Harry Browne -
Right Candidate, Wrong Battlefield
- by David Matthews 2
You know, one of the most tiring fallacies that ever could exist is this cult-like mantra being uttered by people who have sold their souls to the two-party myth.
"I don’t want to waste my vote," they keep on uttering.
Waste your vote? You are voting, right? You’re taking part in the election process instead of sitting at home and complaining about it, right? How is it that you are wasting your vote?
"Well…" they stammer. "I like," and you can insert your favorite dark horse candidate here, "but I don’t think they’ll win."
So let’s see if I get this straight.. instead of voting for whom you think would do a better job as President, you’re going to throw your vote to either George W. Bush or Albert Gore Jr. simply because someone else tells you they have a better chance at winning? And you claim that is not throwing your vote away? What a load of political doublespeak!
There are several examples of candidates that have shocked the political world… without even mentioning a certain former wrestler who is now the governor of Minnesota. John Kennedy, for instance, was not supposed to have won in 1960. The political establishment wanted Richard Nixon, not some young upstart son of the newly rich with questionable connections.
People thought the same thing about Abraham Lincoln, too. He was the candidate of a newly-formed party called the GOP. He only won after a tumultuous four-party struggle in the electoral college. Oh, but I forget.. that was over one hundred and forty years ago. Back in the days when "mass media" referred to the church bulletin.. and the only way you could get your point across was either through newspapers or through public speaking events.
Those were much different days, of course. Days when a politician’s support was sold to the public through long speeches and ideas that took more than sixty seconds to present.
In many ways, I get that same feeling about the Libertarian Party’s candidate for President of the United States, Harry Browne. A candidate with solid ideas for getting this country back on the right track by emphasizing personal freedom and getting that 800-pound gorilla called government out of our lives.
Yet at the same time, it bothers me knowing that he and one other candidate are the only pro-freedom choices for President.
Don’t get me wrong, folks, when November comes around, I’ll more than likely vote for Browne, just like I did in 1996. But I wonder if the Libertarians can do better.
Mind you, I don’t want to detract from the things Browne has done for the Libertarian Party. He’s helped to get us more public exposure than any other candidate in recent years. His book "Why Government Doesn’t Work" helped draw more people to the Libertarian Party than in recent years. His radio talk show on the Talk America network has also helped get more people to consider individual freedom instead of the usual incremental socialism that the Democrats and the Republicans have been so coyly pushing for decades. And in 1996, over two hundred talk show hosts, including conservative icon Rush Limbaugh, wanted Browne to be included in the presidential debates along with other third-party candidates like Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and Reform Party candidate Ross Perot.
Yet when the smoke cleared from the ’96 balloting, Browne showed up fifth, behind both Nader and Perot.
Well, some people would say that the voting public doesn’t care about freedom. They’re more concerned about the economy than the fact that they’re paying 47% of their paychecks for a bloated and intrusive government. As long as the economy was going along fine, there was no reason to "rock the boat".
Therein lay the problem for guys like Browne. How do you sell the fact that the government doesn’t work? It’s one thing to say it, it’s another to sell it to people, especially when the economy looks great.
Well, now it’s 2000, and the economy isn’t as great as people though it would be. Major corporations have been laying people off for the past two years, but it was believed that the job market would make up the difference, and it did.. for a while. Now it isn’t. The cost of living is now starting to go up, mostly because of the spike in gas prices. People are starting to question the Clinton Regime’s claims of record-breaking prosperity. Interest rates are going up, and housing sales are going down.
With all that, it is no wonder why candidates like Harry Browne believe they should have another run.
Now folks, let’s get brutally honest here.. Harry Browne is a thinking man’s candidate. That’s his asset. Get him in the debates and he can out-think both George Bush and Al Gore. But the problem is he has to get INTO the debates, and in order to do that he has to first sell his message to the public.
And that is Harry Browne’s weakest spot. He’s a thinking man’s candidate in a race run by sound bites and Jiffy-Pop political commercials. He’s a statesman, not a salesman. He can write an enlightening book and host a radio talk show, but it takes time to sell his messages of greater personal freedom with less government. Ralph Nader, on the other hand, was known in ’96 for calling Bill Clinton and Bob Dole a choice between "Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber". A quick and easy sound bite that appealed to a greater number of people than Browne’s Great Libertarian offer.
That’s why I was hoping that the Libertarian Party would give someone else a shot at the White House this time around. Former New Hampshire state representative Don Gorman, for one, probably would have had a little more appeal to the general public. After all, this is someone who knows state and local governments. New Hampshire state politicians are a rare breed of people, because all of the elected congressmen and senators still have to work for a living. Gorman could have provided a common man’s appeal to the public to offset the stuffy, silver-spoon-fed second-generation politicians like Bush and Gore.
But, like Pat Buchanan and the Reform Party, Harry Browne managed to bring more supporters to the Libertarian Party’s convention, so like it or not, he’s got the nod for the Party. And to be completely honest, I still think he’s a better choice than Bush, Gore, Nader, or Buchanan combined!
So what would it take for Harry Browne to get a leg up in the election? Well, he’s going to have to be a salesman.
Look at Gore. He’s able to somehow upload a personality in that wooden image of his. When the time comes for a public speaking event, he manages to come off with all of the passions of an evangelist. He may be going through several political personas, including this overrated "alpha male" guise, but at least he’s developed a personality to go with the political machine that is truly fueling his campaign.
Remember Perot? How do you think he was able to get the attention of the public back in 1992? Well, okay, lots of money. But if money was all that was needed, this race would have been between Gore and Steven Forbes. Perot also attempted to appeal to the public using simple terminology and language that Joe and Jane Six-pack could understand.
That’s what Harry Browne needs to do this time around. He needs a salesman to sell his message to the people. Much like JFK had Frank Sinatra, Browne needs someone that can appeal to Joe and Jane Six-pack, bringing them a simple message that is so unique that the Democrats and Republicans could not lay claim to it.
And what sort of message would that be? Well, what is it that Harry Browne can offer that Gore and Bush cannot? A message of freedom. Both of the dominant candidates have only offered one thing - more and more government. More laws. More regulations. More entitlements. More programs. What they don’t talk about is that these things mean more government into our lives, and more taxes to pay for those programs.
That is the message that needs to be pushed by the Browne campaign, a message of pro-freedom over the voices of pro-government.
And here’s the magic of effective political salesmanship: If you can sell your message to enough people, the political system will pick up on that and emulate it the next time around. Political reform was basically a dead topic in politics until Ross Perot got twenty percent of the voting populace. Then, suddenly, reform became the watchword for both Democrats and Republicans. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then both major parties are the biggest ass-kissers in the business. Imagine what would happen if those imitators picked up on a popular message of personal freedom and limited government! You may not see a political exodus to the Libertarian Party, but you certainly would see more pro-freedom ideas being proposed.
Harry Browne does have some refreshing ideas for our government, but the most productive ideas in the world don’t mean a thing if they can’t be sold first. That should be Browne’s top priority.
After all, today’s politician is nothing more than an overpaid used car salesman.