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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Libertarian Downfall

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. In Divided We Stand, we discuss how these divides played out in 2020.

Kelly Weill at The Daily Beast:
Across the country, aspiring Libertarian activists and entire state-level Libertarian parties are voluntarily quitting. On the same day in August, New Mexico’s Libertarian Party filed to disaffiliate from the national Libertarian Party (LP), and the Libertarian Party of Virginia filed to dissolve. Fed-up Libertarians have formed splinter groups in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. And in Evans’ state of Idaho, a contentious set of legal battles have drawn an iron curtain through the local Libertarian party, leaving Evans and other longtime associates on the outs.

At the center of the shakeup is a brash political action committee: the Mises Caucus. In the few years since its 2017 founding, this socially conservative group has swept state and national Libertarian organizations, officially taking control of the LP at the party’s convention this May. Mises Caucus supporters say the group is rebooting America’s third-largest political party. Critics say the caucus promotes bigotry, helps Republicans, and is driving everyone but Mises acolytes out of the organization.
Andy Craig:
Aside from [Gary] Johnson’s candidacy, the party had mostly drawn attention for antics ranging from the mildly amusing to utterly cringe-inducing, such as running an Elvis Presley impersonator as a perennial candidate, nominating someone who accidentally turned his skin blue by drinking colloidal silver, entertaining the presidential aspirations of the mentally unstable alleged murderer John McAfee, and treating C-SPAN viewers to a man stripping nearly naked on the national convention stage. But now, as Ken White, a criminal defense lawyer and respected commentator known by his online moniker Popehat, aptly observed on Twitter, “bigoted shitposters” have now wrested control from these “mostly harmless cranks.”

Under the direction of the so-called Mises Caucus, the LP has become home to those who don’t have qualms about declaring Holocaust-denying racists “fellow travelers” and who don’t think that bigots are necessarily disqualified from the party. They even went out of their way to delete from the party’s platform its nearly 50-year-old language stating: “We condemn bigotry as irrational and repugnant.” The caucus is also reversing the party’s longstanding commitment to open immigration policies in favor of border enforcement. The new chair, Angela McArdle, proclaims that the party will now be dedicated to fighting “wokeism.” People with pronouns in their Twitter bios aren’t welcome anymore, but, evidently, white nationalists and Holocaust deniers are.

In May, Brian Doherty wrote at Reason:

The caucus's official platform is plumb-line libertarian, but its foes say that too many Mises Caucus members and fans downplay libertarian positions that might offend the right, are intentionally obnoxious and bullying, and are often racist. For example, the New Hampshire L.P., a powerful vector of Mises Caucus messaging, tweeted on Martin Luther King Day that "America isn't in debt to black people. If anything it's the other way around." (The tweet was later deleted.)

The sense the caucus is soft on or actively encourages racism attracted the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center just before the convention began, which aired the concerns in a story reported with cooperation from many Libertarian Party members upset with the Mises Caucus.

Both Heise and Mises Caucus stalwart Joshua Smith, who won the vice-chair election Saturday, denied the charges of racism. Heise* said in a phone interview prior to the convention that the basic vibe they are seeking is online youths into edgy comedic podcasts, a new counterculture for whom the old L.P. holds little appeal. Heise believes that the current rumored frontrunner for a Mises Caucus–approved presidential nominee in 2024, comedian and podcaster Dave Smith, is so well-connected to the Joe Rogan world that legacy respectable mainstream media will be meaningless for party messaging moving forward.