Thursday, July 10, 2008

Liberals won't leave us alone. (Conservatives won't leave us alone.)

Mark mentioned a few days ago, as he has many times, that he believes a left/libertarian alliance is coming. I think he's right, to an extent. It's coming, but I don't share his optimism about it, nor do I suspect it will last particularly long. For many of the qualifications he suggested, the Left is just a different form of the Right. Political gain matters more than any principle could ever matter, not that I think the far Left recognizes the rights libertarians understand. Any party with animosity to property rights - or an unprincipled willingness to bow to the blathering of constituents with animosity to property rights - isn't bound to keep a sizeable number of libertarians in the fold for very long.

Mark's proposition is worth pursuing in more detail, so I'm sure it'll be a theme for me, as well, as we get closer to the election. Here, I'm only going to explore a narrow piece of this question. A recent post by science fiction author John Scalzi on Bob Barr exposes my position a bit because I disagree with Mr. Scalzi's analysis. Or, rather, I think it's incomplete.

When Barr announced he would seek the LP nomination, Mr. Scalzi wrote about how Barr might affect McCain in the election. This is a worthy question, of course. I just don't think it's the entire equation, so I wrote a response raising the question of how Barr would change the vote for Sen. Obama. I stand by my assertion that it would matter. You can see my theory in action here with Mark's writing on the left/libertarian alliance.

I would never vote for Sen. McCain. (There was an unfortunate time when I bought the lies.) Sen. Obama should have no problem getting my vote. I've voted Democrat for president in every election since I turned 18. (Clinton, Clinton, Gore, and Kerry) I didn't consider myself a libertarian for the first three because I didn't realize I am a libertarian. My positions haven't changed, only my awareness of how they fit into the world and who among politicians supports them. I cared more about social issues than economic issues because I didn't have money to care about. The denial of equal rights for gays, for example, was clear to me in 1992. I'm not gay, but if another's rights could be denied, so could mine. That was always clear. I just didn't connect economics to property rights.

With the power of the Internets, more libertarians can now identify as libertarian and better understand how hostile liberals and conservatives are to much of what we care about. Any alliance going forward will fail to have the strength to stand as the conservative/libertarian alliance stood. They will have to change to meet us closer to where we are.

So, Barr versus McCain and Obama. Mr. Scalzi wrote a few days ago about how he donated his $6.10 stimulus check to the Barr campaign:

So what do you do with a stupid, frivolous amount of stimulus money? Well, you spend it on something stupid and frivolous, of course!

Bob Barr has about as much chance of being president as I have in getting a tomato plant to spontaneously erupt out of my forehead, but he does have a teeniest bit of a chance of peeling off just enough disgruntled GOPers to be a pain in John McCain’s ass come the general election, which at this point works for me as an ersatz protest vote and the GOP economic stewardship of the country (note that this statement will undoubtedly cause some delusional conservative/Republican to opine in the comments that it will be Obama whom Barr will peel voters off of, not McCain. Dear delusional conservative/Republican commenter: Just because you’re apparently huffing acetone from the inside of a paper bag doesn’t mean the rest of us are). That said, I don’t actually want to spend real money on Bob Barr; I don’t want anyone to get the idea he’s actually my guy, presidentially speaking. I mean, really. Speaking of huffing acetone. For what I want to do here, six dollars and ten cents is almost exactly the right amount to send the dude.

I am neither delusional nor conservative, yet I've made the argument that some votes for Barr will come from Obama's projected voters. I don't think I implied the numbers would be the same, which would make me delusional¹. They won't be because it is probably true that a majority of Barr's support from non-Libertarian Party members this year will be from conservatives/Republicans. But. There are libertarians who've pondered a vote for Sen. Obama because they would never vote for Sen. McCain and the current Republicans need to go. Now we may also consider a vote for Bob Barr. I am, in fact, considering it. And those numbers might be meaningful. If Democrats wish to prosper with libertarians, they'll consider it.

Ah, but I already said there's no way I would vote for Obama. Indeed. So what? I'm discussing the mindset of potential Barr voters in the context of a left/libertarian alliance. I think Obama is the lesser of two evils in this election, if barely. If I hadn't become so cynical skeptical, I'd follow my history and cast a vote for him. Yet, here I am considering a vote for Bob Barr. Yes, former Republican Bob Barr. That does not automatically mean I'm arriving from the right. There are many roads to Hell. This might be the scenic route worth taking.

I doubt I'll vote for Barr because I don't think he's genuine. However, since he will not win the presidency, a vote for him may be useful as a signal to both parties that libertarians exist. Which is what Mark is saying at the core of his argument, I think. Republicans have clearly abandoned the libertarian vote. Some progressives have made overtures about an alliance. Generally this has been "join us and you'll see how wonderful redistribution really is". Obviously we're not quite at an equitable alliance yet. A vote for Barr might signal that, while we're ready to mingle, we're not conceding our principles just to be in the new popular crowd.

The Democratic embrace of President Bush's unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping suggests they don't care about what libertarians care about.

¹ Not that I'm arrogant enough to imagine that Mr. Scalzi noticed my original entry, nevermind the possibility that this could be directed at me.