April 06, 2008

Someone to vote for?

Here is the video (via CNN) of Bob Barr’s official announcement that he’s forming a presidential exploratory committee. It now looks very likely that he’ll get the Libertarian Party nod. (Jim Antle’s analysis of the situation, pre-announcement, is here.) 

A political rumors blog is also reporting that Barr will receive the endorsement of Ron Paul. Barr is a good man, and I would be proud to vote for him in November; however, a Paul endorsement of Barr would be simply more evidence that the Paul campaign and movement are adrift without much in the way of grand strategy.

As we’ve discussed here, the Paul movement can become a powerful force in basically two ways. First there’s the Antle strategy: Paul supporters should remain in the GOP and become a principled, rambunctious contingent that would raise hell at the convention, try to take over local party structures, and steer the GOP back onto a traditional conservative course. 

Then there’s the Raimondo strategy: the GOP is too far gone, and the Paul movement is better served by using the momentum of the campaign to launch a third party. 

Both of these would be scuttled by Paul’s backing of Barr. On the one hand, the Paul people would have no power whatsoever in a GOP convention if their leader had already defected to the Libertarians. On the other, it seems bizarre for Paul to have built up all this online support, to have actually beaten a number of the GOP big names in early primaries, and then to endorse a party that earned .34% in the 2004 election. Sure, “it’s all about the ideas,” but it was Paul, the avuncular strait-shootin’ Texan, who was attractive to a wide variety of people in a way that the academic LP candidates simply haven’t been. At the very least, it was the Paul campaign, and those surrounding it, who developed the online fundraising “bombs” and laid the foundations for a movement. Why should Paul drop all this and endorse a former congressman who’s starting from scratch? It makes no sense.     

I’m all for voting for Barr; however, this or that principled third-party candidate is irrelevant if we’re not building up institutions for the long term.

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