Libertarians, God love ’em, always seem to have a hard time getting the attention and respect their ideas deserve – which is doubly a shame since they’re the only party with ideas that actually deserve attention and respect.

Republicans are for cutting taxes, sort of. Democrats are for saving Social Security, kind of. The Dems are for fixing the health-care system, so long as you don’t get too sick. And the GOP is going to salvage education, provided we don’t care about smart kids.

The LP doesn’t mess around with this kind of nonsense. It’s straightforward. Taxes? It’s your money; here you go. Social Security? Stop robbing kids and shortchanging old folks; scrap it. Health care? If you like socialized medicine, get your rheumatoid rear to Canada; here, we’re cutting red tape and regulations. Education? Don’t prove you’re publicly educated by saying that privatizing education is a bad idea; dooming kids to your bad luck is petty and cruel.

Scandalous as these ideas appear, they are all good and defensible – even the seeming outlandish claim that we should legalize heroin. If you’d like to read two very good defenses of those ideas, pick up “What it Means to be a Libertarian” by Charles Murray and “Libertarianism: A Primer” by David Boaz.

These men are not kooks and argue forcefully and reasonably for their positions. Their ideas are decidedly more compelling than the warmed-over progressive pap that Democrats are hawking or the warmed-over Democrat bumfodder that Republicans are.

The problem is, Boaz and Murray aren’t running for office on the LP ticket. Guys like Gary Copeland are.

Copeland, among other things, is a self-described druid, who is trying to garner as much attention as possible for his California gubernatorial candidacy by hyping the fact. He even listed it in the voter’s guide – my first reaction to which was “Oh great. If this guy gets elected, every time a decision is just beyond his grasp, instead of asking political consultants, he’ll kill a white bullock on the capitol steps and study the entrails.”

Granted, this tack has two things going for it: 1) it puts the consultants out of work, and 2) it tweaks the animal-rights fanatics.

But hyping one’s druidity is hardly a good political move. If anything, it detracts from the Libertarian message of greater individual freedoms and has everybody re-reading their Marion Zimmer Bradley fantasy novels to see what the candidate actually believes.

“Since Libertarians are a third party, we find it difficult to be taken seriously or to be considered by voters,” a former member of the Orange County Libertarian Party Central Committee, Mark Murphy, told the Orange County Weekly. “Obviously, we want voters to see we aren’t any different from many of them. So, when Gary – who’s a friend of mine, by the way – declares himself a druid, there’s a concern that trying to be taken seriously just went out the window.”

At best, like many modern-day druids, Copeland comes off like some Wicca knock-off, filling historical husks with New Age enthusiasms and fortune-cookie fiddlefaddle thinking that the nominal (even if contrived) connection to ancient, pagan Britain somehow vests his chosen faith with gobs of validity.

At worst, people who have studied druidism remember all those ghastly pagan rites they read about in books like Stuart Piggott’s “The Druids” and Anne Ross and Don Robins’ “Life and Death of a Druid Prince.”

On that score, if elected, will Copeland run his office staff through bonfires to boost their productivity? Will he hold press conferences in sacred groves or sacrifice a few immigrants if the orange crop fails? Will he, as the kings of Ireland upon coronation, “mount” a white mare (and, for the na?ve, not to ride)? Of course, the office of governor is not the same as king – maybe a small pony would do.

Politically, of course, it makes little difference – especially in California – what kind of granola-mix religion a candidate espouses. But unless you’re a run-of-the-mill Presbyterian, or something of equal blandness, voters will likely pay more attention to your quirky beliefs – than to your positions on the issues – if you make a spectacle of your religion.

All minority movements have this problem. The radical fringe, said H.L. Mencken, wags the underdog. The drug-reform movement with its very valid case has people like Medical Marijuana Barbie getting naked in public for the cause. Anti-globalists moon politicians and start riots instead of discussing their protestations reasonably and unaccompanied by flying rocks.

The Libertarian Party promises great relief from an oppressive government and great freedoms recaptured for the society and individuals, but when it becomes less known for its values and more for its voodoo, the message is lost.

Getting the attention the LP deserves may be difficult, but allowing a guy like Copeland to be the party’s public voice, while it may seem so, is not the attention the LP needs. It’s the kind of attention that detracts from great ideas and smears the party as a haven for oddballs – a distinction far more fitting for Ralph Nader’s Green Party.


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