Super activist John Bush, of Austin’s Texans for Accountable Government, posted a commentary on the prevailing notion that liberty could be achieved by seizing control of the Republican Party. I have less care for electoral politics than might Bush, but I think his critique is well founded and should be heeded by those participating in electoral politics, including myself to some degree.
Disclaimer: This note is not meant to devalue or discredit the work that has already been done by activists in the GOP. Any action in this liberty movement is much appreciated. It is also worth noting that everything in this note applies to those from the left attempting to use the Democratic Party as well. Myself and many others are merely trying to point out the damage that can be done to the movement if we adopt the “restore the GOP” strategy as our primary means of affecting change in this country.
1. We give up our leverage as the majority maker.
From Chuck Young’s blog [post] “Lessons of the Paul Campaign – r[evol]ution within the reForm“:
“There is a branch of game theory called coalition theory. It ponders questions like the following: if we have 3 groups, with 49, 49, and 2 ‘votes’ respectively, all seeking to win an election with 51 votes total, which of these 3 can be said to have the most ‘power’? And the answer is (drum roll): they all have equal power, because any one of them that wishes to win must make a deal with some other group.
“In this little theoretical truism lies a possible answer to the riddle of how a dedicated and united cadre might wedge and manipulate two bloated, corrupt ‘superpowers’ like the Democratic and Republican parties. What is required isn’t a majority, but rather a minority substantial enough that both powers must continuously bargain with this third group to gain its temporary allegiance. Of course, the two superpowers could always come out in open alliance with each other once and for all — but that in itself would be a victory for the good guys with immense ramifications.
“The difficulties in launching and sustaining a viable third party are well documented; what is called for probably isn’t another political party. Indeed, such a thing would likely be undermined, as have the Libertarian Party, Constitution Party, and similar entities of the left, e.g. the Greens. But while a third party is probably untenable, it’s clearly suicide to remain in this abusive relationship with the Republicans.
“Why? Go back to coalition theory. By trying to ‘reform’ the Republican Party, our movement COMPLETELY SURRENDERS THE LEVERAGE IT HAS AGAINST THE TARGETS OF SAID REFORM. There is a shockingly naive assumption in all this, as the criminal elements in the GOP get away with political murder. It’s believed that somehow they will surrender their authority because they ‘need us.’ Some coalescing may indeed happen, but expecting those who run the GOP to just ‘come around’ to our way of thinking because they’re in the process of getting the crap kicked out of ‘em flies in the face of repeated experience. Most people in 1976 wouldn’t have given the GOP another shot at the presidency for 12 years at least; yet they were right back in the saddle in 1980, with a ‘revolution’ … of sorts.”
2. We will never be able to ignite the mass movement necessary to enact genuine change as we will always be plus-or-minus 50 percent of the voting postulation. We will always be trapped in a reactionary paradigm against the other half of the FALSE left-right paradigm.
Which leads to 3 ….
3. The party in power will inevitably waver on its principles if only to maintain its position as the dominant party.
From “A Disquisition on Government” by John C. Calhoun:
“A written constitution certainly has many and considerable advantages, but it is a great mistake to suppose that the mere insertion of provisions to restrict and limit the power of the government, without investing those for whose protection they are inserted with the means of enforcing their observance will be sufficient to prevent the major and dominant party from abusing its powers. Being the party in possession of the government, they will, from the same constitution of man which makes government necessary to protect society, be in favor of the powers granted by the constitution and opposed to the restrictions intended to limit them …. The minor or weaker party, on the contrary, would take the opposite direction and regard them [the restrictions] as essential to their protection against the dominant party …. But where there are no means by which they could compel the major party to observe the restrictions, the only resort left them would be a strict construction of the constitution …. To this the major party would oppose a liberal construction …. It would be construction against construction — the one to contract and the other to enlarge the powers of the government to the utmost. But of what possible avail could the strict construction of the minor party be, against the liberal construction of the major, when the one would have all the power of the government to carry its construction into effect and the other be deprived of all means of enforcing its construction? In a contest so unequal, the result would not be doubtful. The party in favor of the restrictions would be overpowered …. The end of the contest would be the subversion of the constitution … the restrictions would ultimately be annulled and the government be converted into one of unlimited powers.”
