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Who’s the Libertarian Now?

Where are libertarians going? What is clear is where they are not going. The much-touted “libertarian moment,” as a New York Times Magazine article phrased it two years ago, never materialized. The story hailed the presidential aspirations of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) as the harbinger of a political sea change that would usher in a new era for the GOP and the country. It never happened. What happened instead was Donald Trump.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Senator Paul spent much of his energy backtracking and distancing himself from the strict libertarian positions of his father, former congressman Ron Paul, particularly on foreign policy. Team Rand thought they had only to trim their sails and he would enter the GOP mainstream: instead, the ship capsized and sank.

As the senator caviled and maneuvered in a bid to look respectable, Trump did precisely the opposite: defying the political class, he launched a frontal assault on the GOP establishment—and succeeded in overthrowing it, to the cheers of the Republican grassroots.

Paul reiterated his opposition to the Iraq War, but Trump went several steps beyond that, accusing the neoconservatives who surrounded George W. Bush of lying us into war: “They said there were weapons of mass destruction and they knew there were none,” he said at the South Carolina GOP presidential debate. “They lied.” As the lobbyists and party mandarins booed him, Trump reveled in their catcalls, serenely defiant in the knowledge that he had the country behind him.

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On domestic issues, too, Trump’s boldness overshadowed Paul’s caution. While the Kentucky senator introduced legislation that would make it difficult for visitors from countries rife with terrorism to enter the United States, Trump leapfrogged his Republican rivals by saying he would temporarily ban all Muslims from traveling to the United States. In a year in which half-measures and nuances weren’t selling, Trump understood the zeitgeist and went with it, while the rest of the Republican pack fell by the wayside—Paul being one of the earliest casualties.

The senator had started out by being dubbed “the most interesting man in Washington,” but by the end of his presidential campaign he was surely among the least inspiring. His campaign was supposed to have been a less intransigent version of his father’s quixotic yet impressively enthusiastic White House bids in 2008 and 2012, mobilizing the young people drawn to the elder Paul’s angular libertarian message yet tempering its rough edges so as to neutralize neoconservative critics like Bill Kristol. What happened instead was that Paul’s cautious tightrope walk between these two poles wound up pleasing no one. Paul went from a high of 15 percent or so in the early polls down to 2 percent and fading fast. He dropped out after polling less than 5 percent in Iowa—not even a quarter of his father’s vote total four years before.

It looked like the libertarian moment would never arrive. But there was still a glimmer of hope embodied by that leftover remnant of the early days of the libertarian movement: the Libertarian Party.

After all, Trump’s economic program of tariffs and maintaining the basic infrastructure of the welfare state represents a reversal of longstanding GOP orthodoxy. Ever since 1964, when Barry Goldwater ousted the Rockefeller wing of the party, Republicans had limned libertarian rhetoric on economic issues—a trend that continued through the Reagan years and beyond—albeit without putting theory into practice. Trump has negated all of that, appealing to working-class voters with a pledge to preserve entitlements and sweep away the “free trade” agreements so dear to the hearts of libertarian economists. And while Trump is roundly condemned by the political class for his supposedly “isolationist” foreign policy—he questions the utility and cost of NATO, and wants to dump Japan and Korea from our Pacific defense perimeter—the real estate mogul always accompanies this kind of talk with almost comically bellicose rhetoric, declaring that we’re going to “wipe out” ISIS “fast,” denouncing the “bad deal” with Iran, and refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons.

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With the Trumpification of the GOP all but an accomplished fact, would the Libertarian Party learn the lesson of the Rand Paul campaign—don’t trim your sails, unfurl them!—and nominate a candidate with the clarity and consistency that made Ron Paul into a political phenomenon? With a Clintonian corporatist on the left and a populist nationalist on the right, the Libertarians clearly had an unusual opportunity.

Yet they chose not to take it. Instead, they nominated Gary Johnson again, a former Republican governor of New Mexico and erstwhile marijuana entrepreneur. Johnson’s ideological compass is erratic, at best: he supports the “Fair Tax,” which is a consumption tax piled atop a monthly “stipend” from the federal government for all Americans. Asked about global warming, he put a “libertarian” spin on Hillary’s vow to drive the coal miners into the unemployment line by claiming coal is simply being run out of business by the free market. This will come as a surprise to those coal miners driven out of work by the Obama administration’s environmentalist edicts.

