I’ve always had a pet theory about when the long-awaited “libertarian moment” would happen. There would be a tipping point of sorts. Governmental debt, the logical victory of civil liberties arguments and a general realization that the American prison-industrial complex was too bloated, inefficient, and corrupt would converge to bring about some common sense solutions to what is currently called “mass incarceration.”
My heart tells me that eventually could happen. My head wonders, meanwhile, when viable proponents of true libertarianism will manifest themselves. In 2016, as with every election cycle for the last few decades, libertarians both nationally and in the Sunshine State find their arguments unable to gain traction, in no small part because of their champions.
Exhibit A, who arguably should come with a caveat: Kentucky U.S. Sen. and soon-to-be-former Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul.
Paul is in the doldrums in terms of polls and fundraising, which surprises some who thought that his willingness to talk about the failures of the war on drugs and racial disparities in prison populations would give him a unique position in the crowded Republican field. Paul had sought to triangulate between the so-called paleo-libertarians who made up his father’s base, while reaching out to traditional Republicans with policies he famously described as “libertarian-ish.”
In attempting to build a bridge between two disparate groups, Paul took a risk, and ended up creating a position that satisfied neither constituency. The former fans of the Ron Paul Survival Report newsletter think he’s soft; the traditional Republicans think he’s an unprincipled wack-job in search of his next filibuster.
There are open questions now about how long Paul will be in the race, open questions about his campaign fundraising, and an open revolt from the Super PAC side.
“I have stopped raising money for him until I see the campaign correct its problems,” said PurplePAC head Ed Crane to POLITICO. “I wasn’t going to raise money to spend on a futile crusade.”
Crane, a founder of the Cato Institute and one of the progenitors of 20th century libertarianism, understands the fusionist approach Paul advocates. He understands also that it has been a non-starter this campaign season, effectively setting back libertarianism in the national conversation for yet another few years.
Of course, Paul will just run for the U.S. Senate from Kentucky again, and life will go on. Florida’s libertarians could use a senatorial candidate as electable as Paul. Instead, what have they gotten so far? Augustus Sol Invictus.
In his article about the Invictus campaign last week in POLITICO, Marc Caputo notes that the candidate’s “adopted name” means something like “Invincible Sun Emperor.”
It also means something like “another embarrassment for the Libertarian Party.”
Invictus has gotten some “earned media” during his campaign for his willingness to say things that most rational people might not say.
Things like “I am a war machine engineered for higher worlds, and I would make each and every one of you a weapon. …You want freedom? Prepare for war.”
And complaints like saying the federal government “has abandoned its eugenics programs & elitist mindset in favor of a decadent ideology that rejects the beauty of strength and demands the exponential growth of the weakest, the least intelligent, and the most diseased.”
Is Invictus the product of an Ayn Rand Random Meme Generator? Up until the last week much of the discussion about Invictus, an acolyte of Aleister Crowley who freely admits to a past penchant for animal sacrifice, has been of the “Is this for real?” variety.
Now for at least one prominent Florida libertarian, it’s too real.
Invictus so appalled Adrian Wyllie, the chair of the Florida Libertarian Party and 2014 Libertarian candidate for governor, that Wyllie gave up his party’s leadership.
Of course, Wyllie isn’t exactly an exponent of policy moderation himself. Best known for his quixotic crusade against the Real ID Act, he doesn’t seem to have much of an affirmative way to extend the libertarian brand beyond its current “single, white loner males with guns” base.
As Wyllie told me during his campaign, after I asked him how he was going to bring the libertarian message to minority voters, it was a “tough sell to the minority community” as “certain groups seem more suspicious” of “liberty” than others.
In news that is perhaps completely unrelated to the Invictus/Wyllie war, Caputo mentioned in POLITICO that Roger Stone, whose relationship with Donald Trump has been interesting in recent months, is being touted as a potential opponent for Invictus. Which should at least make for some hot quotes.
And quotes are great — especially for deadline journalists. However, for libertarians, 2016 is shaping up to be another lost year.
A.G. Gancarski is the Northeast Florida correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com. Column courtesy of Context Florida.
Photo: Augustus Sol Invictus is a Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida.