Some of you might remember my last pass through the crowd seeking the Libertarian nomination. At the time my favorite candidate- and a very lukewarm favorite it was- was Doug Stanhope. Unfortunately, Stanhope has dropped out, saying that his campaign depended on using his primary source of income- standup comedy- as a campaign tool, something expressly prohibited by federal election law.
With a couple names out, a couple names in, and several months of campaigning passed, it's time for a re-evaluation of the candidates, as I shop around for someone I can support. My criteria:
(1) The candidate should be someone that the media will pay attention to despite itself- if we can get a celebrity, we should and must.
(2) The candidate must be acceptable to the vast united majority of Libertarians- he or she should be neither a purist/anarchist nor a carpetbagger seeking the LP's ballot access while rejecting its principles.
(3) The candidate should not be a Corn Flake- someone who drives off more voters by their conduct and positions than he or she attracts.
(4) The candidate must give voters some reason OTHER than internal party activism to support him. The candidate must have some applicable real-world experience.
So- let's go to the lists- first those candidates I noted back in January, then the newcomers!
(BTW, for current URLs for campaigns, check this page at Politics1.)
LANCE BROWN (California) - Vanished from the radar.
JIM BURNS (Nevada) - No changes- web site still parked, no sign of activity, no hint of positions.
GENE CHAPMAN (Texas) - Thank God, he's withdrawn.
DAVE HOLLIST (California) - No change- still a Corn Flake.
STEVE KUBBY (California) - Kubby's campaigning actively, and he's definitely shooting for the LP orthodox vote. The main issue for me, though, comes out in a recent series of interviews done by Austin Cassidy of Third Party Watch. In this post, Kubby basically says that Libertarians bear zero responsibility for the party's failure to score any meaningful electoral victories or to stem the flood of government growth and expansion of powers. Although he claims his campaign will be different in strategy, it's painfully clear that at best Kubby will be a repeat of Badnarik.
ROBERT MILNES (New Jersey) - No change. Again, Milnes is a Green Party member seeking a fusion Green-Libertarian ticket. On the Libertarian side, at least, he has no serious following. I can't speak to the Green side, but from here it looks like he's running on empty there too.
GEORGE PHILLIES (Massachusetts) - The nomination is shaping up to be a two-man race, and Phillies is the second man. Unfortunately- doubly so since his platform is a moderate and LP-reformer platform- he's lost me for good as a possible supporter, thanks to a quote from this part of his TPW interview: "I’m running my campaign to build our party, not to pay my staff and put me in front of the voters." George, if your primary goal in running isn't to get elected, and if you don't expect to get elected, you shouldn't waste our time.
CHRISTINE SMITH (Colorado) - Well, Christine Smith is definitely campaigning actively- getting on talk radio and entering debates at state LP conventions. Unfortunately, her message hasn't changed- to all purposes she's interchangable with Steve Kubby, except without Kubby's conviction and flight to Canada to evade prison. Smith gets some points for being the most photogenic candidate for the LP nomination, and by all reports she's very articulate and clear on her message. It'll still be an uphill fight for her to get the nomination, though, with the party orthodoxy lining up behind Kubby and the reformers cleaving to Phillies.
DOUG STANHOPE (Arizona) - Dropped out.
Now for those who have come into the race since my first post:
DAN IMPERATO (Florida) - Imperato is nowhere near as photogenic as Christine Smith- who he debated at the New Mexico LP convention- but his website is much, much better. Originally an independent candidate for the Presidency (he announced back in mid-2006), Imperato has recently decided to seek the Libertarian nomination. His repeated claims to two knighthoods- one from the Vatican, the other of the Orden Bonaria- doesn't speak well to his mental stability, especially since people with orders of royalty such as knighthood are expressly forbidden from holding elective office in the United States. Further, his core positions- increasing the expense of the FDA, making Social Security a tax-deductible charity, direct interference in the labor practices of other nations, government energy central planning, sending more troops to Iraq and extorting payment from the Iraqi people- won't improve his popularity with a party that despises carpetbaggers. Imperato might have a lot of support from independents, but his Libertarian race, I think, is D. O. A.
BOB JACKSON (Michigan) - His website is full of vague and mostly empty statements. Where they're not empty, they're contradictory- such as "declaring victory" in Kurdish-controlled parts of Iraq but strengthening our presence in Shi'ia controlled areas. With poor communication, poor organization, and a campaign photo that makes him look like Strom Thurmond's younger brother, Jackson doesn't look poised to attract much, if any, support.
