Today on Blogcritics
Home » First Look 2008: Libertarian Michael Badnarik

First Look 2008: Libertarian Michael Badnarik

Please Share...Twitter0Facebook0Google+0LinkedIn0Pinterest0tumblrStumbleUpon0Reddit0Email
[Note: This is one in a series of articles about likely or prospective 2008 Libertarian Party (LP) presidential candidates]

I thought about waiting until November to weigh in on Michael Badnarik’s prospects as a potential 2008 presidential nominee — but if I’m going to do a “first look” series, it seems like it would be cheating to stretch it out until after an event as significant as the 2006 congressional elections. I’m going to have to go out on the limb here, make some (at least tentative) predictions, and live with being right or wrong.

If Michael Badnarik is elected to the US House of Representatives from Texas’ 10th district this November, his nomination as the LP’s 2008 presidential candidate is virtually assured…if he decides to seek it. Whether he’d so decide is an open question. As the nation’s first Libertarian congresscritter, he might choose to concentrate on retaining his seat.

Here’s the risky prediction part: Badnarik won’t win his congressional race.

With respect to most LP congressional candidates, that wouldn’t be a risky prediction at all. The party’s record is perfect in that respect: Libertarians are zero for X, where X is the number of campaigns for election to Congress on our ballot line over the last 35 years.

Michael Badnarik, however, is not most LP congressional candidates.

Most LP congressional candidates haven’t raised $200,000 for their campaigns before Memorial Day. Most LP congressional candidates haven’t raised more than one of their two “major party” opponents. As a matter of fact, most LP congressional candidates haven’t raised one tenth as much as Badnarik will have by Election Day, have billboards in high-traffic areas, have offices and full-time staff, and most LP congressional candidates haven’t gone to a national convention broke, in third place, with a campaign staff consisting of two volunteers, and walked out of that convention with a presidential nomination.

If any Libertarian can win election to the US House of Representatives this year, it’s Michael Badnarik (so far, the word is that Wisconsin’s Ed Thompson won’t be running, or I’d add him to the list right above Badnarik). But, barring a Thompson run, I don’t think that any Libertarian can win a congressional race this year. I’ll be ecstatic if Badnarik proves me wrong — and if he does, it won’t be the first time.

Based on my prediction, Badnarik would be seeking the LP’s nomination on the basis of a losing, but probably very credible — in the 20%+ range — performance in the congressional race. That could play either way: his performance could push him up, or the amount of money Libertarians contributed for a win they expected — and didn’t get — could push him down.

Additionally, his prior presidential nomination could be a plus or a minus:

  • The LP has only nominated the same candidate twice, once (Harry Browne, 1996 and 2000), and he received fewer votes the second time around.
  • On the other hand, Badnarik proved in 2004 that he could assemble a professional campaign organization (disclosure: I was part of that organization from August through November 2004), go from zero to a million bucks, and turn in a mid-range (relative to prior LP candidates) electoral performance in five months. For the sake of comparison, Ed Clark, in 1980, had 14-15 months to campaign as the nominee and (in inflation-adjusted dollars) eight times as much money as Badnarik, but received only a little more than twice as many votes. Ron Paul, in 1988, had 14-15 months to campaign as the nominee and (once again, adjusted for inflation) four times as much money and outpolled Badnarik by fewer than 50,000 votes. Add to that the fact that Clark and Paul ran in “blowout” elections where the “wasted vote” was not a factor, while Badnarik’s election was perceived as very, very tight, and Badnarik comes out looking pretty damn good.

The only thing that Badnarik really has going against him are…his ideas.

Despite his best efforts to tell them what he thought — the man drove 20,000 miles, attended virtually every LP event in the US in 2003 and 2004, taught a class on the US Constitution to LP audiences, and even wrote a book — many delegates to the LP’s 2004 national convention weren’t familiar with his…well, unorthodox, even by libertarian standards…views on the income tax, drivers’ licenses, and such until after they’d nominated him. That was their fault and not his, of course, but quite a few delegates were right wroth at having deceived themselves and blamed Badnarik for not doing more to prevent them from doing so.

Many of those same people will be delegates in 2008. Many of them will still hold a grudge. And Badnarik’s ideas will be discussed rather than ignored. As a matter of fact, another declared candidate for the nomination, George Phillies, has already put them into play.

