Posted by Rojas @ 10:43 pm on October 21st 2008

Bob Barr for President

The last eight years have seen the wholesale abandonment of small-government principles by an allegedly conservative administration. The last eight months have witnessed an even more astonishing transformation, as numerous self-proclaimed conservatives have rushed to endorse a candidate for the Presidency whose entire political philosophy represents the antithesis of small government principles. Because I believe that the best way of fighting for limited government is to actually support those candidates who espouse it, I endorse Bob Barr for President.

John McCain is an honorable man who has consistently forged his own path in American politics, advocating a variety of positions which have brought him into conflict with his own party. For the majority of his career, he has proven to be a man of principle. It is possible that he still is. Regrettably, the principles he now espouses are incompatible with the welfare of the country. Most notably, in the face of what he himself recognizes as an impending demographic crisis of extraordinary magnitude, John McCain proposes what might generously be described as half-measures. He seeks to rein in a ten trillion dollar national debt with a one year spending freeze and marginal restrictions in entitlement spending. More disastrously, he has chosen not to spearhead opposition to an $800 billion bailout of failed and ill-managed financial institutions, but instead to support it with his vote. McCain has also, tragically, backed away from his own best instincts–on detainee policy and the Constitutional restrictions thereupon; on immigration; on torture itself. On selected issues, such as Russian aggression in Georgia and health care, we have seen sparks of the old McCain, and of the unifying conservative leader that might once have been. On the whole, however, it has become apparent that the necessities of the Presidential process have turned John McCain into a follower. America needed more from him than he was able to provide in this election cycle. He has not led, and his performance in this campaign does not merit elevation to the Presidency.

Barack Obama is an incredibly formidable individual and a splendidly gifted politician. His candidacy is an inspiration and an example to millions. He is also massively, spectaculaly, ideologically unsuited to be President over the next four years. While John McCain proposes half-measures to curb America’s endless addiction to government handouts, Barack Obama proposes instead that we double down. On health care, on social security, on farm subsidies, on economic development, on education, on job training, on environmental stewardship, on free trade, on every issue important enough to discuss, Barack Obama’s universal prescription is to hog-call Americans to the federal trough. The initially promising signs that Obama might propose market-based solutions on any or all of these issues have long since fallen by the wayside–it’s all big government, all the time with Barack Obama. Those issues on which Barack Obama has shown a genuine commitment to limitation of governmental power–executive authority, surveillance, and civil liberties in general–have proven to be areas in which he is willing and even eager to compromise in order for his economic agenda to gain traction. On foreign policy, Obama offers very little concrete improvement–merely a superficial soft-power emphasis that will prove ephemeral in its appeal to our allies and outright useless vis-a-vis those who wish America ill. In any era, Barack Obama would be an impressive advocate of all the wrong ideas. In an era in which the US faces $54 trillion in unfunded obligations, as well as an impending demographic crisis for which the bill is imminent, his agenda is simply insane. And for conservatives to support that agenda in their Presidential candidate at a time when the Congress is virtually certain to feature a massive Democratic majority beggars belief. Repsect for the concept of divided government alone ought to rule Obama out from any conservative’s perspective.

There is much to dislike about Bob Barr–his past, his behavior towards Ron Paul, his protectionism, his visceral dislike of gay Americans, his stupid little mustache. All of this, however, pales in comparison to what must be recognized as a consistent agenda dedicated to the reduction of government and respect for the individual. Most notably, and almost important enough to merit a conservative’s vote in itself: when the Bush administration came before congress and asked for $800 billion, giving as their explicit rationale the argument that it was necessary to perpetuate a culture of private-sector deficit spending in order to drive economic growth, Bob Barr said no. He stood beside principled liberals and genuine conservatives in opposition to what must surely be regarded as the single worst government spending decision of our time–a decision which produced none of the desired or anticipated results and which has been proven, in the light of subsequent scrambling and policy reformulation by Secretary Paulson and the Bush Administration generally, to have been an ill-considered power grab of every bit the same maginitude as the decision to authorize force in Iraq.

