The red heart placards being hoisted above the heads of the Mary Ruwart supporters at the Libertarian National Convention last weekend were a perfect representation of her purist libertarianism. She is, some say, a radical libertarian. Her positions reflect the hearts of libertarians. Her positions are my positions. The libertarian beliefs I hold close to my heart.
Bob Barr’s supporters held the standard “politician” signs we see during every convention and campaign. They represented the moderate pragmatic views within libertarianism. This is a perfect description of Bob Barr’s platform. His positions are my positions, but his positions are closer to my mind than my heart.
I’ve rather happily voted for the Libertarian nominee in 1996, 2000, and again in 2004. I always enjoy when anyone asks me who I voted for because it gives me the feeling of an odd superiority to be able to deny voting for either of the two media darling party candidates. My response was filled with the satisfaction that I didn’t have a hand in causing the mess because I voted for the principled Libertarian.
This year came a conundrum. Ron Paul won my mind and my heart over a year ago with his plain and truthful style, his impeccable history and his almost perfect voting record. It was with great disgust I watched the New Hampshire Primary election returns. I never really thought he would win the nomination. I did have hope he would win at least one primary though. That did not happen, and now he remains in the race, but only to spread his message and give voters an option besides McCain.
I always knew I had the Libertarian Party’s nominee as a choice as my backup plan. But little did I know what a division it would cause. Not only within myself, but amongst those that support Ron Paul. It truly came down to a battle between my heart and my mind. My idealistic heart loved Mary Ruwart’s pure libertarian views. My mind fought with my heart once Bob Barr entered the race.
Bob Barr was not pure. He used to be a Republican. He voted for the Patriot Act. He was a drug warrior. He voted for the authorization to go into Iraq. I also knew that he renounced these votes and claimed he was truly a libertarian, not just a Libertarian with a capital ‘L’. He introduced Ron Paul at CPAC. As a member of the Libertarian National Committee he introduced a resolution that unanimously passed requesting Ron Paul run as a Libertarian should he not win the GOP nomination. Ron Paul declined.
So in the end, the battle was won by my mind. My heart remains true to those radical libertarian ideals, but my mind realizes that to spread the libertarian message it is best to have a candidate who not only represents the message, but is also able to spread that message to the most people. My heart hates my mind for it, but my mind knows that candidate is Bob Barr.
The most votes a Libertarian candidate has ever received was just under a million votes. Bob Barr can exceed that and in doing so can spread Ron Paul’s message to the masses. No, it is not Ron Paul’s complete message, but it is pretty darn close. Barr has little chance of winning, but his name recognition, stature and media savvy can do wonders for the spread of libertarianism, which is in essence Ron Paul’s message. Perhaps enough to make the party a truly legitimate national player in future elections.
Perhaps Barr can open the door for a future “pure” libertarian candidate to be taken seriously in the national discourse. Perhaps not, but isn’t it worth taking the chance?
The Libertarian Party has not ever had this kind of potential. Purist candidates have always been the nominees and the party has faltered when looking at vote totals. Vote totals get attention and the higher they are the more legitimacy there is. Right or wrong that is the reality of politics in America.
At the risk of being presumptuous I believe if Harry Browne were alive today he’d be supporting Bob Barr as well. I’m sure the opposite can be argued, but Browne always had a way to remain pure yet pragmatic to me. I believe he would see a climate ripe for positive growth of the Libertarian Party in this election and embrace it. Since when has a Libertarian Candidate polled at 6% nationally, as Barr has?
And so with apologies to Lennon and McCartney: All we are saying is–give Barr a chance.