By Nick Gillespie
Yes, let’s go ahead and suck it up: That guy, James Weeks II (his eponym must be so proud), who disrupted the Libertarian Party convention by stripping down to a thong while announcing his withdrawal from the chairmanship race, is an embarrassment to his party and the larger movement for which it stands.
Such antics, along with what Brian Doherty has rightly called a candidates debate packed with puerile questions better geared for a late-night college bull session, make it easy for conservatives and liberals to troll the LP and dismiss a serious challenge to the played-out politics of the Democrats and Republicans.
Here’s the latest version of that, via National Review‘s Ian Tuttle:
The Libertarian party is a reminder that no one truly grows out of Dungeons and Dragons. Around the Rosen Centre [in Orlando], there are lots of suits-with-sneakers and punk-rock hairstyles and impromptu chants of “Taxation is theft!” Organization-wise, it’s the political equivalent of the cantina scene from Star Wars. Since its founding in 1971, the Libertarian party has been a catchall for political misfits. “We’re weirdos,” says a Georgia delegate who has been in the party since 1972. “We’ve always been weirdos.” No offense, but no kidding. (And in a display of pure, untrammeled, glorious cosmic irony—enough to make me revise my disbelief in Fate—MegaCon, an annual gathering of 80,000 comic book fans, sci-fi cosplayers, fantasy-lovers, and gamers, is taking place over the same 48 hours, and at the very same Orlando hotel.)
And yet…lest we forget, it’s the Republican and Democratic parties that are imploding, with the former group split over a candidate who openly mocks handicapped people, has zero grasp of even the most basic policy issues, and calls for the forcible removal of 12 million (his count) illegal immigrants and their children (even if the kids are actually U.S. citizens).
And before “real conservatives” object that they are #NeverTrump, remember that Trump is saying exactly the same stuff they’ve been calling for over the past 30 years. Here’s the editors of National Review‘s “Against Trump” house editorial from late last year, which called Trump soft on immigration!:
Trump says he will put a big door in his beautiful wall, an implicit endorsement of the dismayingly conventional view that current levels of legal immigration are fine…
Trump piles on the absurdity by saying he would re-import many of the illegal immigrants once they had been deported, which makes his policy a poorly disguised amnesty…
The mind boggles that anyone belonging to an ideological movement or party that calls Trump a pushover on immigration has the temerity to mock Libertarians because they still dig Buffy the Vampire Slayer or something. Suits-with-sneakers! Getta load of this!
When it comes to the right wing, the elephant in the room isn’t that Trump somehow hijacked or stole the conservative movement and its causes. Rather, it’s that virtually everything he stands for is the fulfillment of precisely what Republicans and conservatives have demanded for decades, just with an added dose of crudeness and less fear of the gays. To the extent that his yammerings make any sense, we know Trump is anti-immigrant, bellicose when it comes foreign policy, and is obsessed with a backward-looking vision of “American greatness.” If he wants to keep Obama’s universal health insurance in place, then he’s what, like Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential candidate who was not only endorsed by National Review, but is constantly being pushed by The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol as a cure to what ails the GOP?
On the Democratic side of the aisle, things are just as sad, with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tripping over each other to denounce Uber, Airbnb, and other avatars of the sharing economy, which is a rare bright spot in a generally sluggish economy. Why? Because such “gig” jobs don’t come with the gold-plated benefits the GM offered during its protectionist heyday in the 1950s or something. Don’t you know that kids are going hungry because we have too many flavors of deodorant? Sanders, whose only play now is to Gillooly Clinton so much that she agrees to raise the minimum wage to $15 rather than her relatively measely $12 per hour. Clinton is a hawk’s hawk who, like Donald Trump (at the same time!) called for censorship of the internet because of Islamic terrorism.
At each next rally, she recites her resume lines more loudly for the simple reason that despite 25 years in the public eye, she has no discernible vision for the future of the country she so desperately wants to lead. Clinton is anti-trade and has been attacking NAFTA since 2008 or so, when she tried to outflank Barack Obama on the left. She calls Edward Snowden a traitor, has never met a surveillance program or secret presidential kill list she didn’t want to add a few names to, and has the most censorious history of anyone currently running for president. Seriously, look it up.
And yet…and yet, it’s the Libertarians who are a joke, because despite no funding and help from ballot-access laws and other schemes designed to silence alternative voices, they have somehow managed to nominate two successful, centrist former governors who believe in economic and cultural freedom, that the government is too big and expensive, that overseas interventions should be less frequent than they have been during the past 15 years, that school choice and reproductive choice and legalizing weed are good things…
Let’s stipulate that however silly Libertarians may be, and however much they might desperately want the future to feature only private sidewalks and for Soylent Green to be purchased exclusively with Bitcoin or Ethereum, they are not as batshit crazy and unhinged as Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the two parties and movements they represent. Yes, we libertarians (big L and small l) like comic books and science fiction and have people who show up at national conventions wearing boots on their heads and strip down to thongs and argue over whether such unannounced nudity contravenes the non-aggression principle. Dunno about you, but when I look at a future in which I can be hanging out with the likes of Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee or Elizabeth Warren and Anthony Weiner or with Vermin Supreme and James Weeks II, I’m happy to choose the latter pair every time.
I think it’s effectively impossible that Johnson and Weld will win in the fall, but that’s also not the real endgame here either. As I write in a new Daily Beast column, the important thing is to change the general direction in which politics is headed. To the extent that the two major parties are having problems, it’s because of who they are and what they represent. Each of the parties is still locked into a mind-set where its people should control large areas of your everyday life—how you do business, say, or whom you can marry. Those days are over for pragmatic reasons (thanks to technology, it’s easier than ever to route around government and just get on with your life) and to changes in belief systems (we really are a more live-and-let-live nation, thank god).
Politics is a lagging indicator of where America is headed as a country. For the past half-century or so, we’ve been trending to greater and greater freedom and possibilities of how to live our lives. We are more comfortable with choices about what to eat, whom to marry, where to live, how to learn, how to express our values through our work and social commitments, and so much more. There is a reason why our identification with the two major parties has been falling over that same time frame: The Republicans and Democrats exist only in yesterday’s America and fewer and fewer of us want much to do with such hollowed-visions that only 29 percent identify as Democrats and just 26 percent as Republicans.
Johnson and Weld and the Libertarians won’t win this time around. Even a post-Kardashian, post-body-shaming America isn’t quite ready for a striptease performed at a national convention.
But everything they stand for, and that the American people are demanding—more peace around the globe, more choice here at home, the ability to innovate and speak freely—will be absorbed either into both major parties, or by whatever replaces them.
So go ahead and make the Dungeons and Dragons jokes (remember when Al and Tipper Gore freaked out over that back in the 1980s, when they put two Prince songs on the Parents Music Resource Center’s “Filthy Fifteen”?), the Star Wars cantina band jokes, and drone on about how important it is that we make Uber more expensive or just it ban it outright and how we really need to bomb more countries because it’s all been working out so well and oh my god, don’t even get me started about the gays and the trans people taking over all the bathrooms…
You’re welcome to your own world, liberals and conservatives, but sooner or later (and whether you realize it or not), you’ll be living in a libertarian world that is freer, fairer, and more fun than ever.