This past Sunday I mentioned that anti-Pagan bigot Bob Barr had been picked as the official candidate of the Libertarian Party, despite a long and inglorious record of un-libertarian actions. Now Michael Idov, writing for The New Republic, files a report from this year’s contentious Libertarian National Convention. An event filled with uneasy allies across the political and cultural spectrum.
“The movement’s embrace of personal freedom is wide enough to welcome a Wall Street wing concerned mostly with deregulation; a sci-fi contingent dreaming of space colonies and immortality; a sizable anarchist (or “minarchist”) faction preaching dissolution of almost all federal agencies; and, in the last few years, a steady, surly influx of 9/11 “truthers.” All and more of these groups are on proud display in Denver. Vendor booths trumpet Native American mysticism, the “inflation-proof Liberty Dollar,” and, perhaps inevitably, Shotgun Willie’s, a local strip club.”
Idov contrasts former Republican Barr’s candidacy with the campaign staff of former Democrat Mike Gravel. Unlike Barr, Gravel has long embraced a pro-legalization, anti-IRS, pro-science stance popular among many Libertarians, though his run was more a snipe at his former party than a serious bid for the nomination. Despite this fact, he did enjoy some popularity among Libertarians, especially those unhappy with the ascendancy of Barr.
“Gravel is candid about his motives and expectations. He’s mostly mad at the Democrats–who, he says, pushed him out of the race for criticizing the U.S. stance on Iran–and would enjoy a platform from which to dish out some mild payback. His floor team includes Neal, a long-haired Wiccan who has a beef with Barr “because he tried to stop Wiccans from worshiping in the military” and granddaughter Renee, 20 years old and in full Goth regalia featuring a spiky dog collar.”
In the end, none of the more ideologically pure Libertarian candidates gained the nomination, and Barr claimed his prize, though not before some last-minute wheeling and dealing. The result has been deep unhappiness among the Libertarian rank-and-file, especially the younger Libertarians who tend to gravitate to the “left-wing” of the party.
“Inside the hall, a hushed pandemonium breaks out. The Libertarian Party seems to be ungluing before my very eyes. After more than a few people loudly declare their intention to defect on the spot, Steve Kubby goes onstage and pleads with them to stay. Boston Tea Party, a fast-swelling offshoot composed of frustrated anarchists, has put together an alternative nominating convention around the corner, for “serious, radical, Libertarians only.” Neal, Mike Gravel’s Wiccan aide, says he’s going to start his own Wiccan-Libertarian caucus back in Michigan. “The values are virtually identical,” he says.”
Will we see a rupture within Libertarianism? Will the Pagans, pot-smokers, and anarchists leave to form their own parties, while the LP-proper evolves into a sort of second home for disaffected conservative Republicans? While I’m not sure Wiccan and Libertarian values are “virtually identical”, the Libertarian Party has been a sort of home for the more conservative Pagans unhappy with the overly Christian and anti-Pagan flavor of the Republican Party. If the Libertarian Party continues to nominate anti-Pagan conservative Christians, where will these men and women go to find a political home?