More than 3100 people have commented on Tuesday’s Big Government post “Time for Ron Paul Fans to Support the Constitution.” Many agreed with my thesis that libertarians should support Mitt Romney to avoid a second Obama term, but many did not. The huge response is an indicator of how the looming specter of another four years of Obama has focused minds in the libertarian community.
Unfortunately, many libertarians are focused on the wrong things. They are trading the chance to make a short-term statement for the long-term destruction of libertarianism, and perhaps even of their country.
Libertarians need to play the long-game if they ever want to stop being a fringe movement. And folks, vindictively boycotting Mitt in the name of ideological purity isn’t it.
A significant number of libertarians have decided that Mitt Romney, while highly imperfect in their eyes, is the only hope of evading the much greater danger of Barack Obama, who if he isn’t a socialist does one hell of an impression of one. With his gleeful disregard of the Bill of Rights and his collectivist’s love of “redistribution” from those who own property to those he decides deserve it more, you would think Obama was as toxic to libertarians as non-locally sourced-garlic is to hipster vampires.
But some libertarians, as the comments make clear, have something other than a principled if short-sighted opposition to supporting Romney.
If you truly believe that American foreign policy is evil, if the Patriot Act is the end of the world, and if the drug war’s anti-bong hit agenda is so awful that you can’t support anyone who supports them, I get it. It’s not really wise, because Obama supports so many other things that should appall libertarians that Romney practically looks like a less animated Gary Johnson in comparison. But I get the principle.
The problem is the pouters, the angry and the attention seeking, who see this moment as the one time, ever, that anyone gives a half-damn about their grievances. And no, they are not letting that chance to be in the spotlight slip away.
They are making sure that every conservative knows that when Mitt Romney loses it’s because the GOP dared to pick a nominee who didn’t meet their standards, who wasn’t their guy. They want to make sure the country pays the price because they think Ron Paul got dissed in Tampa and because Gary Johnson didn’t get allowed into the debates. In fact, they seem delighted to rub it in.
Well, everyone knows. Every GOP voter knows that Ron Paul and Gary Johnson ran, and lost, and then decided not to support the candidate of the party they chose to join but to go home and ensure their party (and our country) pay the price.
Yeah, we know. And we’ll remember who expected respect but felt no obligation to do what losing factions are expected to do after the primary season – paste on a fake smile, high five the winner, and go to work.
Here’s a long-game question for libertarians. It’s not a question about who is a sore loser or who disrespected whom. It’s not a question that tries to shame you into supporting Romney, or to convince you his policies are so different than Obama’s that it makes you agree to back the GOP in November.
It’s a question about what you really want for libertarianism.
Here it is:
Remember the Greens?
I do, vaguely. I remember them as Ralph Nader’s quixotic campaign from the left in 2000 that Democrats are convinced, with some evidence, cost Al Gore the election.
Not too many Greens around today, huh? Guess that whole ideological purity thing didn’t work out so hot for them.
A libertarian candidate needs 50% + 1 of the voters’ support to win office. Where do you think that support is ever going to come from?
From Democrats? Yeah, right. They’ll like you on gay marriage and chronic and nothing else. Your love of capitalism repels them, and your hostility toward their all-powerful god, Government, means they can never be with you.
Your support in the future, if you are ever to become more than an asterisk, will have to come from conservative Republicans. Those are the people you’ll need to convince to join you.
But let me be clear about this – if you are seen as bringing us four more years of collectivist transformation because your feelings were hurt, libertarianism will never be more than a punch line.
That’s not a threat. That’s just a fact.
You’ll alienate the only possibly receptive wider audience libertarianism has. And if you think people won’t go out of the way to screw folks who they feel screwed them, well, isn’t that exactly what you’re talking about doing this November?
Of course, that assumes that you really want to see your libertarian ideas grow and spread and flourish in this country, and someday see a libertarian become president so he or she can start doing all the things you libertarians have always talked about but never had a chance to do.
But maybe that’s not the primary motivation. Maybe a lot of people who proudly call themselves “libertarians” just want to bask in the attention they get when courted by the GOP because the race is so close. After all, a lot of spineless GOP RINOs were perfectly satisfied to be in the minority for years and years. There’s a kind of comfort in knowing you’ll always lose – it means you never have to worry about getting serious.
You want to send a message this election. You need to think about what that message is. Your problem, if you truly care about growing libertarianism in the future, is that the people you’re enjoying vexing today will send libertarians a message right back in the future. And that message is anatomically impossible for any but the most limber of gymnasts.
But then, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe alienating your potential converts is a brilliant counter-intuitive strategy that I’m just too dumb to see.
Or maybe you should talk to the Greens and see how it worked out for them.
Kurt Schlichter’s No. 1 Amazon Political Humor e-book “I Am a Liberal: A Conservative’s Guide to Nature’s Most Irritating Mistake” is now out on Amazon.