Austin Dispatches
No. 22
Nov. 16, 2000

The cold spread like a malaise across Travis County on Election Day. It established an early lead throughout the voting precincts and held on to its gains as the daylight waned in the Texas capital.1

Our work done, our votes cast, the Divine Miss KT and I joined Travis County Libertarians at The Filling Station, across the road from the election counting in the basement of Palmer Auditorium.

(We've been making the scene, from concerts by B.B. King2 and Bo Diddley3 to the Wurstfest,4 and various restaurants and calendar listings in between. We met at Dell,5 and started dating the day my work there ended. Now I'm back at Big Blue6 with a new contract.)7

The LP activists and candidates monitored local, state and federal election results from twin televisions in the restaurant's back room.

I introduced her to various members of the group. We sat with Mary Ruwart, the LP nominee for U.S. Senate.8 Ruwart headed the Libertarian Party's extensive slate of candidates in Texas that extended down the ballot to constable.9 This strength impressed my friend Mim Cohn, a stalwart Democrat from New York.

The Empire State Strikes Out

Nonetheless, Cohn was disheartened by carpetbagger Hillary Clinton's landslide victory in the U.S. Senate race in New York.10 That state's denizens regard themselves as sophisticated sharpies. Yet they overwhelmingly elected this white-bread harridan, or as New York Press' Andrey Slivka put it:

… this provincial duchess, this pursed-lip queen of the Des Moines Temperance Union ca.
1912, a bonneted nightmare out of the pig-slop streets of Sinclair Lewis – an actual real-life Midwestern Methodist of the sort that Mencken used as a metaphor for sleazy, small-time, chump-change Middle American corruption.11
New Yorkers. What rubes.

The Good News

Elsewhere in the Northeast, Libertarian Carla Howell received 12 percent of the vote running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted "Chappaquiddick" Kennedy, D-Mass.12 Her percentage is nearly the same as the Republican candidate, a loose cannon fronting a party in collapse.13 Howell, and the Libertarian candidates who have won statehouse elections in New England,14 represent the LP's continuing trend of success in that region.  Henceforth it will be more difficult for the intellectual classes16 to dismiss the Libertarians as fringe weirdos from out West, the party's traditional base of support.17

Locally, voters overwhelmingly re-elected U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, a Republican-Libertarian fusion candidate in Congressional District 14, which encompasses south Travis County.18 The daily Austin American-Statesman and the "alternative"19 weekly Austin Chronicle both snearingly dismissed Paul in their endorsements.20 Despite this, or perhaps because of it, Paul received a higher vote percentage in Travis County than in the district overall.21 Take that, media gatekeepers!22

Down the ballot, George W. Meeks, the Libertarian candidate for the Texas Senate in District 25,23  received the endorsement of NOKOA, a black community newspaper in East Austin.24 Meeks received 13 percent of the vote.25

In fact, the 2000 election revealed a significant new source of libertarian support. A Sep. 7 survey from Rassmussen Research found more than a fifth of blacks to be libertarians.26 Moreover, three ran prominent campaigns for Congress: John Clifton for Senate in New York;27 J.J. Johnson (the publisher of Sierra Times, not the trombonist)28 for Senate in Nevada;29 and my acquaintance Richard Boddie for the U.S. House for Orange County, Calif.30

Perhaps most gratifying, Austin voters rejected a light-rail proposal.31 The city mass transit agency wanted permission to spend $2 billion32 for a vague plan that nonetheless involved tearing up the roads for 25 years,33 along downtown streets, North Lamar Boulevard, and South Congress Avenue,34 one of the remaining pockets of funkiness35 that mass transit advocates claim to want to preserve from traffic congestion – all for a trolley.36 Even the plan's supporters, like the Austin Chronicle, said it wouldn't be enough.37 Anyway, traffic's already bad enough, both on Interstate 35,38 and on the side streets with "traffic calmers."39  (What's so calming about them?) Now Capital Metro officials will continue studying light rail.40  What part of no don't they understand?

Presidential Pissants

While the lawyers sift through the electoral rubble,41 and before the internal recriminations begin, I'll point out Harry Browne received the highest level of visibility of any LP nominee I've yet seen (including favorable write-ups in Salon and the San Jose Mercury-News).42  He also managed to nearly match the vote totals of Pat Buchanan,43 without Buchanan's name recognition, federal funding,44 or alliances with Marxists.45

Meanwhile, the LP, as indicated above, displays increasing strength across the land. Such strength is important, because the United States will need a countervailing political force soon. As of this writing, to judge from the stream of stories flowing from Florida, the Republicans couldn't win a game of three-card monte if they were the dealers.46 Massachusetts is a just a portent.

