Tag Archives: libertarian fringe

Paging All Libertarians

21 May

The beauty of libertarianism as a political ideology is that just like a time share property pitch, a lot of the initial talking points sound really great.  Free markets, legalized drugs, an end to foreign wars, etc.  It’s romantic in its belief in the invisible hand of the market, self-determination and appeals to the better instincts of humanity that if just left alone, we’ll all act in a manner which benefits everyone.

However, when libertarians are put in a position to defend the practicality of their ideology in the context of the real world, most reasonable people rapidly come to conclusion that libertarians are either batshit crazy or willfully stupid.

For example, meet Rand Paul, Republican nominee for the United States Senate from the great state of Kentucky.

Rand Paul, as many of you know, is the son of Tea Party icon and idol to the libertarian fringe, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).  The younger Paul posted an overwhelming victory over the RNC endorsed candidate in the Republican primary earlier this week.  Shortly after his victory and emergence onto the national scene, Paul appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss comments he made to the Louisville Courier-Journal prior to the primary election.

Essentially, Paul states that he would not have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Title II of the act mandates that private businesses that provide/maintain public accommodations be forced to adhere to equal protection provisions.  Paul maintains this provision of the act violates private property rights.  He also states that he would not have supported the Americans with Disabilities Act as Title III of the act mandates that all private businesses with public accommodations make their places of business accessible to people with disabilities.  He alleges that this also violates property rights.

In the interview, Paul states that he supports all other provisions of the act and I believe him.  He states that mandates on institutionalized racism and discrimination can and should be legislated out of existence, but the implication is that private businesses should be allowed to post a “Whites Only” or “No Cripples Welcome Here” sign in their front window.  Property rights are the holy grail of the libertarian movement, they shan’t be violated or restricted in any way.  The mistake in this debate is casting Paul a racist, full stop.  While property rights were used frequently by segregationists in the south during the fight for civil rights, I’m not sure it’s that simple an issue here.  Paul and the worldview he supports is not about race, it’s about property rights and a philosophical, non-reality based ideology.  In other words, he’s just a libertarian.

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After the ensuing blowup of negative publicity for his campaign began today, Rand Paul eventually backed off his statements and said he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act and supports the Federal Government right to regulate private business.  As noted by Talking Points Memo, here’s the timeline of the whole scandal:

So, by our reckoning, here’s Paul’s progression on the issue over the past 24 hours:

  • Paul on Maddow, circa 9 p.m. Wednesday: I don’t agree with the Civil Rights Act, but I don’t believe in racism.
  • Paul statement, noon Thursday: I wouldn’t support repealing the law.
  • Paul campaign statement, 2 p.m. Thursday: I support the law and the government’s power to enforce it.
  • Paul on CNN, 5 p.m. Thursday: “I would have voted yes” for the law. “There was a need for federal intervention.”

As an aside, Rachel Maddow is one hell of a journalist.  She did what no other broadcast journalist does…stayed with one topic, tried to force an issue and get an answer to a question that matters…respectfully and intelligently.  She allows her guests to talk, but she never lets them off the hook.  It’s compelling television.

I digress…

The interview and the emerging candidacy of Rand Paul brings several issues into the light of day.  Should we not have a full vetting of the Libertarian agenda as a means to identify whether or not it has any chance of ever being adopted as anything other than a sideshow in our political circus?  As a means to separate the nutty fringe wheat from the christian conservative chaff in the oft-discussed and analyzed tea party movement?  Should we not fully educate people on where these people stand on issues of import?

So, here is a short list of questions for the local chapter of the Libertarian Dogmatics over at Political Class Dismissed and Tea New York.  Yes or No answers are preferred, but I know I won’t get them, if they bother to answer at all.

Questions cribbed from Ezra Klein of The Washington Post with some additional flourishes by me:

Can the federal government set the private sector’s minimum wage?

Can it tell private businesses not to hire illegal immigrants?

Can it tell oil companies what safety systems to build into an offshore drilling platform?

Can it tell toy companies to test for lead?

Can it tell liquor stores not to sell to minors?

Do you support the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, full stop?

Do you think banks should be allowed to choose to not lend to blacks, hispanics, jews, or gays based on identity?

Can local governments set building codes for construction companies?

Can local governments set zoning regulations to regulate the location of commercial properties or private residences?

If anyone else has questions, feel free to add them in the comments section.

The Libertarian Mob

14 May

The libertarian mob...

Welcome to the new populism, centered on the politics of “leave me alone”…

A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets.

Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a more concise interpretation of the libertarian movement in America.  Sure, there are certainly exceptions to the above, some true believers, some not, but the point is that the Tea Party movement is a coalescing of divergent ideologies under the umbrella of selfishness.  A romantic embrace of willful ignorance and purposeful stupidity as well as a rejection of collectivism.  These aren’t the Cato libertarians, these are the people who are read the paraphrased headlines from the Cato Institute by their local petty talk show tyrant…who is most likely an under-educated closet case with a fear complex.