And that last bit bears repeating. Knowing full well the veracity of the Bush Administration, Barack Obama voted to hand them $800 billion of taxpayer money to dispense according to their whims. So did John McCain. Bob Barr said no. That fact alone ought to force any ironclad opponent of the Bush administration to take a long, long look at Bob Barr. Even now, when the rubber meets the road, Barack Obama is willing to give the Bush administration everything it needs, and defer to Bush’s judgment. Bob Barr isn’t.

Bob Barr is solid on all the critical issues–on spending restraint, on entitlement reform, on the war on drugs, on detainee policy and civil liberties generally. His support for a humble and restrained foreign policy, though not especially delightful to libertarian internationalists like myself, will no doubt prove appealing to Paulite conservatives. Moreover, there is this to appreciate about Bob Barr: Bob Barr, unlike the other contenders for the Presidency in this election cycle, is capable of admitting error and adjusting his policies accordingly. After a long career in congress as a cultural conservative, Barr has genuinely and impressively repudiated his desires to micro-manage the private decisions of individual Americans. If a genuine dedication to liberty is ever going to prevail in the American political sphere, is is going to require a number of conversions just like Bob Barr’s. I am strongly inclined to be supportive of such conversions when they come about. We need more of them.

Bob Barr has come a long way to get to where he is. The trip hasn’t always been pleasant to watch. But that doesn’t change the fact that the gentleman from Georgia finds himself on the right side of virtually every important issue this year. Moreover, on all too many of those issues, he finds himself alone among the candidates in doing the right thing. He is, in short, demonstrating the leadership and the principle that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain have been able to bring themselves around to.

I choose true leadership, true principle, and true libertarian conservatism. I choose Bob Barr.

22 Comments »

  1. Would you admit you were wrong if Obama’s spending increased at a rate that was 20% less than Bush II?

    What if the increase in the deficit was 50% less than the increase under Bush II?

    If not, what would it take for you to say you were wrong about BHO?

    Comment by daveg — 10/21/2008 @ 11:17 pm

  2. Where this endorsement is concerned?

    If he increased it less than Barr is proposing to.

    If you want to debate George W. Bush vs. Barack Obama as the lesser of budgetary evils, by all means, be my guest. For my part, I am utterly unwilling to accept those two as my only options where small-government conservatism is concerned.

    I have other choices, and my recognition of that fact will drive my vote in November.

    Comment by Rojas — 10/21/2008 @ 11:23 pm

  3. I have a question. Bob Barr is your number one choice. If he died tomorrow and there was no alternative libertarian candidiate, who is your second choice, John McCain or Barack Obama?

    Or is it Bart Simpson?

    Comment by Cameron — 10/21/2008 @ 11:46 pm

  4. John McCain.

    I can’t bring myself to hate either of the major party candidates. Either would be a perfectly competent President, albeit misguided in some policy preferences. In particular: should Barack Obama be elected President (and I think he will), I will raise a glass in delight at the fact that the American people have made an African-American their leader. It will be, for reasons entirely seperate from my ideological agenda, a great day for this country.

    There is no new George W. Bush on the horizon, and no real prospect that I will be ashamed of my nation’s chief executive come February.

    Comment by Rojas — 10/21/2008 @ 11:50 pm

  5. what would it take for you to say you were wrong about BHO?

    Let me extend upon my earlier answer a bit.

    Here is what I’d REALLY like to see from an Obama Presidency: a meaningful, substantial reduction in the unitary authority of the executive branch. A direct and decisive repudiation of the executive power claims fostered by the Bush/Cheney administration. A specific recognition of the fact that the President can’t authorize torture or unilaterally authorize detention procedures without the consent of Congress.

    I don’t think we’re going to get that from him. We may see the POLICIES changed, but I doubt he repudiates the authority to set them. And that is, in the long view, the important thing.

    I think Barack Obama loves power a little bit too much to give that much of it up voluntarily; especially when there is a political price to be paid for doing so.

    If I am proven wrong, I will gladly recognize and celebrate the fact on this blog.

    Comment by Rojas — 10/22/2008 @ 12:00 am

  6. If I am proven wrong, I will gladly recognize and celebrate the fact on this blog.

    Fair enough.

    The Democratic base will push VERY HARD to roll back some of the more eggregious infringements on our civil liberties, however, the democratic leadership will be nervous about such reforms.

    The democratic leadership knows that any terrorist incident will be blamed on such roll-backs, whether such blame is fair or not.

