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The Libertarian Party and political utility
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Reason's Brian Doherty points to an email from "national Libertarian Party executive director Shane Cory" that calls for Ron Paul's "supporters to support the [Libertarian Party]."
The Libertarian Party is the last remaining stronghold for liberty in American politics. [...] If you have switched your party registration, allowed your membership to lapse or have put off your decision to join the LP, I now ask that you reverse course and renew your support for our principled party. [...] Why fight to move your own party in the direction of freedom when you can fight each day to move your nation in the direction of freedom?
I'm not sure I understand the argument he makes. If you want to feel good about yourself for supporting a somewhat more principled Party, have at and enjoy the warm feelings you might get from it. But bear in mind....

  • The LP has no chance in the short or the long term; libertarians simply are not an electorally viable majority. If that changes, the dominant parties will adjust and the Libertarian Party will be irrelevant; if it doesn't change, the Libertarian Party will remain irrelevant.


  • Don't flatter yourself about how principled you are. Unless you agree with every Libertarian Party position (and nobody agrees with other people on every particular), you're still compromising. There's nothing wrong with that, but let's not pretend that participation in a political Party doesn't involve compromise - or that unwillingness to compromise is a viable strategy in a contested political system.

In general, I agree with the criticism of the Libertarian Party expressed by Instapundit and by Randy Barnett here and here at the Volokh Conspiracy.
In hindsight, I think that the creation of the Libertarian Party has been very detrimental to the political influence of libertarians. Some voters (not many lately) and, more importantly, those libertarians who are interested in engaging in political activism (which does not include me) have been drained from both political parties, rendering both parties less libertarian at the margin.
[...]
While some libertarian political activists are certainly Republicans and Democrats, the existence of the Libertarian Party ensures that there are fewer activists and fewer voters in each major party coalition than would otherwise exist. Therefore, each party's coalition becomes less libertarian. I do not mean to exaggerate the extent of this effect. But even a handful of political activists in local and state party organizations can make a big difference. Whatever one thinks of the initial creation of the Libertarian Party, its continued existence seems to be a mistake for libertarians.
I do not suggest that libertarians should align themselves with either the Republican or Democratic Party - perhaps they should align themselves with gridlock, or as persuadable swing voters - but it's very difficult to see what the Libertarian Party accomplishes for the libertarian cause. For the most part, it seems to be a fundraising club for idealists whose main products have been sanctimony and failure.

That said, I do understand the fatalism or idealism that leads some people to vote for or join the Libertarian Party. I, too, am sometimes tempted to spit upon my hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to cast those votes.
 
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Nice H.L. Mencken reference there Jon.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
If you want to feel good about yourself for supporting a somewhat more principled Party, have at and enjoy the warm feelings you might get from it.
So warm, you can melt butter on my ass.
Don’t flatter yourself about how principled you are. Unless you agree with every Libertarian Party position (and nobody agrees with other people on every particular), you’re still compromising. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s not pretend that participation in a political Party doesn’t involve compromise - or that unwillingness to compromise is a viable strategy in a contested political system.
I have about as much flattery for myself as you do. Given that you chose to work for a campaign supporting a man that supported campaign finance reform and now endorses the man behind it.
I don’t begrudge a man working for a living. We all have to do things we don’t want to for the benefit of our loved ones. But nor do I decide to belittle anyone for choosing to support institutions that don’t conform to my every belief.

Yeah, the LP is not the messiah we would all hope to think it was, but their indefatigable resilience against those whom spout similar beliefs yet act in every way contrary still own exalt for some of us. I don’t agree with everything the LP states, yet I can vote for that whom presents an unyielding principal of the majority of my beliefs all the while knowing that my voice among many others will be drowned.

It’s odd how soundly I sleep. My footprint is as light as my soul is relevant. Yet I shout and stomp the sands invulnerable. Hoping that dominate yet ethereal presence will shift a tide to dreaming Avaris.

I know I am nothing.
I know I am everything.

And I am comfortable with that.

Cheers.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://
Good read, Pogue. And Cheers to you!
 
Written By: SShiell
URL: http://
But nor do I decide to belittle anyone for choosing to support institutions that don’t conform to my every belief.
What I wrote and what you read appear to have been two very different things. I don’t begrudge your choice to support institutions that don’t conform to my/your every belief. I question the utility.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
I ceased active participation in the lib party in the late 80’s. I have trouble with the moral superiority exhibited by most of the members. From a policy standpoint I disagree with their stance on national security, and I think that good fences make good neighbors. Controlling our borders and making a rational decision as to who joins us in our republic is essential to the future of our country. I came to the same conclusion that many have in the past. While I hate the two majors with a fiery passion, they have taken ownership of our political process, if you want to have influence, you play their game. The Libertarian party represents my beliefs no better than the R’s, and they have a seat at the table.
 
Written By: Paden Cash
URL: http://
Jon,

Makes me wish I had a time machine so I could send a message back a few months to you:

Fred Thompson has no chance in the short or the long term; Fred Thompson supporters simply are not an electorally viable majority. If that changes, the dominant candidates will adjust and Fred Thompson will be irrelevant; if it doesn’t change, Fred Thompson will remain irrelevant.
 
Written By: Thomas L. Knapp
URL: http://knappster.blogspot.com
I don’t see how that’s the case, Thomas. One of the GOP candidates had to win the nomination, and the winner would receive support (in varying degrees) from the rest of the coalition. Thompson had a pretty good shot. It didn’t work out, but he could have had the support of a viable coalition. The LP, on the other hand, does not appear interested in coalition building.

The GOP very much reorients to reflect its Presidential candidate, and I’d have much rather had a Goldwater Republican in office than one of the other branches of Republicans.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net

 
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