Today’s conservatives prefer the company of anti-intellectuals who know how to exploit nonintellectuals, as Sarah Palin does so masterfully. The dumbing-down they have long lamented in our schools they are now bringing to our politics, and they will drag everyone and everything along with them. As David Frum, one of the remaining lucid conservatives, has written to his wayward comrades, “When you argue stupid, you campaign stupid. When you campaign stupid, you win stupid. And when you win stupid, you govern stupid.”

The irony of it all is that this movement is being gamed as a collective by a collective which seeks to achieve a political end.  The upper echelons of the “conservative movement” foment the anger of this movement to achieve greater political influence (FreedomWorks), empower agendas (right wing politicians) and achieve profits in the media (Fox News/Murdoch/Ailes).

The conservative media did not create the Tea Party movement and do not direct it; nobody does. But the movement’s rapid growth and popularity are unthinkable without the demagogues’ new ability to tell isolated individuals worried about their futures what they want to hear and put them in direct contact with one another, bypassing the parties and other mediating institutions our democracy depends on. When the new Jacobins turn on their televisions they do not tune in to the PBS News Hour or C-Span to hear economists and congressmen debate the effectiveness of financial regulations or health care reform. They look for shows that laud their common sense, then recite to them the libertarian credo that Fox emblazons on its home page nearly every day: YOU DECIDE.

I agree with the author that this iteration of the tea party movement will not have a seismic effect on the 2010 elections, but I do think the philosophy of this movement will only grow in strength into other areas of our lives and continue to manifest itself in our politics…at least until enough baby boomers die to water down the effect of this movement.

Now an angry group of Americans wants to be freer still—free from government agencies that protect their health, wealth, and well-being; free from problems and policies too difficult to understand; free from parties and coalitions; free from experts who think they know better than they do; free from politicians who don’t talk or look like they do (and Barack Obama certainly doesn’t). They want to say what they have to say without fear of contradiction, and then hear someone on television tell them they’re right. They don’t want the rule of the people, though that’s what they say. They want to be people without rules—and, who knows, they may succeed.

That sort of uninformed and angry rejection of “E pluribus unum” is a danger to the republic.  And it is serious.

The Tea Party People

23 Apr

There have been several efforts made in recent weeks to figure out who exactly makes up the tea party constituency.  With all the studies and polls and demographic research happening, you’d think we stumbled across a rare species of two headed turtles or the mysterious and never-before-photographed pipsquack bird.

Previous polls have been conducted traditionally with phone banks and surveys.  However, the tea party is primarily organized online and it makes sense to measure activity online.  If for nothing else to sample the data in a new way.  And not with some easily manipulated online poll, either.

PBS has conducted an exhaustive online search of tea party directories, Facebook pages, and other social networks to measure the location of most tea party members.  The results are not scientific, but they are pretty interesting.

First, here is the map drawn from the total number of active tea party participants in the country, broken out by county.  Areas shaded in green are those with the higher concentrations of tea party members.

Next up is a sampling of tea party participants per 10,000 residents in any given county.  For every 10,000 people in Erie County, 2 people are actively involved in the tea party.  Careful, one might be right behind you!

The darkest areas indicate the “highest” level of participation with 10 in 10,000 residents being registered or active online.  If this is a movement, I think Dale Volker has had larger ones during his morning grumpy.

What is pretty clear from this sampling is that the primary centers of the tea party are in boom town counties which suffered the greatest hits during the housing crash and recession.  The other data point of note is that the areas with the highest concentration of tea party membership appear to be very solid republican counties in red states.  I know, I’m shocked as well.

Aside from all of this ongoing research and demography, there is pretty clear evidence that the tea party movement isn’t anything especially new.  It is a loose confederation of right wing citizens.  Traditional “Ron Paul” libertarians (who have been singing this song for years on the margins of American politics) make up the original core of the movement.

However, after Sarah Palin scared most of the fearful neo-cons that the Islamofascistsocialist black man was coming to take their guns and liberty, those traditional libertarians now have company.  The neo-conservative, Christian base has decided to bully their way into the Thomas Jefferson tent at oppressedwhitemanteapartypalooza.

Tea Party supporters are likely to be older, white and male. Forty percent are age 55 and over, compared with 32 percent of all poll respondents; just 22 percent are under the age of 35, 79 percent are white, and 61 percent are men. Many are also Christian fundamentalists, with 44 percent identifying themselves as “born-again,” compared with 33 percent of all respondents.

Shorter version of the above story, McCain voters make up the majority of tea party participants.  The same people who cheered on Sarah Palin at rallies in 2008, watched Sean Hannity’s nightly expose on Jermeiah Wright, and told John McCain that Obama was a muslim, etc. are all loyal members of this new “movement”.  It’s not a movement.  It’s the same old Republican base with new and improved packaging, tri-cornered hats and a crippling lack of irony.

