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Saturday, February 6, 2010

LP History and Ecumenicism

Brian Holtz // Jan 27, 2010 at 6:22 pm

OK, who accidentally uttered the spell to conjure up the ghost of Rothbard @104? The Clark campaign was principled and eloquent. History lesson time:

After first opposing the creation of the LP, Rothbard joined it by 1974 and quickly helped orchestrate a complete rewrite of its Platform, replacing a compact moderate minimal-government platform with an abolitionist one that became bloated with quasi-anarchist positions like personal secession, completely open borders, privatizing all streets, and immediate non-enforcement of all tax laws. Within a few years, the LP’s initial meteoric growth stopped in its tracks. Rothbard used vicious personal attacks to push out the LP’s moderate leaders, who in 1983 took refuge in the Cato Institute. In 1989, Rothbard himself abandoned the LP he had hollowed out, and by 1992 was supporting Pat Buchanan for President. His lieutenant Bill Evers, an anarchist who helped Rothbard rewrite the LP platform in the 1970’s, ended up as an adviser to George W. Bush, and worked in Iraq in the occupation government before taking a position in Bush’s federal Department of Education. The entire leadership of the Rothbard-era Radical Caucus — Rothbard, Evers, Garris, Raimondo, Costello, Hunter, Rockwell — abandoned the LP to back GOP candidates ranging from Ron Paul to Pat Buchanan.

Brian Holtz // Jan 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm

As I said, Rothbard started radicalizing the LP in 1974, but the process wasn’t instantaneous. For example, immediate non-enforcement of tax laws wasn’t in the 1976 platform, and is first seen in the 1980 platform. Personal secession still wasn’t in the platform in 1980, but it was there by 1986. (I don’t have the ‘78, ‘82, or ‘84 platforms.)

The LP’s 1978-1980 “electoral peak” was associated closely with so-called “moderate” Ed Clark, who in 1978 got a stunning 5.5% result for California governor, before his record-setting result as the 1980 LP nominee. Despite Clark being savaged by the Rothbardians as unprincipled, his campaign was at least as radical as those run by today’s LP radicals.

Gene, I didn’t say that the Cato/Crane folks weren’t initially involved in radicalizing the platform. Indeed, they were initially allies of Rothbard, before splitting during the 1980 Clark campaign. (The issue was nuclear power, of all things.) The Crane/Koch/Cato faction didn’t leave the LP until their side lost at the 1983 presidential nominating convention. If they now say it was because of Clark’s 1980 totals, that’s a post-hoc rationalization. For the whole story, read Rothbard’s Oct. 1983 Libertarian Forum article: “Total Victory: How Sweet It Is!” — and marvel and the level of pure venom he could excrete.

Brian Holtz // Jan 28, 2010 at 1:25 am

@123, Rothbard’s venom is apparent in the very first paragraph, where he says the radicals’ victory “was smashing and complete. The Crane Machine is dead, finished, kaput. The Crane Machine, routed, fled the field, and hopefully will never be heard from again.” I’ve read all of Rothbard’s Libertarian Forum articles about the LP. They’re full of poison, spite, and venom. But since you agree with Rothbard’s faction, perhaps you think the end justifies the means.

The Crane-managed Clark campaign was our best presidential effort, and the Cato Institute flourished while the LP languished after the Rothbardians drove out the Cato-ites. So if the Crane faction sought “control” — and which faction doesn’t seek “control”? — that sounds like it would have been a good thing.

Brian Holtz // Jan 28, 2010 at 10:42 am

Paulie, the context of my LP history lesson was the LP. Not only have I always advocated ideological ecumenicism within the LP, but I’ve also always advocated strategic ecumenicism by saying that infiltrating the incumbent parties is a valid strategy for freedom-lovers. My complaint against the Rothbardians is not so much against what they did after leaving the LP, as it is against the non-ecumenicism they used to first hollow it out before abandoning it.

Ideological ecumenicism doesn’t mean opposing control by any one faction. It means opposing control by any faction that isn’t ideologically ecumenical.

You’re right about the proximate cause of Rothbard’s 1989 walkout; Gene’s version of it seems to be the sanitized/rationalized version.

Our raw congressional vote totals in 2000 surely had more to do with the number of candidates we ran than with campaigning better than Clark did. Fielding larger slates is great, but let’s not kid ourselves.

Brian Holtz // Jan 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Paulie, I repeat: “ecumenical toward Rothbardians” is a syntax error given how I use the term “ecumenical”. I’ve seen zero evidence that the Craniacs weren’t ecumenical toward Rothbardianism — i.e., that they used the Party’s machinery to prevent principled libertarians from espousing anarchism. By contrast, Rothbard in his writings is loud and proud about using the Party’s machinery to prevent principled libertarians from espousing minarchism. In all of Rothbard’s voluminous attacks on the “Crane Machine”, I don’t remember a single complaint that the Craniacs did anything similar.