Wither the Libertarian Party?

What to make of the Libertarian Party anointing Bob Barr as their presidential candidate in 2008? Some libertarians are pleased, others see it as the end of the LP. As something of an outsider I see it as essentially the death of the LP as it was, and the birth of a new LP.

Here’s slightly (but only slightly) over the top, conspiratorial summary of what happened.

This new direction of the LP is positioned to capitalize on the successes of the Ron Paul campaign, attract new members to the party, and possibly pick up new votes. This will be good news to some libertarians, but it doesn’t come without a price. The LP is the party of principle no more. It is now the party of compromising to reach out to a larger audience. Barr will attract many conservatives who are fed up with the Republican Party. But in doing so it becomes not a libertarian party, but a conservative party. Many libertarians will stick around for this new libertarian-conservative alliance, particularly those who put economic libertarianism above all else.

I have to admit I’m a little saddened by this turn of events. I’ve never been a member of the LP, and I’m not by most definitions a libertarian (I consider myself a civil libertarian, and the most inclusive, “big tent” definitions would probably include me). But I’m something of a “libertarian sympathizer.” I even voted for Harry Brown in 2000 (it’s not like Gore was going to win Wyoming, and Nader wasn’t even on the ballot). But really, libertarian-leaning liberals like me have probably never made up much of the base of the LP, so alienating us isn’t likely to have any effect. And the Barr nomination is probably very good news for Obama.

One curious reaction comes from Radley Balko: “It’s the first time the LP has nominated a serious candidate in a long time. I’ve become rather fond of Barr over his 5-year conversion to libertarianism. Second place went to nutjob Mary Ruwart, who would have continued the party’s long history of kook-ism.”

Is this an admission that holding to the party line constitutes “kook-ism”? Is there any “real” libertarian that would pass the “kook-test”? I wonder if there’s any chance the LP could ever get Peter Thiel to run for office.

More reactions to the Barr nomination:

Skip Oliva

Christine Smith

1 Comment

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