Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Crazy for Liberty displays Atlanta Constitution article about Libertarian Party

Crazy for Liberty The Libertarians, unlike the Republican and Democrat parties, actually take their platform seriously, rather than viewing it as a quadrennial exercise designed to throw red meat to the faithful then to be ignored for the following 47 months.

1 comment:

Mark Rauterkus said...

full article follows:

Bob Barr In the Atlanta Journal

Bob Barr On the Libertarian Party.
Bring on third-party relief

Published on: 09/06/06
If a visitor from another world were to arrive on terra firma and take a pop quiz on current events — but with party labels removed from all news stories, and armed only with descriptions of the Republican and Democrat parties as crafted by each party — it is highly doubtful they would correctly answer questions about which party has been in power the past several years.

In fact, that visitor would likely exhibit great difficulty discerning more than a hair's breadth of difference between the two parties.

The Libertarian Party held its national convention in Atlanta in 2004. A banner for Libertarian presidential candidate Aaron Russo, one of the top three for the party that year, expresses 'All your freedoms, all the time!'

Recent polls and focus group studies have indicated growing dissatisfaction with both major parties by many politically active Americans. At a time in which a self-described "conservative" Republican president has overseen a greater percentage increase in federal spending than President Lyndon B. Johnson did and in which the power of the federal government to invade citizens' privacy has risen to unprecedented levels, such results are hardly surprising.

Still the questions remain. Will it matter at election time? Can Americans be persuaded to cast votes based on something more than party label and habit? Will the next two years witness, at long last, the rise of a truly viable third party — not one molded in the image of a wealthy egotist but one based on meaningful and substantive ideas? Will the 35-year-old Libertarian Party finally prove itself a party truly concerned with winning elections as opposed to defiantly championing issues that will never fit the description "mainstream?"

If the new management of the Libertarian Party has anything to say about it, the answer to those questions will be a resounding "yes." Newly elected party Chairman Bill Redpath, a 48-year-old financial consultant from Virginia, along with Executive Director Shane Cory and their management team, are recasting the Libertarian Party in the mold of a real political party for the first time in more than a generation.

Actions taken at the Libertarian Party's national convention in July in Portland, Ore., show vividly how serious the Libertarians are about becoming a force in American politics.

Let's start with the party's newly adopted platform. The Libertarians, unlike the Republican and Democrat parties, actually take their platform seriously, rather than viewing it as a quadrennial exercise designed to throw red meat to the faithful then to be ignored for the following 47 months. In fact, the Libertarians in the past probably have been guilty of taking their platform too seriously. The pre-2006 platform was ponderous, to say the least — containing more than five dozen detailed planks. It read like a Robert Bork treatise — highly sophisticated and intelligently written, but excruciatingly difficult to wade through.

The new Libertarian Party platform is lean and mean. It has been pared to 15 planks from 61 — each organized clearly and explained succinctly. The platform captures the essence of the Libertarian Party credo — "smaller government, fewer taxes, more freedom" — but is very much a working document that provides flexibility for individual party members and adherents of the Libertarian philosophy, including those who prefer not to focus on non-mainstream issues that in the past were the overarching themes of the party.

Party leaders stress that the changes to the party's platform are more than cosmetic, and reflect a fundamental shift in the party's focus "from a debating society to a true political party interested in engaging in electoral politics." This perspective is seen also in the party's decision to devote resources to developing a working voter database and to conduct a series of marketing surveys to better direct its message.

Finally, the "new" Libertarian Party recognizes the bottom line really is to elect candidates, and it is serious about finding and actively supporting credible candidates.

The race to replace former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in the 22nd District of Texas presents the party with its best shot ever of capturing a seat in the Congress. DeLay won the March primary but then withdrew, and the courts have prohibited the Republicans from naming a replacement candidate. As a result, the only two candidates on the ballot will be Nick Lampson, a Democrat, and Bill Smither, a Libertarian. No GOP candidate's name will appear, though votes can be cast for write-in candidates. Write-in candidates hardly ever win elections, and in Texas there are no instances of one succeeding.

If Republicans can be convinced to cast votes for a strong conservative candidate, albeit one with a "Libertarian" label rather than an "R" following his name, instead of staying home or wasting votes on write-in candidates, the 110th Congress when it convenes in January may very well count among its members the first-ever Libertarian Party representative.

If that happens, then politics in America really will have entered a new and positive era.

• Former congressman and U.S. Attorney Bob Barr practices law in Atlanta. Web site: He spoke at the 2006 Libertarian Party National Convention in July in Portland, Ore.