What makes it a political force is that they have one of the world’s largest media companies promoting their agenda on America’s top cable news network, in The Wall Street Journal, in The New York Post and on the top syndicated radio programs and widely read websites like Drudge, Breitbart, Fox properties, etc..  Because they have control of such a significant stake of U.S. media, they are driving the conversation on other networks and outlets.  Fomenting the anger and fear as far and wide as possible that the black man and his merry band of half-assed socialists are coming for your freedom.

Now that anger over the healthcare reform bill is dying down, the economy is slowly improving and infighting amongst the loose libertarian/Ne0-Con tea party groups is beginning, will they be a force in November?  Can their media machine sustain the roar of last summer and this spring?

I suspect they will be…a force for Republicans to deal with in the primaries.  They’ll slice off votes from moderate Republicans, challenge long time incumbents and generally pull the larger party to the right.  See, Paladino, Carl.

When the tea party fringe is introduced to the rest of society and a wider demographic base of voters that is gradually shifting younger, more diverse and better educated…their platform will go over like Paladino’s horse porn in church.

If Democrats can play to the central themes and appeal to centrists and moderates, I suspect Officer Barbrady might have the best advice on how to deal with the tea party “movement”.

Disorganized Reform

29 May

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Perhaps it is a reflection of the massive dysfunction of state government that efforts to reform it are as disorganized and dysfunctional as the entity itself.  Take for instance, Leonard Roberto’s group, Primary Challenge.

What started as a grassroots effort to get fresh faces into government with a shared resource pool for candidates who sought to challenge incumbents in primary elections has changed drastically.  First it morphed into a support team for Len’s various efforts to get elected and has now become an effort to abolish New York State Government.  Earlier this month, Primary Challenge held a press conference to announce Project 2010.

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In the event you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the money quote:

As a part of Project 2010 Primary Challenge will sponsor and support a citizen referendum to abolish New York State’s government and institute a new government under a new constitution. The new constitution must include stronger and lasting safeguards of our liberty and prevent the centralization of power into the hands of a small and corrupt body.

Throughout the speech, we are treated with similar language used at the tea party protests in April.  Lots of liberty buzzwords, references to our forefathers and the Declaration of Independence.  Roberto dreams of having armed officers escort our current legislators from their chambers, never to return again.  Problem is, Len is going to need 4.7MM citizens to vote to abolish state government.  That’s a tall order.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown more cynical about politics and I’ve also become more of an absolutist than someone willing to wait for incremental change.  However, I know when an idea is dead on arrival, and this one is.  Why?  First of all, it’s buried in libertarian bullshit which turns me off from jump street and it just seems disorganized with a low likelihood of success.  It also seems to lack unity with the other “reform” groups.

Primary Challenge had some momentum when it was a mildly non-partisan group with designs on reforming government.  Over the course of one year, the group split into warring camps of Republicans and Libertarians who couldn’t seem to agree on an agenda.  Lots of egos and nonsense which put them on a train of 11AM appearances on Tom Bauerle’s radio show and general irrelevance.

We’ve now seen Rus Thompson start his own reform initiative with Carl Paladino called Tea New York which kicked off the reform season by calling for the head of State Senator Bill Stachowski on a silver platter.  Of course, there were no similar calls for the resignation of do-nothing career hacks like Dale Volker or George Maziarz.  I think most people will agree that Stachowski is a waste of legislative space, but at least be intellectually honest enough to call a spade a spade and ask for the resignations of people on the Republican side of the house as well.

You’ve got the ponderous Free New York with their constant libertarian drumbeat and links to Ludwig Von Mises and their steady request for money to study shit we all know is broken.  As usual, most people are cool with the idea of being a libertarian until they read the fucking platform and/or spend more than 30 seconds being scolded by one of the condescending adherents to the ideology.

Then you’ve got ReformNYS, a loose conflagration of unaffiliated quasi-libertarians and fringe Republicans who don’t have a website but have a rollicking mailing list.

So, with all of that as a backdrop, Len Roberto has less than 12 months to unite these disparate factions behind his cause and attract 4,699,850 additional people to sign on to his quest to abolish state government.  So, how’s that working out for him so far?  Yeah, not so good.

In the style of the American Revolution, a small group of people from all over Erie County got together Tuesday night in a City of Tonawanda bar to plan a coup.

The organizer’s goal: To oust New York state government and start over from scratch.

Leonard A. Roberto, founder of Primary Challenge, is hoping to get 4.7 million New York voters to cast a ballot next year to abolish state government. Before a crowd of 11 people in the back room of Gene’s Junkyard Bar and Grill, Roberto tried to make that goal look not only attainable, but essential.

Now, this post has been full of snark, but I applaud Len for trying to do something to fix state government.  However, I criticize because I care.  Your message is off and you’re ideas are too fringe to gain wide acceptance.  You need to drop the liberty speak, stop talking like a fresh graduate of the Cato Institute and get back to basics.  Talk to people, don’t scold them.  Build a big tent, listen to the concerns of the people and break down the issues into simple blocks of information that are divorced from ideology.  Once you do that, you might get people to work with you.  Until then, you’ll be yelling “fire” into an empty theater.  Good luck with all of that.