Divided They Fail
If they both support Ron Paul, why don't the Libertarian Party and Constitution Party merge?
by James Leroy Wilson
April 30, 2008
Last week, the Constitution Party (CP) nominated Chuck Baldwin for President of the United States. Baldwin is a Baptist pastor from Pensacola, Florida, columnist, and radio talk show host, and was the party's nominee for Vice President in 2004. Baldwin had previously endorsed Congressman Ron Paul for the Republican Presidential nomination, and if by some miracle Paul does win it, I suspect Baldwin would end his own campaign and promote Paul. Indeed, if Paul had sought the Constitution Party's nomination, he would have won it easily.
The same is true of the Libertarian Party (LP) nomination. It appears that former Republican Congressman Bob Barr and longtime Libertarian activist and author Mary Ruwart both held off on seeking the LP nomination until Paul ruled out a third-party run. Previously, candidate Steve Kubby had endorsed Paul.
And so we have two parties, both of which would have backed Ron Paul had he been more interested in continuing until November rather than preserving his House seat as a Republican. If both parties would have backed the same guy, why have two parties?
There are glaring differences between the two. LP members tends to favor open immigration, the CP opposes it. The LP favors free, open trade, the CP is open to protectionist policies. The LP focuses on individual rights, whereas the CP is more concerned with moral issues and states' rights. The LP's rhetoric is secular, whereas the CP more readily uses Christian themes. The LP tends to favor abortion rights, the CP is pro-life.
Ron Paul was attractive to both parties because he took a middle course on these issues. Increase immigration enforcement on the borders and coasts, and end welfare for illegal immigrants, but don't impose a national ID card or crack down on civil liberties of people inside the country. Free trade is ideal, but maintain a flat tariff rate as preferable to an income tax. Strip the federal courts of meddling in state and local policies on issues like prayer in school and abortion, and allow each state to decide for themselves. And end federal funding of abortion. In other words, be pragmatic in terms of people and goods coming across the border, and support federalist rather than nationalist approaches to moral issues and abortion.
Besides these issues, the LP and the CP both want to make the federal government smaller. What unites them is greater than what divides them:
But I don't know if it was ever strategically sound to promote philosophical principles through a political party. Principles, to remain principles, must be untarnished, whereas politics works through compromise, which means tarnishing principles. In any case, the Internet has made the dissemination of libertarian principles, and education in the libertarian philosophy, much easier than it used to be. If the Libertarian Party exists to educate, I don't know if that is necessary anymore. If anything, it could lead people who take the philosophy far enough to see the contradiction of the LP's own existence.
But if the purpose of the party is to win elections and govern, it would do well to disband or change its name to something more generic and non-philosophical. It could then do a better job of advancing libertarian ends without allowing the various, necessary and inevitable compromises to besmirch the libertarian philosophy. This is where joining together with the Constitution Party, Ron Paul Republicans, and others come in. If the immediate and primary goal is to downsize the federal government, the various groups that support this goal can no longer be divided against themselves.
332,000, 670,000, 483,000, 541,000. These are the combined popular vote totals in the last four Presidential elections for the LP and CP. When divided, small-government parties fail. Large financial resources are drained just to get on the ballot in most states. It would be less of a drain for a combined larger party. This in turn would lead to more effective advertising and campaigning.
Ron Paul was a fund-raising machine and has collected almost a million votes in the Republican primaries and caucuses. Building on his momentum means that those who would have voted for him in the general election should rally around one and only one candidate who also would have voted for Paul. Splitting the third-party vote between two candidates who themselves are Ron Paul fans is a waste of time for everyone.
About the Author:
James Leroy Wilson blogs at Independent Country and writes for DownsizeDC.org. Opinioins expressed here do not represent the views of DownsizeDC.org.
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