Will almost certainly not be Bob Barr. Nor do I actually plan to vote for the man. Nevertheless, should he actually win the endorsement of the Libertarian Party later this month (as I understand is expected), I expect he’ll pop into the position of my “Backup Candidate,” i.e., the person I’ll vote for if Barack Obama spontaneously combusts/is abducted by aliens/massacres a kindergarten full of adorable baby seals and gorges on their blubber live on national television. If it comes to that point, I’ll vote for Bob Barr before I vote for John McCain. Of course, if it comes to that point, we’re probably all in trouble in other, disturbing ways. But let’s not worry about that now.
Note that admitting I’d vote for Barr before McCain is a fairly serious statement on my part, because when Barr was actually in Congress, he was a conservative Republican and a bit of a prick. He impinged on my consciousness primarily as one of Newt Gingrich’s bilious felch monkeys; the one who led the charge to impeach Bill Clinton, and then got all blotchy and red when it became clear that neither Clinton nor most of America were in the least concerned about the trial. However, since Barr left Congress, he’s done lots of stuff I respect, like regret his vote on the Patriot Act and work to reverse its damages to our constitutional rights, leave the GOP and join the ACLU, and generally get cranky about what’s been done to the country during the Dubya administration.
Now, I’m not going to forget he was once one of Gingrich’s felch monkeys, mind you. It’s something you don’t just gloss over. But on the other hand one doesn’t leave the GOP and become a member of the Libertarian Party because one feels it’s really going to light a fire under one’s career in Washington, now, does one. One feels his commitment to libertarian principles is reasonably genuine, otherwise he’d just have stayed where he was. As a presidential candidate, Barr offers a genuine alternative to what McCain would offer — which, if you believe minority whip Roy Blunt, would be a third Bush term.
But let’s be real, here: the question not really whether I put Barr ahead of McCain in my voting queue, since I had no intention of voting for McCain in the first place. The question is whether some folks who might otherwise vote for McCain will do so, and whether there will be enough of them to constitute a genuine drag on McCain in the election. Regarding the former, sure, I think there are folks who’ll jump off the McCain Express for Barr, since when you get right down to it, Barr’s small government, states-rights, “fair tax”-loving, immigrant-phobic positions are more classically Republican-y than anything McCain is going to manage, and McCain is a candidate that apparently lots of Republicans tolerate but none of them actually love, and only a few more than that seem to even like.
Regarding the latter, well, I don’t suspect Barr will pull huge numbers from the GOP. But as Nader showed in Florida in 2000, you don’t need to have huge numbers to screw a candidate, you just need enough to throw a spanner into the works. It’s entirely possible Barr could get those numbers, particularly, I think, in the South and the West.
And you know, I’m fine with that. Barr’s not going to be President, but if he helps make McCain not president, too, I’ll honor him for his service to the country. He has my backup vote.