L. Neil Smith's

Number 12, August 14, 1996

The Madness of King Rat

by Victor Milan

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         One definition of madness used by mental health professionals is, to do the same thing and expect different results. Whatever your opinion of mental health professionals, or indeed the concept of madness, there's obviously Big Truth here. What would you call a rat who kept pushing the lever that zapped his testicles, hoping it would suddenly yield a food pellet?
         In a July 20 FaxAlert the NRA admitted that Bob Dole's recent waffling on repeal of the scary-looking gun ban "endangers" its endorsement of him. However, according to the London Electronic Telegraph, within hours Dole of the Dead had backed away from his backing-away. Who knows what his position is today, or will be tomorrow, or week after next? No one, least of all Citizen Zombie himself.
         This hamster-humping need surprise no one with firing brain cells. Last spring Dole, with astonishing ingenuousness, informed a CNN interviewer that he intended to follow the strategy taught him by his mentor, Richard Nixon [!], of running to the Right in the primaries, and running to the Center in the campaign proper. As the ET observes, while Slick moves Right, Dole may have already passed him headed Left.
         Just to kill the suspense, the volume of online excusage ground out by the Masters of Denial at NRA makes it clear that no matter what happens the NRA's knee will jerk towards Dole in September. He's a Republican. NRA will no more pluck its mush from between the GOP's grey, wrinkled, fly-crawling asscheeks than Rush Limbaugh.
         Why? Because they're fucking crazy. They somehow believe Republicans are "our friends." Only don't ask when the Republicans have displayed this friendship for gun-owners, because it's never -- except for shucks like the toy scary-gun-ban repeal they passed in full awareness Slick would veto it. Republicans have sold us out time and again, from NRA life member George "It's Not Nice to Call Jack-Booted Thugs Jack-Booted Thugs" Bush's importation ban, to Brady, the Crime Bill, and the Terror Bill.
         Who cares where Dole says he stands on the scary-gun repeal? He's the same politician as William Ceausescu Clinton. They believe in the same things, they have the same code of ethics. The only difference is cosmetic: Clinton possesses the unwittingly self-satiric charm of one who went straight from the Ivy League into used-car sales, whereas Dole resembles nothing so much as a zombie from a cheapie-creepy Fred Olen Ray tit flick.
         Which is to say, Dole looks evil even to the unsophisticated.
         In the increasingly unlikely event that the American public votes the Undead ticket, ZomBob will instantly sign every scrap of anti-gun horror that gets shoved before him. Gun restriction gives more power to the government, and thus to politicians. Dole knows which lever makes the pellets fall. Whereas NRA knows that, if it just presses that lever marked nutshock one more time....
         But let's not get too smug, here.
         A couple months ago a contributor posted an impassioned message on TLE's editorial mailing list. It seems that at the Colorado Libertarian Party convention some self-inflated clown balloon from the national committee assailed principled libertarians for "alienating Rush Limbaugh." The correspondent was projectile with rage, as any decent libertarian would be, because freedom alienates Rush Limbaugh; a "libertarian" who doesn't do so is just another running dog of the Welfare/Warfare State wearing its Republican mask, like the Graf Limbaugh himself. The correspondent, clearly intelligent, perceptive, and dedicated, ended with a ringing plea to "take back the Libertarian Party."
         OK. Why?
         Certainly it's painful that, even as many Americans finally cop that the Democrats and Republicans are no more than competing labels of the same brand, like Bud and Busch, the LP, faced with unprecedented opportunity, is fumbling to shove principle out of sight down its pants like a convenience-store robber's gun. Inevitably, it'll go off half-cocked.
         In last month's TLE (Issue 10) Cathy LZ Smith made the point that what the LP had to sell was product differentiation. If it isn't the Party of Principle, it's nothing at all: there's no reason to buy from an upstart who offers nothing the established firms can't offer more of.
         Yet within hours of nomination, the LP's new stumbling horse was backing up from any positions that might offend Rush Limbaugh or Dan Rather. Don't be afraid of us, the LP's new message seems to be. Don't let the third party label scare you off -- we're really just more of the same.
         L. Neil Smith has shown how NRA screws itself by trying to play politics with professional politicians. Which is like an armchair quarterback trying to face down a pass rush from the 49ers' front line. Now that the professional pols have manifestly taken control of the national LP, isn't it the same game? They get paid for this; indeed their livelihoods depend on the LP becoming as much like the Mainstream Two as possible. You and I don't get paid for trying to root them out. Who's going to have the staying power, here?
         But say we try to "take back the LP" and win. What drops into our bowl? More freedom?
         Nope. Another political party. Zap-squeak!
         Envision me arguing online with gun owners who claim that not voting Republican means "throwing votes away" because Libertarians can't win. "But," I say, "the Republicans stand for the same thing the Democrats do: more government. All politicians favor more government.."
         Now feature me trying to go on and type, "So vote for Libertarian politicians. Because they're different."
         Arrgh! Can't do it. My fingers lock. Because "vote for me -- I'm different" has been the catchphrase of every turd squeezed out the ever-broadening ass of American politics in history, and at every level, from Albuquerque's own yuppie fascist mayor to Hillary "Laundromat" Rodham.
         Once we start saying, "vote for me -- I'm different" -- we're just the same.
         The same invisible and unconscious conspiracy of incentive which has driven government's inexorable growth, the force which guarantees that reform and revolution are alike counterproductive, and that in the long run ensures that Republicans and Democrats cannot differ significantly from one another, does not exclude Libertarians. We can see that in effect in the current campaign.
         But even if the "right" candidate had been nominated for the LP presidential run, even if he stayed true to principles, what would that have won us? The chance to pull that lever and hope something nice dropped out. Freedom lovers vote every year, yet virtually every year since the Constitution was ratified has seen erosion, however minute, of the freedoms it supposedly secured to us. Do we expect a different result this year? Next? In ten years?
         Many hard-working, wise, and courageous freedom-lovers have poured enormous effort and treasure into both the Libertarian Party and the NRA. I don't denigrate them; far from it. But, through no fault of their own, the end product of all that blood-sweating is ... Bob Dole and the Party Formerly Known as the Party of Principle.
         It was worth trying, people; truly it was. Now let's acknowledge the brutal truth: in the 1990s all the democratic process can offer gun owners -- or anyone who wants freedom -- is what it offered German Jews in the '30s: a chance to ratify their own destruction by participating in a process which lends it the semblance of legitimacy.
         To keep trying is just insane. The system is designed this way. All levers are hard-wired to punish. You ain't never gonna get a food pellet, no matter how hard you pump
         Isn't it time we quit acting crazy and started looking for a way out of this fucking maze?

Prometheus Award-winner Victor Milan is the author of over 70 novels, including the just-released CLD from AvoNova and War in Tethyr from TSR.

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