Hey, Wheres the Stoners, Druids and Ferret-Lovers?

U.s. senate candidate Judge Jim Gray strives to make the Libertarian party matter

But what really gave Gray the final push out the Republican door was a little someone named John Ashcroft.

"I could no longer stay in any group that would give him any power or authority," Gray says. "I was prepared to beat my head against the wall, to work within the party, but I just could not stay in with John Ashcroft. He is an extremist. His Patriot Act is so un-American that Barry Goldwater would have left the party."

Gray officially became a Libertarian last year, attracted by what folks in the party like to call "ideological purity." Purity means consistency, not waffling just for the sake of getting elected. And that's a very nice thing to be, principled; of course, it's much easier to be principled when you have no shot at winning. Say what you will about Republicans and Democrats, say they're whores and scum and opportunists and liars, and you'd be right on each count, but the fact is they get down in the mud and do the necessary slogging and compromising required to get elected. It's very easy to sit on the sideline and cluck your tongue and crow about ideological purity when you're never really playing the game.

"I do admire Libertarians' consistency," Campbell said. "But at some point, there're going to be other human beings in the room. Even if you believe 100 percent in what you're saying, you have to make allowances that there's a world where other people exist and where other people's outlook matters also."

Gray acknowledges that the party could have been seen as intransigent in the past, that "Libertarians could be philosophically pure because they didn't need to worry about winning or losing." But he points to growing success and a mainstreaming—an Illinois city where all five council members are Libertarians, growing popularity in Oregon and . . . in California? Well, before there was a Darrell Issa, the recall of Gray Davis was actually a Libertarian project.

"Of course, we're willing to work with people," Gray says. "Of course, we know we'll have to compromise along the way. I tell people, reality makes gradualists of us all."

Can he win? The odds, of course, are stacked way against him. But consider this: in the last statewide election, Californians elected a man governor who, though he had an "R" after his name, was generally viewed and supported as an outsider, independent and critical of politics as usual. Add to that the fact Barbara Boxer is seen by some as too liberal and by others as not doing enough to defy the very Patriot Act that Gray left his party over. As for the Republicans, well, all that really needs to be said is that their glamour candidate is Bill Jones.

Okay, okay, it'll never happen. Probably. Even Gray acknowledges that his chances are slim. But if the race is close between Boxer and her Republican opponent, and Gray can pull in the double digits, he believes he'll be seen as the difference between winning and losing, that each party will want those votes, and, he says, the only way to get those votes is to change their drug policies.

"If that happens, I will have won."

Indeed, chimes in Edward Teyssier, chairman of the Libertarian Party of San Diego. "First, you're ignored; second, you spoil it for someone; third, you're a contender," he says. "No one can consciously vote for Judge Gray who doesn't know they are voting against the drug war. If we poll a lot, the other parties will know how much we are pulling from them. In a tight race, that could mean something, might be enough to get one of them to oppose the drug war. And he will get votes because he believes what he's saying. He says it, he believes it, and he's not a hippie."

Teyssier—who people of a certain age would recognize as a suburban Elliott Richardson—says he knows people who smoke marijuana but declares, without having been asked, that he will not divulge their names.

"I won't!"

Gray peels off from the conversation to talk to a gentleman in tweeds—a gent people of a certain age would call dapper. "Look at you," Gray says, admiring the outfit.

"These?" says the man. "These are my hunting clothes."

"I know people who smoke marijuana," Teyssier repeats. "And I won't tell you who! But I know from talking to them and others that marijuana comes from the hemp plant. And not only do we get marijuana from it, but also rope, clothing, paper. Paper! Did you know that paper can be made from hemp? You don't need to chop down a whole tree. It's really a very useful plant. I'm told our founding fathers realized this; in fact, I'm told that Constitution was written on hemp paper." He furrows his brow. "Or is it the Declaration of Independence? Oh, I can't remember which one. I wonder if anyone here would know."

Scanning the room, he seems hopeless with nothing but suits, ties and non-hippies at the ready. Suddenly, he brightens. "Oh, excuse me," he says, extending a hand toward the frizzy-haired dude in the T-shirt. "Can you help me with something?"

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