Johnson started his campaign for the LP nomination by announcing that Muslim women should be prohibited by law from wearing the burqa. He later backtracked, saying this flagrantly unconstitutional idea was “well-intentioned” and just a “knee-jerk response,” albeit “impossible to enforce.” Perhaps he realized out-Trumping Trump wasn’t going to get him the Libertarian nomination.

Other Trumpian tropes that intruded into the Johnson campaign: opposition to the Iran deal, which he said he initially favored, until he discovered that Tehran is “the number one financier of terror around the world” and that the lifting of sanctions would release monies that would supposedly go to terrorism. Johnson is on record as supporting U.S. military intervention in Uganda. Asked if U.S. military intervention in both World War I and World War II was justified, he threw up his hands and said “I don’t know.” But his ambiguity disappeared when it came to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With Obama making his trip to Hiroshima in May, Johnson was asked if an American apology would be appropriate. His answer: the bombing was justified because “so many lives were lost” and “we were at war, and this brought an end, I certainly don’t want to engage in second-guessing and, no apology. Given the time that this occurred, I would not be apologizing.”

You don’t have to be a libertarian to conclude, along with Dwight Eisenhower and Paul Nitze, that the incineration of over 200,000 people was unnecessary to end the war, but one would think a libertarian, of all people, would be the last to justify this mass murder.

These historical questions, which are unlikely to be asked of the major party candidates, may seem arcane, yet they do give us insight into Johnson’s worldview and its application to more current issues. As Brian Doherty put it in Reason, during the LP presidential debates Johnson “more or less openly called for war against North Korea, in alliance with China.” One wonders: would he nuke Pyongyang because “we’re at war and this brought an end”?

Even more problematic is Johnson’s handpicked vice presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor William Weld, also an ex-Republican. Johnson dubbed him “the original libertarian,” an odd formulation given Weld’s political history: Iraq War supporter, gun-control advocate, former supporter of John Kasich, and Bush consigliere during the 2004 presidential contest. Bill Clinton wanted Weld as his ambassador to Mexico, a nomination scotched in the Senate by Jesse Helms. Weld is, in short, the archetypal moderate Republican, just as former congressman Bob Barr—another Republican retread, nominated for president by the LP in 2008—was the incarnation of the sort of ultra-conservative Republican the Libertarians hoped to attract in that year. Indeed, the LP has often functioned as a halfway house for Republicans out to exact revenge on a party insufficiently appreciative of their virtues. Before moving over to the Libertarian Party, Johnson first ran for the GOP nomination in 2012, competing against Ron Paul for the small-l libertarian Republican vote, but dropped out after going nowhere fast.

Key to understanding what makes Johnson run is this seemingly inexplicable decision to take on Ron Paul: why in the world would a self-described libertarian challenge the former Texas congressman whose name is a byword for principled devotion to the credo of individual freedom?

The answer lies in the storied history of the libertarian movement, which has really been two competing movements ever since the Libertarian Party underwent a debilitating split at its 1983 convention. That conclave showcased a bitter struggle between two factions, which superficially represented the old pragmatist-principled divide, yet the differences really went much deeper.

On one side were those aligned with Edward H. Crane III, then the head of the Cato Institute. Their candidate for the presidential nod was Earl Ravenal, a foreign-policy analyst and academic who served in the Defense Department under presidents Johnson and Carter. This was quite in line with what might be called the Crane faction’s “Fabian” strategy, which was to appeal to the political class in a bid for credibility.

On the other side of the barricades was the “Coalition for a Party of Principle,” which cared not one whit for “credibility” and sought to mount a populist challenge to the political class rather than court it.

The factional warfare started in 1980, when the Libertarian candidate was Ed Clark, a corporate lawyer who had garnered over 5 percent of the general-election vote as the party’s candidate for governor of California in 1978. To the consternation of Murray Rothbard, the LP’s unofficial ideologue-in-chief, the Clark campaign in 1980 refused to advocate abolishing the income tax, instead coming out for a mere reduction, and seemed more interested in generating favorable coverage in the liberal media than in actually building the LP. The internecine battle came to a head when Clark, interviewed by Ted Koppel on national television, described libertarianism as “low-tax liberalism.”

This enraged Rothbard, not only because it reduced libertarianism to an empty catchphrase but also because it embodied an approach to building the movement that was culturally as well as ideologically opposed to his own populist orientation. The irascible libertarian philosopher saw clearly that the elites, whether liberal or conservative, were unalterably opposed to the radical libertarian ideology he had spent years elaborating in dozens of books and hundreds of articles. To see his radical vision co-opted and effectively neutered in a misguided attempt to appeal to the Georgetown cocktail party circuit was an outrage he vowed would not stand.

