May 31, 2004

Losertarians
Posted by Jon Henke

Well, the Libertarian Party has finished it regularly scheduled excercise in futility, and they've only reinforced my aversion to participation...

Michael Badnarik, a computer programmer from Texas, won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination on Sunday. Badnarik, 49, of Austin, defeated former Hollywood movie producer Aaron Russo on the convention's third ballot, after former radio host Gary Nolan, who was eliminated on the second ballot, endorsed Badnarik. "If I can win the nomination, there's no reason I can't win this election," Badnarik told a cheering convention that drew more than 800 delegates.
There's just so much wrong with that. Let's make a list:

1: The LP nominated a....computer programmer? I'm not sure I've ever seen a better example of the ineptitude of the LP. Even when looking for a Presidential candidate, they can't find somebody who has held elected office....or is even tangentially engaged in government.

Of course, their alternatives consisted of a movie producer and a radio host, so....

2: This passage.....

"If I can win the nomination, there's no reason I can't win this election," Badnarik told a cheering convention that drew more than 800 delegates.
I hope that got the biggest laugh of the night. If your Presidential Convention can only draw 800 people.....well, you know. You share a lot more in common with the lunatic preaching to nobody on the street corner, than with somebody who actually is going to be the next President of the United States.

3: Badnarik's position on Iraq: he's against it, not based on the merits of the cases for or against the war, but "because Congress has never declared war". Moreover, he can't even justify his own moonbattery....

Michael doesn't have enough information to know whether or not the United States should be there or not, however he strongly suspects that the real motivation for being there is probably economic rather than ethical.
That'll tell em, Michael.

4: Badnarik is exactly the sort of person that gives Libertarians a reputation as fringe-dwelling nuts. Whether you agree with his positions or not, the fact is that even suggesting that your first day in office would see "High ranking officials from [the IRS] would be closely monitored as flight risks, pending indictments for fraud in the event that evidence proves that they knew that no statute exists that requires Americans to fill out a 1040 form and relinquish a significant percentage of their hard earned money to an unconstitutional government that refuses to operate within a budget".

I mean, really. It's like the LP is competing with PETA to see who can appear more ridiculous in pursuit of Idealism. 10 out of 10 for standing on principle, but minus a few thousand for doing it in a clown costume.

UPDATE: My response to Harry Browne's column can be found here. My larger criticism of the Libertarian Party is here.

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Comments

The Libertarians have an established pattern of nominating inexperienced people for President. To my knowledge, Harry Browne never served in office, nor did he even finish college. A computer programmer might be a step up from that :)

Oh, and The Volokh Conspiracy took on the "Congress never declared war" bit months ago. I don't have a link, but the upshot was that Congress doesn't have to specifically say "declare war"; the resolution authorizing the use of force was a de facto declaration of war.

Posted by: Steverino at May 31, 2004 10:40 AM

I dunno, they're making progress. At least this guy didn't turn his skin blue or hand out realistic-looking toy guns to kids on a Harlem street corner...

Posted by: shark at May 31, 2004 01:50 PM

The libs will become a major party when they understand why Pepsi tastes a lot like Coke.

This sort of expertise is generally thought to be beyond computer geeks.

Posted by: M. Simon at May 31, 2004 02:02 PM

Actually if the libs WORKED at being foolish they migh actually appear less so.

Given their electoral position a clown suit might be an improvement. Think Abby Hoffman. Wavy Gravy.

Posted by: M. Simon at May 31, 2004 02:17 PM

I am a conservative/libertarian and am a registered Republican, but I do have libertarian leanings (that's with a lower-case "l"). I used to be a member of the Libertarian Party, but I left because of this kind of loony-toon stuff - especially their views on the War on Terror.

Later,
Cody
******************************
PrudentPolitics.com
http://www.prudentpolitics.com
******************************

Posted by: Cody Hatch at May 31, 2004 02:25 PM

Bandarik is a longtime Libertarian candidate in the Austin community. I have heard him give speeches since I returned to the area in '98. (And the Lib party is not a very large draw in Texas, so a crowd of 800 is a surprise.)

I think that we can give the guy a break on some of these statements.

-Every candidate plays to win. Are Bandarik's chances any worse than Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, or Pat Buchanan? None are going to sit in the White House... But does that disqualify their platform or their constituents from representation? I hope not.

- This is Texas. If you are a businessman (success or failure), you still have a shot at the Governor's job, or even the President's. This is the kind of town where you can wander around in an alcohol haze until you're 40, and then decide to become Leader of the Free World.

