Watch Out Libertarians: There Are ‘Imposters’ Among Us!

Yes, I spell imposter this way! And my gut tells me that is right, never mind what the spell checker says. And because I am limerent  and an autoist, I am sticking to this spelling. And yes, limerent is a word. Look it up! As for autoist, I coined it myself.

 There are imposters among us. People who pretend to be libertarian, but they’re not. People who purport to support our platform, but they don’t. People who follow. People who lead. All kinds of people who are not what they seem. But if we want to win, we’re not allowed to judge, right? How can we grow the party if we are not willing to let in people of all stripes?

Last night I watched the Tim Burton movie, Big Eyes. It’s about a conman who manipulates an artist into letting him take credit for her work and then catapults the work into fame and fortune and is eventually proved to be the fraud that he is. What’s interesting about this movie is that it has layers. It’s not all as straightforward as you would think.

For instance, we are not sure what we think of the woman’s art. Is it good? Is it kitsch? Without the conman’s help, would anyone have ever given it a second look? And why did she allow him to dominate her for so very long, before exposing him? Was she afraid of him? Did she feel sorry for him?  Was it a mutual dependency?

We might as well ask: Are you voting for Johnson/Weld? If you’re a libertarian, are you doing it because you like Gary Johnson and Bill Weld and believe in the stands they have taken? Or is it because you feel sorry for the Libertarian Party and want it to win at all costs, even though you realize that a terrible mistake has been made? Or could it be that you are a prisoner of fear?  Are you supporting Gary and Bill because you are so afraid of what would happen to America under Trump/Clinton or Clinton/Trump?’

What?  Clinton and Trump are not running on the same ticket? You could have fooled me. Besides, if we went to the original intent of the Founding Fathers when they drafted the constitution, then Clinton and Trump, if they had the highest number of electoral votes  — or votes in the House, barring an electoral majority — ought to be elected as our president and vice president respectively — the one with the highest votes coming in as president and the other as vice president. That’s how it would have been prior to the passage of the 12th amendment.

Do you like the 12th amendment? Did it fix a terrible flaw in our system? Tell me again what flaw that would be? Would it have been that it nearly kept the architect of the Embargo Act from the presidency?

The Libertarian Party and the liberty movement, in general, are plagued by a number of problems, not the least of which is the pull of ruthless, charismatic leaders on the one hand and the hope of achieving popular success by jettisoning all our beliefs on the other.

How could a strong woman like Margaret Keane have allowed a conman to rob her of her art and her self-respect? We’ve recently heard similar questions concerning followers who were manipulated by leaders in the liberty movement, individuals, who, for the sake of liberty, were willing for a time to become personal slaves. Was it all because they were weak? Or because he was a villain? Or was there something to be gained and something to be lost?

This suspicion is not unique to any specific individuals. Aren’t we all doing the same thing, and then pretending to be victims of our compromises with the truth? Which is it? Did Bill Weld lead Gary Johnson astray? Is Johnson now so ashamed of having been manipulated that he is afraid to confess, even to Kennedy, that he has been played? Or is Johnson being a smart cookie? Is he playing his cards right? Is that what it takes to win?

Maybe we are all playing our cards just right. Because if Margaret Keane had ditched her no good husband too soon, would any of us ever have heard of her? Would her art or imitations of that art be adorning our children’s nurseries today, if she had been so strong and so upright never to have given Keane the nod?

And is it even art? Bob Dylan has just won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his lyrics. Now, keep in mind, even though I am not his biggest fan, I think that his lyrics are better than anything that has passed for poetry in literary circles in years. And the liberals used to love his stuff! Loved it! Blowin’ in the Wind was universally acclaimed, regardless of the fact that Dylan’s politics kept changing, whichever way the wind was blowing. But now that he’s won the Nobel, some liberals are ditching him.

What made Keane win for Margaret’s lost waifs and helpless, soulful kittens such a devout following? According to the Tim Burton movie, it was that he was able to spin out of thin air a story for how they were conceived. Margaret was spurred to paint these images of children reminiscent of embryos with their big heads and smaller bodies, because as a woman, her motherhood was all she had. Her deep sympathy for children and small animals was an echo of her social role in 1950s America, just before she left her first husband to seek her fortune as a painter. But if he was to convince the public that he had painted them, Keane needed a different story. He needed to paint himself as a socialist do-gooder, someone who was concerned about the plight of the downtrodden. “Think about the children!”

The lengths to which Keane went to move the women in his audience to tears while telling stories about post-WWII lost waifs in war-torn France are possibly the best part of the movie. “Think about the children!” is the cry of the statist establishment today. The Clinton camp is especially good at evoking that ethos, but Trump has his own version. And we libertarians ask ourselves: How on earth can we hope to compete with that? I think there was something about pied pipers in the Wikileaks emails. That is the pied piper’s cry. “Think about the children!”