Rothbard and his allies succeeded in defeating Crane at the 1983 convention, and for a while the Libertarian Party managed to keep its ideological bearings. Ron Paul’s 1988 bid for the White House under the party’s banner was a high point, one that prefigured his later success in generating a broader libertarian movement while sticking to libertarian principle. Over these years, the LP pursued Rothbard’s populist strategy, seeking to build a grassroots movement that would sprout in flyover country and lay siege to the Beltway.

Rothbard and his allies eventually tired of the LP, however: the party’s countercultural penumbra and the end of the Cold War propelled them out of the LP and into the nascent paleoconservative movement, where they rallied to Pat Buchanan’s 1992 challenge to “King George,” Bush I. In a 1992 speech to the John Randolph Club, a paleoconservative gathering, Rothbard gave full vent to his view that a “right-wing populist” upsurge would be the vessel of a libertarian victory:

the proper strategy for the right wing must be what we can call ‘right-wing populism’: exciting, dynamic, tough, and confrontational, rousing and inspiring not only the exploited masses, but the often-shell-shocked right-wing intellectual cadre as well. And in this era where the intellectual and media elites are all establishment liberal-conservatives, all in a deep sense one variety or another of social democrat, all bitterly hostile to a genuine Right, we need a dynamic, charismatic leader who has the ability to short-circuit the media elites, and to reach and rouse the masses directly. We need a leadership that can reach the masses and cut through the crippling and distorting hermeneutical fog spread by the media elites.

thisarticleappears julaug16 [1]Rothbard, who died in 1995, would’ve loved Donald Trump, and he seems to have foreseen his rise as if in a dream. Yet the Libertarian Party, which under Johnson and Weld appears to have reverted to a version of Ed Clark’s “low-tax liberalism,” is today the vanguard of the Never Trump movement—this in spite of Trump’s libertarian-friendly “America First” anti-interventionism. Indeed, the liberal media has given the Johnson-Weld team unprecedented coverage, with over 250 reporters hovering about the LP convention on Memorial Day weekend and reporting directly from the floor. They lapped up Weld’s words as he likened Trump’s plan to control the U.S. border with Mexico to the Nazi Kristallnacht and avidly recounted Johnson’s charging Trump with “fascism.”

Yet grassroots libertarians have a different perspective: a poll taken by the South Carolina Republican House Caucus of over 3,500 likely GOP primary voters showed that 51 percent of self-identified libertarians supported Trump. While the Libertarian ticket plays up to the elite media and wins kudos from neoconservatives like Jennifer Rubin and the Never Trump crowd—GOP consultant Mary Matalin has recently announced her decision to join the Libertarians—the libertarian grassroots is more interested in supporting an outsider than in cozying up to the Washington Post.

One has to ask: what exactly is the point of a Libertarian Party that puts two moderate Republicans at the head of its presidential ticket and aims to win over Mary Matalin rather than Joe Sixpack? The LP is enacting, on a smaller scale, the very strategy that turned the bright promise of the Rand Paul campaign into a disaster. Or to go farther back, it’s a replication of Ed Clark’s “low-tax liberalism,” now transformed into pot-friendly conservatism

The media is pushing the Libertarians this year because they think they’ll split the Republican vote and deliver the White House to the Clintons. Yet the same cluelessness that prevented the pundits from taking Trump seriously in the first place is leading them astray in this calculation. With Johnson-Weld defining libertarianism down to “socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” they’ll take more votes from Clinton and the anti-Trump camp—and conceivably put a man they call a fascist into the Oval Office.

Justin Raimondo is editorial director of Antiwar.com and the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement. [2]

31 Comments (Open | Close)

31 Comments To "Who’s the Libertarian Now?"

#1 Comment By Integralist On July 7, 2016 @ 1:02 am

As usual, a brilliant analysis of the situation from Justin Raimondo.

Nonetheless, why the hatred for both Trump and Johnson amongst Rothbard’s contemporary, anarchist followers? Tom Woods and co. are certainly not keen on Trump by any means.

#2 Comment By JonF On July 7, 2016 @ 5:57 am

Re: he put a “libertarian” spin on Hillary’s vow to drive the coal miners into the unemployment line by claiming coal is simply being run out of business by the free market.

This happens to be true. Coal is a casualty of the fracking revolution.

