Bob Barr Quits Republican Party, Joins Libertarians

Conservative firebrand Bob Barr has quit the Republican Party and become a Libertarian.

A former Georgia congressman who helped spark President Clinton’s impeachment has quit the Republican Party to become a Libertarian, saying he is disillusioned with the GOP on issues such as spending and privacy.

Bob Barr, who served eight years as a Republican congressman before losing his seat in 2002, announced Friday that he is now a “proud, card-carrying Libertarian.” And he encouraged others to join him.

“It’s something that’s been bothering me for quite some time, the direction in which the party has been going more and more toward big government and disregard toward privacy and civil liberties,” said Barr, 58, a lawyer and consultant living in Atlanta. “In terms of where the country needs to be going to get back to our constitutional roots … I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to do that is to work with a party that practices what it preaches, and that is the Libertarian Party.”

It would be unkind to note that Barr has nothing to lose by this move, since he’s unelectable anyway. So I won’t note that.

I’m sure that there are plenty of us in the Barry Goldwater-Phil Gramm wing of the party who are tired of the profligate spending and catering to the more fanatical elements of the religious right that has marked the GOP of late. I still believe that it makes more sense to try to fix the problems from within than the splinter off into another party.

While there may in fact be more Americans that are, broadly speaking, libertarian than that are ideologically liberal or conservative, there is not a governing coalition to be had. A platform that would satisfy Bob Barr would not satisfy the libertarian left. Indeed, the divide between the laissez faire economic (low taxes, limited regulation of the economy) wing and social anarchy (drug legalization, gay marriage, cops are evil) wing of the libertarian movement is far greater than that between the social and economic conservatives within the GOP.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Gary Molohan says:

    After 4 years of controlling the entire federal government and screwing it up so royally, I’m more than happy to be one of the many Republicans who is going to follow Barr to greener pastures.

    Hell, maybe the GOP should be relegated to third party for a while to really them how to have some fiscal responsibility, because I’m not buying the promises and sweet talk anymore.

  2. Kent G. Budge says:

    Does anyone else note the irony of a former Congressman who helped spark the Clinton impeachment complaining that the Republicans aren’t sufficiently respectful towards privacy concerns?

    Perhaps his complaints against Clinton then were more principled than they now sound. Still …

  3. Tano says:

    How on earth does gay marriage fit into anyone’s picture of “social anarchy”? Marriage is a pretty conservative, stabilizing force, and the extension of the institution to gays would have such an effect on society.

  4. jpe says:

    Say what you will about the Clinton stuff, Kent, but Barr has been a staunch defender of civil liberties from the right at a time when it simply wasn’t done (2001 to roughly 2005).

  5. James Joyner says:

    Tano: A glib characterization, I guess. I’m for legalization and civil unions and am sympathetic to the 4th Amendment and other “cops gone wild” arguments. Most of the people in Barr’s camp, though, are not.

  6. Eric Dondero says:

    No, the split in the libertarian movement is not over social liberties. All of us libertarians are pretty united on marijuana legalization, repealing seat belt laws, gun rights, and such.

    The split is over foreign policy. Some libertarians like me see Islamo-Fascism as an extreme threat to our civil liberties. Other, leftwing Libertarians want to appease the Islamo-Fascists and end the War.

    If there’s any split to be had in the libertarian movement is over the War issue.

    Eric at

  7. Bithead says:

    It would be unkind to note that Barr has nothing to lose by this move, since he’s unelectable anyway. So I won’t note that.

    Yes, well, I certainly will, regardless of how a tongue in cheek your comment here is, James.

    The bottom line is that Bob Barr proved himself to be a nut case, to say nothing of the fact that he has a long history of taking positions of likely, which don’t translate well to as personal life. He’s paid the political price several times for that inconsistency. Indeed, he lost his seat over one such inconsistency. On what basis, are we now to accept that he is a libertarian? Simply on his say so?

    Other inconsistencies include his membership in the ACLU, while belonging to the libertarian party… Two organizations which are historically at philosophical odds with each other has few others have been. He publicly supported the patriot act, and yet seems to have all kinds of problems with the NSA warrantless surveillance. he claims to be about individual liberty, now, but let’s remember introducing Al Gore for a speech cosponsored by the “Liberty Coalition”. I can’t think of anyone that is more anti liberty, than Al Gore. Yet here’s Barr, water bucket in hand.

    In the end, it is clear, that Mr. Barr is busy trying to sell himself to anybody who will pay the price of admission. Anyone who is that much all over the board philosophically speaking, is not trustworthy for any kind of office.

    As such, I am torn in the question of which is worse; his trying to join the libertarian party, or their acceptance of him. Either way, the libertarian party has now been successful in labeling themselves as worse than useless by letting this man anywhere near what little limelight they manage to scare up.

    I wonder if I can make these comments any clearer?