Is it just me, or is the silly season of electoral politics — the presidential election cycle — arriving earlier and earlier in each successive four-year stretch?
Last time around, it was nearly Memorial Day of the year preceding the election before pundits started speculating about when the obvious odd man out would shut his nomination campaign down (they also thought that odd man out was John McCain … don’t bet the farm on the talking heads’ predictions!).
This time, pretenders’ heads were already rolling before the end of April. Some potential Republican aspirants have wisely decided to spend more time with their families instead of on the campaign trail. Others have already managed to get their feet stuck in, or even sink neck-deep into, the fever swamp of “birtherism.”
It’s all theater. If only it were good theater. With 18 months to go, we’re barely halfway into the first act of a really bad play — “Springtime For Hitler” meets “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” directed by Claudio Fragasso from a script by James Joyce.
Comes now the comic relief: Two declared or semi-declared Republican candidates held out by supporters and opponents alike as “libertarians.”
One of them, congressman Ron Paul, is a career pork-barrel politician with a platform of equal liberty for all who aren’t queer, swarthy or from the wrong side of one of those imaginary lines his fellow politicians drew on the ground.
The other, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, believes in “humanitarian war” and wants to keep a federal hand in social welfare programs by moving from direct funding to “bloc grants.”
But even supposing that either of these two “libertarians” was the genuine article, the real elephant in the room (pun intended) is the essential nature of the state itself.
“The Democrats,” wrote PJ O’Rourke in 1991’s Parliament of Whores, “are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”
Over the next 18 months, libertarians will no doubt argue vociferously amongst themselves about Paul and Johnson. The most often heard line from their supporters will be that one or the other at least represents “a move in the right direction.” The strongest defense offered for their non-libertarian positions will be that “ideological purity” just isn’t feasible in the context of an election campaign.
Both of those arguments miss the point entirely.
A “move in the right direction” is impossible in a car that doesn’t run — and political government is just that kind of car.
No amount of kicking the tires, raising the hood and tinkering with the engine, or beating on the dashboard and yelling will make the engine turn over or get it into gear and moving up the road toward freedom.
No matter how hard you push it, it will always weigh more than you and if it budges at all its momentum will carry it in only one direction: Downhill.
Ron Paul and Gary Johnson can’t drive you to freedom, even if they want to and even if you can carry them to the car on your shoulders and joyously place them behind the wheel. Their car’s a lemon. It’s a wreck. It belongs on blocks in the back yard, with weeds growing through the floorboard and bees nesting in the engine compartment.
The only way to get to freedom is to walk — away from the wreck, away from the idea that you can get somewhere in a vehicle that’s going nowhere. You can start now or you can sit in the car with Ron Paul and Gary Johnson flashing the lights, honking the horn, swilling MD 20/20 and listening to that old Abba cassette until the battery runs down. Your call.