Red Flag in the LP

Monday, May 18th, 2009

In the last two weeks I’ve spoken at two Libertarian Party events–at a meeting of the Clark County, Nevada party last week, and at the Indiana/Kentucky state party convention this past weekend. Both events went well, and I met some great people.

At both events, my own speech was preceded by a speech from Wayne Allyn Root, the party’s candidate for vice president in 2008, and who has apparently already made himself a candidate for the 2012 nomination.

I won’t comment on the bulk of Root’s speeches, because I was invited to both events as a speaker, not as a journalist or a blogger. But I will comment on one thing Root mentioned in both speeches, because it’s essentially public information. In touting his ability to win high-profile media coverage, Root mentioned in both speeches that he is now a weekly commentator on Michael Savage’s weekly radio show.

I’m not a member of the Libertarian Party, so perhaps my advice doesn’t mean much to them. But I’m going to give it, anyway:

Stop this, now. Either persuade Root to stop going on Savage’s show, or show Root the door. I’m all about building coalitions where appropriate. But there’s nothing remotely appropriate about Michael Savage.

Michael Savage is a raving bigot. He regularly uses phrases like “turd-world countries” and “ghetto slime.” He once wished rape on a group of high school girls who make trips into San Francisco to feed the homeless. He’s a blood-thirsty warmonger, and a feverish culture warrior. He once said on the air that, “”When I hear someone’s in the civil rights business, I oil up my AR-15!” On social issues, he’s far to the right of just about every elected Republican official I can think of. He has wished AIDS and death on homosexuals. He regularly denigrates drug users. He is virulently anti-immigration. In short, there’s nothing remotely libertarian about him.

If Root’s aim is to take the LP in the direction of Michael Savage, the LP should distance themselves from Root right now.

There’s nothing honorable to be gained from this.

MORE: It’s worth noting that Root features his Savage commentaries at the very top of his website. I don’t really care how many listeners Savage has. He’s vile, and hostile to any reasonable conception of libertarianism.

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79 Responses to “Red Flag in the LP”

  1. #1 |  J sub D | 

    I really really would like a preview function. ;-)

  2. #2 |  Tom G | 

    I’m in agreement with all who think Savage’s program is publicity the LP doesn’t need. I was never impressed by Root either, once I saw he was running.
    Comments at #6, 14, 24, 33, 35, 36, 40, and 43 have summed up my feelings very well.

  3. #3 |  Cynical in CA | 

    I suspect that Savage is simply in the entertainment business a la Tom Leykis, Howard Stern, et. al., the shock-jock genre. Savage more likely than not doesn’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.

    However, in his novel Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut was spot-on when he wrote, “We are who we pretend to be, so we must be very careful who we pretend to be.”

    As for Root’s relevance and the damage done to the LP by his affiliation with Savage, well, how exactly does one advance liberty by joining a Statist enterprise? Is the LP relevant in any way to advancing freedom?

  4. #4 |  Bronwyn | 

    I’ve only heard Savage once, on NPR last week. He foamed at the mouth and declared that he had better things to do than to listen to some mouthbreather backwoods idiot from Iowa (a caller). Neil Conan graciously told him to please do so.

    He was a complete asshole, which I hoped was just his schtick, but am afraid is his true personality.

    I wouldn’t want to be associated with him for any reason.

  5. #5 |  Aaron Starr | 


    I doubt Mr. Root would turn down an opportunity to be a regular guest on National Public Radio or to have a weekly column published in the New York Times.

    And I’m sure that those who control these two media institutions support an increase in the size and scope of government, but it would be illogical to conclude that a guest or columnist endorses those views on that basis.

    There may be other reasons to be critical of Wayne Root, but I’d be concerned that the line of thinking you present here (i.e. attacking a person because of the speaking venue afforded to him) might give people the false impression that you are intellectually vacuous.


    Aaron Starr

  6. #6 |  Mike T | 

    Seriously? How hard is it to understand that somebody can decide, “I believe x but respect the rights of others to not believe x”? I suppose my personal social views on morality fall somewhere between conservative and moderate, but I don’t believe the government should legislate my notion of morality nor that of anybody else. I suspect there are a lot of libertarians out there who fall into the same camp, and I have to think many left libertarians can not only imagine this fact but actually acknowledge it.

    You wouldn’t know that based on half of the responses here or at Reason to any form of social conservatism. After all, only bigots and statists believe that homosexuality is immoral and that abortion is an individual rights issue for the child, not the mother.

    The row over Ron Paul during the Republican primaries shows that left and right libertarianism are only superficially the same movement. There really is no such independent ideology as libertarianism. It is simply a variation of existing left-wing and right-wing ideologies.

  7. #7 |  Christopher Monnier | 

    I guess we’ll have to start using the term “classical liberal” again…

  8. #8 |  Ken Moellman | 

    We may have to agree to disagree here, but I really do think that not all of Savage’s listeners are bad people, and in fact some could be steered our way, just like the Beck 9/12 people. These are people who are discontent, and open to solutions they once would not have considered. Our job, as either Big-L or Little-L libertarians, is to present a calm, rational, and consistent platform and case to these people. It won’t scare them away, and it’ll bring them into our ranks, where we can continue their libertarian education. It’ much better than the alternative.

