The Battle Cry of the Damned: The State of the LP in 2016
The Libertarian Party is in a very strange place right now. For starters, it’s an oxymoron. As libertarian science writer Michael Shermer once amusingly observed, libertarians are by definition too individualistic to assemble in any meaningful political way. Something I’ve often tried to explain to people, including fellow libertarians, is that libertarianism is itself little more than a humanistic philosophy; its politicized form is relatively new, and we are still scrambling to find a mainstream identity that can be taken seriously as a viable political party in America and across the world.
Unfortunately, this scrambling is not leading to assembly. In fact, it’s tearing the party apart. As activist-minded libertarians we must realize that we are not, in fact, activists. We merely play-act as if we are. We wear the suits, form the chapters, get the delegates, run for the offices, locally and federally, and we claim whatever famous faces we can as our own – all in an effort to ingratiate the public and validate ourselves in the most shallow of ways. We are good at donning veneers, but beneath the stoic exterior we are a heterogeneous bunch, indeed.
As a philosophy, libertarianism is gaining ground in politics. We have Republicans and Democrats in Washington right now who espouse libertarian positions – not a lot, but some. And some are better than none. I submit that this moderately successful infiltration of mainstream politics is due to the fact that the vessels being utilized are already existing political factions that the public already knows. Familiarity is the covert libertarian’s ally, while completely re-branding oneself for mass consumption is much more of a play-it-by-ear, precarious process. The Libertarian Party has been struggling with this issue for a long time because its own members frankly can’t even agree on something as basic and fundamental as the Non-Aggression Principle, much less the nuanced details of foreign policy. This is a party that once had cannibalism as part of its official platform because the debate was apparently so tumultuous that it was even something worth considering at the time.
The most recent example of this internal indecisiveness is the 2016 LP presidential race. While there are several officially declared candidates running for the nomination this year, I’m only going to discuss the three that really matter – Gary Johnson, Austin Petersen, and John McAfee, who in that order have consistently polled as the top three choices for the voting members of the party. Why focus so much on these three? Because their fan bases hate each other’s guts.
I have had the misfortune of getting wrapped up in the midst of the Petersen-Johnson camps’ squabbling online a few times now, and haven’t seen such immature dick-measuring since my horrid, suicide-attempt-inducing high school days. And worst of all, some of the biggest perpetrators of this nonsense mudslinging and fib-telling are people who are actively involved in the future of the party itself – delegates, journalists, the candidates themselves, no one is free of guilt in this unholy, unbecoming cluster-fuck of a party.
Why is this important to speak up against? Well it should be obvious, but the LP is not a mainstream political party. Therefore it cannot afford to be as inwardly contentious as it currently is. The first step to becoming a relevant party in the U.S. should be reaching solidarity and standing strong in the eyes of the onlookers. Instead, what people are seeing is elitist in-fighting and holier-than-thou ostracizing that should make any true lover of freedom’s stomach churn. As far as I can see, the battle is over before it’s even begun for the LP, and its prospects will always be damned and undermined by its own members as long as this inability to band together and exude strength continues.
Why do people hate libertarians? I would wager the current state of the Libertarian Party serves as a wonderfully awful, potent example.
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