In a recent article in Reason, it was suggested that we libertarians might have a touch of autism when the images of big-eyed starving waifs fail to move us to give up our rights. It was even suggested that we are more masculine and systematizing, as opposed to the feminine socialists, who would rather empathize than analyze.

I have to disagree. I mean, I don’t disagree that we have a touch of autism, but I do not agree with the way that is characterized. It makes it seem as if liberals and socialists are emotionally motivated, while we libertarians are cold, unfeeling automatons. Nothing could be further from the truth. Socialists do not care about the children. They do not empathize. They are calculating and manipulative, and social reality motivates them. They have no preferences of their own, so they have no need to express preferences that they do not think will be accepted by the vast majority.

Libertarians, to the extent that we are genuine, have strong preferences. We each want to live in our own way, and we want a system that will allow us to do so. Even though we are fully aware that it will make us sound crass, we insist on having things our own way. That takes courage, and it often makes us martyrs.  So it’s not that we are socially unaware. We dare to look bad! We don’t check to see how everyone else is voting before we ourselves vote. And we want to live in a world where everyone else is like that, too. Only there are imposters among us. They pretend to be just like us, but they’re not.

Do we want to grow the party and accept everyone? Then we will be lost. Our votes will never get counted in the vast sea of humans who don’t care for liberty. If we get 5% of the popular vote, then we become a minor party, and then we get Federal money, and then more and more imposters will be attracted to the party. That’s not me saying that. That’s what Gary Johnson told Kennedy!

It’s not that it’s unethical to use the Federal money. It’s that strategically, it’s like committing ideological suicide. People like us will never carry a majority. We need to be part of a system that allows the stubborn minority who have a strong preference for liberty to prevail.

If I could turn back time — lyrics that may win the Nobel very soon! — I would not just turn back to this May in Orlando when we should have chosen Austin Petersen as our nominee. I would turn it back all the way to before the passage of the 12th amendment, in the good old days when the Vice President was simply the person who got the second highest number of votes than the President. That way, the two party system could have been prevented from prevailing, and we would have had the Constitution that the Founders intended before they got themselves all mired in politics. I bet under that system, no matter how many people were selling pictures of big-eyed waifs, we would still be on the gold standard!

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  • Me

    Very interesting post, Aya. I am not a strong Libertarian, but I will admit that Gary Johnson seemed like the best choice for me this year. The more I heard what Hillary had to say, and the ways they dismissed Bernie and others in the Democratic party, this made feel voting for Gary made more sense. I am probably not as anti-tax as the true blue Libertarian, but I am open minded to having less taxes. Also, I felt like years of being a Democratic sort of made me feel negative about things that were not always the case. Like the occupy movement wants us to hate all corporations, but some corporations treat their employees ethically, and do not pollute the environment. For years I feel like I was almost brainwashed in a way, and now I feel like I am coming out of the fog. When I noticed that Democrats sometimes had double standards and would condemn conservatives for one thing, and do the same thing themselves, that is when I began to think I do not need to be defined by a political party. So I am not the perfect Libertarian, but I do think Gary is the best choice. Perhaps he did not know what Aleppo was at that moment, but he actually spoke quite eloquently about the problems with our foreign policy in another interview. I feel the dismissal of anyone who is a third party person is not fair. I can understand why you do not want to grow the party, but I am tired of political parties at this point. I am also tired of the us vs them mentality that is purported in politics. That is what I feel like causes the bickering cycle. This year I do not care what anyone thinks or feels about politics, and that is their opinion. I also know I could never been a political leader myself, but I do find it disconcerting a potential political leader praises the competition a bit much more than he should.

    • Aya Katz

      I am still voting for Gary Johnson, but I wish my vote for him did not also have to count as a vote for Bill Weld as VP, considering how he “vouched” for Hillary. We would do better if we could go back to a system where people choose their favorite two top leaders, instead of having to go by the party ticket.

      • It might stop the bickering, too. Of course, imagine if Hillary and Donald would have to be president and VP. But then again, maybe they would not be so sad about it after the election. But in all honesty, it might be a good thing to do away with the twelfth amendment, especially after this election cycle there would be more reason for doing so than ever. Have you thought about starting a petition to propose this?

        • Aya Katz

          I would like to petition for that, but I am not sure if it would have much momentum. I think it would be good to bring this up as an issue at the next Libertarian Convention.

          • Give things a year Aya. Right now everyone thinks we are entering a golden age, but you know the complaining will start up like clock work. Maybe then you will have more support from people who realized voting the lesser of two evils was not such a good idea after all. I do have hope, though, because Gary has been campaigning in California, and Hillary just assumes it is in the bag for her, and this state is not really for Trump. Maybe Gary will have a bigger impact than people think.

          • Aya Katz

            I certainly hope so, Julia!