Why the Libertarian Party Bowed to MAGA Just Like the Republican Party
Paleolibertarians turn out to be pretty much the same as paleoconservatives.
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1. The UnPopulist
Andy Craig has a fantastic piece about how the Libertarian Party has devolved from gay-marriage-legal-weed gadfly position to MAGA id.
Who could possibly have guessed it would come to this.
The party’s core active membership is in the low five figures, somewhere between the Proud Boys and the Democratic Socialists of America. It has a decent organizational infrastructure with a chapter in every state and in many local precincts too. And it has a history of mobilizing resources in a targeted fashion to pass ballot initiatives and organize protests. . . .
I was an active member of the party for nearly 10 years, until I resigned last year along with many others unwilling to stick around for a takeover by the illiberal far right. During that time, I was a party officer at the state and local level, served on national committees, including the ones responsible for writing the party’s platform and bylaws, was twice a candidate for office myself, and also worked as a senior staffer on the Johnson campaign in 2016. . . .
Under the direction of the so-called Mises Caucus, the LP has become home to those who don’t have qualms about declaring Holocaust-denying racists “fellow travelers” and who don’t think that bigots are necessarily disqualified from the party. They even went out of their way to delete from the party’s platform its nearly 50-year-old language stating: “We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant.” The caucus is also reversing the party’s longstanding commitment to open immigration policies in favor of border enforcement. The new chair, Angela McArdle, proclaims that the party will now be dedicated to fighting “wokeism.” People with pronouns in their Twitter bios aren’t welcome anymore, but, evidently, white nationalists and Holocaust deniers are.
But that’s not all. Various members of the new leadership have averred that: Black folks owe America for affirmative action; Pride Month is a plot by degenerates and child molesters aiming for socialism; and a country with zero taxes but more trans murders would be more morally acceptable than the reverse. Though some Mises Caucus figures insist they want to offer solutions to the culture wars, in practice, that means obsessively weighing in on the side of the far right.
When Craig recounts how the takeover happened, it sounds awfully familiar:
Why would a party that found its greatest success in offering a sensible classical liberal alternative to Trump’s GOP end up being taken over by Trumpists and worse?
There are two reasons:
The first is the party’s unique structure, an oversimplified emulation of how the Republicans and Democrats operated over 200 years ago, which made it highly susceptible to hostile takeovers, as I explained here. For example, the party’s national delegates are selected at state conventions that are attended by a small number of highly motivated members willing to spend money out of pocket to show up for a weekend at a local Marriott. They generally don’t represent the views of the vast majority of members or libertarian donors, let alone libertarian voters. But just because they show up, their votes on key LP matters carry the day. This means that it was not at all hard for a group like the Mises Caucus to gin up resources to flood state conventions with its members and select national delegates who could then vote in LP officeholders sympathetic to its views.
Yet, it would be a mistake to suggest that the party could have done nothing to defend itself.
The Mises Caucus was incensed by the Johnson/Weld candidacy because it regarded the duo, particularly Bill Weld, as too mainstream. So it embarked on a campaign to capture state chapters. Yet, at the time, few party leaders were willing to openly, honestly and forcefully condemn what was happening (with some notable exceptions). Criticism that was offered tended to be subtle, restrained, and often combined with a myopic both-sides-ism that tried to frame itself as above the fray of “infighting.” Many state and national party officers went so far as to insist everyone should just get along. They walked on eggshells, afraid that the notoriously abusive Mises Caucus Twitter mob would come after them (even as the same caucus railed endlessly against leftist cancel culture mobs).
The motives and pattern of behavior—fear, cowardice, cynical political calculation and appeasement to chase votes in internal party elections—that caused the LP to succumb to a reactionary faction replicated in miniature the Trumpist takeover of the GOP.
Read the whole thing and subscribe.
A party, any party, is just a vessel. A brand name with pre-wired infrastructure. There is no reason that the Republican party has to be for lower taxes any more than the Libertarian party has to be for legal weed. There are no ideological commitments. Not really.
What there is, is power. And a party “believes” what the faction currently in control of its power structure believes.
So the Republican party believed in free trade and small government and robust American foreign policy—right up until the moment it didn’t. Because a new owner came in, took control of the apparatus, and had his own set of beliefs.
And rather than the party rank and file rebelling and waving their pocket Constitutions at him and quoting Reagan—well, the party rank and file kept waving their pocket Constitutions and quoting Reagan. But they didn’t rebel. They went along with it.
All of it.
This all reminds me of a Seinfeld bit:
Except, of course, that people blindly following ingrained partisan loyalties is dangerous.
2. Russia’s War on Democracy
Olga Lautman translates is keeping track of Vladimir Putin’s wider campaign against democracy. She has some of the details on Russia conscripting prisoners to fight in Ukraine:
Translation from Meduza
In the colonies of different regions of Russia, prisoners are recruited to participate in the war. This was reported by the project for the protection of the rights of prisoners Gulagu.net, citing messages on its hotline.
The messages cited in the telegram channel Gulagu.net talk about the recruitment of prisoners in the colonies of the Nizhny Novgorod region, Mordovia, and the Krasnodar Territory.
