Tom Knapp is a friend . . .

. . . and therefore I will accept his criticism as sincere, even if I think his analysis of the 2008 Libertarian Party campaign is flawed:

And what, pray tell, did we get out of the [Bob] Barr nomination? . . . [T]he fourth-best results (as a percentage of the vote total) of the Libertarian Party’s ten presidential outings. Our reward for taking a flier and running a conservative instead of a libertarian was middle-of-the-pack performance at the polls and incalculable damage to our reputation as a party with principles we weren’t willing to sell for a mess of . . . well, let’s just note that it was a mess and leave it at that.

One might attack Tom’s argument from several directions, but I think the most important point is one which Tom ignores altogether. One of the reasons that the Barr campaign got so much national media attention in Spring 2008 was the widespread belief that, given the strength of the Ron Paul GOP campaign — especially in terms of online fundraising — and furthermore considering an established personal friendship between Barr and Paul, if the LP nominated Barr, he would bring much of Paul’s financial and grassroots support with him.

While this envisioned scenario did not actually develop after the “Dogfight in Denver” (in which Barr fought for six ballots to gain the LP nomination) this does not mean the original hope of Team Barr was misguided.

There has been a good deal of behind-the-scenes finger-pointing among Libertarians as to what went wrong after the LP convention in May, but a falling-out between Paul and Barr (which seems to have happened in June) could not have been anticipated when Team Barr organized its nomination campaign.

Tom and I met as part of the vanload of “smelly libertarians” who made the road trip to the Denver LP convention. Tom represents a sizeable faction in the Libertarian Party who hate and despise anything “conservative” or Republican. And, of course, there are any number of Republican conservatives who use “libertarian” as an epithet.

This is unfortunate, especially since most Republicans I know are, to some degree, libertarians (with a small “l”). And most Libertarians I know have been involved in primary campaigns for libertarian-leaning Republicans like Ron Paul.

Eric Dondero attempts to bridge this chasm by styling himself a Libertarian Republican. My friend Stephen Gordon has been an operative in both the GOP and LP. Personally, I have attempted to describe “Libertarian Populism” as a potential locus for opposition to both Democratic Party progressive statism and the Progressive Lite go-along-to-get-along approach of GOP “moderates,” by offering freedom as the basic answer to populist grievances.

What is at stake in all this is something much more important than divergent estimates of individual candidates or disagreements about campaign strategy. What is at stake is nothing less than liberty itself.

If our nation’s future is to be entrusted to Nancy Pelosi and her ilk, then the disagreements between Tom Knapp and myself are moot, no more relevant to contemporary politics than an historical discussion of how the Whigs self-destructed after 1844.

In the present crisis, friends of liberty must prioritize their efforts and focus on practical activism to stop ObamaCare, Waxman-Markey and EFCA — the Big Three legislative initiatives being pushed through Congress with every resource that can be mustered by the special interests who control the Democratic Party.

The passage of any one of these Big Three initiatives would inflict a damaging blow, perhaps even a fatal wound, to the cause of American liberty. I assume that Tom Knapp fully supports the “angry mob” effort to prevent passage of those initiatives, and therefore do not wish to waste time debating the past.

Let us act now to secure the future of freedom, Tom. We’ll leave the historical debates for some occasion when we can sit down together with cold beverages and each tell the other to his face how completely full of crap he is.

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