The Collective
Thursday, September 11, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Speaking of interviews with vice presidential candidates, Reason online has one with the Libertarian Party’s nominee, Wayne Allyn Root: Wayne Allyn Root’s Million-Dollar Challenge: The Libertarian VP candidate wants Barack Obama to release his grades.

If the PL wanted to use this year as a chance, with their high profile presidential nominee (Bob Barr) to try and reach out to voters by attacking the notion that LP is a party full of nutters, they didn’t do themselves any favors with Root.

Some examples from the interview:

Root: I am! That’s my point. Where was Obama [during his time at Columbia]? He wasn’t an outgoing young man, no one ever heard of him.

Tim Cavanaugh: Maybe he was a late bloomer.

Root: Maybe. Or maybe he was involved in some sort of black radical politics.

Welch: Ooooooooooh.

Root: Maybe he was too busy smoking pot in his dorm room to ever show up for class. I don’t know what he was doing!


has America really been unfair to minorities? No it hasn’t. It was unfair to me. A white butcher’s kid, whose father had no money, but nobody gave me a break. And do I have a chip on my shoulder? You’re damn right I do. And I represent millions and millions of poor people in this country who weren’t lucky enough to be poor and black, they were unlucky enough to be poor and white, and they can’t get into Harvard. So maybe that country Barack’s fighting for, he’s got the wrong country here. He’s been just fine in this country. The rest of us need someone to defend them….

If only all of us could have been born poor and black!1 And who knew about Harvard’s auto-entry process for all poor blacks!

If that’s not enough, there’s David Weigel’s Reason profile of Root from back in the June: Just Another Hustler in the Hustler Kingdom: The passion of Wayne Allyn Root:

As Root tells it, he tried, and failed, at thirteen different careers. He was rejected from law school. He failed as a realtor four different times, blowing tens of thousands of dollars on brochures for properties no one bought. He managed a Manhattan restaurant, then “got bored and quit.” He became an entertainment agent, signing one client, and snagging him one job—in six months. His biggest innovation was “Ivy League Home Cleaners,” a maid service staffed with college graduates, none of whom, quite understandably, wanted to become maids.

Root’s breakthrough came when he realized what he really wanted: to be a sports prognosticator.

It is selections like this that simply allow people to utterly dismiss the LP. I think that the party missed a chance to present a more serious ticket to the voters this year, as I think that if they had that they would have had a chance to peel off disaffected Republicans and to increase their significance. By picking someone like Root, who comes across in the interview as the archetypal Hollywood used car salesman/conman, they send the signal that they belong on the political fringe.

Sphere: Related Content

  1. Of course, it worked for Steve Martin… []
Filed under: 2008 Campaign, US Politics | |


  1. I think that the party missed a chance to present a more serious ticket to the voters this year, as I think that if they had that they would have had a chance to peel off disaffected Republicans and to increase their significance

    Same goes with the Greens. The nomination of McKinney is a joke. Her speech at the convention contained nothing related to climate change or any other environmental issue.

    Obviously, a main problem with third parties in the US is the institutional bias against them and–unlike, say, Canada or Spain, there are no strong regional political factions (Palin’s Alaska Independence Party notwithstanding).

    Your post got me thinking about the Libertarians–are there libertarian parties in other democracies? European countries tend to have wide assortment of communist/leftist parties on one end of the spectrum and nationalist/fascist parties on the right. But what about libertarians–a non-nationalistic ideology party???

    I can’t think of any in Europe. Even Canada doesn’t have one. Something about American exceptionalism, maybe???

    Comment by Ratoe — Thursday, September 11, 2008 @ 10:02 am

  2. I forgot to mention that the institutional bias makes it less likely that serious people are drawn to issue-based third parties–which is why you get either has-beens (McKinney, Barr, Nader) or kooks.

    Comment by Ratoe — Thursday, September 11, 2008 @ 10:05 am

  3. Indeed.

    I cannot think of another party globally which calls itself “Libertarian” although in terms of issues like pro-drug legalization and other like issues, there have been a number of such parties. I suppose it depends on how one defines the term/party type.

    This one springs to mind.

    And, of course, when it comes to kookiness: click.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, September 11, 2008 @ 10:28 am

  4. The link to the Israeli Green Leaf Party is not quite an accurate one, as this is not a pro-business party (which I take to be an essential defining feature of “libertarian’). It certainly qualifies as socially libertarian, of course. But then so do Green parties.

