Will Libertarians Move from Barr to Johnson?

In 2008 the Libertarian Party nominated former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr as their candidate for President of the United States. Many modern Pagans who consider themselves libertarians/Libertarians were displeased by this turn of events, as Barr had notoriously tried to ban Pagans from serving in the military, claiming that equal rights for Wiccans and Pagans set  “a dangerous precedent that could easily result in the practice of all sorts of bizarre practices being supported by the military under the rubric of ‘religion.’ “ However, what was acceptable behavior in the Republican party of 1999 wasn’t going to pass muster with Libertarian live-and-let-live notions of freedom, and so Barr kinda-sorta recanted his position.

“I got to ask Barr a question I’ve wanted to ask him for quite some time. He’s repudiated and apologized for many of his previous positions and I asked him if he would repudiate his absurd anti-Wiccan crusade of 1999, when he wanted all Wiccans banned from the military. He said yes, with a bit of hemming and hawing. He said that he had reports from several military leaders that Wiccans doing rituals on military bases were causing problems and that’s why he did what he did, but that since that time it’s become clear that there are no problems with allowing Wiccans to serve and to practice their religion on military bases like any other religion. I did ask him for any specific problems that were reported to him back in 1999 by these military leaders, but he said he didn’t want to get into specifics. I’m sure that’s because there are no specific incidents and those military leaders who complained to him did so out of bigotry, or because the problems it caused were really caused by bigotry against Wiccans.”

Sadly, this change of heart seemed to only last as long as the presidential campaign, once he no longer had to curry political favor his obvious scorn for modern Paganism reemerged. Barr’s moral compass seems more guided by what will enrich him at any moment, than from a recognizable ethical philosophy, and his ongoing prominence within the Libertarian Party no doubt continues to keep many small-l libertarian Pagans at arms length from the party that purports to represent their views.

Johnson and Barr on Fox News together in 2010.

Johnson and Barr on Fox News together in 2010.

Now, it seems, there might be an alternative for Pagan libertarians/Libertarians in the form of former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who just announced that he’s abandoning his bid for the Republican presidential nomination to run on the Libertarian Party ticket.

“This was both a difficult decision – and an easy one,” Johnson said. “I have a lot of Republican history, and a lot of Republican supporters. But in the final analysis…I am a Libertarian – that is someone who is fiscally very conservative but holds freedom-based positions on the issues that govern our personal behavior.”

You can read his full statement, here. Johnson, in stark contrast to Barr, openly courted modern Pagans in a now-famous press conference with Pagan and Hindu media representatives (The American Spectator calls him a “pro-choice pursuer of the pagan vote”). I saw it as a hopeful harbinger that our political system could embrace the full religious and philosophical diversity of our county.

“What does it all mean? I think it represents two opportunities. First, there’s an opportunity for politicians to realize that America’s religious diversity isn’t simply a stock phrase to pull out when describing the virtues of our country. According to the Pew Forum, 16.1 percent of Americans claim no formal religion, while another 2.3 percent are part of religious tradition outside the Christian-Jewish-Muslim monotheistic paradigm. Those aren’t insignificant numbers, and they put the often lumped-together “other/unaffiliated” category on a statistical par with evangelical and mainline Protestants. Despite this, moral debates are almost always framed along a left-right Christian axis; Rick Warren gets to interview Obama and McCain, while Hindus, Pagans, Buddhists, and practitioners of indigenous traditions rarely get to ask questions on a national stage. Gov. Johnson’s courage in talking to religious minorities might have been driven by a modicum of desperation in getting his message out, but it should be seen as a harbinger of what campaigning to religious groups will be like in the future.”

Already, some are wondering if a Johnson Libertarian run could act as a spoiler for the Republicans in 2012, though a Libertarian spokesperson pointed out that (aside from the libertarian-beloved Ron Paul) “you can’t spoil tainted meat.”

“All of the Republican Party presidential candidates ” except for Ron Paul ” have a track record of voting for higher levels of government spending. Many have raised taxes, supported bailouts, and/or voted to expand Big Government.

The mere fact that two Libertarian presidential candidates, one past, and one potential, could have narratives so entwined with modern Pagans is remarkable in of itself. Add to that fact that if Barr should run for the LP nomination again against Johnson (though he endorsed Newt Gingrich, so maybe he won’t) it stands to reason that their respective attitudes towards minority religions will no doubt come up in debates and news stories. Pagan leaders and media should prepare themselves now for mainstream reporters looking into the “Pagan angle” of the Libertarian Party’s 2012 candidate. At the very least libertarian/Libertarian Pagans should be pleased that the party may be moving from Barr to Johnson in 2012, one wonders how many conservative Pagans will jump ship from the Republican Party to support Johnson’s candidacy. Interesting times are ahead.

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • http://www.facebook.com/EdAHubbard Ed Hubbard

    My friend, Brendan Tripp is very happy with this. As a leading member of the Libertarian Party in Chicago, as well as Pagan thinker, this is playing well with him. The party believes that they can split the vote, and in a three way race have a real chance.

