for a repeat of that fiasco. It’s incredibly thin—a dozen or so bullet points in total—and one of the four categories is “secure our borders,” which suggests Barr may harbor the same kind of borderline xenophobia that has infected both the Paul campaign and much of the modern conservative movement. That’s not the impression I want voters to get of libertarianism.

Ultimately, I wish the LP would just go away.

Barr’s history as a conservative Republican are already well known. His running mate, Wayne Allyn Root, does appear media savvy and I suspect he will help pull in conservative libertarian votes. Root’s web site is full of pictures of conservatives such as George Bush, Jeb Bush, Karl Rove, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, and his “hero,” Ronald Reagan. As with far too many libertarians, while it appears Root personally supports abortion rights he calls it a State’s Rights issue. Such attitudes of conservative libertarians on State’s Rights have been a major reason why I do not consider them consistent defenders of individual liberty. Rights, if they are to mean anything, originate with the individual, not the state. Federalism, while often a major aspect of conservatism, is inconsistent with libertarianism as infringements upon individual liberty by state governments is no more acceptable than when done by the federal government. At times the federal government has even been instrumental in fighting infringements upon liberty emanating from the states.

In the past Libertarian Party candidates have had difficulty exceeding one percent of the vote. As a consequence of the publicity from the Ron Paul campaign and having a conservative ticket which can compete with John McCain for the support of conservative Republicans, they might do far better. Having a strong conservative opponent on the ballot might also prevent John McCain from moving as far towards the center as he would like during a general election campaign.