The Unbearable Lightness of Being Libertarian - By Emiliano Antunez -Price of Liberty
The Unbearable Lightness of Being Libertarian
By Emiliano Antunez

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November 09, 2004

The 2004 presidential election has now been history for a week, but the spinning of its results will be present at least until the next one. Republicans harp on the record number of popular votes received by the President, while failing to mention the record turnout and the closeness of the race percentage wise. Democrats point to the close race in Ohio, while ignoring the fact that their candidate lost by over 3 million popular votes nationally. The Libertarian presidential candidate received a meager 379,000 votes nationwide but his camp was not above providing its own spun interpretation of the results.

The spin came hard and fast Badnarick's vote totals beat that of all "third" parties combined." With one exception Badnarick was bested by Ralph Nader by 17,000 votes. Ralph Nader was only on the ballot on 35 states while Badnarik was on the ballots in 48 states and DC. The numbers don't lie (If they are authentic), the fact is that Nader is more apt to attract votes than the candidate chosen by Libertarians at the national convention. Beating the other third parties combined (conveniently excluding Nader) means nothing electorally, especially when you receive over 100 million votes less than the two major parties combined.

Badnarik got fewer votes than Harry Browne did in 2000, this in spite of the fact more people voted in 2004 than in 2000. Harry Browne's campaigns of 1996 or 2000 should not be the standard, nor should Murrou's in 1992 nor the 1988 campaign of Ron Paul. The highest vote total as a percentage of the vote for a Libertarian presidential candidate was Ed Clark in 1980. Ed Clark recieved over 921,000 popular votes which amounted to 1.1%, over the last 24 years no Libertarian Presidential candidate has even come close to those numbers (The Closest was Harry Browne 1996 with 485,000 votes). The 1980 Presidential campaign should be the standard by which Libertarian campaigns are measured, these being the facts the 2004 campaign like many before it has been a politically abysmal failures by any standard.

In the day's before the November 2nd 2004 election the Badnarik campaign was busy trying to reach its campaign fund raising goal of $1 Million. To an individual this may sound like a lot of money, but in politics to put it bluntly its peanuts. To put things in perspective the winning candidate in the City of Miami elections of 2001 raised $1.2 Million, one of the candidates for Mayor of Miami-Dade County in 2004 raised $1.8 Million (and lost), keep in mind that these are municipal races. Though touted as some lofty goal $1 million raised for a national campaign is not even a drop in the proverbial bucket.

There are four basic elements that are necessary in order to have any chance of winning an election. These elements are a "good" candidate, money (enough to buy respectable amount of media), a political machine, and a short and catchy message. Having these elements will not guarantee victory, but will earn the campaign viability and respectability (and scare the pants off the opposition). In the real world you will not get respect or attention from voters or the media if your campaign does not posses at least three of these elements.

The arguments for and against celebrity candidates has been discussed within the Libertarian Party for quite some time. Detractors rightfully point at the implosions of the Reform and Green parties after the departures of Perot and Nader. But this does not mean that in all cases a celebrity candidate will harm a small party (perhaps the third time is the charm).

The Libertarian Party is better organized than both the Reform and the Green both at a national and local level. The Libertarian Party has a few locally elected officials and runs more candidates in every cycle than any other "third" party. A celebrity candidate, if used wisely, could stump along with our local candidates giving their campaigns a boost. Needless to say we'd get a lot more (sorely needed) media attention. If a candidate is arrested and no one covers it does it really matter as far as electoral politics are concerned? The events of 2004 answer this unequivocally. The question that remains to be answered is, will any celebrity candidate take a chance with the Libertarian Party after its "macho flash" convention of 2004?

There has been some very modest and measured success locally, but to call it more than that would be delusional. These successes should not be heralded as some feat unknown to man, but treated with modesty and looked at as what they truly are, stepping stones to higher office. Those who attain these seats should do something that comes hard to most Libertarians, behave like politicians. If the objective is to win an election, then sacrifices must be made. Will those sacrifices be worth it? Will they necesarily compromise the party's pronciples? These determinations will have to be made, when and if the moment arrives.

The idea is not to abandon the fight (or sell out to the major paties), but to look at our position in a realistic light (without spin) and determine our course of action from that point on. We should stop chasing political windmills or looking at our party through rose colored glasses. The work on the 2006 and 2008 elections begins now, and the firmer implanted the party is in the realities of politics, the more success it will enjoy in those elections. If the Libertarian Party (through its members) does not come to the realization of the political facts, it and its members will be eternally damned to an insignificant political existence.

Visit Emiliano's own site.


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