#3 Comment By Johann On July 7, 2016 @ 8:18 am

The libertarian movement has never had a charismatic candidate. Neither Paul have it. Rand is a dweeb and his father has no personality at all. But saying Trump is a libertarian putting our hopes on him is bizzare and foolish. That is really grasping at straws. Better for us libertarians to wait on a future libertarian that can rouse the masses. That would be a Ron Paul with charisma and the gift of gab. Our time is not now.

#4 Comment By Johann On July 7, 2016 @ 8:22 am

Poor proof reading on my previous comment. It should read “But saying Trump is a libertarian AND putting …”

#5 Comment By Liam On July 7, 2016 @ 8:52 am

Actually, the Libertarian Moment(TM) in American federal-level politics expired in May of this year, after a half-assed 35-year run.

What’s happening now is that the libertarians will become more organized as a marginal rump, because they will not be as influential in actual parties of governance. (Again, talking federal level here; state and municipal levels are another thing.) This is because it’s become as clear as day that the assumption of the past 35 years that the center of gravity in the GOP bases favors small government has turned out to be illusory: the center of gravity in the GOP is NOT in favor of small government after all, and any presidential candidates hoping to prosper in the GOP in the future are now going to have to trim back their small government desiderata in order to be successful.

Consequently, real libertarians will increasingly disassociate from national-level GOP contention, and become a more organized but also more marginal group.

American journalists paying attention to the “more organized” dimension of this will typically not notice the “more marginal” reality because it’s too complex for them to hold together in their heads. European journalists would have no such trouble, because it’s a political commonplace for them.

#6 Comment By connecticut farmer On July 7, 2016 @ 10:44 am

A pity that Rand began to waffle and shutter in the wind. Even given his shortcomings though, he would certainly have been preferable to Trump, and without question would have served as a contrast to that felon who represents the demokrat party.

#7 Comment By JohnG On July 7, 2016 @ 11:23 am

LP will remain on the fringe as long as it doesn’t come up with a more viable / ideologically less blinded / more realistic approach to (1) the provision of the public good, such as infrastructure, (2) government’s role (and modalities of its legitimate action) in mitigating market failure (yes, such thing exists!), and (3) what it means to be a nation and whether this notion entails and indeed calls for some special level of solidarity or defense.

Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening any time soon, and, in the mean time, I see a single urgent political task in which LP and Gary Johnson can only be obstacles: keeping the Clintons as far away from the WH as possible.

PS The next task I’d like to se Bernie’s folks (and yes, others, I just made a contribution to Tim Canova) engage in is take out all Clinton’s supporters primary-by-primary.

#8 Comment By Kurt Gayle On July 7, 2016 @ 11:27 am

Justin Raimondo writes: “…The Libertarian Party…is today the vanguard of the Never Trump movement—this in spite of Trump’s libertarian-friendly “America First” anti-interventionism. Indeed, the liberal media has given the Johnson-Weld team unprecedented coverage, with over 250 reporters hovering about the LP convention on Memorial Day weekend…The media is pushing the Libertarians this year because they think they’ll split the Republican vote and deliver the White House to the Clintons…[but] with Johnson-Weld defining libertarianism down to ‘socially liberal and fiscally conservative,’ they’ll take more votes from Clinton and the anti-Trump camp—and conceivably put a man they call a fascist into the Oval Office.

So – for those of us want to put the “man they call a fascist” in the White House – here’s to the liberal media’s continuing to puff Johnson-Weld!

#9 Comment By grumpy realist On July 7, 2016 @ 1:46 pm

The Libertarian Party constantly swings between “candidates of purity” and “gee, maybe we should try to actually get elected” dudes. Just as Libertarians themselves run the gamut from the worst anarchic-Ayn-Rand worshipping nitwits to people who actually have some realistic ideas.

Your major problem is the Libertarian Party platform mutates every year to follow whoever is the biggest loudmouth nipping over from the Republican Party and placing himself at the head of your party. As long as he’s fine with drug legalization, you’ll let him slap “I am a Libertarian!” on his chest while making a perfect hash out of the rest of your so-called principles.

#10 Comment By JonF On July 7, 2016 @ 2:39 pm

Liam,

There’s a small possibility that the “socially liberal but economically conservative” faction in both parties could migrate to the Libertarians. (economically conservative = “Don’t raise my taxes” not “Repeal Social Security”). Probably won’t happen, but it would be their natural home.

#11 Comment By John Mann On July 7, 2016 @ 3:27 pm

“Rothbard, who died in 1995, would’ve loved Donald Trump, and he seems to have foreseen his rise as if in a dream.”

