Lately I've been telling my friends that I'm a Libertarian despite the party, rather than a Libertarian because of what the party stands for. It should be no surprise to people who read this blog that I'm both disgusted and disillusioned with the way the party has gone, and where it appears to be headed. Historically I've had a lot of company- the Libertarian Party has a lot of what marketers call "churn," i. e. turnover in members. Only a tiny number- usually the most radical and dysfunctional- remain with the party, working hard to ensure that nobody else can stand to work with them for long.
At the moment- emphasis on moment- I'm still a big-L Libertarian. Right now I'm deciding if I'm going to work to get Libertarians on the ballot and in office next year. It's a very big decision, because I personally believe it wrong to bail on a political party in mid-cycle. If you commit to a party in January, you ought to be with them come November- presuming, of course, that the party actually stands for something.
So before I commit to that long haul, I have to answer some very serious questions.
1. What do I expect out of a political party? I want a political party which best represents what I believe and is not merely the tool or a splinter of some other political party. That party must also make a good-faith effort to actually win elections: it should not be merely an "educational organization" or an elitist club.
2. Does the Libertarian Party represent me well enough to stay with it? I honestly don't know yet. That will depend entirely on the new platform that comes out of the national convention Memorial Day weekend. If the platform represents a turn away from anarchism and towards a small-government message that can be sold to the electorate, then I stay. If the anarchists regain control and go back to the old smash-the-state rhetoric, then I'm out.
3. Is the Libertarian Party independent, or is it just a faction of the Republican Party? That depends on the Ron Paul movement, and again on the national convention. Currently party rules forbid Libertarians nominating non-Libertarian candidates for office, but there's a major movement afoot to void that rule and nominate Ron Paul with or without his consent. If Ron Paul gets nominated by the LP, I won't even wait until November- I will resign the LP then and there, because it will no longer be anything more than an annex of the GOP- a goal Paul has worked towards since 1988.
4. Does the Libertarian Party actually work to win elections? Signs point to no at present; today I was called by the Texas LP's secretary and asked to run for office again. I said no- I could never do as well as I did last year, when I proved that the people here don't want me in office. The focus, as usual, is overwhelmingly on recruiting candidates, any kind of candidates, with no regard to the one thing needed for any candidate to accomplish anything: organization on the ground. We need to organize counties and precincts, build a network of events for our candidates to appear at... and we're not doing it. If I see no improvement in the LP's organization in Texas, or in general, then I'm out at the end of 2008.
Yes, right now my Libertarian affiliation is very conditional indeed. I'm seriously beginning to wonder if there's any way I can get the ball rolling towards a new party, a party that favors smaller, more accountable government while at the same time opposing anarchy and the unfettered power of corporations or the immensely wealthy.
It might be time to revive the old Whig name from history- not the Whigs of Henry Clay and Zachary Taylor, but the Whigs who opposed the Tories and led the American Revolution of long ago. I want the Whigs who opposed corruption, office-holding, gerrymandering and rotten boroughs. I want the Whigs who favored expanded freedom and sufferage and lower taxes.
But I don't want the anarchists who tarred and feathered tax collectors, or destroyed courthouses to prevent having their farms foreclosed on for debts. Freedom requires a law that is not enforced by the individual at his own whim, but is the same for all persons at all times. It requires a government strong enough to see that law enforced, yet limited enough that it cannot be bent to the will of the powerful. Our Whig forefathers understood this- learning it at times by hard experience- and tried their best to craft a system toward this end.
I think I could be a Whig.
I'm wondering if I can still be a Libertarian.