    And the democrats are clearly not willing to combine any increase in domestic freedom with a tighter immigration controls. So, they are rightly fearful of a possible negative outcome.

    Nonetheless, I think we will see real legal reform related to certain aspects of the constitution under an Obama/democratic majority, so I suspect you will be mildly, but pleasantly, surprised.

    (BTW, I will probably vote for Steve Baldwin, but only because I am in a very blue state).

    Comment by daveg — 10/22/2008 @ 12:57 am

  7. Who the hell is Steve Baldwin? Do you maybe mean Chuck Baldwin, the Constitutional Party candidate? ‘Cause the only Steve Baldwin I (or Google) know of is the evangelical brother of Alec Baldwin.

    Comment by Cameron — 10/22/2008 @ 1:07 am

  8. I can’t bring myself to hate either of the major party candidates. Either would be a perfectly competent President…There is no new George W. Bush on the horizon, and no real prospect that I will be ashamed of my nation’s chief executive come February.

    Since Brad is apparently not checking this site’s email, I thought that now would be an appropriate time to quote myself:

    I am remarkably pleased with this entire political season. True disasters like Giuliani or Edwards have been avoided. Worrisome people like Romney and Huckabee have been tossed aside. Clinton crashed and burned.

    It’s pretty neat to take a pool of 25 people last and end up with the cream of the crop this November. On both sides of the aisle my top choices have come to fruition. Some damn challenging odds have been bested. I’d have loved to seen Paul alive and kicking at this stage, but if I couldn’t have him I am thankful that the best of the rest are left.

    Comment by Cameron — 10/22/2008 @ 1:17 am

  9. Is this where we try to ignore Sarah palin?

    Comment by fred — 10/22/2008 @ 11:26 am

  10. Yeah, that guy. I am very bad with names.

    Comment by daveg — 10/22/2008 @ 11:32 am

  11. Rojas, I respect your adherence to your values, but in the real world, while you are endorsing Barr, you are, in fact casting a vote for Obama. I’m just sayin’.

    Comment by James — 10/22/2008 @ 11:32 am

  12. I don’t understand your logic there. Is it your expectation that the state of Kansas will come down to a one-vote swing in Obama’s favor?

    Seems to me that the only practical utility of a vote is to swing political discourse marginally in the direction of one’s ideology. The only chance I have to push the dialogue in a libertarian conservative correction is by supporting Barr. It’s not a huge push, but it’s all I can control.

    Comment by Rojas — 10/22/2008 @ 12:07 pm

  13. I never did mention what it was like when I saw him speak the week before last.

    He’s an impressive guy, has a very impressive command of the issues. He spoke for an hour or so, no notes, with about a thirty minute Q and A, and thinking back, there really wasn’t much he didn’t address. He answered Rojas’ question “When did you decide you decide you were wrong on social issues?” with kind of a dodge, kind of a neat insight. He reverted back to The Patriot Act as the moment in time when he realized the government had even duped legislators willing to give it the benfit of the doubt. “There’s no other way to say it,” he said, of his voting for it. “It was a profoundly bad vote on my part”. For him personally, he tried to explain it that his background is as a prosecutor, so things like the War on Drugs existed for him in that kind of a bubble. He was a Company Man as far as government power was concerned, and believed it should have future limitations but was okay with its scope as it was. He said the Patriot Act kicked him towards libertarianism, and in so doing, he went back over all his long held political beliefs and found almost all of them wanting. He didn’t quite get to the why on social conservatism, but as you say, his conversion on the rest of it seemed pretty genuine to me, and I’m more inclined to be skeptical than not.

    He was a good speaker, but not a didactic or even particularly communicative one. Very prosecutorial, which is like professorial but a little more pointed. He sounded more like a guy that was staying one step ahead of a defense cross-ex than a guy trying to change minds too much, but the libertarian message is pretty powerful in that respect. In any case, he had a full crowd at Carnegie Mellon, and did well.