Really? Ron Paul is not at all impressed by Trump, and I see no reason to think that Rothbard would have been either.

#12 Comment By James Leroy Wilson On July 7, 2016 @ 3:39 pm

According to ISidewith.com, I’m 92% in agreement with Johnson. I want people who vote to vote for him.

Johnson’s not, however, the person to articulate the libertarian philosophy. His position on religious liberty, from the burqa flap to [3] demonstrates that he doesn’t get it. If the Libertarian Party continues to support candidates like him, it should change its name.

#13 Comment By kalendjay On July 7, 2016 @ 8:39 pm

Now you know why I am an anarchist, not a libertarian (see ‘Political Deconversions’). A “low tax liberal” like Ed Clark exists to appear as “thoughtful”,”compromising to reach out across the isle”,”reasonable”, “a man with realistic ideas”, all to suit the customs and psychology of voters.

Exactly what does NOT work in today’s political system. What works is action to make it in the fast disappearing political order — namely, that the GOP will never heal, and HRC will be a virtual dictator, of money and the mind. What would you do if your country has lost control? Sleep?

#14 Comment By collin On July 8, 2016 @ 11:54 am

The media is pushing the Libertarians this year because they think they’ll split the Republican vote and deliver the White House to the Clintons.

That strikes as rather twisted logic here. Maybe, the media is interested in Johnson/Weld and want to report their stories and POV. Dave Weigel follows Johnson a lot and has genuine libertarian tendencies. Maybe, it might be wise to build up a ‘centrist’ libertarian candidate to start making more general election impact and Johnson is a very reasonable candidate. (Realize Ron Paul always hit a lot of Brogressive voters a Fed/Gold crank.)

#15 Comment By MEexpert On July 8, 2016 @ 4:30 pm

Could please someone tell me how Tehran is “the number one financier of terror around the world?” The global terror organizations are ISIS and Al-Qaeda. Both of these organizations are financed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, and the United States with other support given by Turkey and Israel. Iran is fighting both of these global entities and the other small ones, also financed by the above group of countries. Us (CIA and DoD) are training and financing these groups but Iran is blamed for supporting terrorism. I would like an answer with some proof.

#16 Comment By Richard Bell On July 8, 2016 @ 6:47 pm

I voted to nominate Austin Petersen because I knew running for POTUS as the LP candidate is Gary Johnson’s hobby and I wanted a serious libertarian who could and would beat the democrat and the republican.

#17 Comment By Rob On July 9, 2016 @ 5:32 am

I see. So we should support Trump along with GOP ‘libertarians’ because Johnson was repeating views that at one time Rothbard agreed with (like burqa banning and a flat tax)–except more radically than Rothbard, as he sees them as waystations only.

Here’s the truth:

>Johnson is supported by the purists as a directional candidate–exactly the [4] mission. The Libertarian movement elders have retiring DEM and GOP figures lined up for the next decades as they develop their hard-line farm team–something not being entrusted to the LP and certainly not Raimundo. Which is why most Libertarians in public office in the US (and abroad) are outside the LP.

>Rothbard was clear he was never describing Libertarianism in his books, as they assumed a privatized ( in one area only) world without Libertarians. Nor was he unofficial ideologue of anything.

>The 83-84 purge was not some factional war–that was the Establishment spin repeated by Raimundo–but the ousting of government/religious spies and infiltrators both US and Communist.

>The Libertarians have always been aimed at equal outreach across the spectrum–not just the GOP. There’re far more libertarian-interested outside the GOP than in.

Raimundo and Rothbard did some good things but never really understood Libertarianism or the Libertarian strategic plan (though Rothbard helped with the second one) or even platform, and Raimundo has been out of the loop for decades trying to meld right-wing populists with Libertarianism.

Which is why he’s attacking the LP in a Conservative organ as it does well in the polls (BTW which I personally see as simply evidence that a growing public likes having a Libertarian voice so far and wants the LP to continue its work, not that we’ll have a big Johnson vote) ?

#18 Comment By John R. Thompson On July 9, 2016 @ 12:42 pm

Mary Matalin supported Austin Petersen not Johnson, and by every measure Austin is more of a Rothbard Radical than Gary Johnson. Your analysis is deeply flawed. If you actually followed the Gary Johnson media you would see he is fellating Democrats which is NOT a strategy to woo the Never Trump crowd. What Johnson is doing is working to break the media line that libertarians are Republicans who smoke pot. He is doing that emphasizing the Liberal bonafides. This is to the consternation of many of the conservative libertarians, including the aforementioned Austin Petersen.