Browne and the LP have been the subject of intense criticism within the libertarian movement, most gallingly from Camille Paglia, who complained in her Oct. 25 Salon column:

I'm getting fed up with members of the Libertarian Party who think they own the word "libertarian." Get off my back, please, and focus your attention on the failures of your party to fine-tune and convey its philosophy credibly to the national electorate.47
Maybe the party has trouble conveying its philosophy credibly because independent self-promoters like Paglia use "libertarian" without actually understanding the meaning of the term and the principles behind it.48  No self-respecting Libertarian advocates government subsidies to rock musicians49 or supports pederasty,50 as Paglia does. For its trouble, the LP is denounced as "too conservative"51 by this silly Sapphic who writes political commentary as ill-informed as the French theorists she constantly denounces, and for the same flaws.52 Meanwhile, the manuscript for the follow-up volume to the brilliant "Sexual Personae" languishes.53

Still, what a shame Browne didn't garner better results. He was the one presidential nominee who was a consistent advocate for liberty.54  (I also found out he wrote a book that coincidentally articulates how I generally live my life, but that's another story for another time.)55

The hours passed. The Divine Miss KT and I had to work the next morning to pay our taxes. We left the monitoring of the presidential race to the media, and to Al Gore and George W. Bush.

Eventually, the tight race and shifting totals forced the Austin American-Statesman to halt its press run and redo the paper after printing 59,000 copies proclaiming a Bush victory.56

Gore, who campaigned like he had a hellhound on his trail57 (or a special prosecutor), was convinced he still might be president. He called Bush to withdraw his earlier concession before Bush gave his victory speech.58

"Let me make sure I understand," Bush said. "You're calling me back to retract your concession? Well, Mr. Vice President, you do what you have to do."59

"You don't have to get snippy about this," Gore said. "Let me explain something. Your younger brother [Florida Gov. Jeb Bush] is not the ultimate authority on this.”60

Unfortunately, the likely winner is Gore, who is ideally suited to rule the late Roman Empire.61 If he becomes president, look for further assaults on the rule of law, civil liberties, the market, and whichever groups, foreign or domestic, suit his whims.62 His distant relative Gore Vidal must be pleased.63