"IK-5 UFSIN of the Nizhny Novgorod region. On July 6, 22, about 10 people were taken away. The chief called in the morning, the Cheka and the general arrived in the evening. 10 minutes after the call their things were collected. Some were taken away, some were closed while in the hospital. Some of the fighters were not called, ”one of the messages says.
Another report says that “some people “in civilian clothes” also came to the correctional institutions of the Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Mordovia, called those who have combat experience, offered to go to fight.”
On July 4, the Important Stories publication reported that prisoners in IK-7 "Yablonevka" and IK-6 "Obukhovo" in St. Petersburg were offered to go to fight in the Donbas as part of the Wagner PMC, promising to pay 200,000 rubles and amnesty. This publication was told by relatives of people serving sentences in these colonies.
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3. Natalia Mitigates the Apocalypse
Bulwark contributor Natalia Antonova has her own newsletter focusing on Russia and security and I highly recommend it.
For years, Russian officials have used trolling to sow division and confusion abroad. It’s time to give them a taste of their own medicine. . . .
Consider the success of NAFO — what started out is trolling is now helping fund drones for Ukraine via friends at Saint Javelin.
Not only that, but trolling evil is preferable to doomscrolling. It can and will make you feel better. And yes, you can do it in English. These people monitor their replies, on Twitter especially. It’s how their bureaucracy works, they are interested in engagement. . . .
1. Use superstitions
Russian officials pretend to be pious and religious — religious reactionaries form a big part of Putin’s support network — but in reality most are just superstitious.
Feel free to tell them things like:
“Hellfire is getting closer” [Ад близок]
“You are cursed. And you know it.” [Ребята, вы давно прокляты. И вы это отлично знаете]
“Congrats. Generations of Russians will pay for the evil you’ve unleashed. Your fake patriarch won’t save you” [Расплачиваться будете долго. Не отмоетесь. Никакие молитвы продажного Гундяева не спасут]
Variations are always welcome and encouraged. Make sure to impart a sense of doom. They feel it already. It’s why many are hysterical online.
2. Remind them of superior Americans and other Westerners
Sure, Russia has its own culture and scientific community. These exist in spite of and not because of the oppressive Russian government. And these oppressors absolutely hate when they are reminded of how much more successful their rivals abroad are.
It doesn’t matter if you like said rivals. What matters is that Russian officials hate them and are envious of them.
This is why you can say things like:
“Hey, can you please tell me why there’s never been or will be a Russian Elon Musk?” [Ой, а почему у России нет своего Илона Маска но зато до фига ученых сидит по тюрьмам?]
“You’re right, Russia is a global leader. Hollywood and iPhones have nothing on Besogon-TV and a fleet of Ladas with no airbags” [Куда уж нам до вас, с нашим Голливудом и айфонами, когда у вас Бесогон-ТВ и Лада без подушек безопасности]
“Silicon Valley is so very jealous of Skolkovo.” [У кого Силиконовая долина, у кого долина лаптевая]
3. Vague allegations of illegal deeds
Almost everyone in the Russian government is breaking some kind of law. In fact, the Russian system is designed that way for a reason — it’s easier to control people when they’re constantly one misstep away from being arrested.
Russian officials are aware of this. Mess with their minds accordingly:
“We’re all aware of your past. Think you’ll escape purges when Russia inevitably loses this war?” [Человеку с вашим прошлым пора рвать когти из России нах, а не чирикать о Русском мире - ведь придут же за вами, свои же]
“You think you can hide your dirty money for long or nah?” [Скажите, а ваши активы, ну, те самые, долго еще будут оставаться вашими?]
“You do a lot of talking for someone whose arrest in inevitable.” [Ох, смиряйтесь, учите классику шансона, готовьтесь к чифиру и параше, с вашей-то биографией.]
4. Use their homophobia against them
Russian officialdom is as homophobic as it is homoerotic. For proof, just check out Putin’s cozy vacation photos with the likes of Defense Minister Shoigu.
This is why you can hit them with:
“How does it feel knowing that a bunch of gay-friendly nations are supplying weapons that are wrecking your guys in Ukraine?” [А вам не грустно от того, что техника созданная в так-называемой Гейропе превращает ваших солдатиков в удобрение?]
“Hey, what’s up with your president and minister Shoigu? Trouble in paradise?” [А Путин с Шойгу расстались что ли? Трагический финал Горбатой Горы, вот это всё?]
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This is unrelated to this week’s letter — but have you read Matt Klein’s Overshoot Substack? He’s a macroeconomist, and has a fresh and persuasive ‘big picture’ take on today’s inflation and where we are headed. You can hear a recent podcast he did for The New Bazaar for free. John Authers at Bloomberg recommended, and I’m glad he did.
On the surface, I don't know how much a difference it sounds like to say "I want to maximize freedom so that people figure out their best life" versus "I want to maximize freedom so that I can choose to be evil" but even the slightest application in reality shows a whopping gulf.
People can say it's all the same policy regardless of whether the motives are good or evil, but it really isn't.