How The Libertarian Party’s Partisan Politics Hurts Libertarianism

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If you speak to any political activist operating outside of the two-party mainstream, a common point mentioned is how party politics compromises principles. Republicans often sacrifice conservative principles to advance the party elite. Although individuals such as House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are considered leaders in the Republican Party, conservative activists generally do not consider them standard bearers of their cause. Case in point is the failure to legitimately repeal Obamacare.

The same is said for many liberals and progressives in terms of the Democratic Party. Instead of nominating someone more devout to their cause such as Senator Bernie Sanders, the party elite opted for Hillary Clinton, a mistake possibly responsible for Trump’s unexpected presidency. The Democratic Party seems more concerned with the party elite than advancing their principles.

So why would the Libertarian Party be any different?

Libertarian National Committee chairman Nicholas Sarwark has an active presence online, targeting individuals who stand at odds with his party. This is not unusual, as across the country, Republicans figuratively snipe at Democrats and vice versa. Even on that rare occasion there is common ground among both sides, partisanship always reigns supreme. It is a fact of life in today’s political climate.

But with the last election, the Libertarian Party sought to brand itself as the sane alternate to the madness of the two-party duopoly. The problem is that the party’s own chairman contradicts this own line of logic.

Sarwark has criticized libertarian icon, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul as well as his libertarian-leaning son Senator Rand Paul. More recently, he has taken aim at historian Tom Woods. The recurring theme is Sarwark’s love for hurling insults at non-Libertarians, even the ones that are simply unenrolled libertarians.

Is this healthy for the cause of liberty?

The liberty movement had a very brief moment of unity in 2012 when Ron Paul ran for President, but after that, the movement splintered almost immediately. Libertarians want success for the Libertarian Party, but many Paul-aligned activists remain within the Republican Party. In a number of ways, libertarianism has fallen victim to a tug-o-war between political parties.

So where does this leave Sarwark?

The question ultimately lies where his loyalties are and to a degree, what the aim of the Libertarian Party is.

Is the Libertarian Party in existence to advance its own brand, or does it exist to advance libertarian principles? More importantly, do these goals align?

If the answer to the latter question is yes, then the Libertarian Party would support causes that advance libertarian principles. Nobody is arguing that the Ron, Rand, or Woods are perfect. With that being said, it is undeniable that these individuals have made a significant contribution to liberty. Given Sarwark’s attacks, it’s then easy to assume that advancing the Libertarian Party and the cause of liberty are not parallel causes.

So where does that leave the Libertarian Party?

Ultimately, the Libertarian Party is a lot like the Republican Party. Candidates, activists and scattered leaders may genuinely identify with the principled cause, but the party structure works contrary to it. Political parties work contrary to principles, whether it be Republicans with conservatism or Libertarians with libertarianism.

When Sarwark attacks prominent libertarian figures simply because they don’t identify with individuals such as Gary Johnson or Bill Weld, he is setting back the cause of liberty in favor of pushing his brand. This may be his job as a party chairman, but let’s not operate under the assumption that he is working towards the goal of advancing liberty.

Chris Dixon is a liberty activist and writer from Maine. In addition to being Managing Editor for the Liberty Conservative, he also writes the Bangor Daily News blog “Undercover Porcupine” and for sports website Cleatgeeks.

  • tz1

    But with the last election, the Libertarian Party sought to brand itself as the sane alternate to the madness of the two-party duopoly.
    Having someone strip down to their underwear at the convention covered on C-SPAN (there were other things too), and nominating Johnson and Weld is not a “sane alternative”. The LP is crazy, even if the other two parties are evil.

    Moroever Sarwark is NOT purging people because they don’t identify with the LP nonsense, he is purging them because they refuse to virtue signal and approve of the whole LGBTQ, condemn hate speech (implicitly rejecting free speech) by white nationalists, or whatever.

    Libertarianism has split to a left and right wing.

    A few decades ago, there were conservative Dixiecrats in the Democratic party. They were purged. The current split is between the Bernie socialists, and the Hillary elitists. Similar on the GOP – the Swamp v.s. Tea Party and Trump.

    Porcfest used to invite Tom Woods. Now they invite someone to speak on Queer the Jury for LGBTQ.

    But what is happening is the right-libertarians are becoming alt-right and that hasn’t quite coalesced into a new party or wing.

    I know Tom Woods and Bob Murphy don’t want to become alt-right, but they will be called “Nazis!” by the left until they do or go offline.

    This is a civil war whether you like it or not, and it is so even if you deny it. If you don’t choose a side, you will be attacked by both sides. I hate it, but that doesn’t change anything.

    Truth, reason, evidence can be unpleasant. But you can’t fix something when you refuse to accept the diagnosis.

    • GeorgeDance

      A good analysis; people aren’t so much choosing sides, or even agreeing that there should be sides, as being pushed into them.

      But I do have to take issue with your first point: “Having someone strip down to their underwear at the convention covered on C-SPAN (there were other things too) … is not a “sane alternative”.

      No one had Weeks strip on stage; no one else even knew he was going to strip on stage. It was crazy, but it came from him and him alone. Same for many of the other things (in particular, I’m thinking about the bad acid trip that was the McAfee campaign); the LP itself didn’t do it, and would have prevented it if there’d been a way to.

      • tz1

        Was there no one in the LP present willing to stand athwart stupidity and yell “Stop!”? (I won’t joke about him being the LP “emperor” with his new lack of clothes).

        Even the LP should theoretically have some kind of property rights and minimal rules (I hate Codes of Conduct as they are often SJW converged).
        Did they ban smoking? Not just tobacco in the meeting room? I assume they banned defecating and urinating in the room.

        NALALT doesn’t work when you are sponsoring an event. Would they let someone let off a canister of bear (pepper) spray because they wanted to? Disruption. If you let idiots in, expect an idiocracy. That is the problem with open borders, and the LP conference was a microcosm.

  • June Genis

    I have read the transcripts attributed to Sarwark in this piece and they are hardly “attacks”. In some cases he was merely trying to give an honest answer to a question posed by the interviewer. The fact that the Liberty Conservative has been trying to paint the LP as an opponent of liberty speaks volumes about their own motivations, not Sarwarks. Yes he criticized Ron Paul on a particular area of disagreement. That does NOT mean that he thinks Ron Paul is a bad person or that he does not deserve the respect that even Sarwark accords him for the advances he has made in other areas. Some Libertarians are conservatives, others are not. But we all love liberty for everyone. It appears that the Liberty Conservative does not agree with the “everyone” part of that and is thus determined to undermine the LP.