My weekend with the Democratic Party

I’ve been swamped lately with various papers and the like coming due, possibly switching jobs, etc. But I did manage to find enough time this weekend for two political events in my otherwise sleepy town of Chadron.

Thursday night, George McGovern came to my college, giving a speech on Iraq. Now, I don’t appreciate many of the man’s positions, but he was one of the most outspoken opponents of the Vietnam War and on that point, at least, was vindicated in a major way. His speech on Iraq didn’t raise any points nobody hasn’t heard yet, and my brief conversation with him afterwards wasn’t about anything major, but the event gave me some food for thought.

Turn the clock to Friday at noon. My political science professor, Luke Perry, co-hosted an event at a local restaurant wherein Scott Kleeb, the Democratic (very) hopeful for running for Nebraska’s 3rd District in the House of Representatives, spoke. Since there’s no Libertarian running in this district (that I know of), I sadly will probably vote for this man, despite the fact that he’s pro-war, couldn’t directly answer a question on healthcare with concrete proposals (even though that’s the focus of his campaign) and wants to increase Social Security or Medicare and possibly taxes on everyone, not just the rich. He was a nice enough fellow, and to his credit he spoke against the debt, against corporate welfare and for cutting taxes on alternative energy developers (and some subsidies, which is bad, yes… but we’re subsidizing energy anyway so we might as well do it in a more sensible, less pollutive way that decreases our dependence on other nations) so he’s slightly better than the Republican front-runner, Adrian Smith. I also had a dean from my college, some washed-up hippie from the 60s, tell me that our local paper was a fundamentalist Christian rag… and then backtrack miserably when I mentioned that the paper’s owner (whose wife works in my office) was a Hindu. Good times, good times.

The best part, I think, was Kleeb’s answer to how to overcome a 10-to-1 voter registration advantage for the Republicans: educating the voters. My polisci teacher and I had a good laugh about that afterwards, because this approach, quite simply, doesn’t work. As a politician, you can sway an electorate a little bit one way or another, but you cannot fundamentally transform them. That’s for think-tanks to do; a successful politician must invite the electorate to “come as they are” and appeal to those instincts already within the electorate that he shares.

But anyway, these events gave me an insight into the thought process of the average liberal. They (or at least a lot of them) are against the war not because Iraq was a sovereign country that didn’t attack us, or because the cost was massive, or because the stated end goal-a democratic, stable, Iraq-is unrealistic. They’re against the war because we didn’t go in with the rest of the world, and because not everyone is being asked to make sacrifices for the war. Seriously-there are plenty of liberals out there that would be all for this war if Dubya had said upfront “We’re going in to give them democracy,” had gotten France and Germany on our side, enacted a draft, and raised taxes to wage it.

The basic idea driving them is that whatever is done, should be done by everyone. Libertarians have a name for this-collectivism. We oppose war out of individualism, they oppose it out of collectivism. Perhaps this is why the anti-war left and right can’t get along. It’s sad seeing the mainstream philosophical stepchildren of Locke and Mill having become so collectivist, but as with all political problems, it deserves a political answer. I think the IES was a good answer to that, but unfortunately it didn’t get the attention it deserved. But until then, it is the duty of anyone who really actually wants to end this war to figure out how to work with the collectivist side of the anti-war movement.

posted by Stuart Richards
  • Sandy

    In an effort to give an example of Mr. Kleeb’s “educating the voters”, let me say that liberals have been against the war because the evidence that proved there was no WMD was available from the beginning, because the inspections could have continued, because there was no evidence Iraq was an imminent threat and because Iraq was a sovereign country who had never harmed us or threatened to harm us.

    I don’t know where you got the idea the only concern liberals had or have is whether the rest of the world joined in. You’re clearly misinformed. Try Educate yourself and maybe you’ll grow out of your self-indulgent libertarianism and learn that there is no greater value than to contribute to society.

  • Michael Hampton

    Wow, it really is impossible to talk sense to a liberal. (It’s also impossible to talk sense to a conservative, but for other reasons…)

  • Paul Anderson

    Your note on not being able to educate voters is well taken, something a lot of people seem to overlook.

    As for ‘talking sense’ to liberals or conservatives,
    I have found it much like reasoning with a 4 year old.
    (That said – some 4 year-olds can handle logic).

