I initially planned to announce my 2012 candidacy for the presidency of the United States on April 6th, 2009, from the steps of the Old St. Louis Courthouse (history buffs shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out why), and I still intend to conduct a campaign event of some kind at that time and in that place.
I see, however, that others are already lining up with formal announcements or at least clear indications of their own intent … and when a fight’s brewing, I prefer to get in early.
Why run for president — and why, especially, for the presidential nominations of two parties which together usually account for less than one percent of the popular vote in presidential elections?
I could give you lots of reasons, but I’m going to stick with three for the moment: There are some hard truths that need to be told, I’m interested in telling them, and they’re most effectively told from a bully pulpit.
Among those those hard truths are that the political wing of the libertarian movement will never make substantial progress toward its goals so long as it clings to the apron strings of the failed movements and parties of the past, remains in orbit around the present political “center,” or falls prey to cargo-cultish notions of what constitutes “serious” politics.
If we want a libertarian future, we must create that future, not hope that our political opponents drag us along to it. They won’t. They’re not going in the direction we want to go in, they have no desire to go in the direction we want to go in, and to the extent that they’re interested in us at all, they regard us either as fuel to be consumed or ballast to be dumped overboard at the earliest opportunity. I don’t blame them. We haven’t yet given them reason to regard us as a true threat to their power. It’s time to change that.
As my friend and mentor L. Neil Smith once observed, “great men don’t move to the center, they move the center.” It’s a big center, folks. Moving it will require a long lever, with us at the far end. I don’t claim to be a great man … but I hope to be part of a great movement, and to help that movement get further out on the lever and put some weight on it.
Insofar as cargo-cultism and “seriousness” are concerned, rest assured that I have nothing against suits and ties, friendly media interviews and the other requirements of realpolitick. What I do oppose is the absurd notion that waving around “mainstreamism” like some kind of voodoo fetish will magically boost us to competitive stature versus our older, more established opponents. It won’t.
The future of the libertarian movement, if it is has one, requires a principled populist approach rooted in class theory. Not the theory of the socialists (labor versus capital) or of the liberals and conservatives (ad hoc identity politics adjusted to appeal to society’s phobias du jour), but rather the theory of the productive class (those who make their living through work and voluntary exchange and cooperation) versus the political class (those who siphon off as much of that productive activity as they can get away with, using the coercive apparatus of the state, for their own ends).
For these reasons, the first phase of my campaign will largely be internal to the parties and the movement; as we move on, it will become more outwardly focused, of course, but first things first.
My fundamental goal in seeking the nominations of the LP and the BTP is not to achieve those nominations or to be elected President of the United States. It is to help the libertarian movement outfit itself for a journey yet to begin — a journey which that movement has stood stock still at the starting point of for nearly four decades now. If I achieve that goal, the nominations and the election results are of secondary importance, as I’m certain others are at least as qualified as I am to march at the front of the column. If I do not achieve those goals, then the nominations and the election results will resemble John Nance Garner’s description of the importance of the Vice Presidency of the United States: “Not worth a bucket of warm spit.”
I look forward to an exciting campaign, and I humbly request the support of all who value the future of freedom.
Yours in liberty,
Thomas L. Knapp