  • Anonymous

    Bob Barr is absolutely NOT a Libertarian, big L or little l. How can you claim to be Libertarian on one hand, while with the other trying to infringe on the personal spiritual rights of service people? William Safire called him “Mr. Privacy” due to his work at the American Conservative Union and The Constitution Project’s Initiative on Liberty and Security. If he was truly all about privacy, his stance on spiritual freedom would be quite different. One might ask him about his positions on same-sex marriage and reproductive rights. I sincerely doubt they would be in line with a Libertarian/libertarian ideal.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Why would an attractive Libertarian Party candidate necessarily be a spoiler for the Republican Party? Are there no Democrats who are closeted fiscal conservatives and would give a second look to someone who walked that talk but didn’t want to ban abortion or same-sex marriage?

    Or are we talking about the Independents? True, there’s a lot of them. If, for whatever reason, they bolted to the LP, whom would that leave tallest man standing? Obama or the GOPster?

    • Cara

      Out of people I know who are planning to vote for Johnson about half are Democrats deeply unhappy with President Obama. The other half are a mix of Independents and GOPers.

  • Kilmrnock

    I consider myself a Liberal Libertarian , Gary Johnson looks quite promising , from my point of view. I am not a registered Democrat or Repulican . I am one of those pesky independants , and have voted Liberatarian in the past . Your right , Jason , this is going to be interesting. Kilm

  • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

    Bob Barr is the worst. I’m ashamed he’s from my state.

  • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com James Bulls

    I don’t know what that comment is about “except for Ron Paul” – reading the news coming out about his activity in Iowa and signing on to some really terrible initiatives spear-headed by the Religious Right I’ve lost all my faith that a Ron Paul presidency would really be that much different from any other Republican presidency. It seems clear to me that Paul is willing to wave anybody’s flag if it gets him further up his presidential ladder.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the article. For info on people using voluntary Libertarian tools on similar and other issues, please see http://​www.Libertarian-Internation​al.org , the non-partisan Libertarian International Organization

  • Kilmrnock

    I have to agree w/ Star…………Bob Barr is a raging flatuating arsehole .Kilm

  • Leea

    forgive my ignorance everyone, but what is the significance of the “big L ‘ittle l” in Libertarian? Never seen bif/little R’s or D’s for the other parties….thanks:

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      One can be a libertarian without being a member of the Libertarian Party.

      • Anonymous

        Some might argue that the candidacy of Bob Barr showed that one can be a member of the Libertarian Party without being a libertarian as well.

  • Ursyl

    If I’m understanding Ron Paul’s positions on women’s autonomy over our own bodies correctly, he’s no more libertarian than W was.

    Sure I wish Obama could have gotten more done, but in the meantime, our son and many other young adults who are pretty much on their own and done with post-secondary education well before the standard 4 years can be kept on parental health insurance for a few years while they work their way up (hopefully) in their fields to the point where they might be able to get their own.

    That is no small thing, and a curse on any who would remove that protection from those young adults.

    Then there’s the end of DADT. Is risking a GOP president, particularly from among the sorry crop being put out there now, really going to keep that bit of equality going?

    • Cassidy

      Abortion is the one issue that libertarians can’t resolve as it regards the age-old question – when does the life of a “person” begin? Those who say it begins at birth take the libertarian position that a person has the right to decide what to do with her own body. Those who say it begins at conception take the libertarian position that every person has a right to life and liberty. So this is the one issue upon which it’s completely unfair to judge someone’s credentials as a libertarian.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    I’m excited by this candidacy announcement. Mr. Johnson seems genuinely committed to business, small government and a balanced budget, without the social conservatism that makes many Pagans cringe. He might actually have a chance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/redwood.eagle Ellis Arseneau

    I must have my head in the sand. I’ve never believed that there were any significant numbers of Pagans who embraced libertarianism. Some how the economic and philosophical ideas of Ayn Rand don’t seem compatible with a Pagan worldview. Example: Privatize the National Parks? The greedy corporations would love to get their hooks into that wouldn’t they? “Here’s Redwood National Desert.” There used to be trees there.” I’d like to see some numbers: How many conservative Pagans are there?

    • Anonymous

      Libertarianism is not Ayn Rand and Ayn Rand is not libertarianism. Ayn Rand, in fact, had a low opinion of libertarianism, while many libertarians generally regard her work with ambivalence and some unease. Rothbard, for example, spoke of Rand as an adulator of Big Businessmen.

    • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

      My guesstimate is around 15 – 20 percent of all Pagans are conservative. More if you consider socially liberal, fiscally conservative folks. No I haven’t taken any polls or done any studies — heck, we can’t even determine how many Pagans there are, and we’re still fighting over what to call ourselves. Anyway. Most conservative Pagans opted for trade school or a practical, job-related program, rather than a liberal arts program in college. Most belong to oldline or recon groups or are solitaries, although there is a conservative Wiccan blog with several supporters. Most conservative Pagans are politically active in their hometowns, but not online so much. They don’t read these news blogs. Many don’t attend larger events or Pagan Pride Days. So liberal Pagans aren’t aware of them (us). Most vote a mixed ticket. Most are small business owners, int the military, doing services such as post office or police or fire fighters, or retired. There are conservative Pagan radio podcasts, blogs, and social media sites.

