Last night, this publication ran an article entitled “The Libertarian Party: By Idiots, For Idiots”, from the pretentious and erudite pen-name Publius. Given that I don’t consider myself an idiot, I figured a rebuttal was in order.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the LP has it’s fair share of flaws. I’ve been disillusioned by everything from naked men, to Arvin’s attacks on servicemen, and now his bewildering pedophilia rants, and liberty Republicans I respect, to it’s utter lack of actual electoral success. Several big name party members are in it for making their names bigger, rather than expanding their party or liberty itself. Despite all this, there are several functions it serves that are “for” people like me. I may not be naive enough to ever again say “but this is the election that”, but direct electoral success now need not be the sole purpose of a political party.
I supported Gary Johnson for President twice, Bob Barr once… and I regret nothing.
The Libertarian Party offers an outlet to the disaffected, incentive for the major parties to move in a liberty direction to reclaim voters, a platform for an educational method of outreach, an incubator for ideas, and, yes… I do still think that one day it could become ‘viable’ if America can ever move itself past it’s self-imposed simplistic duopoly. I’ll expound on these further, but first let me address some of the direct attacks on the LP.
The first attack can be summarized in one word: Vohra. Ironically, around the exact time this was penned, my state’s LP joined about a dozen state LPs, and the Liberty Youth Caucus, in condemning him:
Now, one could easily make the case of too little, too late. He’s held his office for a few years, and this news isn’t new. There’s no guarantee that Arvin is about to be booted, though it is looking more and more likely.
However, consider for the moment, the alternative. The author’s solution on the party politics front is, instead, to work within the GOP… when a significant chunk of his article attacks Arvin’s online presence for being too incendiary, controversial, divisive, and immoral. You know, the GOP who’s current President is Donald Trump. Trump’s twitter account has arguably made war with North Korea more likely, has complicated a post-Brexit trade deal with retweets of “Britain First” videos, and is routinely used to attack not just immigrants, but nearly every major figure or group of people on earth outside of himself, his family, and Vladimir Putin. Not even his own cabinet is immune.
There are two things in specific that Arvin has promoted which deserve mention. The first, is his insistence that all military members are “moralless murders”. However, in the modern day, the executive branch has made more than it’s fair share of choices involving military involvement overseas and ordering military action. So how have modern Republican Presidents acted? Well, Trump’s first year has increased the amount of airstrikes even over what we’ve seen in the Obama years, and seen ground combat deaths in places like Niger despite his “America first” non-interventionist leanings on the campaign trail. W Bush won his primary on a humble foreign policy, and his Presidency will be forever judged based on the invasion of Iraq. The first Bush had a historic opportunity to use the end of the cold war for a justification for significantly shrinking our military presence that had been so built up to address the threat from the USSR and, well… was Bush instead.
The second thing the author faults Arvin for was his opposition to statutory rape and age of consent laws, and comparing pedophilia to homosexuality. But if the alternative is the GOP, they just spent all the political capital they could muster trying to elect Roy Moore even after the allegations of his relationships, in his 30s, with 14 and 16 year old girls. In essence, those members of the GOP who believed in and excused Moore’s conduct were agreeing with Arvin that it just wasn’t that big of a deal. The Republican Vice President’s views on homosexuality and gay marriage are not only well known, but an animating part of his political appeal to many of his followers.
I want Arvin to go, but he simply cannot be a reason on his own for LP members to move to the GOP given the horrible people and policies that exist in every national party. Not every Republican should be judged based upon the GOP’s promotion and defense of Moore, nor should every LP ticket be equated with Arvin.
Of course, “It’s Not Just Arvin”.
The author points out that LP media had mentioned Satanism when talking about freedom of religion as a turn off to voters. Again, he’s right in his critique of the LP’s bad media on this. But the GOP’s media overtures on religion and specifically tailoring messages to evangelicals, has made them seem, to many, to be Islamaphobic, transphobic, and homophobic. They’ve taken policy stands on everything from gay marriage to abortion to bathroom bills to ten commandment statues to support for Israel nearly exclusively because of their “Judaeo-Christian” values. It’s irrelevant which of these stances are “right” or “wrong”, because my point is that the GOP has done a poor job selling itself based on religious considerations as well to large chunks of the population, who see it as catering exclusively to a specific religious tradition.
The LP has officially attacked the Paul family in the past, despite Ron Paul being their Presidential nominee once and the reason so many Republicans slowly became libertarian, myself included. But as much as I respect the Paul family, it’s hard to fault them for it if they belong to an opposing political party. I mean, any time Gary Johnson was brought up the last Presidential cycle, Republicans had an incentive to marginalize the former Republican Governor as being unrealistic, goofy, uninformed, or a pothead… because it helped the party. The media team of the Libertarian Party obviously sees “liberty Republicans” as a threat to their membership, and with good reason. There’s plenty of convincing arguments for small “l” libertarians to support Rand, Amash, or Massie over any big “L” candidate, starting with the fact that they actually get a vote after election day is over.
Then there’s, what… the naked guy incident? Pretty stupid and bad optics for a party. It shows a lack of seriousness at higher levels, broadcast on CSPAN. But if that alone is reason enough to leave, well, it’s nowhere near as bad as what people like Denny Hastert have admitted to.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t good reasons to leave the Libertarian Party or even good reasons to leave the Libertarian Party for the Republican Party. But outside of maybe one guy getting nakid on CSPAN and lack of immediate electability, every flaw of the LP that he mentions is shared by the GOP. In fact, with many of the arguments presented, the GOP is worse.
Arvin has a controversial online presence, which is exactly what the current Republican President is known for, only his account has done damage to international relations. Arvin has said bad things about military members online, while GOP Presidents have sent them overseas and commanded them to kill, without a declaration of war and for spurious reasons. Arvin may have said disgusting and horrible things that normalized pedophilia, but what normalized it more nationwide was GOP support and defense of Roy Moore after his behavior was already well known, just to win an election.
I don’t mean this article to be seen as a promotion of the LP or an attack on the GOP, because I try to view candidates first in elections over the parties they represent. Hell, if anything, I tend to give preference to a “good” Republican candidate over a “great” LP one where those races exist. I believe that the strategies of working within the LP and within the GOP both have advantages, I’m glad that there are liberty people traveling both routes, and I wish those pursuing either strategy the best of luck.
I sincerely hope the GOP becomes more friendly to liberty, and that the LP can mature while remaining pure. There is more than one path to victory and even defining victory for the liberty movement isn’t as simplistic as a straight and immediate electoral path.