    One thing you didn’t mention in your endorsement that I like about Barr and what he represents: it represents the rare foray of the LP, on their Presidential ticket, to reach out for a mainstreamish voice, an active choice to take, over purity…well, “electability” isn’t quite the right word, but something close. For those of us who have been frustrated by the armadillo nature of LP politics, that’s a refreshing change, and one that I hope they’re rewarded by, lest they decide to go back into their shell for another ten years. It marks the first time since I guess Ron Paul where they chose the best libertarian candidate, not the most libertarian candidate. Despite the fact that Bob Barr efuses me with something close to a revulsion instinct on a lot of things (though even there I’ve warmed considerably), that’s an instinct I would like to see rewarded.

    Unfortunately, my vote counts, so I’m not convinced that my math isn’t different. I’ll try to have my endorsement up tonight.

    Comment by Brad — 10/22/2008 @ 2:14 pm

  14. 12: Excellent! As a long time red stater I’ve had no qualms about my vote for a libertarian counting as a vote for those dirty democrats.
    I do find it funny though now that Colorado is up for grabs I find myself coming down on the side of voting for those same dirty dems. Why? The republicans need a swift boot to the fundament, and the democrats need a pat on the back. The boot is for running roughshod over the country and the pat is for finally being an opposition party that isn’t pathetic.
    I have little doubt I’ll be back to pushing libertarian again next time around.

    Comment by Mortexai — 10/22/2008 @ 2:55 pm

  15. I’m all for sticking to your idealogical guns and voting third party (or writing in).

    As you and Cameron said, the really great thing about this election is that, no matter who wins, we won’t have to be ashamed of our president come January.

    Comment by Liz — 10/22/2008 @ 8:57 pm

  16. Yes you will.

    Comment by James — 10/23/2008 @ 12:27 am

  17. I don’t like the Bob Barr pick by the LP. I guess I’m the opposite of Brad here… I prefer ‘purity’ to ‘electability’, whatever that means when talking about the LP.

    The odd thing, is that I’d think highly of Barr if he were a Republican. I’m also fine with him being a Libertarian. I just don’t like him being the presidential nominee.

    I’d like my vote to indicate my displeasure. Obviously I can’t vote for the awful major party candidates. The 3rd party people aren’t too exciting. I can either write-in Chuck Baldwin (ugh!) (who didn’t make the ballot, but is an official write-in candidate) or write-in Ron Paul (who may or may not be eligible as a write-in in California). I just need to figure out if Paul is eligible and which would make the better statement to the LP.

    Comment by Redland Jack — 10/24/2008 @ 3:06 pm

  18. How about the best statement is supporting the party in this race, and working in future ones to make the candidates more acceptable to you?

    Strategic voting against the Libertarian Party strikes me as a weird impulse, because strictly speaking, they are not yet anywhere near the threshold where they are a viable party, and thus anywhere near where your non-LP vote is going to make any difference: that just puts you in the great mass of 99.5% of the rest of the American public that doesn’t vote for the LP candidate.

    I am not one, obviously, to advocate putting party over principle. But part of the point of voting Libertarian or indeed being a Libertarian at all is you’re trying to build a party; you have to get there before endless navel-gazings about the direction of said party make any sense. It’s different if Barr is simply an unacceptable, 100% no-go candidate to you; if that’s the case, of course, don’t vote for him. But if it’s just the case that you would have preferred somebody else and Barr is roughly speaking acceptable but not ideal, that’s another matter entirely. If that’s the case, and I mean absolutely no disrespect to you when I say this, but the LP could use less of voters like you, and more of the sort that are willing to support LP candidates at large and save the direction of the party bickering for the conventions and backrooms. With the latter, you can build a party, and even if not every instantiation is perfect, you have the opportunity to keep building, shimmying up the ladder even if every step isn’t perfect. With the former, you get pretty much the present day Libertarian Party. A lazy and unnoticed black hole of back-biting, litmus-testing among a base that can’t agree on litmus tests, and spinning off in a number of different directions while the rest of political American can safely, and justifiably, totally ignore you.

    I realize that that doesn’t jibe exactly with my own strategic voting impulses where the major two parties are concerned, but again, they’re already parties, they are already guaranteed viability in most any election in which they run. It is a difference between falling just short, and falling just ahead. Whereas as the LP are concerned, it is the difference between charting at all, or having no mainstream political existence to speak of.