- Bandarik's position on Iraq is pretty weak, but honestly... does it really matter? How many times did we hear Bush's stump speech in 1999/2000 promise that he wouldn't use US troops for "nation-building", would not committ US troops without a real exit strategy, etc., etc. Let's be honest. Bush's position was popular at home at the time, and so is Bandarik's.

- Bandarik is perpetuating the stereotype of Libs as wingnuts? I'm not so positive about that. Libertarians have done a fine job of that without Bandarik. I've seen him speak at school functions, in addition to groups of conservatives and liberals. Whether speaking about issues like gun rights, drug laws or even skydiving; he always comes across as informed, intelligent, and has the ability to connect an issue to individual liberty. (I actually considered Libs to be vapid wingnuts until I listened to one of Bandarik's speeches on the steps of the Capitol (Austin) one afternoon.)

Are some of Bandarik's positions nutty? Absolutely. He's a Libertarian. But he doesn't deserve to take this abuse by himself. He's just as viable a candidate as anybody from Volokh!!

Posted by: dfx at May 31, 2004 04:03 PM

So how are you republicans enjoying that $521B budget deficit and steady march to Canadian-style healthcare?

Bush 2004:
-No guns for Iraqis
-No privacy for Americans
-No semblance of border security
-The fiscal responsibility of a crack-addled whore with a stolen platinum credit card
-A government sponsored health-insurance package for every citizen
-A UN treaty for every area of government

But hey, he isn't Kerry so you gotta love him....

The most accurate war slogan for Bush is: "Bush 2004: because invading the wrong terror sponsor is better than invading no terror sponsor."

Posted by: Mike at June 1, 2004 10:26 AM

Well, Mike, none of the bloggers here are really Republicans, though some of us think that - given the options - there is more marginal utility in working within the Republican Party than elsewhere.

As for me (the author of this post), I have yet to make up my mind whether I will be voting against Kerry, or against Kerry and Bush. I do know there's nobody for whom I can support wholeheartedly...and I suspect the same is true for you.

Posted by: Jon Henke at June 1, 2004 10:30 AM

I used to be very active in the LP but I have to say that my zeal has been dramatically dampened by two things:

1) the kooks that gravitate toward a body that advocates a system with fewer rules and restrictions. I was a national delegate in 98 and three rows in front of me *was* a guy wearing something not unlike a clown suit.

2) the party's inability to accomplish anything more than winning a few offices at the county level and staffing booths at gun shows and county fairs.

But I'm sure as I stand in the voting booth, I'll do as I always do and vote for LP candidates and no one else. What am I gonna do? Vote for a party that is *growing* Medicare? I think not.

Posted by: John at June 1, 2004 05:02 PM

As an independent, I kinda of like libertarianism. It's fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Wasn't Jesse Ventura like a moderate libertarian?

I dunno about the whole privatizing all roads and eliminating public schools, but the whole small government, lower taxes, and live and let live isn't too shabby. Republicans claim to be for small government and lower taxes but never follow through and then send us to war and want to spy on us in the bedroom while Democrats rob minorities of dignity and treat them like a photo op while enslaving us all to government programs that suck and cost a fortune.

If there was a more moderate version of the Libertarian party that would be cool.

Posted by: Dave at June 1, 2004 09:26 PM

Wow. It looks like so much fun to sit around bashing Libertarians. Your little names for us are cute too: "libs" and "Losertarians." Gee, it's great seeing your college educations being put to such good use. You Neocons have gone from ignoring us to belittling us. Getting scared?

Badnarik made it clear that he opposes the Iraq war during the LP debate on Saturday. Does the original George W's "entangling alliances" address ring a bell?

John

anti-Kerry
anti-Bush
pro-Liberty

Posted by: John at June 1, 2004 10:48 PM

No Neocons here, John. We're all "small l" libertarians. We (I) just think the LP is a ridiculous political party.

And we disagree with the LP stance on the war, and "foreign entanglements", too.

Posted by: Jon Henke at June 2, 2004 06:20 AM

Sirs,
I donít like Mike Bondarikís position on Iraq either, but this is beyond the point.
He is not going to be in the oval office any time soon, so donít worry about his position on Iraq too much.
His role is to introduce into presidential campaign of 2004 such a crazy and controversial ideas that government including the President of the United States should respect the Constitution. If any shred of this idea will stay in the heads of other candidates so they wonít sign unconstitutional bills into laws (the McCain-Feingold comes to mind, the Patriot Act may ring a bell) then it will be a big step in a right direction. Or, in general, financial responsibility would be nice too. And respect for gun rights does not hurt either.
So, Bandarik in there is to scare the heck out of RINOs, and every conservative who is disappointed with Bush (such as me: see http://vkus.freeyellow.com/ForBushOrNotForBush.html ) should vote for Mike Bandarik for these reasons.

