Third Party Time 

Can Libertarians come to life as Democrats decline?

"I'm sorry," I told Allen Buckley over lunch at South City Kitchen in Midtown the other day. I was apologizing for not endorsing him last fall when he was the Libertarian Party candidate for the U.S. Senate in Georgia.

Instead of endorsing Buckley, we at CL did the predictable, knee-jerk thing and endorsed Denise Majette, the Democrat. I wrote the endorsement.

I've been troubled because I agree with Buckley on the issues. He is one of the rare professional men wearing a coat and tie in Atlanta who isn't loopy from Bush's Kool-Aid. He believes the war in Iraq was unjustified and he understands that the United States is headed for an economic disaster. A lawyer who does a lot of tax work, Buckley has now come up with his own plan to rescue Social Security without increasing the country's debt.

But I was still mired last fall in the party loyalty of a third-generation Yellow Dog Democrat. My grandfather, Jake Monroe, a North Carolina tobacco farmer, blamed Republican President Herbert Hoover for everything from the Great Depression to gnats. Granddaddy used to recite a little poem:

Mary had a little lamb.

It was neither goat nor mutton.

And every time it wagged its tail,

It showed its Hoover button.

I became an even more fervent Democrat during the Vietnam War. But today's Democrats have just about cured me of blind loyalty.

Majette was the most wretched Democratic nominee for the Senate in Georgia since, well, incumbent Max Cleland failed to defend himself against the slander of Saxby Chambliss in 2002.

Majette said the Lord told her to run for the Senate. If anybody needed further proof that God is a Republican, there you go. Majette got only 40 percent of the vote against Republican Johnny Isakson, who won 57.9 percent of the vote. Buckley got 2.1 percent.

The Democrats didn't try.

And if they're not going to try in a race as important as the U.S. Senate, I have no problem looking elsewhere for candidates to support.

Like Allen Buckley and the Libertarians.

I went to the Libertarian state convention a few weeks ago at the Woodruff Arts Center, but had to bail out early with the flu. I was there long enough to pick up some interesting news. The party already has raised enough money to pay its 75 percent share of the qualification fee for every statewide race in 2006. They're going to field candidates in the upcoming city elections who will advocate a combination of social tolerance, fiscal responsibility and lower taxes - all very appealing to the growing number of intown residents who own homes and are not employed by the Fulton County Sheriff's Department. Last year, the Libertarians took a big step with the election of their first candidate in Georgia, Dade County Executive Ben Brandon.

But they also took a step backward nationally. They held their national convention in Atlanta and, when faced with a choice between two candidates for the presidential nomination, they chose the one with the least charisma. I have a friend who insists Libertarians are "Republicans who take drugs" and I can only wonder what they were smoking when they chose Texan Michael Badnarik instead of the livelier Hollywood producer Aaron Russo. Badnarik, a boring speaker, got only .32 percent of the national vote compared with the 2000 Libertarian candidate's .36 percent.

While I like some of their ideas, I think the Libertarians aren't ready for prime time. They don't "media-train" their candidates effectively. Hell, neither do the Democrats for that matter. Majette seemed overtrained. When you asked her a question, she prattled on and on in vague politician-speak generalities about a better Georgia. She never said anything.

Buckley, on the other hand, tended to ramble. His answers were genuine, but they were too long.

I'm a terrible snob in this area because I made my living for years as a speechwriter and have done a bit of media training. I loved to interrupt clients who rambled or used bureaucratic words.

"Put the hay down where the goats can get it!" I would shout.

I'm interested in the Libertarians because, at some point, somebody somewhere needs to stand up to the big-spending Republican theocrats who're attacking the Constitution while destroying the economy with debt.

Georgia Democrats have a last gasp in them: the gubernatorial primary next year between Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and Secretary of State Cathy Cox. Either one could defeat plodding first-term Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue. But after that, what?

Nationally, former Sen. Bill Bradley says it'll take the Democrats a decade to build the type of intellectual and political infrastructure that propelled the Republicans to their current dominance. That's assuming the national Democrats even try. I tend to think that every four years they're satisfied to nominate another Ivy League puke to visit the NASCAR regattas.

One problem is answering the question, "What is a Libertarian?" Buckley is a smart, even-keeled guy with common-sense plans for a scaled-back government. He's a moderate Libertarian. Some Libertarians are far right and hate all government. And then there's Neal Boortz of WSB, who claims to be a Libertarian but is a rabid Bush war cheerleader. He strikes me as a hardcore Republican who strays from the GOP reservation on occasion to take a Libertarian stand, as he did when defending the husband of Terry Schiavo.In any case, I enjoyed having lunch with Buckley. It's a pleasure to talk with a professional person who doesn't lecture you about the glories and possible divinity of George W. Bush.

"The Republicans are basically living for today to the detriment of tomorrow, and they're making a big mess," Buckley said.

It will get worse as baby boomers age, he claimed. They'll retire and start sucking up Social Security and Medicare benefits. Because they outvote younger people four-to-one, the older people can keep the benefits pouring in even as the pool of younger workers shrinks.

"When you go into that period suffocating on debt, and if these people don't agree to cut their benefits, the country is going to suffer an economic catastrophe," Buckley said.

The catastrophe could come even sooner as we reel from debt and the decline of the dollar. Asian nations hold vast amounts of U.S. government securities.

"If any significant bad thing happened, like another terrorist attack or a tremendous increase in the price of oil, you could have a sell-off, which could lead to significant inflation," Buckley said.

If the catastrophe occurs when the Republicans are in charge, "the Democrats are going to blame it on the Republicans when, in reality, it was the combination of both their activities over the years," he said.

At least I'd be able to repeat Granddaddy's poem by replacing "Hoover" with "Bush."

At some point, when the economy hits a crisis, Buckley hopes business leaders will rise up and say, "This is crazy." That scenario would be a great opportunity for Libertarians, he said.

I asked Buckley what it would take for Libertarians to win a statewide election in Georgia.

"Things would have to get really bad," he said. "But things are going to get really bad."

Now, that's putting the hay down where the goats can get it.

Senior Editor Doug Monroe would like to thank the Democratic officials who gave his relatives jobs over the years. You can reach him at doug.monroe@creativeloafing.com.

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