March 28, 2008

I”€™ve looked on with curiosity at the so-called “€œGravelanche,”€ the reaction among libertarians to Mike Gravel‘s quest for the Libertarian Party’s nomination. That old Mike would attempt such a thing is not particularly surprising”€”the man who depicted his delinquent credit-card bills as a social protest probably has visions of LP largesse and federal matching funds dancing in his head.

What is interesting is what the reaction reveals about the delusions libertarians have of themselves as a principled “€œthird way”€ in American politics.  

True, some have remarked, quite sensibly, that a man who claims, “€œ[T]he Democratic Party today is no longer the party of FDR; it is a party that continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism,”€ is profoundly ignorant of the history of, among other things, FDR, the military-industrial complex, and American imperialism and probably doesn”€™t really get the whole libertarian thing at all. 

Others sought to be more “€œpragmatic”€ and succeeded in proving themselves to be generally out of it. 

First there’s the libertarian hawk “€œNew Skeptic,”€ who dismisses the Gravel idea because 1) the military industrial complex and imperialism are “€œfake concepts,”€ 2) it’s no good to criticize the war, and 3) Gravel’s just another “€œkook”€: “€œLibertarians have a serious image problem, and people like Gravel and Ron Paul have not helped.”€

Oh yes, New Skeptic, the Iraq war is so wildly popular that it would be political suicide to oppose it! As for the half million soldiers, administrators, and civil contractors employed abroad”€”merely an illusion! More over, NS seems quite concerned with the Ron Paul newsletters and oblivious to the fact that this “€œscandal”€ had no effect whatsoever on the primaries and gained little to no traction outside the PC Beltway. It’s only the dwindling New Republic subscribers and their DC friends who worry that Paul might be a man “€œfilled with hate.”€ 

Equally baffling are the comments of David Weigel, the Gravelanche chronicler: “€œI think the Ron Paul experience”€”millions of dollars for about 5 percent of the primary vote”€”has brought opinion of this kind of campaign back down to terra firma.”€ 

No one at this site has shied away from criticizing the Paul organization”€”major breakthroughs in online fundraising and networking were squandered by a campaign run in a incoherent, unreliable, and often amateurish fashion. Nevertheless, the torpid and dull efforts of LP candidates of yore generated about as much interest as a basket-weaving convention”€”anyone remember Badnarik and Browne? In comparison, Ron Paul’s 2008 run was nothing short of miraculous. That libertarians would dismiss the Paul campaign as a failure is beyond belief. 

I wonder if it’s dawning on the Reason-oids, free-market hawks, and the other Betway libertarians who rejected Paul because he wasn”€™t PC enough that the congressman from Texas was successful as a “€œlibertarian”€ candidate specifically because he had nothing to do with Reason magazine and LP politics?  

Let’s imagine in Paul’s stead the ultimate Reason composite candidate: something on the order of a black jacket-wearing metrosexual with contemptibly bad hair who stresses the benefits of open-border immigration and defends the rights of transvestite prostitutes. Add to this a limp, lefty pacifism so vague and inconsequential that it doesn”€™t much bother neocon friends at AFF happy hours. Oh yes, I”€™m sure such a candidate would get much higher than 10% in an Iowa caucus.

Despite Paul’s limitations as a candidate, I actually believe that his “€œmovement,”€ generally conceived, might yet have a second act; however, it’s becoming clear that such a patriotic organization will not involve the effete gadflies, or the free-market warmongers, of the libertarian blogosphere.  


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