Posted by: Vladimir Kushnir at June 2, 2004 09:18 AM

Just a paleocon passing through, but Jon Henke's disagreement with the LP's stand on the Iraq war and foreign entanglements made me wonder: just which principles inform a libertarian's view that preventive war(and all its consequent evils)with a country that did not threaten us, or getting messed up with problems that have no great bearing on us, are ok?

Posted by: Ross Nelson at June 4, 2004 01:18 AM

Dear Jon,

Oh how I hate to write....

Perhaps you lose standing when you reaffirm your reluctance to participate. Perhaps if you were to participate, things might go more the way you wish. But then, perhaps not. Too many of us who do participate would have a real problem with your apparent aversion to real citizens becoming true public servants. I mean, what would the country come to if the government were to be headed up by people who don't bother to qualify for the status-quo?

If you want a different result, you have to try a different tack. You feel free to say that to us, that we keep doing the same thing, but you should be saying it to yourself. Bailing out and criticizing from the edge is no contribution, and name-calling and derision go much further to support the current power machine than to correct anything. Anyone can set up a blog. But it takes someone special to do constructive blogging. I know you could do it--you should try it.

Certain research indicates that fully eighteen percent of Americans generally agree with Libertarian philosophy; the task of the party, admittedly behind schedule, is communicating the message to enough people that the percentage of people who actually are libertarians (but don't yet know it) begins to be approached by the percentage of people who do know that they are libertarians.

Michael Badnarik is the right candidate for the job as it stands today. His stunning come-from behind victory at the convention was not a fluke; he did something no other candidate I've seen has done before: beyond relating the issues to either principle or the constitution, he blended the two at every occasion and showed them to be mutually compatible. In the process, he showed how American the libertarian philosophy really is and how far off the mark the demopublicans really are, and he did it while looking as presidential as has anyone who's actually held the office in my lifetime.

Badnarik showed us what an effective spokesperson should look like, and we accepted his offer to do the job.

Candidate Badnarik's job is to reach out to those eighteen percent of Americans and rescue them from being politically homeless. I believe he can do that job, if the rest of us do ours: get out there, let people know who he is and who we are, and contribute time, effort and money.

It's time to put up or shut up.

The Libertarian Party is actually moving into a more moderate phase, where the purity test is falling from favor and people who can only digest maybe seventy percent of the libertarian platform for now are being welcomed and even defended against purity purges.

It is possible to mainstream libertarianism, but not if you're running scared from the attention and hiding under some bush.

-0-

Posted by: Allen Hacker at June 4, 2004 03:11 AM

Ross:
"just which principles inform a libertarian's view that preventive war(and all its consequent evils)with a country that did not threaten us, or getting messed up with problems that have no great bearing on us, are ok?

- - -For starters, I'd disagree on whether we had sufficient cause, in the current environment, to believe they posed a threat to us. Based on their actions, I think we did. In addition, you'll be hard pressed to find a way in which Iraq had complied with their post-91 agreements. That's a violation of contract. And events in that region have a great bearing on us.

Further, we had a "right" to intervene in the same way that I have a right to attack a murderer who is not attacking me. Presumably, even a hardcore Libertarian would step in to stop a rape, despite the fact that the rape is not occurring to them.

Finally, I believe it is a Hobbesian world. I may prefer Lockean ideals, but when everybody cannot agree to abide by Lockean ideals, one has to play accordingly.

Posted by: Jon Henke at June 4, 2004 06:37 AM

Allen:
"when you reaffirm your reluctance to participate.

- - -I am not reluctant to participate. I am just wary of the Libertarian Party. Or, to put it more clearly, I am completely underwhelmed by the LP. They are a Permanent Fringe...intentionally resigning themselves to the sidelines.

I see absolutely no utility in that. None at all.

So, where am I? I don't know, yet. I'm still trying to figure out what I can do usefully.


"Badnarik showed us what an effective spokesperson should look like"

- - -You're kidding. Please tell me you're kidding. An effective spokesperson must mainstream the party. Electing a fellow who brags about not having license plates, immediately dissasembling the IRS, and indicting them, etc....that's mainstream like the Raelians.