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1 APSB, 70; Cottle, Michelle. "Campaign Journal: End Run." TNR 20 Nov. 2000: 18.
2 Hernandez, Raoul. “Paying the Cost to Be the Boss.” AC 29 Sep. 2000: 78; “Live Shots.” AC 6 Oct. 2000: 78+.
3 Hernandez. “Diddley Daddy.” AC 27 Oct. 2000: 92; Riemenschneider, Chris. “Record Convention.” XL 26 Oct. 2000: 11.
4 “Community.” AC 10 Nov. 2000: 96-97.
5 AD No. 17 (June 10, 2000).
6 EAD No. 14 (June 23, 2000).
7 “An Interview with CTG’s Co-Founder and New Chairman.” Telebit Aug. 2000: 1+.
     For an overview of the affair, see Ventura, Michael. “Patterns of Love.” AC 18 Jul. 1997: 8-9.
8 Camia, Catalina. “Hutchison Easily Wins Re-election.” DMN 8 Nov. 2000: 1A+; Harmon, Dave. “Congressional GOP on Quest to Keep Seats.” AAS 22 Oct. 2000: E5.
9 Bahadur, Gaiutra, and Bruce Hight. “Sitting Judges See Competition by Third Parties.” AAS 22 Oct. 2000: E8; Thakkar, Prat. “Candidates Argue Role of Assessor; Constable.” AAS 22 Oct. 2000: E10.
10 Jackson, David. “First Lady Wins Senate Seat, Place in History.” DMN 8 Nov. 2000: 1A+.
     Cohn claimed she was “happy” that Clinton won in New York. Letter to Dan Eisler, 26 Nov. 2000.
11 Slivka, Andrey. “Hillary Meets the WFP.” NYPR 23 Feb. 2000: <http://www.nypress.com/content.cfm?content_id=1334>.
12 Damore, Leo. Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Cover-Up. Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 1988. For a fictionalized version, read Oates, Joyce Carol. Black Water. New York City: Dutton, 1992; Kennedy, Dan. "Howell's Dilemma" BP 12 Oct. 2000 <http://www.bostonphoenix.com/archive/features/00/10/12/DON_T_QUOTE_ME.html>; “U.S. Senate Results.” AAS 9 Nov. 2000: A13.
13 Jacoby, Jeff. "Who Killed the State GOP?" Boston Globe 15 May 2000: A11; Kennedy, op. cit.; “U.S. Senate Results,” op. cit.
14 “Libertarian State Rep. Elected in Vermont.” LPN Dec. 1998: 1; Winger, Richard. “Minor Party Victories.” BAN 16 Nov. 2000: 1.
15 Election statistics in Congressional Quarterly, Almanac XLVI-. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1991-; Garreau, Joel. The Nine Nations of North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981: 14-48; “2 Million Vote Libertarian.” LPN Dec. 1996: 1+; “1996 Libertarian Party Election Results.” Ibid., 10.
16 "I use the term 'intellectual' in the the broad sense penetratingly described by F.A. Hayek: that is, not merely theorists and academicians, but also all manner of opinion-molders in society -- writers, journalists, preachers, scientists, activists of all sorts -- what Hayek calls 'secondhand dealers in ideas.'  " Rothbard, Murray N. "World War I as Fulfillment: Power and the Intellectuals." JLS Winter 1989: 81-125. Rpt. in The Costs of War, 2nd ed. Ed. J.V. Denson. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1999: 203-254.
17 World Encylcopedia of Political Parties and Systems. Ed. George E. Delury. New York City: Facts on File, 1983: II, 1135.
18 “Arthur, Chester Alan” [R.W. Bradford]. “The Only Libertarian in Congress.” Liberty Jan. 1997: 37; “Nov. 7 General Election Results.” AC 10 Nov. 2000: 34.
19 Black, Louis. “Page Two.” AC 9 June 2000: 2; Strecker, Candi. “ ‘Alternative.’ ” in Retro Hell, 5.
20 Black et al. “Endorsements.” AC 20 Oct. 2000: 6+; “Election 2000: U.S. Senate, House.” AAS 23 Oct. 2000: A10.
21 “Nov. 7 General Election Results.” AC 10 Nov. 2000: 34.
22 Drudge, Matt, and Julia Phillips. The Drudge Manifesto. New York City: New American Library, 2000: 40, and passim.
23 “Texas Legislature Candidates.” AAS 22 Oct. 2000: E6.
24 "Endorsements." Nokoa. 26 Oct. 2000: 5.
25 “State and Local Races.” AAS 9 Nov. 2000: A17.
26 Rassmussen Research. "Libertarian Litmus Test: Are You a Libertarian?" 7 Sep. 2000. Portrait of America. <http://www.portraitofamerica.com/html/poll-1208.html>.
27 Byrk, William. "Famous Men." NYPR 16 Jul. 2000; “New York LP Jumps into Senate Race.” LPN Jul. 2000: 1.
28 Janowiak, John. “Bigger Than a Bop Box.” DB July 1999: 23.
29 “U.S. Senate Results.” AAS 9 Nov. 2000: A13.
