As of yesterday afternoon, Bob Barr's Presidential campaign is effectively over. There were signs of serious trouble even before yesterday, but his “no-show” at Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty news conference — followed by an insulting suggestion that Ron should join Barr on the LP ticket in the VP slot — demonstrated just how out-of-touch the Barr campaign is, and how poor Barr's vote total is likely to be.
In earlier articles here on nolanchart.com I tried to give Barr every benefit of the doubt. I observed that in theory he should be one of the Libertarian Party's stronger Presidential candidates. I opined that while his pronouncements on the campaign trail were hardly hard-core libertarian, they were mostly to-the-point and well stated. I did not support him for the nomination, but I was more or less comfortable supporting him once he became the LP nominee.
There has been evidence all along that the Barr '08 campaign has been mismanaged. Ballot access drives were begun late, and conducted erratically. As of today, it appears that Barr's name will be on the ballot in 46 or 47 states. (Harry Browne appeared on 50 ballots in 1996 and 49 in 2000. Michael Badnarik made it onto 48 in 2004.) Barr has failed to achieve ballot status in West Virginia, due entirely to Shane Cory's ineptitude, and there are lawsuits pending in five states (LA, MA, ME, OK and PA) to determine whether Barr will be on the ballot.
Fundraising has also been a flop. As I write this, the fundraising “meter” on the Barr '08 website shows the total raised by the campaign at $881,500 — about $700,000 since the Denver nominating convention. That works out to about $6,400 a day or $200,000/month. In the days leading up to the nomination, Barr's people were throwing around numbers like $20 million. The reality is likely to be barely more than $1 million.
But all that would be beside the point if Bob Barr were campaigning proudly as a Libertarian and taking advantage of every opportunity to reach out to like-minded Americans.
Unfortunately, he's not. Following advice from his campaign manager, Russ Verney, Barr has avoided use of the “L” word wherever possible. There's a big empty space in the banner at the top of the Barr '08 website, where the word LIBERTARIAN could (and should) appear. It doesn't, despite several suggestions that this be remedied. Barr's campaign literature, signs and bumper stickers do not include the “L” word either. And a press release issued by the campaign earlier this week describes Barr as a “Former Congressman” with no mention of the Libertarian Party.
Clearly, Barr is not running as a Libertarian; he's running as an independent candidate: “Former Congressman Bob Barr.” Which may be just as well, given the way he's been behaving.
Yesterday, Congressman Ron Paul held a news conference to denounce the two-party duopoly. He invited four alternative candidates — Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader — to participate. Baldwin, McKinney and Nader showed up; Barr did not. Instead, he held a separate follow-up conference of his own at which he tooted his own horn and “invited” Ron Paul to be his running mate. This was insanely stupid, for several reasons. First, because Barr has no authority to unilaterally change running-mates. Second, because it's a insult to Ron Paul, who is far better known and more widely admired. (Reportedly, Ron Paul and his top people are furious.) And third, because even if Ron Paul accepted the invitation and the Libertarian National Committee approved the substitution, it is too late to make a substitution on most states' ballots.
For a description of what happened at the Campaign for Liberty press conference, see this Washington Post article.
Why has the Barr campaign has gone so badly awry? The simple answer is that the two men running it — Russ Verney and Shane Cory — are not Libertarians, do not understand what motivates Libertarian activists, and have no interest in building the LP. Verney is a gun-for-hire of no discernible ideology. Cory is a Republican who left his former job at LP headquarters in disgrace, after abusing his authority prior to the Denver convention. (Just today, Verney posted a Campaign Update on the Barr '08 website, praising George W. Bush for his “leadership” during the days following the 9/11 attacks seven years ago. Any true Libertarian would have instead pointed out that Bush has USED the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to erode our civil liberties!)
With these two running the campaign it will continue to embarrass Libertarians and waste our resources. Bob Barr will never qualify for inclusion in the phony “Presidential debates.” He will not get the 5% of the vote that would qualify the LP for future matching funds — which it should not accept in any case. Indeed, at this point it seems likely that Barr will not get even 1% of the popular vote. (Bettors on intrade.com are currently betting 2:1 against Barr receiving 1%.)
So what's a Libertarian to do?
First, accept that the fact that the Barr '08 campaign is effectively over. Don't waste any time or money supporting a campaign that avoids the “L” word, has demonstrated its incompetence time and again, and goes out of its way to insult friends and allies.
By all means, vote for Bob Barr in November. I plan to, and I urge every Libertarian to do likewise. Whatever vote Barr receives will be seen by most people as “the Libertarian vote” and we want that to be as high as possible. And if you want to campaign for Barr locally, then do so. Print up flyers, put up homemade campaign signs, etc. But do not, under any circumstances, send any money to the Barr '08 campaign. Most of the money will be wasted, and the rest will be spent muddying the waters about what genuine libertarianism is all about.
If you are inclined to contribute to a Libertarian campaign, send your money to someone who will make good use of it. Two examples are Mike Munger and Morey Straus.
If you are burned out on politics, but still want to support the battle for individual rights and liberty, send your money to an outfit like the Institute for Justice. Contribute to the local animal shelter. Or take your kids to the park and buy them ice cream. In sum, do something that will actually advance the cause of liberty or in some other way make your world a better place.Tweet