Posted by: Jon Henke at June 4, 2004 06:43 AM

Jon,

You said,

"- - -I am not reluctant to participate. I am just wary of the Libertarian Party. Or, to put it more clearly, I am completely underwhelmed by the LP. They are a Permanent Fringe...intentionally resigning themselves to the sidelines.

"I see absolutely no utility in that. None at all.

"So, where am I? I don't know, yet. I'm still trying to figure out what I can do usefully."

Let's be frank. I also bailed, in about '83. No reason to go into the justifications, I'm sure they've all been interated here many times as accusations. And I also embarked upon a search for another way. For some 18 years. It wasn't out there. Meanwhile, the 'other'side' won every battle in the war against freedom, to dump us where we are now.

I finally wised up. Instead of demanding perfection, I now only require of the party that it be there as a vehicle for change. And as I see it, we are more or less starting over. The purity tests and purges have to go (I note that you didn't comment on that), and we must open our arms to the '70%-ers' --people who don't like it all but have nowhere else to go: the majority, in fact.

And we have to be able to come across as well-reasoned and compassionate. Too many of our positions look like we want to throw poor children to the wolves.

You said, quoting me:

"Badnarik showed us what an effective spokesperson should look like.

"- - -You're kidding. Please tell me you're kidding. An effective spokesperson must mainstream the party. Electing a fellow who brags about not having license plates, immediately dissasembling the IRS, and indicting them, etc....that's mainstream like the Raelians."

I said, what he should look like. The actual message is another topic, and does need to be addressed. And it is being addressed.

Obviously, Badnarik did not expect to be nominated. And in the meanwhile, he has contested the system from the outside for years, as have far more of us than anyone realizes. That is what it is.

But you should wait for the message as it will be before you start chopping away at the roots upon which it might be delivered.

Just give Michael a chance, a little time. You might be surprised. And please reconsider your abandonment of the party, as I did. If you don't play, you can't win.

PS:
---Raelians? That's funny! But they're atheists who believe that genetics is all there is. I don't think that's a fit.

Still, your point is well taken as to being on the fringe. Yet where does that leave you? On the fringe of a fringe? Come on in out of the cold, and add some real fuel to the fire!

-0-

Posted by: Allen Hacker at June 4, 2004 12:55 PM

John Henke wrote "1: The LP nominated a....computer programmer? I'm not sure I've ever seen a better example of the ineptitude of the LP. Even when looking for a Presidential candidate, they can't find somebody who has held elected office....or is even tangentially engaged in government."

Badnarik worked on the B2 Stealth Bomber project and on the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, so yes, he is tangentially involved in government. At least he's not a lawyer.

John Henke wrote: "I hope that got the biggest laugh of the night. If your Presidential Convention can only draw 800 people.....well, you know. You share a lot more in common with the lunatic preaching to nobody on the street corner, than with somebody who actually is going to be the next President of the United States."

Perhaps your comment is based on a presumption that we hold our national convention "Woodstock-Style," with an unlimited number of delegates. This is not so. Total delegate allocation between the states is calculated based on how many votes the presidential candidate gets in the general election in each state as well as a fraction of dues-paying Libertarian Party members. The formula, clearly posted in the convention bylaws, fixes the maximum number of delegates for the 2004 convention at 1448, this means that attendance was around 60 percent of maximum. Perhaps you think it's a poor showing, but my state, Alabama, was able to bring all 16 of its votes to the convention.

It's true that some states were able to send very few delegates, the high costs associated with the convention was the #1 reason for keeping them away. It seems sad that somthing as trivial as money would spoil attendance, but the free market never sleeps. In the real world, the dollars I earn are the only ones I spend on convention costs. Each dollar hurts when it leaves my hand, so I am careful where the dollars go. In addition to room charges, parking at the Mariott Marquis ran $20 a night with an extra $4 tacked on if you drove your SUV. The city extracted it's toll at a hefty 17% of the total bill in hotel taxes. Including tips, most folks spent about $1000 plus travel minimum.

In the fantasy world of the Republicans and Democrats, there is a pool of money available for political campaigns, and it is filled with "federal dollars." They will each scoop out $14 million to put on their lavish conventions, something the Libertarian Party would never do. We believe that we should pay for everything ourselves.

John Henke wrote: "3: Badnarik's position on Iraq: he's against it, not based on the merits of the cases for or against the war, but 'because Congress has never declared war'."

Are you arguing that the President should be able to declare war on his own? Or that Congress gave Mr. Bush the green light to take Baghdad with military force? Does our Constitution have no meaning in "The War on Terror?"