4. The party will shape the change agents more than the change agents will shape the party.
From Chuck Young’s blog [post] “Lessons of the Paul Campaign – r[evol]ution within the reForm”:
“This brings us to the very disturbing turn Paulism has taken: the invocation of that same ‘Reagan Revolution,’ the ‘Robertson takeover’ and the like, to ‘sell’ Paulism to the GOP ‘conservatives.’ Groups like the Republican Liberty Caucus are even openly equating Ron Paul with Ron Reagan – with REAGAN, super neoconservative, warmongerer extraordinaire, the most profligate spender the nation had ever seen (until the record was broken by a certain successor), a man that sold out so-called conservative principles so profoundly, that Ron Paul himself quit the Republican Party in disgust and ran as the Presidential candidate for the LP in 1988!!!
“What a long, bitter history the movement for LIBERty has when it tries to be ‘conservative!’ And yet, because we’ve convinced ourselves that we’ve nowhere else to go, we find ourselves chanting this mantra: ‘we really are conservatives, we are real conservatives, be a conservative like us.’ And always in this equation of the movement with ‘conservatism,’ ALWAYS, there is a softening of the anti-war, anti-empire stance. And so one wonders, vis a vis this GOP ‘takeover’ – who’s zoomin’ who, hmmm?
The signs are all around the paleocon ‘surge.’ It isn’t only that Ron Paul is being equated with Reagan and Goldwater (can you hear that…? it’s the sound of Rothbard turning over in his grave). We have Bob Barr as the nominee for the LP – Barr, ex-CIA, who voted for the Iraq ‘War’ and the Patriot Act. And the rising star in the LP is Wayne Allen Root – note his initials, ‘WAR,’ and rest assured that ‘peace’ will never be his middle name. It seems the deeper we commit ourselves to this dysfunctional ‘conservative’ assertion, the more we are moved toward the ‘libertarianism’ of Neil Boortz – not the other way around.”
5. The hierarchical structure of the two major parties is easily susceptible to co-option, as only those at the top would need to be compromised in order to steer the party. This is evidenced by the current state of both parties.
Remain a tight united libertarian cadre which works on single issue coalitions at a local and state level all the while applying the philosophy of liberty in a manner which will cause those of the statist persuasion to appreciate the consistency of libertarianism and question the hypocrisy of their collectivist mindset. Eventually the tight united cadre will grow as those beginning to appreciate liberty more and more will be picked off from the fringe of the parties.
All the while we must begin to build and create parallel institutions based on mutually beneficial voluntary associations so that we may offer an alternative to the people when the current system inevitably collapses. We must be prepared to offer an alternative as our enemies surely will be. [Editor’s note: A few edits have been applied to Bush’s note to conform to the punctuation style on this site.]
My take is that the Libertarian Party is largely a waste, save as a protest vote or an education tool. Participating in the primary elections of the major parties leverages the most impact from voting, which is still about as equivalent to a suggestion box on a slave plantation. Bush has said he is “beginning to explore the revolutionary possibilities associated with agorism, counter-economics, and the creation of parallel institutions which will rival and compete with the state.” I wholeheartedly agree; we should be spending our time agitating and organizing, not begging the state.
He is also beginning to take some heat from Ron Paul apologists (not all Paul supporters, including myself, are apologists) for questioning Paul’s support of welfare-warfare Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). For as beneficial as Paul is at spreading the message of liberty, it is just as important that liberty activist hold themselves accountable to at least the same standards by which they hold others. I believe attempts to confine or marginalize different opinions shows a lack of confidence is one’s own ideas. To paraphrase “Zeitgeist: The Movie,” take truth as the authority, not authority as the truth.