#19 Comment By Dave On July 9, 2016 @ 2:17 pm

@ grumpy realist

“…the worst anarchic-Ayn-Rand worshipping nitwits”

LOL!! Rand wasn’t a libertarian, but an objectivist, and she sure as hell wasn’t an anarchist.

#20 Comment By H. Rearden On July 9, 2016 @ 8:59 pm

Johnson and Weld met with some people from the NY Times in June. Johnson was asked if libertarians believe in a social safety net and his response was “yes” and he went on to say that there are people who are need and but for government they would not get the care and support they need.

See: [5]

#21 Comment By Scott On July 10, 2016 @ 7:06 am

“Rothbard, who died in 1995, would’ve loved Donald Trump…”

Being a libertarian, I fail to see anything to like about The Donald. He said something somewhere about a non-interventionist foreign policy? Please. Lay off the Kool Aid, Justin.

#22 Comment By Trutherator On July 10, 2016 @ 8:16 am

Justin did NOT say Trump is a libertarian. Spin is a Newsweek tool of the Inner Parties.

#23 Comment By D. Frank Robinson On July 10, 2016 @ 10:44 am

The fact remains that state ballot access laws compel political parties nominate candidates for President and VP in order to allow any of that parties candidates to appear on the ballot.
Hence, even when a majority of a party’s members prefer None of the Above to any particular candidates, nevertheless, a set of candidates MUST be placed on the ballots of the states by compulsory default.
Such candidates chosen under intimidation will not always be satisfactory to party members and become corrosive to the intention of free association. From the POV of statists this is not a bug, it is a feature to suppress effective opposition.

#24 Comment By Frank Zeleniuk On July 10, 2016 @ 11:07 am

Very good article. There is only one candidate that does not fit the definition of politician. Of course that is Donald Trump. Gary Johnson seems to fit within the parameters of that definition. People have to be tired of politicians reading from teleprompters, parsing their words, afraid they will get caught in a “misspeak”, responding to events with prepared and highly vetted speeches, being politically correct highlighting identity politics. It’s nuts.

How should Gary Johnson respond to apologizing to a question about Hiroshimma? A libertarian should say we should not have been in that war and if it were absolutely necessary to participate then everyone involved should take responsibility for the consequences, whatever they may be and however unforeseen the events could be, they couldn’t have been anything but tragic.
I have no idea what kind of President that Trump would make. It depends on his advisors, he isn’t a politician and he isn’t a lawyer. Progressives and socialists in politics and the media are being merchants of chaos because everyone is afraid to call them on the carpet.

#25 Comment By Dutch On July 10, 2016 @ 11:22 am

Grumpy Realist is right. The Lp is often just a ticket-for-sale (think Howard Stern) and a liability/ baggage to most principled Libertarians. But then again what true libertarian has anything but contempt for all political parties. Thinking, practical Libertarians understand that their biggest upside is that party-unaffiliated non voters are the biggest bloc of voting age Americans. Having a tent won’t win them over and they won’t be motivated by the same old playbook. In this manner the Lp has already ‘normalized’ itself into irrelevance while Trump the outsider non-politician has highjacked the biggest ticket and drawn the remnant out from their hiding places. The Lp should have closed up shop when they saw what Trump did. Because he shook things up the way the Lp could only dream of even after 40 years of trying. Obviously Libertarians know a genuine article and know how to show up for it when the time is right. Hence Trump. Parties only convolute these two most fundamental requirements.
“Shark” Kevin OLeary says if your business isn’t paying off after 3 years you should take it out back and kill it. There is no better analogy for how true Libertarians should view the Lp. It was fun while it lasted but it’s continued existence is mostly only prolonging the suffering of all involved.

And BTW JonF, energy from coal costs about 1/10th what energy from cracked petroleum costs. So you might want to borrow a clue before you start preaching the workings of the free market to a bunch of Libertarians.

#26 Comment By Sean Scallon On July 11, 2016 @ 10:13 am

“Over these years, the LP pursued Rothbard’s populist strategy, seeking to build a grassroots movement that would sprout in flyover country and lay siege to the Beltway.”

A strategy which unfortunately made the determination that in order to “sprout in flyover country” the LP or Libertarians in general had to use the manure of racial identity politics as fertilizer if not outright bigotry. That how the Ron Paul “newsletters” controversy got started and moreover finished and good and decent man’s serious efforts to win the Republican nomination in 2008 and 2012.

