Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Cat Fight Breaks Out in the Herd

If you ever run into a long-time Libertarian, make sure to ask them for a good story or two. They can always pull some doosies out of the hat when they need to.

There are always juicy "who did what to whom" stories from the conventions, shady deals involving shady people, and the inevitable "once he got out of jail" vengeance; you know, pretty much the juvenile behavior that typifies politics and government in general. The difference is, when Libertarians fight it pretty much just degenerates into a nerd-off and doesn't involve actual homicide like Republican and Democrat fights.

This fight is one that has simmered on the back burner for decades and had to boil over sooner or later. It's always been a war of words, but now that blogs are much more important than magazines and newsletters, the volleys are coming in near real-time. Folks who are new to libertarianism are in for a real treat without even having to go to convention: a good old-fashioned Libertarian cat fight.

On one side you have "government that I agree with is good government" beltway hacks and the A/V club. On the other side, you have the holier-than-thou academics. The basic premise of the fight is simple. The academics say that the beltway hacks see compromising principle as a virtue, and the A/V club will only take a break from rockin' the ganj long enough to address "hip" issues. The hacks fault the academics for not going-along-to-get-along (with Republicans and Democrats) and the A/V club thinks the academics are harshing their mellow.

The latest dust up is a prime example of cannibalism at its finest. An associate of the academics had a damn fine year, for a libertarian, and the academics have been breaking their arms patting themselves on the back. The hacks have become increasingly grumpy about the situation because it hasn't required compromise, and the A/V club, while grudgingly giving support, has their share of reservations because he's a devout Christian and talks too wonkishly.

The thing about Libertarians, though, is in addition to being freakishly nerdy, they are also insufferably transparent. At the beginning of 2007, when it appeared the libertarian was going to have an OK year, the hacks and A/V club warned against involvement because there was a strong possibility of failure (you see, you can't fail if you never try). In mid-2007, when the candidate was merely having a good year, the hacks continued to attack while the A/V club prepared to jump aboard. In late 2007, the candidate was not only having a phenomenal libertarian year but also a great year for a Republican. The A/V club, seeing where the cool-kid money was going, conveniently forgot their reservations and the hacks suspended their attacks just in case they had to jump aboard this new-found gravy train.

Then came January 3, 2008. Iowa Republicans soundly repudiated any notion that they should be counted among the cool kids (as if there were a question).

With blood in the water, the hacks pulled the trigger on an attack that must have been in the making for some time. The hacks had revealed the secret burial grounds of some bones the candidate and the academics just as soon stay buried. As late as January 7th, the A/V club agreed to coordinate a "New Hampshire surprise" with a liberal mag that had dusted them off and inspected them.

Rather than the "boom" they all expected from their bombshell, a solitary "pop" echoed in the blogosphere for all of 24 hours and much less than that in the old media.

Why the bomb didn't have the planned impact is simple: the bones that were uncovered were disgusting rants about gays and minorities, hateful to libertarians, but, frankly, strictly in line with the Republican base. Ah, but sweet, sweet irony, how I love thee. The rants were, apparently, penned by the academics specifically to appeal to the Republican base.

With the candidate's die already cast (6-10% of Republicans who bother to show up and vote), the hacks and A/V club are still trying to get some shrapnel to hurt the academics, saying that the hateful rants "taint" libertarian philosophy. While I agree with that, I don't think it taints it any more than condoning preemptive war or smoking dope.

I remember something about glass houses.

Anyway, I don't think the beltway hacks or A/V club can have any effect on the candidate. Any recent loss of support is just the familiar Libertarian post-election burnout and actual Republican support is continuing to rise (or, at least, not falling). It sure is fun to watch, though.

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