30 On Boddie: “Arthur, Chester Alan.” “My Kind of Town.” Liberty Nov. 1991: 35-42+; Eisler. “Libertarian Defends Individual Rights.” Oregon Daily Emerald 5 April 1991: 8; "How California Voted." LAT 9 Nov. 2000: A49.
    On Orange County: Johnson, Harold. “Red Ink Blues.” Reason Mar. 1995: 42-43; Lowery, Steve. "Breakthrough?" OCW 10 Nov. 2000, online ed.
31 Clark-Madison, Mike. “Light Rail Never?” AC 10 Nov. 2000: 37; Daniel, Kelly. “Rail Referendum Fails.” AAS 8 Nov. 2000, election final ed.: A18.
32 Clark-Madison. “Take the A-Train.” AC 13 Oct. 2000: 28; Martin, Ken. “Gimme Rails.” TGL Oct. 2000: 2.
33 Martin. “The Rage over Roads and Rail.” TGL Oct. 2000: 22-27+.
34 Clark-Madison. “Take the A-Train,” op. cit.; Ford, Mike. “Can Light Rail Work?” AAS 12 Oct. 2000: A17; Luedeke, James. “Light Rail Targets South Congress.” AM Sep. 2000: 6.
35 Luedeke “South Congress Avenue Revitalization.” AM July 2000: 40; Salamon, Jeff et. al. “South Congress: Avenue of Dreams.” XL 22 June 2000: 28-35.
36 Bryce, Robert. “End of the Line.” AC 21 July 2000: 34; Ford, op. cit.
37 Black. “Page Two.” AC 21 July 2000: 2; Martin. “Gimme Rails,” op. cit.
38 Daniel. "Driver: Thou Shalt Avoid I-35 at All Cost." AAS 30 Oct. 2000: B1.
39 Peacock, Bill. “Traffic Calmers Divide Old Austin.” AUSR April 2000: 1+.
40 Daniel. “Despite Loss, Cap Metro to Continue Light-Rail Studies.” AAS 9 Nov. 2000: A1+.
41 Williams, Mike. “Florida Deadline Today.” AAS 14 Nov. 2000: A1+.
42  Pappas, Charles. "Libertarian Financial Advice." Salon 19 Oct. 2000. <http://www.salon.com/business/green/2000/10/19/harry_browne/index.html>; Recio, Maria. "Libertarian Presidential Candidate Quietly Overtakes Better-Known Rivals." San Jose Mercury-News 4 Nov. 2000, morning final ed.: 15A.
     For other coverage: “The Agenda: November.” Esquire Nov. 2000: 48.
     For recriminations: Bradford. “Libertarian Party: The 2000 Election.” Liberty Jan. 2001: 23-25.
43 "Minor Party Presidential Vote." BAN 16 Nov. 2000: 4.
44 Hamburger, Tom. "Buchanan, in Reform Party Fade-Out, is Poised to Fall Short Despite U.S. Funds." WSJ 6 Nov. 2000: A36.
45 Grann, David. "Coming Soon to a Presidential Campaign Near You." TNR 13 Dec. 1999: 20; "Lenora Fulani Resigns From the Reform Party." WSJ 20 June 2000, Western ed.: A8.
46 Williams, op. cit.
47 Paglia, Camille. “Rage in the Middle East.” Salon 25 Oct. 2000.
48 Bergland, David. Libertarianism in One Lesson, rev. 8th ed. Costa Mesa, Calif.: Orpheus Publications, 1993.
49 Paglia. “Rock as Art.” NYT 16 Apr. 1992. Rpt. in Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays. New York City: Vintage Books, 1992: 19-21.
50 Postrel, Virginia I. "Interview with the Vamp." Reason Aug./Sep. 1995: 37-44.
51 Paglia. “Rage in the Middle East,” op. cit.
52 Paglia. “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf.” Arion Spring 1991. Rpt. Sex, Art, and American Culture, 170-248.
53 Paglia. Sexual Personae, Vol. I: Art & Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson. New Haven, Conn.: Yale UP, 1990; Sailer, Steve. "Up the Amazon." NR 31 Dec. 1994: 58.
54 Bradford. “Harry Browne: For Liberty.” Liberty Dec. 2000: 28-29.
55 Browne, Harry. How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World: A Handbook for Personal Liberty, rev. ed. Great Falls, Mont.: Liam Works, 1998.
56 Haurwitz, Ralph K.M. "Stop the Presses." AAS 9 Nov. 2000: A10.
57 Johnson, Robert. “Hellhound on My Trail.” 1936. Complete Recordings. Columbia C2K 46222, 1990.
58 Herman, Ken. "It was a Roller-Coaster Night for Bush." AAS 9 Nov. 2000: A1+.
59 Tapper, Jake. Down and Dirty: The Plot to Steal the Presidency. Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 2001: 37.
60 Herman, op. cit.
61 Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World. Ed. G.W. Bowersock, Peter Brown, and Oleg Grabar. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1999.
62 Bovard, James. "Feeling Your Pain": The Explosion and Abuse of Government Power in the Clinton-Gore Years. New York City: St. Martin's Press, 2000.
63 Vidal, Gore. Julian. Boston: Little, Brown, 1964; "Patriotism." The Nation 15 Jul. 1991. Rpt. in United States: Essays 1952-1992. New York City: Random House, 1993: 1045-1047; "The Twelve Caesars" 1952. Rpt. idem.: 523-528.