      • Grimmorrigan

        I would like to know where these figures and details come from. It seems pretty detailed for a lack of poll or study. Would like to know for research purposes.

        • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

          Me asking people. Our family has a “popular press” media company. We’re not academicians. We interview people where ever we go.

      • Henry

        initially, oldline taught(fam trad,mid ’70′s, not my family though)
        opted for a trade rather than college.
        politically active locally.
        do read these blogs for entertainment.
        do attend some larger events, but for the most part not very welcomed.
        also do work of a ‘spiritual’ nature within my community, that being the total community not limited to pagan community.
        probably more conservative than liberal-constitutionally conservative.

  • Kilmrnock

    Most if not all of us Liberatarian leaning pagans would have nothing to do Ayn Rand’s brand of liberatarianism . We just like the idea of a smaller , economically responcible government. But w/ a freedom concept , and no Reaganite conservatism . Hence the liberaral liberaterian w/ a small l. Altho i’m sure there are a few, not many pagans would align themselves w/ religiuos right style / pro bussiness concepts , be raging right wing conservatives . But there are plenty of us middle of the roaders out there , independants , non politicaly aligned . Kilm

  • http://johnfranc.blogspot.com/ John Beckett

    I live in Texas, among the reddest of red states, which means my general election vote carries no weight. If I have a choice between casting my purely symbolic vote for a Democrat who has failed to deliver any major collective action and whose decisions on personal liberty and the wars have been virtually identical to his Republican predecessor, and a Libertarian who treats Pagans like they’re real citizens….

    Yeah, I’ll vote for Gary Johnson.

  • Emerald-TX-

    I love Gov. Johnson and had the pleasure of seeing him speak in Austin at a rally.
    But I am a strong supporter of Dr. Ron Paul.
    The major issue that seems to turn away my pagan peers is the fact that he opposses abortion, but from what I understand from his message is that he views this as a state issue and that public funds shouldnt be used for planned parenthood type programs.
    He always states when this issue comes up that he takes the constitutional position to protect life and liberty.
    And as a baby docter, Dr. Paul has said that if the “fetus” is harmed by the physician he can be sued. and if a drunk-driver kills a pregnant woman he will be held criminally liable.
    So I dont see where this wouldnt be a libertarian issue of following the strict guidelines set forth by our founding fathers in the constitution.
    “You cant protect liberty if you dont protect life.” – Ron Paul

    Ron Paul is now considered a front runner and we may actually see a Ron Paul Revolution next year! Please listen to Ron Paul’s message if you havent already! Its an important message, and exactly the same message he has spread for over 35 years, informing the people of central banking, the business cycle, the importance of commodity backed currency, and a non-interventionist foreign policy!
    May Libertas and Lady Justice guide and protect Ron Paul in his struggle to restore our American Republic, for the good of all in this beautiful nation!!!
    So Mote It Be!!!

    • Harmonyfb

      his message is that he views this as a state issue and that public funds shouldnt be used for planned parenthood type programs.

      But I’m sure he doesn’t have a problem with public funds going to fund Viagra. See, here’s the thing: “Planned Parenthood type programs” provide a myriad of health services for adult women, including cancer screenings, gynecological checkups, birth control, etc. The public interest is served by allowing poor women access to these services, which keep them healthier over the long run. Amazingly, that means allowing women – even, omg!, poor women to make their own decisions about their reproductive issues. This sort of mealy-mouthed, patronizing position also means that servicewomen overseas won’t be able to obtain abortions when they’ve been raped by fellow US soldiers (something that sadly isn’t a rare occurrence).

      I won’t vote for any candidate who wants to deny health care options to poor women based on religious/ideological beliefs about an issue he will never have to face.

      • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

        As I have mentioned before, local health departments provide all of those services to women — and provide services to men and children as well — at a much lower cost.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    I’m excited by this candidacy announcement. Mr. Johnson seems genuinely committed to business, small government and a balanced budget, without the social conservatism that makes many Pagans cringe. He might actually have a chance.

    • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

      Why did this post twice? A benevolent message from the universe, perhaps? LOL

  • Mark Christol

    In 2008 Barr was essentially fired by the Libertarians.
    The Libertarians know their candidate won’t get elected, they just find a candidate who can ride the media wave and articulate their platform. That’s why they prefer “name” candidates so I am guessing Johnson has a food shot since the 4 who have already started campaigning are pretty much nobodies.
    http://www.nolanchart.com/article4805-the-barr-campaign-is-over.html

  • Don Meinshausen

    I helped found the libertarian movement by an act of ceremonial magick in 1969 that made the history books. Libertarianism is an extension of the Wiccan Rede and has grown faster than any competing ideology. The nomination of Bob Barr was done done to hurt the Republicans and as a way to congratulate him on his reversal of pro-drug war positions. However there are people in our movement who in order to tweak what they see as political correctness act like jerks and Bob is one of them and he has no more influence in the LP. I hope to hear from other Pagans on how libertarianism and our Craft merge and I am on FB


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