Badnarik makes arguments in his book that the payment of federal income taxes may not be required by the Internal Revenue Code, that the 16th Amendment may not have been ratified, that drivers’ licenses aren’t required for people who become “actual owners” of their cars by acquiring a “Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin,” etc. These are not libertarian views per se — they are constitutionalist ideas of a particular stripe. They are not necessarily incompatible with libertarianism, but neither are they essential to it, and they should therefore be judged by LP members on the basis of their political utility. In 2004, Badnarik and his campaign were able to stay resolutely “on message,” hitting core issues in ways which reflected well on the LP. We can’t count on that luxury in 2008 and must take into consideration the possibility that Badnarik will be forced to defend himself on these questions if he is the nominee.

I’m not going to argue the validity of Badnarik’s views. I’m not even going to speculate as to what percentage of the population might hold them. What I will state is that I believe that the percentage of the population which holds them and would support a candidate who stands for them is much smaller than the percentage of the population which would regard them as crazy enough to instantly discredit any candidate who stood for them; and that many of the latter group are Americans who might otherwise be inclined to consider voting Libertarian.

If publicized — and they would be publicized the instant Badnarik appeared to be a factor in the election’s outcome — the identification of those views with the LP would reverberate. It would affect the prospects of other Libertarian candidates, and the effect would persist beyond the single election cycle. This is a matter which we ignore at our peril.

I have little doubt that Badnarik could raise much more money, campaign as the likely LP candidate for much longer, have an effective campaign organization in place earlier, and so forth, than last time around. The down side to that is that, if he threatens to be a bigger factor in the general election, and I firmly believe that he would — he is tireless and dedicated and downright effective — his views will receive more, and more negative attention. The LP needs to decide whether or not it is willing to be seen as standing behind those views.

About Thomas L. Knapp

  • My guess

    For what it’s worth my guess is Badnarik will receive between 5% and 12% of the vote but I would guess mostly at the low end. I’ve heard him brag about all the news publicity but it doesn’t show up on the net and when I search the Austin newspaper sites I find few current news accounts most are older stories about the presidential race. Spending a lot of money is easy. Winning is hard.

  • Dave Nalle

    Last time this seat was up, annoying Libertarian gadfly Robert Fritsche who was running as an out of district candidate got 15% of the vote against Mike McCaul. That won’t happen for Badnarik because the Democrats will be running a candidate and last time it was just McCaul and the Libertarian. I’ll get to vote for Badnarik, which will be nice, but he’ll be lucky to get 5%. McCaul is too moderate and reasonable to piss off enough voters to give Badnarik much of a chance.

    It is nice to see his giant billboard, though – I drive by it every day. Plus I know Mike and he’s a decent guy despite his unorthodox ideas.

    Dave

  • http://www.communistvampires.com/author.htm Thomas M. Sipos

    Badnarik’s a good man (I’d voted for him at the 2004 national convention), but he’s had his shot.

    In 2008 the LP should nominate Karen Kwiatkowski.

  • http://libertarian.explorecraft.com/LibertarianResponseImpeachBush.htm pa

    There exist two minor bits of information
    which will improve Michael’s 2006 chances substantially.
    (Karen Kwiatkowski would be his best running mate in 2008.)

    1.
    By the end of September, the Republican party
    will be in full retreat from bad news pouring
    in daily as they reap what they have planted.
    An economic downturn will shade all other ‘News’
    in an abrasive hue of rusty yellow.
    Refugees from the Republicans will be looking to
    Libertarians for safe haven.

    2.
    Michael presents himself as uncompromising
    with regard to the constitution and what
    it means, as opposed to his opponents.
    His sincerity is unquestionable, and this is
    what will make him unassailable within the LP.
    It is this constitutional loyalty which will
    lead him to attack his opponents’ credibility.
    Their weak point will be an overwhelming public
    sentiment to impeach the Administration.
    This sentiment, so far, Democrat leadership has
    been able to keep caged through media controls.
    That Democrats have aided and abetted treason will
    render them vulnerable to guilt by association attacks.

    When the heat of summer starts cooking brains,
    there shall be an interesting stew served.

  • Dave Nalle

    Pa, you live in a refreshing fantasy world. Do you get there through mind altering drugs, hypnosis or paratemporal technology?