    I also note that the pervasive influences on our children seem to construct and reinforce collectivist sentiment.
    Shows like Sesame street are blatantly collectivist,
    I know this having had the opportunity to compare with
    other preschool media from around the world.
    (Chinese pre-school media is the worst,
    Australia’s Hi-5 is far less collectivist.)
    I would surmise we have no chance whatsoever given that most of the voters coming of age over the past 10 years and later have been brainwashed into being good little collectivists.

    To see good examples of ‘collectivist’ sentiment amongst the Libertarian Party, see the responses given to a query on impeaching Bush at my site: “We should …”

  • Julian (a Vietnam Vet)

    Paul Anderson

    So you know the truth and are the keeper. Everyone else is like a 4 year old needing your guidance and instruction. Is that what I am getting from your comment?

    Is this elitist thinking or just misinformed, uneducated opinion? I am a libertarian and believe the only way we are going to win elections is to understand, educate and persuade the voters to come to an understanding that libertarianism is not a bunch of elitists that know what is best for the rest of the citizenry. It is a fundamental belief in the right for all to live free and unencumbered from big government interfering with our right to live our lives as we see fit.

  • Michael Hampton

    I thought it was the conservatives and the liberals who were the bunch of elitists that know what is best for the rest of the citizenry.

  • James R Ament

    Sandy, you said: “there is no greater value than to contribute to society.” It’s an assertion, but even if I were to concede the point, the question is, how is that best accomplished? Self-indulgent but purifying collectivism?

  • disinter


    Are you an elected Libertarian yet? Since you know so much about what it takes to elect a Libertarian, you should be running for office. You are too concerned with the collective. Candidates of all parties are individuals, it doesn’t matter what they think or do.

  • Frank Worley

    You hit the nail on the head early in the article, but then missed it later. The democrats do not oppose the war out of “collectivism.” While that soclist view may be part of the Democrats overall beliefs, they oppose the war out of political convenience. “Come as you are” voters is the name of the game. Most democrats voted for the war, now it is convenient to be opposed to it, and lets face it, there are alot of people who just hate Bush and anything anti-Bush is what they will vote for. The Dems (for the most part) didn’t oppose Clinton’s unilateral attacks on Iraq – during curiuos times of his presidency mind you – so they are being politicians as good politicians should be.


  • Keith Rodgers

    “Contributing to society” should be voluntary… in fact, it can ONLY be voluntary. “Mandatory contribution” is an oxymoron. Read: Social Security, for one example.

  • Graham

    I thought liberal opposition to the war had something to do with “living wages” and healthcare. That seems to be the standard response to anything I hear. What do you think about the immigration bill? “Well, so many million Americans don’t make a living wage. Something about unions..bah blah blah” Mr.Liberal, what do you think of medical marijuana? ” Well, if the evil corporations and the gubmint made sure all americans had free healthcare….” What do you think of the death penalty? ” The government kills millions of people every year because they don’t have free insurance. If everyone had free insurance and the minimum wage were $25 an hour, no one would ever die..blah”… Almost every time I see or hear a debate/interview with a Liberal/Democrat, no matter what the issue, the only “idea” is promoting socialism. I’m not picking on Liberals- “Conservatives” have their BS “protect the family” morality and theocratic BS and both have the “for the children” junk. Same Old ignorant agenda

  • Graham

    As far as “contribution”: Isn’t the best contribution an indivudal can make simply taking care of himself(and his dependent obligations)so “society” doesn’t have to?

  • Keith Rodgers

    Not enough, Graham… clearly, it’s in the Constitution that we must provide health care to everyone. It says so somewhere in there…

    This horrid misinterpretation of the “general welfare” part can best be summed up by Mrs. Bill Clinton:

    “We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

    IOW… your stuff are now belong to us. Pay up.

  • Rob D.

    As far as “contribution”: Isn’t the best contribution an indivudal can make simply taking care of himself(and his dependent obligations)so “society” doesn’t have to

    Exactly Graham…I have enough trouble keeping everything in tact with my own life (family, friends). I don’t follow Hillary’s mantra of “it takes a village”, sorry. It takes 2 parents.

    Sandy said:
    …there is no greater value than to contribute to society.

    That’s why we’re libertarians Sandy. And we probably donate to charities and contribute more to society than the self-proclaimed “compassionate” Decoyocrats. Labeling yourself a Democrat doesn’t mean you contribute shit to society. And conversely, labeling yourself a libertarian doesn’t mean that you don’t give a shit about anyone else either.

