Monday, May 12, 2008

Do you know Bob Barr? You should.

Bob Barr is the frontrunner for the Libertarian Party nomination. Yes. Libertarian Party. The one that doesn't break 1% nationally. The one that does worse than the Greens, the Reforms, the hardline Constitution Party. It basically beats only the Prohibition Party, which does still exist.

But here's a little something to note: between 15-20% of Americans have basic libertarian sympathies. This doesn't mean they even know it, or that they'll vote lib in the election. But self-identified libs are a generally Republican group. They're willing to vote this way because most Republicans throw them something about deregulation or lower taxes.

This year, two things combine to make the LP an important feature. First, McCain doesn't offer much to libs who would normally vote Republican. Obama may offer these voters something, since some of his rhetoric about judges and the executive is very lib-friendly.

The second factor, which is more important than a small lib swing towards Obama, is the now Libertarians know who they are. Ron Paul, never truly viable, has had a huge cultural effect. People know what the word means now, and might begin identifying themselves with it. If Ron Paul endorsed Bob Barr, I could easily see him taking 2-5% nationally. And most of that vote would be either 'new' votes - people who came out specifically for Barr and wouldn't have voted for either candidate anyway - or votes from McCain's pocket, since that's where most libs currently dwell.

Barr is against the Iraq War, a popular position and also a doctrinaire Libertarian one. He likes civil liberties and low taxes. Agree or not, these are pretty popular positions. If any 3rd Party gets a noticeable chunk of the vote this election, it won't be a 'spoiler' like Nader, whose candidacy brings up more issues about campaign finance and debate rules than actual issues. It will be the LP, probably with Barr at the head. Since the LP is friendly with both Republican Ron Paul and Democrat Mike Gravel, both candidates with hugely devoted fan bases, it is possible for the LP in 2008 to be the biggest 3rd Party since Ross Perot.

No, they won't win anything. But libertarians are getting more popular, and there's not a whiff of small-government conservatism from the Republican party right now. If Huckabee is the Vice Presidential nominee, then another group of secular libs may jump off the Straight Talk Express. Chalk up another thing against John McCain for November.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know where you get the basis for your snide remarks about the Libertarians doing even worse than the Greens and Constitution Party. Nader got 0.38% of the vote despite huge name recognition while the relatively unknown Badnarik got 0.32%, almost 3 times the Constitution Party's total and well over 3 times the Green Party's total. Currently, Barr has been getting 2 to 3% in MAJOR national polls for the last four months - CNN, NBC/WSJ, ABC/WaPo. The GOP would be foolish to ignore him.