John Henke wrote: "4: Badnarik is exactly the sort of person that gives Libertarians a reputation as fringe-dwelling nuts. Whether you agree with his positions or not, the fact is that even suggesting that your first day in office would see "High ranking officials from [the IRS] would be closely monitored as flight risks..."

Get a grip, you don't even recognize humor when you see it.

Mark Bodenhausen
State Chairman
Libertarian Party of Alabama

Posted by: Mark Bodenhausen at June 4, 2004 08:57 PM

I just thought it was important to point out that, Badnarik has removed the links to issues down from his home page.

I think he's pulling a Democratic primary on us, Make your issues page stand out to the libertarians who matter in the primaries and get thier fuel burning. But when the actual race comes down Move your issues and explanations so they will seem more sane to the public

Posted by: Chuck at June 5, 2004 01:49 AM

Perhaps the author would be happier if we all just shrugged our shoulders, gave up, went home, and did our best to hide from the troops when Bush (or Kerry) declare your laptop to be a threat to national security and come to confiscate it.

Sure, our numbers are small - the convention turnout and number of votes we get in elections directly reflects that.

Badnarik is out there telling it like it is - telling as much of the world that listens that this little piece of paper written back in 1787 IS the law of the land - and it's about time our politicians complied with the contract.

As for links to "issues" on Badnarik's web site - why does he need his own spin on issues if he's already said that the LP platform is HIS platform?

If you're not a part of the solution, you're part of the problem. The author is part of the problem.

If the LP isn't good enough for you, then run off and start your own utopian party - yeah - that will get a lot of votes - and you can nominate Steven Spielberg, Goerge Lucas, and J.K.Rowling to be co-presidents - they're pretty good at creating the kind of fantasy world that you seem to want to live in.

Posted by: Val at June 7, 2004 12:03 PM

Mike Badnarik is a nice guy, genuine, intelligent and dedicated both to his principles and his campaign.

And an 800-delegate convention isn't that small. The GOP is going to have around 2,500 and the Democrats will have 4,322. Considering the fact that the Democrats and Republicans have voted their parties somewhere on the order of 30 or 40 million dollars each for these conventions and the Libertarians have no political welfare it's sensible to think the LP would have a smaller convention. Plus, the Democrats and Republicans have much larger registration numbers, and in a proportional light the 800 is actually pretty big next to the other numbers.


Unless we are going to run for office or make substantive campaign contributions yourselves, I suggest we at least offer an alternative strategy. That or join the Free State Project. it's very easy and often times important to question and criticize but there's no point in criticism unless it leads to a productive solution.

Criticism is step one, revised action is step two. Anything else (and I'm sure nobody here fits thislabel) is whiny cowardice.


What would you have them do? Nominate a guy who might drop out because of cancer or arrogance, who wasn't and isn't a Libertarian, and who's abrasive and untrustworthy all because he's flamboyant and rich? Russo could have easily dropped out after a few months of stroking his ego, or pissed off the media with his grating personality. I think Badnarik was a great choice, he was the best speech-giver and the most likable and approachable guy.

Posted by: angrylibertarian at June 10, 2004 07:11 PM

Mike Badnarik will get my vote in November. I met him when he campaigned through Pittsburgh. He dined with our local Libertarian party a couple of times, stayed up late talking with us, spoke at a local university, and sold us copies of his book _It's Good to be King: Foundations of Freedom_ (it's about your Constitutional rights to property, not monarchy). He's a great and brilliant guy. His computer skills are probably beside the point; his most important credential is his Constitutional scholarship.

Keep in mind that, despite all his good qualities, he was not expected to actually win the national party's nomination. (I personally expected the nominee to be Gary Nolan -- another candidate I've met, and one for whom I would have gladly voted.) I think Badnarik was as surprised as anyone by his own nomination; his pre-convention campaign was really designed for him to travel the country teaching people about their Constitutional rights. His comment: "If I can win the nomination, there's no reason I can't win this election," was not so much the delusional ravings of a foolish lunatic as it was the figurative optimism of a guy who could not believe that he had just come from third-place to be nominated by the Libertarian Party to run for President of the United States of America. Despite the LP's minor-party status and stature, being nominated by ANY established political party to run for U.S.A. President is a big deal and honor.

Like other great philosophers before him (e.g. Harry Browne, Dave Bergland, etc.), Badnarik is representing more than just a minor political party; he's representing a whole movement with a systematic set of ethical principles.

Posted by: Rob at June 23, 2004 12:39 AM