    Dave

  • http://libertarian.explorecraft.com/TheOneLaw.htm pa

    Dave,

    Glad to see your interest in my sources.
    Let me introduce you to something just up
    which underscores what I just said,
    written by someone with more authority:

    Democrats meek in face of Bush’s many misdeeds

    I really liked her endpoint:
    “We like to say this nation needs strong leaders, but no one can say Tom DeLay wasn’t strong. What we particularly need are leaders committed to the Constitution and rule of law. We need leaders who are willing to forego their position for a principled stand. Feingold, U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin and John Conyers and precious few others have stepped up to show how to lead. But at this critical crossroads, where are the rest?”

    The rest are coming dear,
    they just don’t realize it yet because they are Libertarians.

    ———————————-
    This grassroot-fire will soon be out of control.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Pa, I was a Libertarian for 30 years and was a paid employee of the party for some of that time. I also ran for office as a Libertarian.

    Eventually I realized that the LP was never going to get anywhere because it is riddled with the corruption of people with specialized agendas, ideological rigidity and crazy conspiracy obsessions who were incapable of working together in a coherent and effective way.

    Ron Paul realized that as a libertarian if he wanted to accomplish anything he needed to be in the GOP. I realized that as on so many other things he was dead right. I suspect that eventually all Libertarians who have any common sense will get fed up with the ineffectiveness of the LP and come to the same conclusion.

    Dave

  • http://www.tresbleu.blogspot.com Sister Ray

    Dave’s right. I’d like to think the LP is getting somewhere, but, nationally, it’s not.

  • http://sociophysics.explorecraft.com/SocioPhysics_ReferenceLinks.htm pa

    Don’t get me wrong,
    I don’t intend to talk you out of your positions.
    Your perceptions are very important factors in what happens next.
    The LP has not advanced -
    It is Republicans and Democrats who
    are yielding the ethical high ground
    at a moment when the country is in peril.

    History is littered with examples of nations
    descending into oblivion from where the U.S. is now.
    Whether that sequence is inviolable sociophysical law
    or not remains to be seen.

    The only hope to avoid a Republican Dictatorship
    or an Democratic rerun of Communism
    is in a third-party ascension.
    Social forces sweep as waves which can best be
    guided by properly designed breakwaters.

    —————
    This moment is not about re-engineering LP principles to achieve success.
    This moment is about fine-tuning the LP to be ready for an opportunity.
    The moment will arrive when the LP will either be ready for publicity,
    or not.
    It will not be that LP earns success by sheer effort
    and the brute force of television ads.
    Fate, unexpected, will offer an existing LP
    the opportunity to succeed,
    which it must be prepared to seize.

    If the LP does not abandon its core principles,
    when the moment arrives the publicity for
    a ‘party of principle’ will be overwhelming.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Here is why the LP is not successful, in a nutshell:

    THEY DEMAND PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY!

    Most Americans would rather blame someone else for their own problems, while taking “government” (actually, taxpayer) handouts to “help” them.

    We are a socialist culture. We reap what we sow.

  • Northeast Libertarian

    Yes, effective advancement of libertarianism is done by joining the GOP and supporting George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Trent Lott, anti-gay constitutional amendments, the war in Iraq, the USA PATRIOT Act, the Medicare prescription drugs bill, $200 billion + annual deficits, illegal wiretaps on US citizens without court oversight, arrest of dissidents who challenge the Chinese president in public with a charge of “intimidating foreign officials,” and everything else which comes with Republicanism.

    If you’re lucky, you can get involved in the Republican Liberty Caucus, which shamelessly shills for neoconservative Iraq warmongers AND lies about “libertarian surveys” which supposedly show that neocon to be a “libertarian.”

    Yes, that’s the true path to a libertarian future. Let’s abandon the Libertarian Party and go to bed with the neoconservative big government socialists — and lie in order to get them elected.

    Let’s ignore the GOP’s unprecedented big government, anti liberty record.

    Let’s ignore the fact that since “libertarians” like Dave Nalle and Ron Paul joined the GOP, the GOP has become increasingly LESS libertarian — not moreso.

    Or let’s actually think and do something.

    I’m one of a younger generation of highly mobile successful professionals who realizes that success requires hard work — not shilling for the GOP and hoping they’ll “come around” with time.

    Dave claims the party is “corrupt and ineffective” — and then recommends people join the GOP. . . which is perhaps the most corrupt political party in American history and which has increased government’s size, scope, power and employment at a rate which would make even the most ardent communist impressed. Talk about an ineffective fools’ errand for libertarians.

