Yesterday a friend sent me a link from the LP site about the challenge brought against Sundwall’s campaign. She, like me, missed this news in the flood of news that seems to come through everyday. Also, it was on the LP site, does anyone even go there anymore? My immediate thoughts were, “I wonder who brought that challenge forward? I wonder if any past candidates there have been removed for technicalities before? I wonder if any of the past elected candidates were elected with technical problems?”
When I’m in Dutchess County, NY sometimes I’ll I listen to WHUD. I hear them mentioning the names of the candidates to fill Gillibrand’s seat I get excited hearing them mention Eric’s. It makes me smile. I knew he was probably going to fight this, but I didn’t really see it being successful. Talking Points Memo asks, “Qui Bono?” and they fill us in on details of who brought the complaint:
The complaint was brought by two voters who were registered with New York’s Republican and Conservative parties.* As such, some Democrats believe this was really engineered by the GOP side. As one Dem source told us: “The only reason the Republicans fought to keep Eric Sundwall off the ballot is because they knew he was stealing from their flawed candidate’s fading support.”
Thinking on it some more, the Eric Sundwall election brings up for me the same problems that the Ron Paul election did. Perhaps even more. Leaving aside issues of justice and ethics for the most part (as libertarians will argue over the problems of non-aggression and politics), I’m thinking about it in terms of economics. Frequently, it would be asked by libertarian supporters of Ron Paul when they spoke among themselves, “just what could Paul do in office?” We knew when thinking in context that he’d have to fight against political reality even if he became POTUS, a reality that had been shaped by powerful forces with mutual interest in maintaining their power. From the state governments to the federal government, from the house to the senate, from big business to big education, from wealthy individuals to the labor unions, interlocking power had reasons to fight a Paul presidency and support one another while they individually had a go against the White House. Still, Paul had the veto pen, the power of pardon, the power to appoint justices to the SCOTUS, nearly unilateral control over executive branch policy. The hopeful assumed that those abilities might be enough to permanently change the US from an empire to a “normal” country if not a republic as imagined by 18th century liberals.
On the other hand Eric in NY would be a lot like Paul in the house, a lone voice crying into a near void, a Cassandra among rubes. He would be running for congress, and not president. Knowing this, would it have been worth it to support the Sundwall campaign? It might give me a kick to know that someone I pretty much totally agree with was in office somewhere near me, but unless we had something like virtual cantons I don’t see it doing me much good. The economic problem brought up by anti-political libertarians with regards to electoral politics is this. Economics is about the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses. We use the word “trade-off” to describe the choice of one use of scarce resources over others. One of our scarce resources is time. Our ultimate goal, as we all ostensibly agree, is a free society. Is it a better use of our scarce resources to support and get elected candidates who will participate in the political process of majoritarianism and logrolling, or are there other alternatives that will help us achieve our goals? Perhaps the time, money, energy, and will, used in supporting candidates can be put toward actually making a free society rather than hoping that our one candidates will prevail. Agorists, at least, propose exactly this.
I have nothing against Eric Sundwall, in fact I wish him all the best. If he had won I would’ve been glad. This goes for all other libertarians that are going the political route. It looks like Eric got too close to becoming a swing vote and had to be knocked out. If he cannot receive the majority of the votes that would’ve gone to him then it seems like a wasted effort. I ask other libertarians out there, about the larger point: Is the very idea of state politics a folly? Should we continue these indirect efforts for liberation, or should we engage in direct action? I have my answer, but I’m willing to listen to an argument for other points of view.
Update: Eric has released a statement of his intent to end his candidacy. He fingers the Tedisco campaign for playing dirty politics. I’m inclined to agree. This merely highlights one of the main problems of putting hopes into electoral solutions for liberty. The powers that be want to remain the powers, and playing their games or following their rules simply seems like a fool’s game to me.