  • Devious David

    Austrians understand that the greatest contributions to society take place as the unintended consequences of people acting in their own best interest. That is how the free market operates. The State, on the other had produces unintended consequences that interfere with this fact and produce chaos.

    If people always acted on behalf of everyone else, and acted collectively, nothing productive would ever get done. There would be no incentive for productivity. The USSR was a great example of this, even though there was external factors and even (gasp!) corruption – an indication of the free market’s inviolability.

    Of course, getting this by a liberal is impossible because they are too “smart” for the free market. THEY have special adjustments and reforms that would make their interventions work! Nevermind that they don’t write the laws, enforce them or even administer the programs. The USSR taught them not!

  • Rob D.

    “If people always acted on behalf of everyone else, and acted collectively, nothing productive would ever get done. There would be no incentive for productivity.”

    Not to mention the debt that tends to rack up from a country that knows no bounds. $9 trillion in debt. Thanks Sandy! But we can call ourselves compassionate now right?

  • paulie cannoli

    Paul Anderson,

    Interesting responses. Do you have a libertarian Impeach Bush resolution written? I’m trying to get one done, and approved at local, state and national levels.

    Amazing that some so-called Libertarians don’t get it and that we still haven’t passed one, even though we did for Clinton. This is a shameful rightwing bias in the party (not the ideology) which holds us back from being able to reach out to the very people we should be talking to.


    what office are you running for? I would not give you unqualified support, but you might well make a better Sheriff than the alternatives, given comments that I have seen you make about your philosophy of policing. Also, you agree with popular misconceptions enough to have a chance of winning, and some experience. I think the LP should concentrate on Sheriff’s races. They can kick the feds out of their county.

  • Stuart Richards

    I could support Julian for a county sheriff position provided he didn’t say or do anything wildly against party principle… which on that level, he wouldn’t need to in order to do his job and stick to his own principles.

  • Tom Canham

    While slapping a label (“collectivism”) on it can make you feel like you’ve made a point, you haven’t, really.

    I opposed the Iraq war for several reasons. One, Iraq was a sovereign nation; yes, Saddam was a nutjob, but sadly there are a lot of nutjobs in the world and America has neither the time, resources, nor political willpower to dethrone them all. Two, I was very concerned about our military ability to remain an occupying force. I’m not much of a military historian, but what I know about past wars is that (A) it’s often surprisingly easy to invade a nation and topple a government, and (B) it’s often surprisingly hard to occupy that nation long-term. Think Afghanistan for the Russians here; and they had the advantage of relatively short supply lines!

    Finally, yes, I was upset that we didn’t have the support of the rest of the world. Not because I personally need a lot of yes-men to make a decision, but because broader international support could have ameliorated points (1) and (2) above.

    So, it’s not as cut-and-dried as you’d like to make it out to be, Stuart.

  • Quanta

    “The best part, I think, was Kleeb’s answer to how to overcome a 10-to-1 voter registration advantage for the Republicans: educating the voters. My polisci teacher and I had a good laugh about that afterwards, because this approach, quite simply, doesn’t work. As a politician, you can sway an electorate a little bit one way or another, but you cannot fundamentally transform them. That’s for think-tanks to do…”

    I think you really underestimate people my friend. People in western Nebraska may be mostly republicans, but rural Nebraskans are very independent and do not tend to vote along party lines, though they do tend to vote for incumbents. As proof of this is submit these statistics.
    In the open election of 1990 the Dem candidate lost by less that 1.5% of the vote.
    In the open election of 1974 the Dem candidate lost by only 737 votes.
    I have also met Scott Kleeb and I can tell you he will appeal to western Nebraskans.
    I think Scott Kleeb will suprise alot of people come Nov.

  • Frank D. Adams

    You have stated the argument quite well, Quanta. [“[y]ou really underestimate people . . . in western Nebraska maybe . . . [R]epublicans, but rural Nebraskans are very independent . . . .”] I, too, would question you predicting that folks across the Third District will automatically support the Republican candidate.

    From my perspective, Mr. Scott Kleeb is the best candidate for the Third District. For Mr. Stuart and his polisci prof to laugh at positions taken by Scott Kleeb gives the impression that neither have a clear idea about the issues. There is no “single response” to satisfy a very complex set of problems / issues. It has been quite a bit of time since “single issue” candidates where elected. Scott Kleeb has outline his positions toward the center (as he should) and has attempted to speak to / with the voting population of the Third District.

    Mr. Kleeb is the best candidate!