In yesterday’s Retro-Journal entry, I described what seemed like simpler political times a mere four years ago. Fittingly, just one day before that entry there were multiple signs of more complex times ahead:
•In a step that I hope history will ultimately record was more important than Hillary Clinton’s exit from the presidential race, Ron Paul officially suspended his campaign in Austin, TX, the same town I mentioned visiting in yesterday’s Retro-Journal entry. As a member of Paul’s staff told me a year ago, the hope has always been that Paul, like Goldwater before him, would inspire a new generation of pro-liberty activists even if he never got to be president. That appears to be happening, and the fact that his fans are going the major-party route, creating a vocal subset of “Ron Paul Republicans” instead of bolting the party, is probably for the best. Regarded as troublemakers today, they may grow to be the establishment someday — and rescue the republic.
•Two-pronged strategies seem wise to me, though, so it’s nice to have Bob Barr running as a Libertarian even if it means short-term victories for the more-united left — and it probably will, I must concede, since…
•Obama and McCain may be nearly tied in popular-vote polls, but Obama’s edge translates into a lock on about half the electoral college as of this week, forcing McCain to chase after essentially all the toss-up states for about half the electoral votes he needs. For all my Paul/Barr-boosting, I am realistic enough that I will not blame McCain in the slightest if he breathes not another conservative or libertarian word in this campaign and devotes all his energy to picking up moderates and anti-Obama liberals. He has little choice.
•Barr’s quasi-pal Cynthia McKinney, I gather, is the likely Green Party candidate for president (to be nominated next month) — so the two Georgians do have certain maverick tendencies in common, apparently. Makes me think even less of the Greens than before, though. The two candidates should do a minor-parties debate in Atlanta at some point, like the Badnarik-vs.-whatever-his-name-was LP-vs.-Green debate I saw in NYC in ’04 while more-normal people were on the floor of the GOP convention at Madison Square Garden (and one friend of mine was staging a faux-zombie-attack protest rally nearby).
•This short item from Thursday about the Kansas Reform Party — and the fairly short and readable comments thread accompanying it — is an amusing reminder of connections between the Reform, Constitution, and Green Parties, Nader as an independent, and the Ecology Party of Florida. Yes, the Ecology Party. (Maybe Barr — who I’ll likely vote for — should seek the Natural Law Party’s cross-endorsement. Their main issue is promoting meditation, though, so he’d better convert to Buddhism or something.)
•Meanwhile, as Jacob Levy (a libertarian who got his teenage political start protesting against nukes and homophobes in then solidly-Republican New Hampshire) pointed out to me, The New Republic lists an alarming litany of “Obamacons,” including Milton Friedman’s anarcho-capitalist son David and my friend Megan McArdle.
They all have their different reasons for grudgingly sympathizing with the socialistic Democrats — in seeming defiance of all free-market principles — but I think W. James Antle III, in an American Conservative review of books by Boaz and Norquist, may have given the best summary of the problem with libertarians who overemphasize their own leftish tendencies: “If you consider pro-choice (on abortion only) Jon Stewart more libertarian than pro-life Ron Paul, there is probably something wrong with your definition of libertarianism.” (And in any case, clips like this one of Paul reacting to getting the endorsement of the owner of the Moonlight Bunny Ranch show how his love of freedom trumps his social-conservative tendencies anyway, without reducing them to irrelevance — but Paul is just a rhetorical example for the moment.)
I’m increasingly sympathetic to bolting from the GOP (though the aforementioned Paulistas suggest that the proper course is to stay and fight for reform), but whereas staying home or voting Libertarian sends the GOP the message “not good enough by your own stated standards,” giving Obama a landslide will simply send the GOP the message “be more like the Democrats if you want to win,” and that’s the last thing we need. If Steely Dan’s last album disappointed you, it may be time to stop giving them your money, but you don’t send them a productive protest message by vocally buying Britney Spears instead, for crying out loud.
And solidly leftist writer William S. Burroughs might add: Republicans, or those who seem like a natural part of the Republican coalition, who vote Dem for strategic reasons are a bunch of mugwumps.