    Small l libertarians should instead become large-L Libertarians and work to advance the party on a regular basis through hard work AND campaigning in various races. “Libertarians” who are constantly slagging off the party and pushing Don Rumsfeld and George W. Bush as the answer to our prayers should be outed as the frauds they are.

  • Dave Nalle

    Yes, effective advancement of libertarianism is done by joining the GOP and supporting George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Trent Lott, anti-gay constitutional amendments, the war in Iraq, the USA PATRIOT Act, the Medicare prescription drugs bill, $200 billion + annual deficits, illegal wiretaps on US citizens without court oversight, arrest of dissidents who challenge the Chinese president in public with a charge of “intimidating foreign officials,” and everything else which comes with Republicanism.

    Not only don’t all Republicans support these various things you mention – in fact I’d guess that quite a few not particularly Libertarian ones oppose some of them – but these specific policies you cite are characteristic of the actions of one administration and certainly not the larger agenda of the party. The GOP still stands for individual rights and limited government. Take a look at the likely front-runners for 2008 and tell me the GOP is dominated by Neocons. It’s laughable.

    If you’re lucky, you can get involved in the Republican Liberty Caucus, which shamelessly shills for neoconservative Iraq warmongers AND lies about “libertarian surveys” which supposedly show that neocon to be a “libertarian.”

    This is absolute crap, of course. I’m in the RLC and I know for a fact that even the most pro-Bush members of the RLC don’t support Neocon-style empire building. Disgruntled left-libertarians keep trying to paint those libertarians who are actually trying to achieve something as neocon fellow-travellers, but it just doesn’t make any sense, so they usually don’t get very far with it.

    Let’s ignore the fact that since “libertarians” like Dave Nalle and Ron Paul joined the GOP, the GOP has become increasingly LESS libertarian — not moreso.

    And we caused this how, exactly? If we weren’t in there with the rest of the RLC working to put the party back on line, it might be even worse.

    Or let’s actually think and do something.

    Like promoting the party of 1% of the vote every year? What’s the point?

    Dave claims the party is “corrupt and ineffective” — and then recommends people join the GOP. . . which is perhaps the most corrupt political party in American history and which has increased government’s size, scope, power and employment at a rate which would make even the most ardent communist impressed. Talk about an ineffective fools’ errand for libertarians.

    When the choice is between getting absolutely nothing done and having a chance at getting into office and actually doing something I think only a fool would go with doing nothing at all – which is all that will ever happn in the LP as it now exists.

    Small l libertarians should instead become large-L Libertarians and work to advance the party on a regular basis through hard work AND campaigning in various races. “Libertarians” who are constantly slagging off the party and pushing Don Rumsfeld and George W. Bush as the answer to our prayers should be outed as the frauds they are.

    I challenge you to find anyone who’s a libertarian, regardless of party who thinks that Bush and Rumsfeld are the answer. Like a lot of the frustrated people who are stuck in the downwards spiral of the LP you’re striking out in anger with ridiculous accusations directed at those who are actually trying to accomplish something.

    Dave

  • Ukyo

    I totally agree with Northeast Libertarian and completely disagree with dave.

    Badnarik said it best.

    “If you were in prison and you had a 50% choice of lethal injection, a 45% chance of going to the electric chair and only a 5% chance of escape, are you likely to vote for lethal injection because that is your most likely outcome? If you continue to vote for the Democrats or the Republicans, you are committing political suicide.”

    My parents told me when I was young that the best way to effect change is from within. Well years later I see it getting worse. Dave says

    “these specific policies you cite are characteristic of the actions of one administration and certainly not the larger agenda of the party.”

    Here is where get to yell BULL SHIT!!

    This conress isn’t called the rubberstamp congress for nothing. They loyally support their president even into the flames. Of course if you ask them they will say they don’t fully agree with everything, BUT THEIR ACTIONS DO!

    Badnarik is again on the money when he talks about the only way Libertarians are ever going to be heard is if we have enough pride to vote LP even if we will lose. Only then will the GOP say “Wow, we are losing more and more votes to LP” and shift their stands to better represent us.

    Joining their corrupt ranks will only ruin us. Thinking you can become a GOP member and effect change is ludacris. You have something to say? You better have as much money as Halliburton or the GOP won’t hear it.

    Sorry dave, keep your turncoat ideas to yourself, the LP party doesn’t need you ripping it apart from the inside.