It is often said that political parties are ruining the dignity of American discourse. Instead of discussing policy points, many identify with one of two partisan identities and allow their loyalties to fall in line. Here, policy support shapes around their team and they turn against whatever the other side opposes. It’s shallow. And it is growing worse.
The problem with the political arena is that as the investment grows more significantly, so does the need for self-preservation. Political careers mean that principles can take a backseat to the race discussion because nobody is going to make either a name for himself or money by losing with dignity.
This is a phenomenon also not restricted to the Democrats and Republicans. The Libertarian party has the same problem.
The Libertarian Party has developed a tendency to attack non-enrolled libertarians, including prominent figures like Senator Rand Paul and his father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
Two-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has attacked Senator Paul in the past as not being libertarian. While there is a legitimate debate whether Senator Paul is more conservative than libertarian, the former New Mexico Governor is hardly in a position to talk.
Now it’s Libertarian Party chairman Nicholas Sarwark who is stepping up criticism of Paul, echoing a common claim of party members. Ron Paul, according to Chairman Sarwark, is not a libertarian. He claims that the liberty leader has often been wrong and even anti-libertarian, then pointing to his support of states’ rights.
To libertarians, the states’ rights debate is more like a game of semantics. Technically, a state does not have rights — only individuals do. The state is still government and thus, the power for its existence is derived from the people themselves. Given this, only the people themselves have rights.
This is a position that Paul supports.
In 2002, he wrote that “states’ rights simply means the individual states should retain authority over all matters not expressly delegated to the federal government in Article I of the Constitution.” Essentially, the term “states’ rights” simply alludes to the Tenth Amendment, which itself states that the people retain all power not specifically delegated to the federal government or prohibited to the states.
In his book “Liberty Defined,” Paul states: “Technically, states don’t have ‘rights’ — only individuals do. But states are legal entities that are very important in the governmental structure of the United States, of course. They serve as a kind of bulwark against an overweening federal government. The Constitution was written with an intent to protect the independence of each state by establishing for the states a very limited relationship to the federal government.”
Paul clearly states that states don’t have rights and again notes the term itself alludes to the Tenth Amendment. Under our system of government, the state is supposed to retain its independence from federal overreach while still acting on behalf of the people.
If this is not libertarian, what is?
The Libertarian Party has a confused history on what libertarianism is. They have previously had individuals run for president like Bob Barr, a former Congressman who voted for the USA PATRIOT Act and the invasion of Iraq. Given this fact, it’s not entirely surprising that the party had a Hillary Clinton apologist run for vice president, described as “the original libertarian.”
Ron Paul may not be perfect, but he did not support the USA PATRIOT Act. The Libertarian party has supported people who did, including their latest vice presidential candidate. Paul did not support the Iraq invasion, while the Libertarian party has advocated for people who did. Former governor Bill Weld himself has supported affirmative action and stronger environmental regulations at the federal level.
Before criticizing others for not being libertarian, the Libertarian Party should probably learn what it means to be a libertarian first.