Libertarians hit the ground running
Vice presidential candidate comes to Thousand Oaks
By Shane Cohn 06/14/2012
Many Americans are sick to their stomachs, thinking that in November they will have to vote for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney to be the president of the United States of America. Well, there is another choice.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson will also be on the ticket, for the Libertarian Party. When Johnson left office in New Mexico in 2002, he left New Mexico as one of only four states in the country with a balanced budget. He vetoed 750 bills during his eight years in office, and he cut taxes 14 times while in office and never raised them once. Oh, he also climbed Mt. Everest with a broken leg and competes in Ironman triathlons.
Johnson’s running mate for the Libertarian Party, Judge James Gray, will be speaking in Ventura County this week. In May, the Libertarian Party nominated Gray as its vice presidential candidate. A retired superior court judge with a history of decorated service in the U.S. Navy, Gray was a Republican candidate for U.S. Congress in 1998 and a Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in 2004. He is known for his advocacy on rethinking the country’s drug laws.
Gray will be speaking and hosting a question and answer session at the Ventura County Libertarian Party’s next meeting on Wednesday, June 20, 7 p.m. at Mimi’s Cafe, 400 N. Moorpark Rd., Thousand Oaks.
Gray spoke with the VCReporter about the Libertarian Party.
VCReporter: When introducing libertarianism to folks unfamiliar with the concepts, I’m guessing the most common question is about the role of government. In text, it reads, government’s only role is to help individuals defend themselves from force and fraud. Can you clarify exactly what that means?
Gray: Some people just have misconceptions about what a libertarian is. We don’t believe in no government, we just believe in self-government.
When you say self-government, is that like a form of social Darwinism?
(Laughs) When you think of it, the most local government that can handle an issue should be able to handle that issue. You can immediately jump to the war on drugs or marijuana prohibition. Clearly, in the state of California, we’re adult enough to be able to reach our own approach, and it should not be a national thing. It should be a more local thing. The federal government should not be involved in education. That should be on the more local level, at the local districts and with the parents. We all understand that the federal government does not have all the answers and I haven’t run into anybody yet that thinks that it does. … The federal government has usurped so much power that they should not have done. Libertarians would return it to more local control. On the other hand, clearly Ventura should not reach a treaty with Japan or Chile. The national government has some issues it should be involved with.
There is that saying about the greatness of a country can be determined in how well a country looks out for those that cannot lookout for themselves. Let’s say the Libertarian Party takes over for this country, and there are a lot of citizens who have grown old, depending on government services. How does that transition work itself out?
That’s a fair question. I think the difference is twofold. Libertarians don’t feel they owe anybody, legally, anything. However, I was in the Peace Corps. We care about people. We will help them because that is who we are. Not because we have to, but because that is what we want to do. So the same result will occur but with a different philosophical avenue to get there. Secondly, libertarians see the government as a last resort, not the first resort. So the first resort, of course, is for people to take care of themselves. Secondly, there are lots of philanthropic organizations like charities, churches and religious institutions that will come forward and do it more effectively and appropriately than a government does, so that is a good thing. Finally, if none of those work, you resort to government involvement.
Tell us about the Gary Johnson campaign.
I was quoted accurately for months saying that Gov. Gary Johnson is the most qualified person to be president of the United States that I know of. Not only because of what he says but because of what he did as governor of New Mexico. He left the state with a $1 billion surplus. Along that way, he was reviewed by the ACLU, who had 25 different issues to address, and for every one that stood up for liberty, they’d give you a liberty torch. Obama got 16 liberty torches, Romney got zero liberty torches and Gov. Johnson got 23. So he does stand up for people and for the soul of the United States, which are our freedoms and liberties. I’m proud to be his running mate.
What has changed in the Libertarian Party from 2008 to 2012? In 2008, Libertarian candidate Bob Barr received 523,433 votes, about .40 percent (or less than half of one percent) of all votes. What’s been encouraging this time around that the results would be anything different?
Because Gov. Johnson brings something to the Libertarian Party that we never had before, and that is a successful governor. He has demonstrated administrative ability, and that is something simply different and puts us at a much higher level of attention and production. We are polling at between 7, 8 or 9 percent, depending on the state. That has never happened before. Our strategy is, by the end of September we should be polling at 15 percent or higher. If we poll at 15 percent, then we’ll be a part of the presidential debates. There are three of those and one is for the vice presidents. If that happens, all the rules will change. People will see us as a viable third party, a third voice that people are craving.
What is your specialty and what do you bring to the campaign and, ultimately, the country?
No one who is running for vice president would be as qualified as me. I have 25 years of experience as a judge, and anything that goes wrong in society found its way in my courtroom for 25 years. I’m trained to assign credibility and find what laws work and don’t. I’m also trained actually to make decisions and announce it. This is what we will be doing in the White House.
You’ve mentioned the war on drugs and I know it’s something you have been on the forefront about. Here in Ventura County there are moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries, but kids can go buy bath salts or synthetic pot with incredible side effects at the local head shop. What direction do we take this war on drugs and how do we end this so-called war?
The people are now ahead of the politicians. Even in California … marijuana is the largest cash crop in the state today, which implies people are using it. It’s totally untaxed and totally unregulated. The biggest oxymoron is “controlled substances.” If you prohibit something, you give up all your control by default to Mexican cartels or the bad guys or juvenile gangs. You have no say in place of sale, time, quality, quantity, age restrictions. You give up all that to people who are truly unsavory and causing problems in our world. Let’s bring these drugs back to law and actually regulate and control them. People are understanding this. It’s just a question of time. This is our issue. Only Libertarians are talking about this. If you want a medical marijuana dispensary to survive in the next four years, your only hope is to vote for Gov. Gary Johnson for president. Neither Romney or Obama will do that. Dispensaries will be gone four years from now unless we are elected.
Not even a year ago, Gary Johnson was a Republican candidate for the presidency and now Libertarian. Could that be a detractor for attracting Left votes?
I don’t think so. Gary Johnson has always been a libertarian. He is much more natural in the Libertarian Party. He will be a libertarian the rest of his life. So will I. Republicans don’t believe in smaller government, and they do not believe in less intrusive government. You have to be libertarian for that. The very soul of our country are liberties and our freedoms, and they were under attack under the Bush administration and now the Obama administration. If people are content about how the country has been led over the past 12 years, OK, vote for Obama or Romney. But if you’re not, the only reasonable place you have to go is to Gov. Johnson. We will turn this around, recapture our soul and our financial responsibilities.