Libertarian Alternative for Voters
Justin Raimondo’s enthusiasm for Pitchfork Pat, perhaps it is mildly
out of line on this site. Still, this Web site has always been open
to antiwar views from all sides of the spectrum, wheel or whatever
metaphor one chooses to represent the variety of political inclinations.
it might not be out of line to suggest that for those seeking a
radical realignment in American foreign policy and inclined to participate
in the quadrennial circus, Libertarian Party presidential candidate
Harry Browne is a viable choice.
if one is impressed by choices organized around a reasonably cohesive
set of principles embraced by almost all members of a party rather
than the personal views of a single person although admittedly
an experienced and even modestly mediagenic person with a not inconsequential
personal following a vote for Harry or for whatever Libertarian
is running for office in your own bailiwick might do more to signal
discontent with current policies than a vote for any other minor-party
be sure, Harry Browne did not get an impressive number of votes
when he was the LP’s candidate in 1996, nor does he show impressively
in the polls today. In part, however, that is because most of the
polls don’t offer Browne as a choice (the Rassmussen
folks provide an honorable exception and news accounts seldom
is understandable at one level. Ralph Nader on the Green side and
Pat Buchanan of the now-apparently-government-subsidized Reform
Party are figures of more national stature (or notoriety) than Harry
the other hand, the Libertarian Party will almost certainly be on
the ballot in all 50 states (though the rebellious Arizona LP seems
to have made science fiction writer L. Neil Smith the presidential
candidate who will be on the ballot rather than Harry Browne) and
will run significant numbers of candidates for Congress and for
local offices. As a party with not only a certain ideological coherence
but a degree of in-depth local organization, the Libertarians are
well ahead of both the Green Party and the Reform Party let alone
the Natural Law levitators.
in the Rassmussen polls, Harry Browne has been holding his own with
Pat Buchanan mostly a few tenths of a percentage point behind
but actually pulling a tad ahead during the week of the July 4 LP
THEORETICAL CONGRESSIONAL MAJORITY
a September 11 story in the Washington Times noted, this year the
Libertarian Party will be running enough candidates for Congress
at least 218 as of today, maybe one or two more by November to have
at least a theoretical chance of taking a majority in Congress.
It’s not going to happen, of course Libertarian candidates are typically
thrilled to get 5 percent of the vote. But LP candidates are on
the ballot in 60 of the 80 congressional races considered closest
by establishment political experts.
LP candidates just might be the deciding factor in a few of these
Sean Scully of the Washington Times put it, this achievement is
literally historic. "The last time a third party fielded so
many candidates," he writes, "was 1920, when the Socialist
Party was a presence in more than half the races. … Although the
Socialists never gained national power, they managed to inject some
important ideas welfare programs and union rights, Mr. Crickenberger
[Ron Crickenberger, LP candidate in Virginia’s 8th CD]
said. Those ideas have since become mainstream."
Scully also notes that "there are cases in which Libertarians
have clearly made a difference. Perhaps most famously, Libertarian
Michael Cloud denied Republican John Ensign a seat in the U.S. Senate,
guaranteeing re-election of Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, in
one of the most closely watched races of 1998.
Cloud managed to get a dismal 8,044 votes, or about 1.8 percent
of the vote. But the race between Mr. Reid and Mr. Ensign was decided
by an astounding 428 votes, or less than a tenth of 1 percent."
Mr. Ensign is running again for an open Senate seat in Nevada this
year, and according to Scully he is stressing his affinity with
libertarian ideas and his independent spirit. So maybe a major-party
candidate is being affected by a libertarian showing.
all this, then, it is at least passing strange that Harry Browne
and the Libertarian Party are not getting as much ink let
alone electronic media coverage as other minor-party candidates.
By any reasonably objective criteria ballot status, lower-office
candidates, even polling data -- Browne should be mentioned every
time the newsies discuss minor-party candidates. Yet the typical
approach, on the few occasions the major and even the minor media
can pull themselves away from the earth-shattering question of whether
Dubya is sending subliminal RATS messages or Gore pre-planned the
clinch with Tipper, is to mention Nader and Buchanan as alternatives.
mentioned, most of the polls don’t give respondents a chance to
answer "Browne" when they pose presidential-preference
questions. Years ago, political analyst Dave Nolan, now a California
resident who founded the LP in his Colorado living room back in
1971, opined that the LP would start to be taken seriously when
it polls vote totals in excess of the margin of error in typical
national polls usually 3 to 5 percent. So in some senses the lack
of attention is understandable.
the Libertarian Party, like most minor parties, especially those
organized around a set of principles rather than a charismatic individual,
has hardly been averse to shooting itself in the foot. For various
reasons, numerous LP members are less than happy with Harry Browne,
for reasons ranging from concern about ideological purity to minor
financial scandals, and won’t be working diligently for him this
PATH NOT TAKEN
addition, Harry has not chosen a course many LP activists had urged
on him: making the War on Drugs and as an ancillary but hardly
minor issue the disastrous incursion into the Colombian civil war
the centerpiece of his campaign. A considerable constituency
supports some form of drug-law reform. Medical marijuana initiatives
in states typically get more than 60 percent majorities and about
a third of Americans favor repealing marijuana prohibition. That’s
a potential base of a lot more than 0.5 percent, who will not be
hearing any dissent from the major-party candidates, from which
to try to pull votes.
Ralph Nader has not only endorsed allowing American farmers to grow
hemp (the marijuana plant grown for food, fiber, oil and building
materials rather than for psychoactive buds) and gotten coverage
on C-SPAN. He recently said
that, like Republican Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, he’s for
legalizing marijuana and undertaking a serious reconsideration of
national policy on other illicit drugs.
are positions Harry Browne could endorse he’s been forthrightly
in favor of ending the War on Drugs entirely for years but
Nader may have stolen a march on him. Because of Nader’s prominence
and coverage pretty pathetic compared to Bore and Gush but oceanic
compared to Browne Browne might look like a johnny-come-lately on
the drug issue if he ever pushes into something like national prominence.
That would be unjust, but in politics perceptions are usually more
important than reality.
likelihood that the powers that be will allow any of the minor-party
candidates into the national presidential debates that receive widespread
coverage and huge viewership is still pathetically low. Even though
the addition of a Buchanan, a Nader and a Browne would spice up
what could be a terminally boring presentation and possibly attract
additional viewers, the establishment prefers to see these already
marginal candidates even more thoroughly marginalized.
a forum can be found where minor-party candidates appear on the
same stage with the Demopublicans, however, there would be no excuse
for not including Harry Browne. The party organization behind him
is clearly more cohesive and organized than either the Green or
the Reform organizations.
most discussions of more inclusive debates still ignore Harry Browne
and the Libertarian Party.
this is because the establishment recognizes that the Libertarians
pose a fundamental threat to the overly politicized way of life
in America or whether it is simply laziness and neglect I do not
know. But I do know that if Harry Browne is included he will appear
to many to be the only adult on camera and his vote total will increase
more than any other candidate’s.