There’s a lot to agree with in Justin Raimondo’s article, especially concerning Rand Paul’s caution and sail-trimming basically ruining his 2016 efforts. I sometimes think what would have happened instead of kissing up to Mitch McConnell, Rand instead aligned himself with the current Republican Governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin when he challenged McConnell in 2014 GOP Senate Primary. Think how much his anti-establishment cred would have been burnished and think of the increased stature Paul would have had taking down such a figure of hatred among rank n’ file Republicans. But no, Rand chose to throw his lot with establishment starting with his endorsement of Mitt Romney while his father was still running for President (!) and the end result was Trump ate his lunch. And how much did McConnell endorsement help Rand, hmmm?

However, I suppose one could understand Rand’s reluctance to go down the lonely path of being a gadfly, even in Congress considering Rand spent his teens trying to get people to sign petitions to put his father on the ballot in suburban shopping mall parking lots back in 1988. And one can see a craving for respectability that major party status afford a politician and the avoidance of encounters with those cranks who hang around the fringes of the non-major parties. Rand made his bet with the establishment for 2016 and gambled on the wrong horse and lost his shirt but one can understand the logic considering what happened to his father.

Of course it didn’t have to happen. I don’t know what made anyone think the way you appeal to “flyover” country voters by appealing to their worst instincts of their political and cultural nature so you can get them to ignore the fact you believe in free trade as much as next member of the Orange Line Mafia (remember that phrase?) Nevertheless it happened. It’s a testament to how dangerous the establishment perceived Ron Paul that it would dispatch Jamie Kirchick to prowl around dusty reference libraries in the dead of winter of 2007-08 to dig up old copies of the “Ron Paul Report” or “Ron Paul Survival Guide” nobody probably touched in years to smear Paul as a bigot. But it also doesn’t excuse his destructive innocence either or the persons involved trying to convert the David Duke wing of the GOP to libertarianism in the early 1990s. Lew Rockwell claims he never wrote the inflammatory material but as editor of the newsletters he bears the responsibility of their content. It is rumored in libertarian circles (one of many such rumors) Rothbard wrote most of the content and Ron was trying to protect him. But it really doesn’t matter who wrote what. What matters is that a movement headed by the Presidential nominee of its erstwhile political party for the first time dipped itself into the racial fever swamps and got itself dirty. But par for the course I guess since the “Conservative Movement” had done the exact same thing a long time ago (as dusty back issues of the National Review will certainly attest to as well) and to considerable success too. If you can’t beat them, join them right?

Maybe they’re cosmotarians (and members of Nick Gillespie’s cool kids club) and maybe they’re not, but the “party of the stoned” has accomplished more of its goals in politics and society than the “party of gold” has. And as a result you see the Rockwellians and the LMI crowd enamored with Donald Trump. I agree, Rothbard would have loved Trump. But it doesn’t say much about his and other Trump supporters’ libertarian views supporting wall-building on the Rio Grande and equipping “deportation forces” any more than Cato’s support of the Iraq War did. Nobody is perfect in their ideological deviances, which Gary Johnson attests to. But Johnson is more of a milepost on the journey than a final destination. Obviously the LP needs a candidate to take the party’s platform and make it acceptable to the political mainstream (or sell it as such at least) but it has to be taken seriously first (and male strip-teases on national television during its convention don’t help) which Raimondo has demonstrated the mainstream media has already done with the Johnson/Weld team.

One understands nobody wants another Bob Barr/Wayne Root LP ticket which ended the 2008 campaign practically endorsing McCain. But the big difference between Barr and Johnson is that it has become clear through the course of the 2016 campaign (and the campaigns of 2008 and 2012 too) that non-interventionism and reduction of the national security/police state in this country is simply unacceptable to a majority of the Republican party regardless whether they are Trump voters or not. All their talk of “socialism, small government, the Constitution” is ridiculous when these voters crave some kind of order and stability for their own situation and perceived status first and foremost. Barr, still an authoritarian, was never going to convince his type of Republican to leave the party while Johnson and Weld can convince their kind of Republican to indeed depart. And if such defections take or continue to take place, then the LP becomes more than just “the party of the stoned” or “the party of gold.”

