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Travis Rowley: Libertarians: Party-Less and Powerless

Saturday, June 15, 2013


When good-government reformist Ken Block announced several weeks ago that he would be running for the governor’s seat again in 2014 he made it clear that his candidacy would not be aimed at legitimizing his torpid Moderate Party. This time, Block’s gubernatorial run would be entirely geared toward actually winning the race, leaving open the possibility of running for governor as a Republican.

Facing discouraging odds of pulling off another victory as an Independent candidate in 2014, Governor Lincoln Chafee blurred the horizon of the 2014 Democratic primary by abandoning his Independent status and registering as a Democrat a couple weeks ago.

WPRI’s Ted Nesi summed up Chafee’s chances, citing Public Policy Polling’s January survey that “tested a wide variety of 2014 scenarios. Chafee won the biggest share of voters – 35% – as the Democratic candidate in a three-way race against Republican Brendan Doherty (who’s not running) and Moderate Party candidate Ken Block (who is), suggesting the governor’s ceiling of support remains about where it was in 2010 if he runs as a Democrat; as an independent, by contrast, he got 23% at most.”

Nesi determined, “Clearly, Chafee and his savvy chief of staff, former Patrick Kennedy aide George Zainyeh, decided the approval-challenged governor’s best bet for a second term was in the Democratic Party.”

RIFuture.org editor Bob Plain agreed: “It sure seems to me Chafee is a Democrat of convenience rather than of conviction.”

Still, the “Trust Chafee” team insists on the Governor’s sincerity. Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger told the press, “It doesn’t have anything to do with politics.”

There’s some believability there. Most people recognize that the Governor has landed precisely where he has always belonged. “Policy-wise, Linc Chafee might best belong as a Democrat, and he often finds common ground with the progressive movement,” added Plain.

That’s how lost the Democratic Party is. It’s the party that makes Lincoln Chafee feel right at home.

The Lesson

The lesson from all this political shuffling and consideration is to be learned primarily by libertarians, Tea Partiers, and champions of third parties who still – to this day – refuse to embrace the GOP and call themselves “Republicans.”

There’s a reason for Block’s and Chafee’s posturing: The two major political parties are influential institutions, and efficient vessels of political power.

“A political party is merely an institution that is traveled by people,” I once explained on these pages. “And, therefore, the character of the institution is altered by its human capital…If conservatives wish to force every shred of liberalism from the Republican Party, their best option is to become active Republicans.”

Remaining unaffiliated is not to retain your principles. Remaining unaffiliated is to commit political suicide – to surrender the nation to the Left.

Unless you really think that, somehow, all of your Facebook posts will ultimately be signed into law.


It has been a successful strategy, the “long march through the institutions” – activist instruction often attributed to the late Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, who directed leftists to transform America by infiltrating and capturing American churches, universities, media, and government (among other important cultural institutions).

Today, the Progressive Democrats of America continue the Left’s political legacy of infiltration, admitting that they “strive for progressive change…by working within the Democratic Party.”

Perhaps former Obama advisor Van Jones best represents the quintessential progressive. This self-described “communist” learned to temper his radicalism in order to advance through the Democratic network, deciding long ago to “forgo the cheap satisfaction of the radical pose for the deep satisfaction of radical ends.”

Van Jones ended up working in the White House – in large part – by calling himself a “Democrat.”

“Party affiliation is no small thing in our political process,” Bob Plain reminds us.

That’s right. And nobody understands this deception better than progressives.

Today, a radical community organizer out of Chicago occupies the White House. And a far-left nincompoop from San Francisco, up until several years ago, was referring to herself as the Speaker of the House.

All by way of party infiltration.

Nevertheless, thousands of principled conservatives continue to shun this avenue of power by stiff-arming the GOP.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) once warned his Republican counterparts to abandon the “Tea Party extremism,” saying, “I hope that the Tea Party doesn’t have the influence in this next year that they had in the previous year.”

It’s easy to understand why Harry Reid craves less hassle from Tea Party Republicans. But why would any conservative or libertarian activist decide to accommodate this powerful progressive? Why do so many hard-line conservatives still refuse to participate in such a proven political strategy, and surrender the influence they could have over the GOP and its local affiliates? (Last summer, I explained why. Click HERE for the answer.)

Ken Block and Lincoln Chafee clearly get it. When will the libertarians wake up?

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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