Bob Barr Wins LP Presidential Nomination

Former Representative Bob Barr has won the Libertarian Party nomination for President, narrowly defeating longtime Party activist Mary Ruwart. This is a rather welcome change for the LP, who have taken to nominating more radical, but relatively unknown candidates in past election cycles. As I’ve said before, Barr is their best candidate since Paul in 1988, and is someone I think has a real chance of spoiling McCain in a few states if he’s able to build any kind of campaign momentum at all. Time’s going to tell on that one, though, since he’s only raised about $127,000 as of the time of this writing) for his campaign in the two weeks since its inception. One thing he is guaranteed to do, though, is to have a higher media profile than any recent Libertarian candidate.

Here’s a roundup of other takes from around the Blogosphere:

Will Wilkinson yawns at the news:

I am not excited. Nor would I have been excited had Mary Ruwart taken. Mike Gravel? Now that would have excited me. I just like that guy, and I think he has a much better claim to being libertarian that Bob Barr, who voted for the PATRIOT Act oh so many years ago. And Wayne Allyn Root struck me as a first-class tool at the Reason event. So my LP enthusiasm meter remains, as always, pegged close to zero.

Tim Lee sees this as a bad idea.

Ultimately, I wish the LP would just go away. The structure of American elections dooms third parties to perpetual failure and obscurity, and that, in turn, creates a vicious cycle where the most talented activists and potential candidates go elsewhere, causing the party to be even more out of touch and politically tone-deaf in the next election. But given that the party is going to nominate somebody, Barr was probably the best choice. He’s a reasonably credible candidate, he’s got decent media skills, and so far, at least, I haven’t seen him take any positions that I strongly disagree with (since his road-to-damascus conversion in 2006, anyway). But I don’t plan to support his candidacy because while he may be the least-bad option on this November’s ballot, he certainly isn’t the kind of person I want associated with libertarianism. And every vote he gets will mean more visibility for the embarrassing candidate the party is likely to nominate in 2012.

Radley Balko is more optimistic:

Barr has the potential to win more votes than any LP nominee in history. If he helps the GOP learn that it’s time to boot the neocons and pay more attention to its limited government wing, all the better.

This is a good thing.

Jesse Walker likes Bob Barr, but sees Wayne Allyn Root as a disappointing VP choice.

But given the number of party activists who are wary of the former congressman, and given Barr’s deficiencies on several issues, it would have made sense to round off the ticket with a more hardcore libertarian. The ideal choice was Steve Kubby, a medical marijuana activist whose signature issue could have balanced Barr’s past support for the drug war. Instead the delegates opted for another member of the party’s conservative wing. Worse yet, the conservative they picked was Wayne Allyn Root, a man with the deportment of a Ronco pitchman with a squirrel in his pants.

It might not matter in the long run. No one pays much attention to the fellow at the bottom of the ticket. But it’s a tone-deaf, disappointing decision.

Jim Henley sees hope that Barr on the ticket will mean the GOP will return to mouthing small government platitudes while ignoring small government principles.

I don’t expect Barr’s candidacy to really get Republicans to, in Radley’s words, “learn that it’s time to boot the neocons and pay more attention to its limited government wing,” because I don’t think the GOP’s limited-government wing is either very large or very popular. What might happen is, over the last few years, Republican leaders and para-intellectuals have stopped paying even lip-service to the Party’s libertarianish wing, even expressing open contempt – if Barr/Root cost McCain the election the GOP might return to the era of mouthing limited-government platitudes while reifying the corporate state.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Ron Carcich says:

    Poor Mr. Barr won’t win, but why? First, even though the libertarian philosophy makes complete common sense, its proponents are–sadly, from MOST of my experiences–misanthropes and rejects of society. Second, most supposedly “normal” people in this country are ignorant of the fact that there is more than just a pair of choices in the voting booth. And, finally, moms on their way to the supermarket are “too busy” to think politically, and will choose either Obama or McCain, never even considering (even if aware) one of those “radicals” in third parties. The major flaw of democracies is that a society will always get the candidate that the majority believes–and the majority, by definition, is not the smartest, it’s simply the collective average. We all must live under the rules of whichever party (or candidate) best fools the average voters amongst us. Two humane alternatives to this mess are: 1) complete liberty (ala libertarianism) with people living with the direct positive and negative consequence of their own actions (how scary!), or 2) a strict, benevolent dictator who will tell the people how to live their lives–because most people can’t do it very well on their own.

  2. Twilla says:

    Mr. Carcich tells us that Libertarianism can’t work because the only informed Americans are “rejects from society,” and that “normal” Americans are too ignorant, apathetic, or busy to understand and participate in the political system. If this is true, it certainly doesn’t bode well for the future does it? It would seem to indicate the non-violent libertarians’ efforts to peacefully reconstitute the country’s freedoms simply cannot succeed. Of course, history also supports this view. In how many cases as liberty ever been reclaimed, once lost, without violence?

  3. Bithead says:

    Barr started kooky, and has progressed nicely since. That Balko considers Barr a serious candidate tells me all I need to know about the crackers on Balko’s snack tray slipping at least as much as Barr’s.

  4. Patrick T McGuire says:

    Ah, wouldn’t it be interesting indeed if there are enough voters from all across the political spectrum who are so totally disgusted with their party’s candidate that they actually elect Bob Barr! Not all voters will follow the predictable “pick the best of the two-party clowns” process.

    When you are given the choice between Moe, Larry and Curly, Groucho Marx looks appealing.

  5. Brian K says:

    I see this as a good move overall. It finally allows the party to make the sort of political compromises necessary to have its principles count. Barr is not an ideal candidate, but a real one in the very least.