Bob Barr + Wayne Allyn Root = Yuck.

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I am not a Libertarian Party member and never have been one, so some people will dismiss my comments as uninformed and irrelevant. That's fine; I make no claim to be an expert on libertarian philosophy. Still, I find I sympathize with some elements of the Libertarian Party and share many of the values central to libertarian thought.

I am also a fan of Mike Gravel, though I never really thought he would win the Libertarian nomination. Having met the man, having listened to him speak, having discussed issues I care about with him, I was pleased when he joined the Libertarian Party, which I do think espouses a set of beliefs that are closer to his philosophy than, say, the Democratic Party. To be honest, I think Gravel was more interested in running for president than in running for president as a libertarian. At the same time, as much as I like libertarianism, the fact that so many of the party's ideological purists reject Gravel is exactly why I couldn't join the party. I am about as much a libertarian as Senator Gravel and, it would seem, the Libertarian Party says it is not libertarian enough. Though he's dropped out of the race, I may still write him in.

That said, although I didn't expect Mike Gravel to win the nomination today, I was very interested in the Libertarian convention and I really hoped that they would field a strong ticket. Bob Barr, it seems to me, was a solid choice for the presidential nomination. He has the political experience and the name recognition the party's past nominees have largely lacked. Accordingly, CNN and other major news outlets have provided the party with a level of mainstream media exposure unheard of in the almost forty-year history of the Libertarian Party. This is good.

Like many Americans my age, I cannot stand the two party system we've got in this country. As someone who has lived abroad for several years, I have seen parliamentary governments with six or seven parties working together and long for a day when Americans can say that we have Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, Socialists, et cetera, in Congress, in proportion to the numbers of people voting for them. I also realize that we must work with what we have and, right now, we need a viable third party to make a push for the White House to show people that a vote for a third party is not a vote thrown away.

As the third-largest political party in the United States, the Libertarian Party has had the best chance to make that sort of impact and this afternoon's nomination of Bob Barr will ensure that people pay attention to the party. With the Greens lacking a big name candidate, the Libertarians sat poised to be the third party in this election.

Wayne Allyn Root will ruin that chance. As Barr will readily admit, he does not come across as particularly charismatic or energetic, but he does come across as a seasoned politician with the ability to communicate his ideas (and those of his party) to a much broader audience than anyone other than Ron Paul, who was the Libertarian Presidential nominee in 1988. Root, while energetic, will not appeal to most Americans. Seriously: even if his ideas are consistent with the libertarian ideological core, his grating public personality is better suited to infomercials for real estate schemes at three in the morning than to serious political discussions. He comes across as glib, self-obsessed, obnoxious, and an amalgam of every horrible stereotype you can come up with for lawyers, used car salesmen, miracle cure-hawking mountebanks, and...well, I imagine you get the picture. I would not buy a salad shooter or a home gym from this guy, let alone a plan for fixing America and I suspect I am far from being the only one. And that's a problem. Even if he is nice, even if he is sincere, he does not project that sort of authenticity.

Had Barr urged voters to pick someone else instead of making a deal with Root, he stood a real chance to achieve major party status for the Libertarians.

Having seen Jesse Ventura win the gubernatorial race in Minnesota a decade ago, I know it is possible for a third party to field a candidate able to win an election, but until we see that sort of success on the national stage, such a victory will be the exception and not the rule.

Unless the Green Party somehow snags Al Gore, we won't see a third party candidate in this year's election do much more than act as a spoiler. Barr gives the Libertarians the chance to step up. Root takes it away.

We need someone with the money of a Ross Perot and the popular appeal of an Al Gore to do it.

So, no, I'll not be voting Libertarian this election. I agree with quite a bit of the libertarian platform, but not enough to justify voting for two men I do not like. And I sure as hell won't vote for Obama, Clinton, McCain, or Nader, either.

I just hope Barr wins the five percent to make the LP a major party. Then, at least, our country will have made a step towards dismantling the two party system. After all, the Libertarians have the long history and core believers the Reform Party lacked when it made its splash in the nineties. But, man, I just can't bring myself to help the Libertarians this time around, not with Barr and Root bearing the banner.

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This page contains a single entry by Sobriquet Magazine published on May 25, 2008 10:53 PM.

Mike Gravel Retires From Politics was the previous entry in this blog.

One Last Note on the Libertarian Debate is the next entry in this blog.

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