    And that gets me to Ratoe’s point above. I agree that McKinney is a terrible selection for the party, and I even suspended my card-carryingness as a result (though I will rejoin, the party having clearly suffered long enough from my protest). And her lack of known record on environmental issues is not even close to the biggest reason why I think she is such a bad choice. But the bigger reaction I wanted to make is that it is not as if the environment is the only issue a Green Party cares about. They are also socially libertarian, anti-war, and pro-democratic reform. I do not know McKinneys’ record on social issues, but in the other two senses, she does have a record. She used her time in Congress to oppose war funding and promote reforms such as instant-runoff voting.

    I am not defending her. As I said, I think she is bad for the party. And she sure isn’t going to appeal to us Jewish greens, with her (and especially her father’s) record.

    (I have something to say about libertarian parties at F&V, a ping from which ought to show up shortly.)

    Comment by MSS — Thursday, September 11, 2008 @ 3:18 pm

  5. A tangent inspired by this:

    It’s interesting to me how many of the recent presidential candidates were pretty indifferent students in college. GWB was at best mediocre at Yale and later Harvard, while Gore and Kerry both had the genius reputation (just ask them if you don’t believe me) they were C students and didn’t really distinguish themselves. McCain was in the bottom 5 of his academy class. I’m guessing Palin — the girl jock who attended 6 colleges in her 5 year higher education (or maybe 5 in 6 years) — probably didn’t blow the curve in many classes. Obama, like Gore and Kerry, has tried to keep the genius label without actually showing the numbers. Like the others, Biden talks about how smart he is, but indeed the grades that have been released don’t back that up.

    The Clintons both have the reputation of doing well in school, and I tend to believe it. I don’t know anything about Cheney or Lieberman.

    This suggests that the best and brightest don’t tend to rise to the top of the political pile, or possibly that there’s more to it than is taught in the average college.

    Comment by Buckland — Thursday, September 11, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

  6. [...] interesting discussion arose in the comments over at PoliBlog regarding whether the existence of a Libertarian Party was another case of “US exceptionalism” or if there were similar parties elsewhere. (The other “major” minor party in the USA, [...]

    Pingback by Fruits and Votes » Prof. Shugart's Blog » Worldwide Libertarians — Thursday, September 11, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  7. But the bigger reaction I wanted to make is that it is not as if the environment is the only issue a Green Party cares about.

    Yea, good point, Shug. I always forget the Greens emerged from the peace movement in Germany and Belgium.

    But, yea, they aren’t doing themselves any favors with McKinney.

    Comment by Ratoe — Thursday, September 11, 2008 @ 8:13 pm

  8. Not only from the peace movement in western Europea, but from the anti-Soviet movement in eastern Europe, especially Estonia and Bulgaria (remember Eco-Glasnost?). The anti-Soviet connection is part of the reason why the Czech Greens are in coalition with the right-wing parties.

    Ratoe also makes a good point about the institutional bias against smaller parties in the US increasing the kookiness factor of such parties here.

    (The discussion of this party family and how to define its boundaries continues at the F&V thread linked in the ping at #6.)

    Comment by MSS — Friday, September 12, 2008 @ 12:37 pm

  9. It’s unfortunate.

    One thing I wish (often) about our political system is that we had more choices in terms of political parties.

    Why can’t there be other political parties that are sane, rational, and offer an alternative to what the Republicans and Democrats pitch to us?

    Comment by Captain D — Friday, September 12, 2008 @ 1:00 pm

  10. Why can’t there be other political parties that are sane, rational, and offer an alternative to what the Republicans and Democrats pitch to us?

    I think it’s mainly institutional, with a bit of culture thrown in–i.e. our particular electoral and governance system penalizes third parties.

    You do see other first-past-the-post systems with active third parties, but they tend to be from places with different institutional structures (e.g. parliamentary systems where a third party can be a dealmaker, like the current government in Canada) and/or stronger cultural associations with class and nationalism (like the UK with the Lib Dems or the Bloc in Canada).

    Since the US has an institutional bias against third parties and a cultural bias against certain types of political identities traditionally associated with partisanship, it is a hard slog for third parties.

    I was reading somewhere about some guy running for Senate in Montana ( I think) on the platform of modifying the state constitution to be parliamentary.

    There is nothing in the Federal constitution that would inhibit a state from chucking their State Assembly and/or Senate with a parliament.

    It would be interesting to see what sorts of parties might emerge if a large and heterogenous state like, say, California went the parliamentary route!

    I don’t know too much about it, but my impression is that in Canada, provincial parties are only tangentially connected to the federal ones and in places like BC and Quebec, third parties are more of a force–something like that might take place if US states went parliamentary.

    Premier Shwarzenegger! I like it!

    Comment by Ratoe — Friday, September 12, 2008 @ 5:50 pm

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