Blowin' smoke

Posted: Jun 18, 2004 12:00 AM

I know that it might not have been number one on your list of things to pay attention to, but the Libertarian Party recently held its 2004 presidential nominating convention in Atlanta.  As with the past three Libertarian conventions, I was invited to speak.  This time things were a bit different.  There was an organized ?Boot Boortz? petition drive to have me removed from the speaker?s list.  It seems that some fellow Libertarians didn?t exactly approve of my support for the liberation of Iraq.  The quest for Libertarian ideological purity raises its ugly head.

As I spoke to a standing-room only gathering the Boot Boortz crowd was relegated to meandering about the ballroom lobby handing out their cheap computer-printed anti-Boortz stickers.  Hint:  If you can?t afford real buttons or good printing, find another cause

OK ? I took the heat and made my speech.  Now that the convention has gone virtually unnoticed to the vast majority of Americans, it?s time for me to get a few things off my chest.

Libertarians!  You blew it.   You had the chance to make an impression on the media and the American people, and you blew it. 

I?ve been promoting the libertarian philosophy for many years on talk radio, and I?ve won a lot of converts.  I believe to this day that if individualism, freedom, economic liberty and constitutional government are to be restored and preserved in the United States it will be the libertarianism, if not the Libertarian Party, that gets the save.  The way the party is playing right now, that save looks in doubt.

There?s a quiz located on the Internet at which helps people figure out if they may, in fact, be more libertarian than conservative or centrist.   The Washington Post has said that this quiz ?has gained respect as a valid measure of a person?s political leanings.?  Take the test.  See where you stand.  If you discover to your amazement or dismay that you might be a Libertarian, read on.

It is all-too common for people, when they discover that I?m a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party , to respond with  ?Oh, you?re the people who want to legalize drugs.?  Now if you give me 10 minutes of quality time with any person reasonably capable of rational thought, I will convince  them that the most sensible way to combat drug usage in the United States would be to end the war on drugs and move to a treatment-centered drug policy.  I need those ten minutes though, and those ten minutes usually aren?t there.

I?ve found that when I?m trying to sell someone on the libertarian philosophy I usually have around 10 seconds to make that first impression.  If I say the wrong thing in those 10 seconds, I?ve lost them.  If someone asks me ?what do you people believe in?? and I respond, ?Legalizing marijuana!? I?m written off as a kook.  One convert lost.

But what if I respond to that initial query with something like; ?Well, Libertarians believe that if you make $1000 a week your paycheck every other Friday should be for $2000.?  OK ? now you have their attention.  That idea has universal appeal, and you have just been granted an extra few minutes to make the sale.  Or you could respond; ?Libertarians believe that the government shouldn?t be allowed to condemn your home, seize it, and turn it over to a developer for a fancy new condo project.?  Once again, you have their attention.  People actually still believe that a man?s home is his castle, and you now have an audience that will listen to your libertarian pitch for at least a few more minutes.

This brings us to the Sunday of the Libertarian convention.  It?s time for the candidates for the presidential nomination to make their pitch to the delegates, and for the delegates to then cast their votes.  C-Span is carrying the entire thing on live national television for anyone interested in watching.  After the nominating speeches are concluded, and after the delegations present their votes in writing, there?s a lull in the action while votes are tabulated.  This is a prime opportunity for the Libertarian Party to sell itself to the C-Span viewers.  So, what do we get?  Do we see a well-produced feature on eminent domain abuse?  Nope.  How about a feature on the Fair Tax plan (, a plan to eliminate all federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes and replace them with a simple national retail sales tax?  Nope again.  Predictably, some rocket scientist at the Libertarian Party decides to fill this void with a feature on ? what else! ? medical marijuana!  Here comes that ?legalize drugs? thing again.  This was a complete validation for those out there who think that, first and foremost, the Libertarian Party is about drug legalization.

The Libertarian Party is the party of individual responsibility, personal freedom and limited government.  These ideas appeal to the vast majority of Americans, yet the Libertarians literally don?t seem to be able to draw flies to a dump.  It is obscene that Ralph Nader can get more attention with his message of big government and economic fascism than Libertarians can get with their message of freedom.  That?s how it goes, though, when you?re viewed as the marijuana party.

Well, folks.  That should about do it.  My string of addressing Libertarian Party conventions has, I think, come to an end.  You folks keep dressing up in your nifty hemp jackets and preaching drug legalization, and I?ll keep doing my bit on the radio trying to convince Americans that there?s more to libertarianism than smoking weed.  In the meantime, let me know when the next convention is so that I can make some alternative plans.

In the meantime, see if you can spend a bit of time trying to develop a message for people who are interested in things other than mind-altering drugs.