MIKE "JINGO" JINGOZIAN (Oregon) - Three things I notice immediately: (1) video with sound set to auto-execute- BAD; (2) no mention whatever of the Libertarian Party (if you dig, you'll find he's a pan-third-party fusion candidate); and (3) not one but two links to blog posts in which Jingozian retaliates against someone who isn't even a candidate for anything for personal attacks. Answering personal attacks is necessary in a campaign, but answering like for like is highly unprofessional... and making the fact that some people don't like you a selling point of your campaign is ludicrous. Whiny martyrdom is not leadership. Add to this an almost total lack of issue-related material on the website, and I'm left with some real doubt as to the capacity of this man to be a serious candidate for anything, never mind President.
ALDEN LINK (New York) - His webpage is simple and plain, but compared to some others in this list it's a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, he's chosen to feature what is probably the only media recognition he's got at the bottom of the page- an article that portrays him as hopeless and unfunded, rejected soundly by the Libertarian Party of New York for the Senate race against Hilary Clinton in 2006. He favors federal intervention to encourage greater use of alternative energy- especially nuclear energy. His other stances are a mixed bag: he wants to eliminate the income tax with a first step of a flat tax; he wants to get out of Iraq but get in deeper in Afghanistan; his immigration policy, calling for an end to illegal immigration but effectively making immigration open to all, is incoherent; he favors gay marriage. I find myself sympathetic to Mr. Link, but he's nearly 80 and has no credentials and no support. Not a Corn Flake, quite, but doomed all the same.
WAYNE ALLYN ROOT(Nevada) - ... whooo boy. One paragraph isn't enough about this person, really.
On the good side, Wayne Allyn Root is a person with serious face time on television and access to the major news outlets for his campaign. His positions are hardline on civil liberties issues. On issues like taxation and government spending, he's radical by general election standards but moderate by Libertarian standards: give a private option for Social Security but don't abolish it, lower flat taxes but not zero taxes, give the decision on troops remaining in Iraq to the Iraqis, secure the borders while giving illegal aliens a way to become legal. His website is slick, although a bit verbose. He claims the endorsement and support of a large number of current and former Hollywood movers and shakers.
On the bad side: first, Wayne Allyn Root is supported by Eric Dondero, a man who in the past has sought the destruction of the Libertarian Party. Root's claims to be a successful CEO are belied by the fact that the shares of the company he heads- WNED- are literally penny stocks- worth a penny per share. Most of Root's TV time has been in infomercials for his company- infomercials which have garnered a reputation for fraud and deceit. Root supports the War on Terror and the doctrine of pre-emptive defense. His "freedom of religion, but support for the religious" doctrine is self-contradictory and guaranteed to alienate Libertarians. Finally, there are two factors which shouldn't count against him but do: he's a former Republican and very recent convert to Libertarianism (which will hurt him within the party); and his main line of business is as bookmaker for various gambling enterprises (which will hurt him in the general election).
The ugly side: Root's campaign is going to be the subject of a reality TV show, produced by the man who created the Jerry Springer and Sally Jessy Raphael shows. Root presents the project as a unique opportunity to publicize the Libertarian Party; critics call it an attempt to cash in at Libertarian expense. The two views are by no means mutually exclusive.
My view: a tempting but likely poisonous fruit, Root is best not picked. Although superficially he looks the most successful candidate, he has serious potential for unexpected Corn Flake moments. He reminds me very, VERY strongly of the Aaron Russo campaign in 2004... and that is NOT a compliment
SO, IN SUMMARY: although I believe the Libertarian Party needs a strong and active Presidential candidate as a figurehead for our nationwide election efforts, we STILL don't have one. After going through the list, my preference is for Alden Link. Phillies comes closest to my personal views, but Link is running to win, and Phillies, by his own admission, isn't; he's running to educate the voters, a tried and known failed strategy. Absent Link, all things considered, my vote is now None of the Above; I'd rather abandon the Presidency and divide that energy among other, smaller races than invest in the radicalism of Kubby or Smith, the wasted energy of Phillies, or the questionable character of Root.
I REALLY hope something or somebody comes along to change my mind before nomination day...