Wednesday, March 26, 2008

...And Finally a Synthesis: Presidential Candidate Switches to Libertarian Party


Effective as it might be to turn one of the larger political factions in a libertarian direction — either bringing conservatives to their government-limiting senses or, less plausibly, getting people to see libertarianism as the forgotten foundation of liberalism — it might be libertarianism’s (humbler, slower) fate to grow by serving as a neutral ground to which refugees from left and right escape.

As if to illustrate that point, a long-shot major-party presidential candidate has announced his intention to continue his run as a Libertarian Party candidate — and it’s not who you might expect. Nader-approved ex-Democrat Mike Gravel has made the switch, as I am informed by New York Times bestselling author and Go-Go’s fan (I happen to be listening to Beauty and the Beat as I type this) Michael Malice.

As I’ve said before, some mutual admiration between Gravel and libertarians doesn’t mean I think Gravel’s anticorporate philosophy is actually compatible with libertarianism properly understood, but it’s nice to see the LP become a sort of safe haven for people with principles, even slightly incoherent ones. Better the LP than the Green Party, after all — as long as the LP doesn’t simply become (as it was in its early-to-middle days even more than it is now, if you ask me) a Reform Party-like catch-basin for disaffected loons of all stripes.

Then again, the Reform Party gave us Jesse “the Mind” Ventura, who I was at one point hoping might be the centrist/libertarian system-smasher we may need — and who recently hinted he may yet run for president. I don’t think opting out of the whole “two-party system” is the easiest route to victory, but a truly broadminded fusionist — one who thinks beyond the limits of Buckley’s old coalition — has to keep his options open, tempting as it always is to hunker down and become calcified. How wonderful it would be if libertarianism were at least a mushy common ground on which society’s factional disputes, even horribly confused ones, about right and left routinely occurred, in the way that liberalism’s assumptions tend to be its default conversational backdrop now.

But this weekend, as this blog’s “Month Without Buckley” draws to a close, let’s take a closer look at how Buckley crafted — and policed — his coalition, by reviewing his novel about it all from five years ago: Getting It Right, featuring special slightly-fictionalized guest stars Ayn Rand and the John Birch Society!

EPILOGUE: Today’s little exercise in dialectical synthesis comes on what happens to be the one-year anniversary of this blog’s first real-time post, though I posted some experimental pre-launch material before that March 26, 2007 entry and some retroactive archival material later, for anyone (besides me) trying to keep that straight.  Have we learned anything in this first year?  I suppose I’ve learned that after the “Month Without Buckley” I need to switch to doing short little entries — or rather, after my April Fool’s Day review of Daniel Radosh’s book Rapture Ready! — which you can ask him to sign after the debate he appears in one week from tonight at Lolita Bar (April 2, 8pm).

1 comment:

Eric Dondero said...

We had Senator Gravel on our radio show last night: “Libertarian Politics Live” at

He was great! Talked of his background with the Alaska Libertarian Party in the 1970s. Also, on fiscal conservatism, tax reform, and ending the draft.

I’m a rightwing libertarian, but he’s one leftwinger libt. I could consider.