Inside the Year’s Biggest Libertarian Karaoke Fundraiser

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 14 2014 4:04 PM

Inside the Year’s Biggest Libertarian Karaoke Fundraiser

I entered the bar the same way Tim Alberta did: to the stirring sounds of a Norm Singleton vocal. Every Tuesday, at O'Sullivan's Irish Pub in Arlington, "Liberty Karaoke" brings together the D.C./Virginia freedom movement over liquor-stained songsheets and ever-lower inhibitions. I showed up this week for the group's second annual fundraiser, an effort to raise money for Kentucky Rep. Tom Massie. Singleton, who was Ron Paul's longtime legislative director and who now works with Paul's Campaign for Liberty, was finishing out Eminem's "Without Me." As ever he wore a suit but left his bald head.

You don't know me, you're too old let go its over nobody listens to techno/ Now let's go, just give me the signal I'll be there with a whole list full of new insults

Singleton's presence hiked up the average age inside the bar. The night I showed up, it was packed wth twentysomethings from the Leadership Institute, the Tea Party Express, congressional offices, and libertarian think tanks. Matthew Hurtt, the organizer, had invited me to stop by after the main event—the one you had to pay for—so I missed Massie's stand-up routine, which included a cocaine joke about the poor departed Trey Radel.

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"I have a whole list of jokes that I alternate between," Massie told me, somewhat ominously. He refused to share the jokes that missed Tuesday's cut, and didn't have a particular karaoke favorite. "It would be something bluegrass. I play banjo, because I decided there are enough mediocre guitar players out there, and the world needs more mediocre banjo players."

Massie, who just turned 43 but looks young enough to get carded, did not really need the $9,000 raised at the event. For months, business groups fulminated about challenging him, making an example out of this Ron Paul acolyte in a safe seat. But Massie's opponent dropped out. Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, sipping water all night, had showed up to support his friend but would get none of the proceeds. This was a little odd, as Amash still has a challenger—a fading one, but one with months to campaign. He didn't seem nervous. He didn't sing, either, but suggested that if he did he'd have gone for "Let it Go," the belter from Frozen.

I hung back. Generation Opportunity's Corie Whalen nailed "Something to Talk About," her "standard." Hurtt eventually convinced me to join him in Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," the let's-go-to-war classic that hasn't dated at all since 2002. ("We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way.") Forty-eight hours after escaping a party where Steve Stockman was paying students to share a hot tub, I found myself redeclaring war on Iraq, ironically, surrounded by libertarians who'd never supported the war.

They seemed to get the joke. So did Amash and Massie, who stayed from 8 to 10. Before he left I asked Massie if he'd been impressed by Dianne Feinstein's attack on the CIA for allegedly snooping on Senate computers.

"I was more worried by the government spying on me as a private citizen than I am now that I'm in Congress," he said.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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