Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kubby out of the LP race.

Due to factors ranging from low registration, to the perception (perhaps usually correct) of holding fringe values and endorsing nutty policy schemes, to the widespread (fallacious) belief in the "wasted vote", the Libertarian Party's Presidential candidate is usually a nonstarter, to the point that, for example, nobody in the press even bothered to show just how nutty sham "Constitution Scholar" Michael Badnarik was. That he was in the race was barely newsworthy, and then usually as human-interest journalism; the details didn't matter.

Despite taking the same approach to Constitutional scholarship that Ayn Rand took toward serious philosophy, Badnarik had many positive qualities: that he was a bona fide libertarian was not in question, and, moreover, he had a gentlemanly sense of propriety. When asked why he's in the race if he can't win, his reply was usually to the effect of: "The one way I can win is for you, your family, your friends, and millions of others to vote for me." Surely, his chances were slim, but he was doing what the LP should expect from a candidate: campaigning full-time and in earnest.

All but one of the Presidential candidates, from any party, will lose, but the running is not wholly vain. Having the press's ear (more so if they are serious contenders, but even if they are third-party dark-horses), they--as Ron Paul is doing regarding the War--determine, to some extent, what the issues of the day are, and where the Overton Window lies on the space of political possibilities. They also help bring attention to a party's local candidates and serve as their party's de facto spokesman for the duration of the campaign. This is especially true in the case of minor parties, nearly invariably unfamiliar to the majority of citizens.

To do these things is the duty of any Presidential candidate. (Many libertarians, especially of the big-ell LP variety, would argue that there is no "duty" other than that specified in a written contract. Perhaps that's one of the reasons they haven't gained much traction.) It would be improper for a candidate to refuse to campaign, or to unilaterally express support for another party's candidate for the same office!

Steve Kubby has done just that, in endorsing the candidacy of paleoconservative Republican Ron Paul.

Ron Paul was once the Libertarian Party's Presidential candidate, and he may even have once been a libertarian, but it seems that, at least of late, he takes a different approach to the issues, one which leaves him with about as much overlap with libertarians as Tom Coburn. Hatred of government is not synonymous with love of liberty.

Kubby's intent, as expressed to Paulie Cannoli is to support Paul, and encourage other Libertarians to do the same, and to, if Paul doesn't receive the nomination, to run a strong Libertarian campaign in 2008. The trouble there is threefold:

  1. The Libertarians hold their nominating convention in late May; the Republicans won't have theirs until early September. Suppose, since the whole field is lackluster, Paul becomes one of the frontrunners. Will Kubby not campaign--or campaign for Paul--until then? If Paul gains strength, nominating Kubby means running a weak campaign, even by Libertarian standards.
  2. Encouraging Libertarians to support Paul means, in many states, encouraging them to re-register and vote in the Republican primaries, endangering ballot access for local and state-level candidates.
  3. Encouraging Libertarians to support Paul means diverting resources from libertarian causes and candidates.

Even if Ron Paul radiated liberal values, Kubby's endorsement, as he put it, is a statement that he will not upohld his duty to support the Party. If Paul were to receive the Republican nomination, the extent to which he, and not a Libertarian candidate, should receive the support of libertarians, is most properly determined by that contituency. Nominating Kubby would be a waving of the white flag to the paleoconservatives, a repudiation of the idea that libertarians should do what they can to move policy in their direction, even if just by making major-party candidates fight the "spoiler effect". Pledging to shirk his duty to support Libertarians down the ticket means he's no longer worthy of Libertarians' support.

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