Retired California Superior Court Judge Jim Gray had been a lifelong moderate/liberal Republican until the passage of the Patriot Act.
"It took me about 9 1/2 seconds," he said last night at DSU, "to decide to resign from the Republican Party and register Libertarian. Any party--and that includes both the Republicans and the Democrats--that can shred the US Constitution and our civil liberties so quickly is not deserving of our support."
One hallmark of a Libertarian: civil liberties matter. If they don't matter to you, or if you belong to the school of thought that believes we should sacrifice ours to keep ourselves safe from drugs, or from Al Qaeda, then you aren't a Libertarian.
Judge Gray said unequivocally last night that Libertarians in the White House would repeal the Patriot Act, would repeal the NDAA authorizing indefinite detention of American citizens, and would close Gitmo--"that cancerous sore on our conscience that is exposed for all the world to see."
Beyond that: taxes. I found it very, very instructive to listen to the honesty with which Judge Gray approached taxes and spending. First, he said we had to balance the budget NOW, not in 28 years as the "radical" Paul Ryan plan proclaims. He argued for massive Pentagon budget cuts, elimination of the US Department of Education, elimination of the US Department of Energy, trimming back the US Department of Agriculture. . . .
But what he said was that these eliminations would only if there was a secure revenue, at least equal to that collected now via the IRS. So the replacement consumption tax would not only have to spread the tax burden more equally, it would also have to be revenue neutral--raise as much as the income tax, corporate tax, and capital gains taxes combined.
Here's where his honesty won me over. When Scott Gesty had suggested a consumption tax rate of about 8.95% as turning the trick, Judge Gray said, "No, to be honest I believe it would have to fall somewhere in the 12-15% range to remain productive enough. When an audience member asked if this would be piled on top of existing state sales taxes, the Judge didn't bat an eye:
"Unfortunately, yes," the Judge said. "But at least the process would be transparent, and there would be no way for wealthier people to avoid paying their share of the taxes, unless they decided to simply quit buying things." He laughed then, as if to say, "And exactly how likely is that?"
I could do more along this line, but my point's pretty simple: he didn't deflect the question, didn't attempt to push it toward a soundbite. He answered it, even when the answer wasn't necessarily what you'd want to hear.
That was the same experience I had with Gary Johnson when he skyped into the Libertarian Party of Delaware convention last spring: he answered the damn questions.
Judge Gray also told us that in the telephone call wherein Governor Johnson invited him to be his running mate, Gary said, "And if you have disagreements with me over some policy point, I want you to feel free to discuss those issues on the campaign trail." "Imagine that," Judge Gray told us, "my boss told me I didn't have to follow the party line, just tell the truth the way I saw it."
Here's the scoop for Delaware: Mitt Romney and the Republicans have absolutely no shot at winning in Delaware. None, zip, zero, nada. Much stronger GOP presidential candidates have failed to come within 6 or 7 points of the weakest Democrat. President Obama is not a particularly weak Democrat, at least within our state.
So a vote for Mitt Romney is a wasted vote. Get over it: it's a wasted vote.
A vote for Barack Obama is piling on and voting for politics as usual. No matter what, at least 54-55% of Delawareans are going to vote for him. Get used to it.
But a vote for Gary Johnson could change the face of American politics forever.
5% nationwide guarantees the Libertarian Party will qualify for Federal matching funds in 2016, and eliminates more than half of the onerous ballot access requirements we've been fighting through the courts this year at the expense of time and treasure we don't have.
We've literally spent millions just to get on the ballot.
5-10% in Delaware for Gary Johnson, or Scott Gesty running for US House, would break open barriers to debates, to news coverage, and create an atmosphere for honest discussion of the issues.
5%. . . .
That's about 20,000 people having the guts to take the plunge and say, "I'm voting for a different political system. I'm voting for a change in the two-party system."
We could do it.