Washington Libertarian Review

Political commentary from the State of Washington with a libertarian perspective.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Presidential matching funds

In today's Tacoma News Tribune David Broder concludes, "the choice for the country becomes one of confirming an executive with visible and even fundamental shortcomings or entrusting the presidency to a man whose habits of mind and of action are far removed from the challenges of the White House."

How very disappointing a choice--a megalomaniac versus an indecisive policy wonk. And yet Broder and the rest of the mainstream media continue to refuse to engage in a discussion of the other candidates. But perhaps there is a reason for that. Few, if any, of them have the background of public office that these two have.

And so Libertarian Michael Badnarik, genuine as he is in his philosophy, can not demonstrate he has the personal mettle to lead the country, at least not according to the generally accepted coinage, experience in office. This is not meant to be a criticism of Badnarik. He has far exceeded my personal expectations when he was nominated. But the fact is the Libertarian Party has yet to nominate any candidate with more than a smattering of public office experience.

There are, of course, several reasons for that, not the least of which is the Catch-22 problem of getting Libertarians elected in the first place. And this is all tied up in the "wasted vote" problem that Libertarians and all "other" political party candidates have to contend with.

But there is one obstacle at the Presidential level that sooner or later the Libertarian Party is going to have to come to terms with -- matching funds.

The very idea of setting aside taxpayer money to fund political campaigns is anathema to the Libertarian philosophy. But those ARE the rules of the game as it is currently played, and all the foot stamping in the world isn't going to change that.

During the Clinton era libertarian leaning Steve Forbes mounted a credible campaign for the presidency. But he did so as a Republican. I have little doubt that one factor in his decision (aside from the "brand name recognition" issues) was the Libertarian Party's opposition to matching funds.

Yet, the cost of mounting a serious campaign for the presidency is so prohibitive that only the personally wealthy, like Ross Perot, could give even a passing thought to taking the plunge. So far, as far as I know, no one like Perot has joined the Libertarian Party. The only person who has come close was Aaron Russo, who for multiple reasons didn't get the nod at the party convention.

And so the question becomes: What sort of candidate is going to consider running under the Libertarian banner when the party philosophy hobbles him at the starting gate? Can the LP ever expect to ever field an experienced high-profile candidate for president for so long as it requires that candidate to refuse matching funds?


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