Magazine article The American Conservative

Small Tent

Magazine article The American Conservative

Small Tent

Article excerpt

In a move that has fragmented his nascent libertarian populist movement, Ron Paul endorsed Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin. The decision is a deliberate snub to the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr.

Preferring to avoid a choice between two claimants to his legacy, Paul at first attempted a blanket endorsement of all of the major third-party candidates, which provoked a protest from Barr. Paul's subsequent endorsement of the Constitution Party candidate has hardened the rift between Paul loyalists, whom Baldwin represents, and Barr supporters, who see their candidate as the best chance to increase the Libertarians' share of the vote in a year when conditions favor a third-party challenge on the Right The endorsement saga reminded everyone of how many mutually antagonistic factions came together behind Ron Paul in the primaries and how unsustainable this movement was.

The crack-up began Sept. 10, when Paul held a press conference to unveil his multi-endorsement of Chuck Baldwin, Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party, and independent Ralph Nader. Many of Paul's supporters were dismayed that their hero could support such radically different candidates, but the confusing endorsement was an accurate reflection of the ideological hodgepodge of Paul's admirers during the primaries. Barr had been invited, but declined to participate, quickly organizing a press conference of his own at which he ridiculed Paul's decision as a failure of leadership. Many Paul supporters had been unenthusiastic about Barr all along, a fact reflected in the miserable results of his fundraising efforts, in stark contrast to the Ron Paul "money bombs" of last winter. Now most of them will lend Barr no help at all.

The former Georgia congressman clinched the Libertarian nomination in May at least partly on the grounds that he had enough name recognition and ideological credibility to increase the Libertarian vote. Disaffected conservatives found both McCain and Obama unacceptable and were looking for someone to advance Paul's message. As a pro-life immigration restrictionist, Barr offered the LP the possibility of winning over populist conservative voters, while his newfound civil libertarian and antiwar views would secure the party's base. Paul's popular but ultimately unsuccessful primary candidacy for the Republican Party offered many clues for how this might work, but Barr desperately needed Paul to signal to his supporters that they should rally around the Libertarian candidate. …

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