Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why "third parties" are third.

Cheering for the underdog is an American pastime, but what if one finds out that the underdog isn't hapless, but instead is fumbling deliberately, and being a bit of a jerk, too. That's not a 100% unfair description of the Arizona Libertarian Party.

Now I happen to be what could be called a libertarian and someone who'd like to see a libertarian party succeed. And there are quite a few people--including my co-'blogger--doing a lot of work to get that libertarian party to succeed. But that libertarian party is so culturally out of whack, one sometimes wonders if it would be best to simply let the elderly ideologues have their way and turn it into the Cult of Noninitiation of Force. Let us proclaim the Mystery of Faith: we can have property without force and liberty without law, forever and ever, Amen.

So what's really on my mind? Greater than two thirds of one percent of registered voters must be registered Libertarian, that is to say, must be members of the Arizona Libertarian Party, for the Libertarian Party to have ballot access. So far, the LP hasn't used that ballot access for much in Arizona, but one can't help but think that credible, intelligent, realistic candidates like Nick Coons, Rick Fowlkes (before and after he switched to the Republicans), and Joe Cobb at least change the tone of the public discourse for the better, and their campaigns help to build an organization which can start taking more votes from Democrats and Republicans at the margin.

The Arizona Libertarian Party has been spending thousands of dollars of contributors' money and directing activists' time to maintaining registrations. Yet the chairman of the Pima County Libertarian Party, David F. Nolan, goes on record once again showing most members of the party the door. To quote:
No, the most important principle, for libertarians, is the principle of self-ownership, as set forth in the Preamble to our Platform, and our Statement of Principles. These are the standards by which every policy statement and every campaign must be judged. Anyone who is uncomfortable with this yardstick probably ought to be in another party -- one where "the most important principle is winning."

To be comfortable with the Libertarian Party Statement of Principles, one would have to believe in individual sovereignty ("sole dominion" over one's life), a total end to all taxation, and that there exists in American political life a "cult of the omnipotent State". At best that Libertarian Party's Statement of Principles is a relic of the time before the "free minds and free markets" position was back on solid intellectual ground, protected by an unfortunate 7/8 supermajority requirement.

But back to Arizona matters: in recommending that what amounts to all non-anarchists leave the Libertarian Party, Nolan is working against his Party's efforts to maintain ballot status. And perhaps because the Libertarian Party was founded in his living room back in the Nixon era (when the Statement of Principles might even have been respectable), nobody in the Party organization has the cojones to tell him that he is, once again, undermining his cause.

Full disclosure: This 'blog is nonpartisan, but I remain a Libertarian Party precinct committeeman.

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