Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bob Barr '08

Count me amongst those who are relieved that Bob Barr will be at the top of the Libertarian Party's ticket this fall. To be sure, his Congressional record was far from libertarian. But as I wrote last month, I believe his "conversion" to libertarianism is authentic. The basis for my belief arises from several occasions I had to meet the Congressman (albeit only briefly) back in 2003-2004, long before he called himself a libertarian. Prior to that, in mid-2001, I covered one or two hearings in which Barr participated while interning during law school. The Bob Barr I met in 2003-2004 was already a politically changed man in comparison to the Bob Barr of mid-2001, particularly with respect to foreign policy and civil liberties issues. That this evolution would have continued through the following 4 years strikes me as more than likely. For that reason, I believe Barr that many of his current positions are sincerely held.

Barr is someone who brings an instant level of credibility to the LP that it has not had in its entire history. In a year with so many disgruntled libertarian-leaning conservatives, he represents a real opportunity to siphon off votes from McCain.

But the purists are correct when they say that it shouldn't just be about votes - the LP's mission is to spread the libertarian philosophy. Barr represents an opportunity to do precisely that, as there is a chance (perhaps only 1 in 3, but a chance nonetheless) that he will gain enough support to get into the Presidential debates. If he can do that, then he will have an actual platform to spread libertarian ideals; without that platform, no LP candidate will ever succeed in spreading libertarianism. As such, without that platform, the candidate the LP nominates is irrelevant.

This leaves the next question, that of the Vice Presidential nominee. Friend of PE and contributor at Nick Bradley offers some interesting thoughts:

In my mind, the most appropriate course for the LP to take is to go with whatever wing of the party is currently in power, i.e. go with a right-libertarian ticket in order to counter the biggest current threat to liberty, the GOP, and go with a left-libertarian ticket if/when the Dems become a bigger threat to liberty.

The implication of this would seem to be that Root is the better nominee, an idea that may have gained some traction after Root's concession speech. I think there is a lot to that concept.

However, for this election, I wonder if the better nominee wouldn't be Steve Kubby, who was apparently being courted for the VP slot by just about everyone this weekend. I say this not because Kubby would be a way of pacifying the purists in the party - I don't think that Barr's running mate should be an olive branch for a couple of hundred particularly disgruntled party insiders when Barr represents a likelihood of picking up an additional several hundred thousand to several million votes by himself. However, Kubby represents an interesting VP candidate if - and only if - Barr can get into the debates. Importantly, I think Kubby's personal story combined with Barr's notoriety could get enough press coverage to push the LP above the debate threshold. But then, in the Vice-Presidential debates, Kubby would have the ability to undermine public support for the War on Drugs like no person in history. I would love to see the VP candidate of the Republican Party personally explain to Kubby - on national television - exactly why it is that medical marijuana should remain illegal.

Alas, I expect that Root will be the VP nominee, which is fine by me. I just don't think he adds to the ticket as much as others seem to believe.

Finally- many thanks to Stepen Littau and Jason Pye at the Liberty Papers for their coverage of the convention this weekend.

More at memeorandum.

***UPDATE***Ron Chusid says that Root got the VP nomination as expected. Again, this is fine by me; but I still think Kubby would have added a lot to the ticket.