    Comment by Brad — 10/24/2008 @ 3:58 pm

  19. My big problem with Barr, is that I think he wrecks the ‘brand.’

    I have an anecdote for this (even though I typically hate anecdotes)… My coworkers are a pretty bright lot. A month or two ago, while we were discussing politics, one of them said, ‘Palin probably makes libertarians more likely to vote McCain.’ When I asked why, he indicated it was because she was socially conservative, just like Bob Barr.

    Now, I don’t think that Barr is that conservative… anymore. However, if the libertarian movement becomes associated with Bob Barr, I think it makes libertarians look like paleocons. I like paleocons alright, they are the good part of the Republican party. However, I think Barr basically alienates ‘left’ libertarians (though I have to admit, I have a hard time understanding them).

    I think getting ‘left’ and ‘right’ libertarians to stop fighting would be the fastest way to grow the party. Bob Barr (and Ron Paul to a lesser extent) make libertarians look like a branch of the Republican party. I don’t think this helps the libertarian cause… though I could, obviously, very easily be wrong.

    Comment by Redland Jack — 10/24/2008 @ 4:29 pm

  20. I think getting ‘left’ and ‘right’ libertarians to stop fighting would be the fastest way to grow the party.

    I disagree. I think the best way to grow the party/movement is mainstream acceptance. What the movement needs is not so much ideological purity and rigid doctrine as much as public acceptance. If you assume that 10% of the public is libertarian in that they’re socially liberal and economically conservative, the challenge is two fold. You must first educate them that a libertarian alternative exists and you must convince them to vote for that alternative. The first part is tough simply because the word libertarian is rather obscure. The second part is the key. You must create a welcoming mainstream environment, a broad based party.

    I think the choice can be presented like this: you can have rigid ideologically sound political party that gets 1% of the vote every election or you can dump some of the more kooky stuff and characters and attempt to create a more mainstream and viable party.

    Comment by Cameron — 10/24/2008 @ 5:02 pm

  21. I side with Cameron. I totally get what you’re saying, RJ, but it still doesn’t follow to me that Barr’s social conservative means not voting for him is more likely to get left-libertarians to vote libertarian.

    I would say MORE left-libertarian leaning voters are dissuaded from voting Libertarian because it can’t break 1%, than because this cycle they nominated a guy with a social conservative history. I would further say the breakdown isn’t even really close.

    The whole paleocon v. libertine debate within the LP is an interesting one, but I think misdirected. The fact of the matter is libertarianism is both MORE socially conservative AND more libertine than either major party, and you can make the case to either simply by changing emphasis (for instance, appealing to evangelicals on homeschooling, appealing to libertines on drugs).

    But regardless, it’s not a debate that’s going to matter, at all, unless the LP begins to show even the barest minimum of viability. The only times they’ve ever done so, interestingly, has been with “Republican poaching” candidates (80, 88, perhaps now; the “purity” candidates tend to fail miserably even by LP standards), but regardless, the LP has been trying to get that particular balance right since its inception. It’s become pretty clear that it’s not going to find a perfect equilibrium—really, no party does anyway. You can’t wait to find a 100% ideal before moving forward. At some point, you just need some wind behind your sails. The LP has been at that point since roughly 1984; voting against Barr not because he’s unacceptable but because he isn’t your first choice ideal continues that rather ignoble and provably counter-productive tradition.

    Comment by Brad — 10/24/2008 @ 5:13 pm

  22. I figured I should start things off by mentioning that you guys may very well be right about everything and I may be wrong.
    I certainly am not a particularly ‘active’ libertarian. Other than trying to convert friends, family, coworkers, and random strangers to little ‘l’ libertarian beliefs, I’m not active in any way (no donations, attendance at meetings, handing out fliers, etc.)
    Also, purging/ignoring people like me may very well be necessary. If the LP became more mainstream (and grew its membership), I’m the kind of guy who would probably jump ship and find some other marginal party that I liked better. To become powerful, it is probably necessary to not try to please people like me.
    As to the potential viability of the LP (or any 3rd party), I’m not sure that they have any. Game theory would tell us that in a plurality-wins-all system, you’re going to end up with two identical parties located right in the ‘center’ of the spectrum. I would think the only way the LP could become viable, would be to move public belief so much closer to its positions that one of the two main party’s (probably the Republicans) loses all of its members and they ‘flip’ over to the LP.

    Comment by Redland Jack — 10/29/2008 @ 1:49 pm

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