#27 Comment By Ralph Fucetola JD On July 12, 2016 @ 12:02 am

For the past 50 years or so Gallop has polled on the question of whether “the two party system” was working or should there be a major third part. Up until 2007 (and the founding of the TEA Party) the majority always remembered their high school civics indoctrination and supported the “two” tax-eater party system. Since ’07 a majority has always supported the idea of a third major party — now about 60%.

So, regardless of what we may think about Johnson/Weld’s “purity” the dynamics of 2016 may mean the “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” may touch the same discontent that fueled the collectivist campaigns of Trump and Sanders.

It will be an interesting election and long-held beliefs about what is politically possible will be challenged. This is the year of the Third Party.

I’m voting for Johnson/Weld since voting for either crony candidate, Trump or Clinton, will only encourage their elitist supporters.

#28 Comment By Bueno kohones On July 12, 2016 @ 12:48 pm

Trump is desperate! He will make a deal with devil to win.. he has insulted every except his mother, no yet. I always voted GOP, first in more than 45 years. Hillary will do less damage than Trump.

#29 Comment By Mandrill Lord On July 12, 2016 @ 9:29 pm

“Hillary will do less damage than Trump.”

Obama kept Clinton on an increasingly tight leash as the costs of her bad judgment and decision-making mounted.

In view of the terrible damage she’s already done to us and our allies, it would be a mistake to let her into any position where there is no one to restrain her reckless impulses and extreme irresponsibility, no one to question her bad judgment and decision-making.

#30 Comment By Melinda Pillsbury-Foster On July 13, 2016 @ 10:43 am

Forget the nuanced moves from the professionals who have made politics their career. And while it is true charisma is a great cover eventually the lies become obvious.

Would someone like to point to a real conservative today? Or a consistent libertarian? It is not Rand Paul or Ronald Reagan, for sure.

Reagan always positioned himself as a ‘citizen servant of the people.’ This made for good media but was not supported by the facts. Ronnie was paid to re-register Republican when his prospects in the Entertainment Industry dried up in 1960.

Those paying Ronnie were corporates, Rockefeller Republicans, who were also orchestrating the widening divide between Right and Left.

Ronnie let those who were providing his new career drive what he said. It was not his job to write the script, just deliver the lines. The ability to engage people emotionally was easy and natural for Ronnie, he was liked, and so trusted. But Ronnie was never a Conservative. Calling himself a Conservative changed the meaning of the word.

Many still around can attest to the truth of this. The then powerful group who funded and supported Ronnie’s first campaign for Governor of California, United Republicans of California, were Goldwater Conservatives. They were shocked when once he was in office Ronnie took California more centrist than any Democrat. Appointments made did not include even one Conservative. Not one. So, their CEO, Marian Hurley, checked the Secretary of State’s Office records and discovered every person appointed was an elector for Rockefeller in 1964.

Naturally, no one, especially journalists, ever asked UROC’s leaders why they passed a Resolution in 1975 begging Americans not to support Ronnie if he ran for President or Vice-President. [6]

What Americans want is someone who will call for investigations on those who lied us into war, investigate the mortgage scam, prosecute the guilty – and at the same time stop shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic and apply a single standard for accountability to those who have compromised the air, water and land on which we all live. When you damage people or their property to increase your profits you must pay complete restitution and make those harmed whole.

This is one of the places Libertarians lose credibility with the vast majority of Americans and environmentalists. Barry Goldwater understood and had the right priorities.

– “While I am a great believer in the free enterprise system and all that it entails, I am
an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free
environment.” ~Barry Goldwater

Gary Johnson does not need charisma. He could win this election if he would promise to apply the principles of accountability with a real free market to every issue. This would also fix the problem with Social Security because Americans have been defrauded on that, too.

Go ahead, Gary, stand out in front of the Torrance Refining Company, which has now experienced another flare, within days of transfer from Exxon to an LLC owned by PBF Energy, Inc. Demand they stop operating until after a complete overhaul. Tell Americans no one, not ExxonMobil, not the Kochs, no one, can operate a business in a way which threatens lives and property. Underscore your commitment to accountability and justice. Look the camera head on and say there will be no Get Out of Jail Card for evading restitution for the full cost extracted from those impacted. In this case there are about 350,000 lives at risk.

Bernie could have been president if he had done this, but it will work for you, too.

#31 Comment By Rich Paul On July 14, 2016 @ 5:37 pm

Gary, Rand and Ron were all great candidates in their own way. The leftward tack on the cake issue will shift the candidates Gary pulls from … it will drive away some Trump supporters, and attract some former Bernie supporters. Since Trump would be slightly less bad than Hillary, this would be a good thing.