Monday, February 18, 2008

Those "Pothead" Libertarians

One of the more constant refrains I hear from some libertarians is that Libertarians need to outgrow their "image of being potheads".

Now, I understand many of us come from the conservative side of the fence. I "did some time" as a Republican activist, myself (1978-1980). However...

I've been a Libertarian activist on the front lines for two decades, almost three, and have interacted with thousands of voters about the LP. While I prefer to wear suit and tie when committing political acts in the name of the LP, I also am decidedly not a conservative-leaning Libertarian.

Rather, I am a Libertarian-leaning Libertarian.

In watching the level of **activism** by various LP members, it is very often those who might be regarded as "potheads" who do huge amounts of the heavy lifting for our ideas. I'm not even sure their image in the minds of our conservative-leaning members is even fair -- they're not all actually potheads; they just have that image due to their demeanor, dress, etc.

In any case, the so-called potheads are by and large the ones who show up at the Virginia General Assembly -- and dare to speak. They're usually the ones who collect the bulk of our ballot-access petition signatures. They are almost always the ones who show up at protests, local events, and staff LP information booths.

And you know what? I have never heard one of our "pothead" activists say anything negative about our more conservative members. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing in reverse.

The Libertarian Party, and the libertarian philosophy, isn't just about conservative hot-buttons such as eminent domain reform, gun laws, and "lower" taxes.

It is about those things; but it is also about repealing drug prohibition. All of it. It's also about abolishing laws against prostitution, private gambling, and other consensual behavior.

As one who was thoroughly conservative for a time -- I voted Reagan in 1980 and even volunteered at the headquarters of the Republican Party of Virginia as well as for the Richmond For Reagan HQ -- I have to say that the "potheads" have earned not just our tolerance but our wholehearted, honest welcome and respect. If we disparage and insult them by issuing the constant refrain that "the LP must lose it's image of being a collection of dope-smoking hippies", the LP will be much poorer because of it.

Ron Paul, with his open advocacy of eliminating the Income Tax and ending drug prohibition, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that neither the libertarian movement nor the Libertarian Party need shy away from advocating an end to the drug war. He proved that no part of libertarianism need be held back from the discussion. Even though he shied away from no subject, his message of freedom appealed to a complete cross-section of the population -- students and retirees, housewives and working women, business executives and wage slaves, blacks, whites, browns, yellows, and reds.

Libertarianism -- whether it's talking about repealing the Income Tax, ending Drug Prohibition, legalizing prostitution, or private roads -- will win new friends only when presented proudly, well, and in a clear, consistent manner. Act like you fear to tread on any one part of the libertarian philosophy, and your ideological opponents will seize on your weakness and scramble all over you like wolves on a carcass.