    I think the Left equivalent to Savage would be Olbermann.

    I had a much longer post before, but it got wiped out due to a glitch on my side. Probably better that way anyway.

  9. #9 |  Fascist Nation | 

    There is very little libertarian about the Libertarian Party. Rothbard was right. Let it die.

  10. #10 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Most of us here (I’m guessing) know the progression people take on their way to, thru, and beyond the Libertarian Party. As such, I think the LP has accomplished little more than sometimes catching disgruntled Dems and Repubs, while also serving as a rest area for folks on independent discovery trips. Any discussion of what the LP should do, has done, or is doing now is too much discussion. This doesn’t mean that libertarianism is not worth discussing…just that the LP is not a mechanism by which libertarianism is implemented or advanced.

    I believe Radley’s point is that the LP, by virtue of its principles, has enemies and Savage is most definitely an enemy. An LP leader should know this. WAR’s participation with Savage tips his hand at his game of self promotion rather than true leadership. The LP would be better served to look elsewhere.

    There really is no such independent ideology as libertarianism. It is simply a variation of existing left-wing and right-wing ideologies.

    Or the other way around. There are no independent ideologies such as left and right wing. They exist only as extreme interpretations of libertarianism.

    Hey, the Constitution looks mostly libertarian to me…until it got corn-holed by politicians and the New Deal.

  11. #11 |  mdh | 

    I’m going to have to respectfully disagree here. While I may not agree with everything Wayne Root says or thinks (and he’s moved closer to me over the past two years based on the progression of his policy statements), I think he’s been doing a lot of good stuff.
    Why does it matter who he’s preaching to? I go out and talk to everyone from gun enthusiasts to union members to queer activists to anti-war activists to disgruntled paleo-conservatives to… well, plenty more. My message is clear. My message doesn’t waver. I’m sure that plenty of the people I’ve brought the message to are wholeheartedly unlibertarian and anti-freedom. I don’t care. My role is to educate them, not to give a damn what their opinion is to begin with. Sometimes I succeed and often I fail to make an immediate impact. More often, however, I’ve planted a seed. If Wayne Root is planting seeds in just some of the anti-freedom minds he touches (though I’m sure plenty of people listen to Savage just because they love to hate the guy, and are not as anti-freedom as we may suspect), then he’s doing good work, and I support it all the way.
    We’re not big enough that we can be so selective of who we’re willing to talk to or which outlets we’re willing to use. Even if we were, I don’t think we should be. As long as our message is a consistently libertarian message, we’re doing good work. Wayne Root may not be a perfect libertarian, ideologically. Of course, for everyone who’ll say he isn’t, there’ll be a person who says he is, and a person who says that anyone who doesn’t advocate immediate anarchy is not libertarian, and the list goes on and on. What Root is doing is helping our party grow by getting some name recognition, at the very least. At best, some of those seeds he’s planting are going to sprout and those people are going to become future activists, future libertarians. I wasn’t an ideologically pure libertarian when I first voted for Badnarik in 2004. It’s a progression and takes time to read, to learn, to understand why the consistency of our ideology works so well. Why freedom works so well. Let’s all help to usher these people along down the road that so many of us once walked, rather than scorn them for their unlibertarian pasts.

  12. #12 |  Kevin Dean | 

    Damn… I forgot that the Libertarian Party claimed to care about liberty.

    I mean… George W. Bush was elected on a platform of smaller government, I assumed the Libertarian Party’s “freedom” stance was kicked to the side when they started advocating aggression and tyranny.

    As such, I’m not surprised.

  13. #13 |  airforce | 

    Why does it matter who he’s preaching to? I go out and talk to everyone from gun enthusiasts to union members to queer activists to anti-war activists to disgruntled paleo-conservatives to… well, plenty more. My message is clear. My message doesn’t waver. I’m sure that plenty of the people I’ve brought the message to are wholeheartedly unlibertarian and anti-freedom. I don’t care. My role is to educate them, not to give a damn what their opinion is to begin with.

    Well said. When I tell folks the government should have no hand in deciding if gay marriages are valid, I also tell them that I, personally, would not. I consider homosexuality to be a sin, and conferring upon this vile sin the sanctity of marriage is outrageous. I would immediately leave any church that performed a gay marriage.

    Using force to nullify a gay marriage, however, would be even more of an outrage. I have no right to do so, and neither should the State.

    Would anyone consider me a “perfect libertarian?” Probably not. Frankly, I don’t think such a thing even exists.

    Mr. Balko is right, Mr. Root looks and sounds too much like a used car salesman to suit me. I was rather disappointed that Bob Barr chose him as his running mate, though I understand why he did. But give him a break. By appearing on Savage’s show, he’s doing what he can to advance our cause.

