A Choice in November

Clueless GOP consultants Tony Fabrizio and Dave Carney tell Politico (referring to Ron Paul’s 16 percent showing in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary):

“A large portion of those Ron Paul supporters are anti-Bush, anti-war Republicans,” he said. “They’ll wind up back with McCain because, while they may disagree on the war or be mad at Bush, the prospect of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is more frightening.”

And, as Carney notes, there is no Paul-like third-party candidate around whom they can rally and vent their frustrations.

Politco’s Jonathan Martin notes that that might not be true if Bob Barr gets the Libertarian Party’s nomination. But it won’t be true even if Barr doesn’t get the LP nod, because Chuck Baldwin, who endorsed Paul in the Republican primaries, has now won the Constitution Party’s nomination. Baldwin, who is socially conservative, antiwar, for drastically smaller government (asked at the Constitution Party convention what his first executive order as president would be, he said he would first repeal almost all the executive orders going back to Reagan), and against federal snooping on American citizens. The rightist part of the Ron Paul movement might find him a very attractive candidate indeed.

In small ways, the 2008 election is starting to look up. There’s the prospect that my ballot in Virginia might have at least two candidates I can support: Baldwin and Barr. Neither is perfect. And between them, I’m not sure which is better: Baldwin is more radically conservative and anti-statist, as far as I can tell, which commends him. In Barr’s favor, I’d rather vote for a Libertarian Party candidate than a Constitution Party candidate. I attended the CP’s 2000 convention in St. Louis and wasn’t very impressed by the proceedings. A brawl almost broke out at one session between Catholics and Protestants baiting one another about who had persecuted whom more violently throughout history. (Catholics attributed anti-clerical violence in the Mexican Revolution to Protestantism — improbably enough — while Protestants shot back with equally poorly informed accusations about the Inquisition. A gathering of professional historians this was not.) Convention sessions juxtaposed a speaker who wanted to stone homosexuals next to a speaker who had survived being aborted. Disgust and sympathy don’t make a pleasant emotional cocktail. The party didn’t exactly win any points with me in 2004 either, when it nominated for president a man who had given his wife’s children away to be raised by the state of Maryland. (His wife insists that turning her daughters into wards of the state was her idea. Either way, the story belongs on Jerry Springer — or Phil Donahue, where in fact it did appear — not on the resume of a “family values” candidate.)

On the other hand, LP presidential contender and mooted vice presidential prospect Mary Ruwart is a defender of consensual kiddie porn. If she’s on the ticket, I won’t be voting for the Libertarians. I’m fairly sure neither Barr nor Wayne Allan Root, the other top LP presidential candidate, would have someone with those views on their ticket. I hope.

And of course, Obama is better than McCain by far. I’d like to see him clobber McCain in November. So assuming these third parties qualify for the ballot in Virginia, I’ll have several choices in this presidential election. That’s an unaccustomed circumstance for me, and it feels kind of good. Now if only a third party will nominate someone decent for the Virginia Senate race…


About That Gravelanche…

Richard Spencer has a reaction to it up at Taki’s Magazine. I still think that the true believers in the LP will prevent Gravel from getting the nomination. But Gravel may be the second coming of Russell Means, the Indian-rights activist who was Ron Paul’s rival for the LP’s 1988 nomination. Means was also a fashionably outre lefty with questionable libertarian credentials. But he came rather close to getting the nomination. In fact, if he weren’t running against a serious contender like Paul, he would have won the nomination easily. So perhaps Gravel will do better than I expect.

I’m inclined to vote Libertarian in November no matter who they nominate. Gravel’s entry into the race might actually help Bob Barr if Barr decides to run. The main obstacle Barr would have faced were Gravel not in the race would have been questions about his libertarian orthodoxy — Barr was a drug warrior in Congress, after all, and also voted for the Patriot Act that he now campaigns against. Gravel might make Barr look more orthodox by contrast.

Apropos of nothing in particular, I feel like mentioning that one of the few flaws of Brian Doherty’s otherwise nigh comprehensive history of the libertarian movement, Radicals for Capitalism, is that it contains very little about the 1988 LP nomination fight, even though that fight and the bad blood that followed it had monumental consequences, spurring Murray Rothbard to break with the party and seek allies on the Buchananite Right instead. The present configuration of libertarianism, with a sharp division between the Beltway libertarians and Rothbard-inspired institutions like the Ludwig von Mises Institute, owes a great deal to the fallout from the 1988 race.

And apropos of everything, here’s David Weigel’s coverage at Reason of the Gravelanche (which I think David christened).

Update: Am I selling Means short?  His libertarian credentials were better than Gravel’s, at any rate.

Mike Gravel, Big-L Libertarian?

