Monday, April 30, 2012

Who is Judge Jim Gray (and why both Gary Johnson and you should care)

The Daily Caller suggests that Libertarian Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson will soon name anti-Drug-War activist Judge Jim Gray as his VP running mate:

“Gary had liked him from the very beginning,” the Johnson adviser said. “Every time we would bring up somebody else, Gov. Johnson would say ‘what about Jim Gray?’ He was Johnson’s favorite from the beginning.”
Gray was a conservative Republican who later became a Libertarian after deciding that the nation’s drug laws did more harm than good. He is the author of several books about law, politics and the drug war, and helped spearhead Proposition 19 in California, which would have decriminalized marijuana in the Golden State had it passed.

Former JAG Officer and Federal Prosecutor, Jim Gray is now a Superior Court Judge in California, where he crusades from the bench against drunk driving and the US drug war.

He was also the Libertarian candidate for US Senate in 2004, in which he garnered 216,522 votes (1.8%), and in 2010 helped spearhead the fight for Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana use in California.  Prop 19 failed, but achieved over 4.6 million votes (46.5%) and raised over $3.4 million in support of the cause.

Of course known for his signature stand in favor of ending the Drug War and legalizing marijuana, Judge Gray also has a position on public education that would make even Kilroy smile:

Return our educational and healthcare systems to the control of more local governments. These systems were working effectively until the middle 1960s. Then the federal government began to take control, with disastrous results. We must get the federal government out of our educational and healthcare systems, and must also allow prescription drugs to be available inside the United States at the lowest price that they are available anywhere in the world. Government over-regulation of these systems, as well as our businesses and our daily lives in general, directly reduces productivity and competition, which in turn puts an enormous and unnecessary strain upon our small businesses, inflates prices, and takes away jobs.
Like Gary Johnson, Gray has also campaigned for the "Fair Tax" to replace the Income Tax, and for continued strong separation of Church and State.

In addition, Judge Gray has got to be the only potential candidate for a national ticket of any party who has actually composed a musical ("Americans All").

Why is a Johnson/Gray ticket so potentially important for Libertarians, and for Americans tired of an exclusionary two-party system?

Let me count the ways:

1.  In 2008, Bob Barr's Libertarian campaign was both a joke and a disaster.  Barr raised not quite $1.4 million and managed only 524,000 votes--a pathetic showing.  Judge Gray wone nearly half that many votes in California alone in 2004, and was instrumental in turning out over 4.6 million voters in the State for Prop 19.  [Barr managed only a pathetic 67,000 votes in California.]

2.  Did I mention Barr raised only $1.4 million?  Prop 19 gathered in $3.4 million in support, half of which came from marijuana legalization activist Richard Lee, who could presumably be tapped to support a national campaign that would bring marijuana legalization to the forefront.  Gallup reports that 50% of Americans now support marijuana legalization.  This is a gateway to gaining votes throughout the country.

3.  A Johnson/Gray ticket raises the possible vote threshold for a Libertarian ticket around the country, which is critical in a number of ways.  First and foremost, if such a ticket could attract 5% of the electorate (which, based on 2008 results would mean 6.5 million votes), the LP would qualify for $90 million in Federal matching funds for the 2016 general election.*

4.  While, admittedly, 6.5 million votes for a party that has traditionally considered that it would be wildly successful if it broke 1 million votes in a general election is somewhat "pie in the sky" thinking, there is every reason to believe that a Johnson/Gray ticket could break some new ground.

For example, let's assume that Johnson/Gray could do only as well as Gray did by himself in California in 2004 woth 216,000 votes.  Let's further assume that such a ticket could do as well in Georgia as Allen Buckley's 2008 Senate race, which totaled nearly 127,000 votes (against Bob Barr's awful 28,000), and as well in North Carolina as Michael Munger's gubernatorial and Chris Cole's senatorial campaigns did (130,000 votes against Bob Barr's ridiculous 25,000).  Finally, let's be generous and assume that Johnson could maintain half of the 15% he's currently polling in New Mexico, which would give the ticket another 61,000 votes.

If that all happened, a Johnson/Gray ticket would pick up 534,00 votes, out-pointing Bob Barr's nationwide total in just four states.

5.  A Johnson/Gray ticket might well have "protest" appeal on both the right and left.  Johnson is staunchly pro-abortion rights, pro-gay marriage, pro-marijuana legalization, and far less hawkish without being Ron Paul isolationist on foreign policy.  He's a fiscal conservatie who actually has a track record of governing with balanced budgets, which does away with the traditional argument against Libertarians that they could not govern if elected.  Both Johnson and Gray seek a middle ground on immigration reform.  It is an attractive ticket, especially for a lot of homeless, one-issue voters.

*A note for Libertarian purists who reject the idea of accepting that $90 million in Federal matching funds even if the LP qualified for it.  Even if you believe taxation is theft under all conditions (pretty much the most extreme position), your money has already been taken from you, and this is the opportunity to get some of it back to use in your cause.  If you are such a purist that you would not touch it, you have marginalized yourself in mainstream politics forever.  (I know, I know, saying this means that I will not be considered a "true libertarian" by some, just as Gary Johnson apparently isn't.  I can live with that.)

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