  14. #14 |  Lloyd Flack | 

    By appearing on Savage’s shows you implicitly say that Savage’s views are worthy of respect not just tolerance. But Savage’s views are not deserving of respect. They are vile and contemptible. In the name of freedom of speech we have to tolerate them. But it is immoral to condone them.

    By appearing on his shows you make the implicit statement that the areas where you disagree with him are not of great importance. But they are not unimportant and you discredit yourself by not distancing yourself from someone like him. The price of reaching out to his listeners is too high. You loose more than you gain.

  15. #15 |  Brandybuck | 

    Everytime I wonder if I made the right decision in leaving the LP for the GOP, along comes a story like this to affirm my choice. Hoping the LP can field a winnable candidate like like hoping your Sunday school children’s choir can win Eurovision.

  16. #16 |  strat | 

    The most ironic thing about Michael Savage, and one about which I wish I’d called in about during my brief evaluation of his program is that his rants about “borders, language and culture” sound almost exactly like campaign speeches by French politicians.

  17. #17 |  Mara | 

    #24 — airforce — May 18th, 2009 at 9:25 pm — Did you see all those tea Parties last month? There are millions of people dissatisfied with both the GOP and the Democrats…If we don’t take advantage of this NOW, we may never have the opportunity again

    too bad the tea parties got hijacked by the racists, homophobes, and Republicans. I mean look at who was at the top of the organizational pyramid – Dick Armey’s “Freedom Group”, the Drill-baby-drill organization “Don’tGO” and last (but not least) the so-called “Americans for Prosperity” bunch. They stole the idea from Libertarians and astro-turfed it into a protest by, for, and of Republican conservatives (complete with ubiquitous anti-Obama and anti-liberal protest signs).

    Where were the Libertarians? Where were the fiscally conservative, socially liberal Libertarians?! Where were the regular Americans who just wanted to protest the obscene bailouts, and don’t necessarily hate Obama? Nowhere. The face of these protests are Republican faces. For gods sake…FOX NEWS was providing links to site coordinators!

    Sure, emulate the Tea Parties (they were originally Libertarian anyway) but I suggest you call them something else, because that designation now belongs to the Republicans.

  18. #18 |  truthynesslover | 

    Libertarians are for the most part trustfund babies angry that their easy money is taxed and loners who resent having to pay for other people kids education {since they themselves can find women to procreate with}.They for the most part are hopelessly selfish fools living in a world of warcraft fantasy land disconnected from and felling of obligation to the community.They live their lives with deep seated resentments and your suprised people like Savage would be a beacon to them?

  19. #19 |  Brian | 

    Root is a Vegas guy, betting on the odds. The only one who has something to gain from this is Root. More than likely he is on Savage’s show for the big numbers. Secondly, I like listening to Savage for the entertainment value. He’s ridiculously funny in the way Archie bunker was. No radio pundits sway my opinion. I like the fact Savage practices free speech and takes no prisoners.. I like the fact he’s pretty brilliant. I like the fact he’s a reformed liberal.

    If YOU have something against free association that is YOUR problem.

  20. #20 |  Brian | 

    I meant FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION, of course.

  21. #21 |  Brian | 

    I’m completely floored that anyone who agrees with this article – let alone authored it – considers himself to be a libertarian or open-minded. A libertarian can only spread his word on another libertarian’s radio show? Seriously? Radley I agree with your Reason/FOX NEWS stuff 95% of the time but this is truly unreal. I had to read it a few times to make sure it wasn’t a joke. As a matter of fact, I read the article before I knew who wrote it and my jaw literally dropped when I saw who it was. I was brought here via Sullivan. Wow.

  22. #22 |  Brian | 

    And I read your stuff on FOX NEWS! HA! How ironic Is this article?!?!

  23. #23 |  libertariangirl | 

    Nevada apologizes to Radley for abhorrent behavior of former Chair , Jim Duensing

  24. #24 |  Morning Links | The Agitator | 

    […] Thomas Knapp reviews already declared Libertarian Party 2012 presidential candidate Wayne Allyn Root’s new book, and finds it lacking. My dustup with Root here. […]

  25. #25 |  jb | 

    Billy Beck got it best of all.

    He might have used his favorite term–Endarkenment.

    I have no dog in this hunt, since there is no hunt.

  26. #26 |  jb | 

    Savage’s schtick is to expose.

    He does it quite well. So many squeal when stuck.

  27. #27 |  Bonnie S | 

    I care more what W.A.R. is saying than where he’s saying it, but no-one’s talked about that.

  28. #28 |  Wayne Allyn Root: Bonkers | The Agitator | 

    […] Party. Root has also indicated that he plans to run for president in 2012 under the LP banner. I criticized Root last year for boasting about his appearances on Michael Savage’s syndicated radio show. […]

  29. #29 |  Wayne Root’s vow to testify at Rev. Manning’s Obama Birther ‘trial’ draws catcalls from Balko, Mataconis, others | Independent Political Report | 

    […] Party. Root has also indicated that he plans to run for president in 2012 under the LP banner. I criticized Root last year for boasting about his appearances on Michael Savage’s syndicated radio show. […]