With his national health care plan and other big-government commitments, Mike Gravel is no small-l libertarian. But he’s seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination, which will be decided at the party’s national convention, May 22-26. Gravel has a chance, since there’s sure to be a contingent in the LP that would like to have a prominent candidate, but he’s going to need to retool his positions on quite a few issues to win over a majority of delegates. Also, as obscure as some of the current contenders for the LP nomination may be, Gravel is obviously not a name to conjure with himself, even if he is a former U.S. senator.

Still, it makes a for a livelier political scene. And Lord knows Gravel would be better than Clinton, Obama, or McCain.

Missouri GOP Cheats Ron Paul

I’m a native of Missouri and went to college at Washington University in St. Louis, where I was involved in the College Republicans. For a time, I was secretary of the Missouri Federation of College Republicans, too. So I know how things work in the Missouri GOP, and I know that there are some utterly corrupt people in it. I wasn’t surprised when Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, decided he wouldn’t be running for re-election. He’s a rotten egg.

Needless to say, the establishment in the Missouri Republican Party doesn’t like the idea of Ron Paul Republicans coming in and getting elected as delegates to the state convention. Ron Paul supporters won fair and square in the Show Me state’s recent caucuses, but the crooks infesting the party don’t want to accept the result, and they’re trying to disqualify the Ron Paul delegates. Here’s the Paul campaign’s press release on what’s going on:

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – The Ron Paul campaign has been receiving reports that Missouri GOP rules have been violated in the set-up and execution of several county Republican caucuses. Ron Paul supporters in Missouri have been attending their county caucuses and electing Ron Paul delegates to be seated at the Missouri Republican State Convention. However, there are concerns that many Ron Paul delegates to the Missouri Republican State Convention were disenfranchised and not properly seated.

On Thursday, March 20, campaign field director Debbie Hopper visited the Missouri state GOP headquarters to request a copy of the records needed to obtain the information to file challenges. She was told in front of witnesses that she could not view the report. To obtain the needed information, Ms. Hopper then used the contact information of county chairs listed on the state GOP website. On Saturday, March 22, the webpage containing their contact information had been removed.

The Paul campaign believes that a handful of GOP officials are playing machine politics and breaking their own rules to disenfranchise Paul supporters.

“The Republican party is in trouble and needs more participants in 2008, not less,” said campaign manger Lew Moore. “It makes no sense for Missouri party leaders to exclude and marginalize the new activists they badly need to work at every level this fall.”

Republican presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s supporters have been highly successful in several Missouri counties. In St. Charles County (suburb of St. Louis), Paul supporters filled 241 of the 274 country Republican delegate slots. In Jackson County (Kansas City), Paul supporters filled 162 of 187 delegate slots. And in Greene County (Springfield), Paul supporters filled 72 of 112 delegate slots.

The Right Choice for November?

Tying in somewhat with the discussion of Jim Webb below, here’s Andrew Bacevich’s conservative case for Barack Obama.

I’m not going to join the Obamacons — 2008 seems like a good year to vote third-party — but I’m rooting for Obama against Clinton and McCain.

Postscript: There’s one more round of Webb blogging here.

The Republican Collapse

The Washington Post collates the data on the latest Republican losses and scandals: Democrat Bill Foster’s win over Republican Jim Oberweis last week in the race to succeeded Denny Hastert (in a supposedly safe Republican district); recruiting failures in Senate races in Arkansas (where Democrat Sen. Mark Pryor will now be uncontested in November) and South Dakota; and an embezzlement scandal in the National Republican Congressional Committee. All that tops off some dreadful fundamentals for the GOP, which retiring Republican Rep. Tom Davis and analyst Stuart Rothenberg describe:

“It’s no mystery,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.). “You have a very unhappy electorate, which is no surprise, with oil at $108 a barrel, stocks down a few thousand points, a war in Iraq with no end in sight and a president who is still very, very unpopular. He’s just killed the Republican brand.”

Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan analyst of congressional politics, said: “The math is against them. The environment is against them. The money is against them. This is one of those cycles that if you’re a Republican strategist, you just want to go into the bomb shelter.”

In the face of all this, the Republican establishment keeps on doing what it’s been doing — and we can be sure it’s going to keep on losing. Bush is on the way out — and in his place the GOP regulars are giving us John McCain, who is worse than Bush in just about every way, particularly on the pressing issues of immigration (where Bush alienated the Right) and the war (where Bush alienated the country). In the House, most of the same cast of characters who who led the party to defeat in 2006, including minority leader John Boehner and minority whip Roy Blunt, are still in charge. In the Senate, the GOP looks set to lose several more seats this year, and there’s seems to be as much chance that the Democrats will emerge from 2008 with a filibuster-proof supermajority as there was that the Democrats would win control of the Senate in 2006. Everything would have to fall into place for the Dems to get a 60-seat supermajority; but the way the GOP is going, I’d say the Dems have about a 50 percent shot at it.

