No, not that nomination, I’m talking about the Libertarian Party nomination, which will be decided in Denver this weekend. Bob Barr and Mike Gravel are both in contention for it. So are several LP veterans and libertarian activists less well known to the public but who still have a serious chance (Mary Ruwart, George Phillies, Steve Kubby, etc.). Barr could very well lose to Ruwart — his supporters have been saying that they don’t think he’ll win the nomination outright on the first ballot. In the run-off, if left-libertarians, party regulars, and anti-Barr forces consolidate behind whoever finishes second in the first round (I’m guessing Ruwart), Barr will go down. As Dave Weigel, who is covering the convention for Reason, points out, Barr is the only candidate there is an organized effort to stop.
There’s at least one wild card, too: the New York Times political blog is now reporting a story first floated on LewRockwell.com several days ago — former MSNBC commentator Tucker Carlson may enter the race. At any rate, somebody has been polling to see how he’d fare. Weigel notes a dearth of “Draft Tucker Carlson” material at the convention, however: “There’s more support for a Ron Paul draft than for anything Tucker…”
The anti-Barristas are arguing, among other things, that Barr and New Right direct-mail guru Richard Viguerie are trying to take over the party in order to build up their mailing lists. A similar argument is made by disgruntled LP activists about their opponents just about every year, however: Andre Marrou (the ’92 nominee), Harry Browne (’96 and ’00) and Michael Badnarik (’04) have all been accused of cashing in on the LP. I’m tempted to suggest that from a libertarian perspective, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a little cashing in: it’s good for the LP if it can attract more defectors like Barr and Gravel from the GOP and the Democrats, and the relatively higher profile those candidates bring to the LP helps the party. Buying the party seems like a lot less of a problem than deviating from the party’s principles. Those are the grounds on which LPers might fairly have some reservations about Barr and Gravel.
Barr has changed his mind on a lot of issues, and maybe he hasn’t changed enough on the key issues of foreign policy and the drug war. But I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. I agree with Daniel Larison, “I have very little interest in voting for a Libertarian ticket that does not have Barr at the top.”
Postscript: Former Ron Paul 2008 fundraising director Jonathan Bydlak has some thoughts on these topics here. And here’s a convention report from Robert Stacy McCain.