Factional politics are not my cup of tea -- they're more like my cup of hemlock. I prefer to play what Rudyard Kipling called the "Great Game" at the national level against national opponents.
Whenever a factional fight is forced on me, whether within a political movement to which I've given my loyalty for a quarter century or a literary genre on which my professional attention has been focused for the same length of time, my first reaction is, "Why don't these dimbulbs busy themselves playing the Great Game rather than this irrelevant, self-destructive, massively stupid one?" My first instinct -- and primary objective -- is to finish the fight as quickly as I can within principle.
Sometimes -- I daresay most of the time -- that means ignoring the whole thing. A surprising number of impossibly tangled messes magically resolve themselves if benignly neglected. Maybe there isn't any magic to it at all. Maybe they resolve themselves when the poor feebs who create them (desperately craving the attention of normal human beings and believing this is the only way they can get it) find out they're wrong and crawl off somewhere to sulk, leaving the rest of us alone.
It's often difficult to give these matters the attention they deserve -- which is to say, none. I am sustained, whenever I've made such a decision, by the knowledge, rooted in 30 years' experience, that I'll be here when they are gone. I've never known anybody as politically patient as I've surprised myself by turning out to be. But on other occasions, in other impossibly tangled messes, if somebody doesn't do something, things will get worse. The trick lies in recognizing which is which, and anybody, no matter how long they've played the game (great or otherwise), can make mistakes.
For too long I thought the affair of the Arizona Libertarian Party -- of a would-be Mussolini versus anybody with more intelligence and decency than a houseplant -- would resolve itself. I'd seen his clumsy, Teamsterish tactics firsthand, his thuggish pals trying to take over a convention with a fistful of phony proxies, an unabashed willingness to constantly disrupt the meeting, and arguments they clearly didn't believe in, or comprehend, themselves.
The whole thing reeked of a UAW putsch, of an Old Left we've known too well for decades. There were, I felt (and still do), ramifications to it at the national level that I addressed briefly in a personal letter to the LP national chairman. He wrote back cordially if not very satisfactorily (his problem being that he refuses to be persuaded that other people aren't all as decent as he is), and that was that. I had long-neglected professional matters to attend to and couldn't afford to pursue the matter further.
But I was wrong, for which I apologize to my friends in Arizona. Little Mussolini has now filed a lawsuit against the state party (I seem to recall he once tried to steal its bank account) and has attempted to turn it in to the IRS. If he weren't a lawyer, he'd probably be phoning them in the middle of the night, following them during the day, and peering in their windows.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
What seems to have happened is that a pathetic wannabe dictator stamped his foot, demanding to be everyone's Glorious Leader. He didn't care whether they wanted to be Led, Gloriously or otherwise, let alone what rules of legality or decency he bent, forcing them to change their minds. Naturally, he was curtly -- and publicly -- rebuffed. Now he has determined to destroy what he won't be allowed to control.
We're familiar with this picture when a disturbed personality dogs the footsteps of someone he decides he can't live without, especially when that someone is a celebrity. What we have is Mark David Chapman who, failing to become John Lennon's best friend (or whatever he wanted to be) shot him to death. Or John Hinckley who, failing to impress movie star Jodie Foster, shot somebody else more accessible.
Now what do we see under our microscope but another species of the same genus -- political stalking -- in which, failing to be acclaimed ruler of a movement, the subject does all he can to ruin it. The most spectacular example in recent memory is Ross Perot, liberal Democrat and Lyndon Johnson protege who, using vast wealth accrued from Great Society contracts to con everybody sillier than he is, interfered with the 1992 general election, and may do the same in 1996. Kipling also said, "Big fleas have little fleas ... And little fleas have lesser fleas ... " Perot is a little flea on the backs of Republicans. Glorious Leader down in Arizona is the LP's lesser flea.
Aside from a dose of flea powder, what the LP needs is to countersue this guy out of existence and to laugh him out, as well, by asking -- as often and publicly as possible -- what kind of Libertarian turns his (presumably) fellow Libertarians over to the tender mercies of the IRS?
Answer: no Libertarian.
Which brings us to a different possibility. If no Libertarian would turn his fellows over to the IRS, then who -- or what -- would?
Hint: what syndicated pseudoconservative mouthpiece for the Republican National Committee -- stung by a perception on the part of his listeners that the congressional "revolution" has turned out to be so much hot air -- spent the last two weeks, ten days broken only by a weekend, 30 solid hours over 600-plus stations, hysterically railing against third parties?
And what of his masters who had the presidency jerked from under them like a cheap carpet in 1992 and face the same prospect with oak leaf clusters in 1996? (For the same reason, craven desertion of their core constituencies on the advice of trendy Madison Avenue types with no real stake in the matter except a consultant's fee.) Isn't it reasonable, in the light (I use the word loosely) of Brady Bill-Bob Dole's presidential bid, for them to be fearful enough of third parties -- especially principled, decent, honest third parties -- to engage in some Nixon-Warmed-Over-style dirty tricks?
Like filing a phony lawsuit and false accusations with the IRS against (just coincidentally) the most spectacularly energetic state party within the LP, by a person who has demonstrated beyond any lingering shadow of a doubt that he is no Libertarian, but something else, and whose possible connection to the RNC is being looked into even as this is written?
I'm only asking.
You figure it out.
L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn and Lever Action. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.
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