Establishment Republicans might take some comfort from national polls showing John McCain ahead of Barack Obama and narrowly behind Hillary Clinton and Pennsylvania and Ohio polls showing McCain beating either Democratic candidate. But that’s a false hope: the Republicans’ recent record in Pennsylvania, which they lost at the presidential level in ’04 and ’00 and at the gubernatorial and senate levels in ’06, suggests to me that when the rubber hits the road the state will stay blue, regardless of which Democrat wins the nomination. McCain’s margins in traditionally Republican Ohio (where the GOP has been in precipitous decline in recent years), meanwhile, shouldn’t reassure the GOP too much. If Ohio had flipped in 2004, Kerry would be president. It’s on the knife’s edge again this year, in a national and local climate far less favorable to Republicans.

On March 14, WaPo‘s Chris Cillizza looked at the ten states most likely to flip in the 2008 presidential election: only two of the top ten — New Hampshire and Minnesota — are blue states.

I hate to say it, because the Republicans certainly haven’t done anything to merit voting for them, but unitary Democratic government might be so bad that we’ll look back fondly on the days of unitary Republican government. I don’t say that lightly. But the Democrats aren’t likely to run a much less interventionist foreign policy; they’ll raise taxes; they’ll add to the coercive powers of unions through cardcheck legislation; they’ll not only keep abortion legal but also subsidize it out the taxpayers’ pockets; and they’ll pursue a whole host of other fundamentally wicked policies. And somehow I doubt we’ll be getting back any of the civil liberties we lost during the Bush years.

The silver lining in all of this is the hope that at some point the Republicans will be so desperate to survive that they’ll embrace the only element in the party that has real energy and momentum — the burgeoning movement of Ron Paul Republicans. Actually, I don’t think there’s any chance the Republicans will embrace the Ron Paul movement, but I think there’s a pretty good chance the Paul movement will reshape the party whether the regulars like it or not. That’s what it’s going to take to give the country an alternative to the welfare-warfare statism that keeps getting worse and worse. The Republicans as they’re now constituted provide no alternative at all, and they’re paying a price for it.


A few weeks ago there the media was all aflutter about “Obamacans,” Republicans for Obama. It didn’t seem like anything to get worked up about to me. But now we’re seeing not just Republicans for Obama, but actual conservatives for Obama — “Obamacons” rather than “Obamacans.” Justin Raimondo is one of them. Jeffrey Hart is another. A third will be featured in the upcoming issue (March 24) of The American Conservative.

I have to say, I’m tempted. Obama’s health care plan, though not something I can support, is a whole lot less awful than Hillary Clinton’s plan. And Obama’s foreign policy easily beats Clinton’s and John McCain’s. Obama at least might get the troops out of Iraq someday. 2008 still looks like a good year to cast a ballot for a principled but screwball third-party candidate — I’ve never voted Green before, so maybe I should look at Nader, though I’m more inclined to vote Libertarian or Constitution Party. But I’ll kick around in my head the idea of supporting Obama.

And just to show how scrambled the political spectrum become in American politics, there’s this op-ed by George McGovern — “Acid, Amnesty, and Abortion” McGovern — in the Wall Street Journal. McGovern sounds surprisingly libertarian:

Under the guise of protecting us from ourselves, the right and the left are becoming ever more aggressive in regulating behavior. Much paternalist scrutiny has recently centered on personal economics, including calls to regulate subprime mortgages.

Bill Kauffman has made the conservative case for McGovern before, and there’s more in Kauffman’s forthcoming book, Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism. McGovern and Obama are not conservatives or libertarians. But next to the Nixons, Bushes, and McCains that the Republican Party has produced, these lefties start to look passably good.

Paul Beats Romney and Giuliani in Early Voting

From AOL News:

In a northern New Hampshire hamlet tradition, voters of Dixville Notch and Hart’s Location cast the first 46 ballots of the primary season – half for Democrats and half for Republicans – at midnight, hours before polls opened statewide at 6 a.m. EST. Polls close at 8 p.m.

Combined results from the two spots showed Obama with 16 votes, Clinton 3, John Edwards 3 and Bill Richardson 1. On the Republican side, McCain received 10 votes, Mike Huckabee 5, Ron Paul 4, Romney 3 and Rudy Giuliani 1.

Note that there’s an on-line poll embedded in the AOL story, and so far it under-represents Paul’s support. So cast a vote while you read the story.

P.S. My old American Conservative colleague Jim Antle predicts that Paul will beat Giuliani overall, too.   I concur.