Tuesday, January 17, 2006
As you know by now, if you’ve read my stuff at all, I’m a Libertarian. The existence of such shows as Wife Swap, however, makes me wonder if we wouldn’t be better off in a totalitarian state.
(That’s just a cheap joke, of course, but I couldn’t think of a better introduction, so there you go.)
In 1992, I ran for the office of state representative. I did so, as you might have guessed, as a Libertarian candidate. That probably gives away the ending of the story right there, but I’m going to tell you all about it anyway. Pretend that I had a chance to win and it might make a better tale.
Some background is useful (for filling up space) so here goes.
I first found out about the Libertarian Party in 1975 or so. My drug usage made me amenable to their blandishments - if that doesn’t sound too Victorian - and I endeavored to find out everything I could about them. This was easier said than done, because (then, as now) the major media doesn’t cover politics so much as they do celebrities. Unless a candidate has some sort of celebrity prior to a run, he/she isn’t going to have any because of a run. So, I had to really scratch for information about the group.
The only lead I had was a pamphlet I had received in the subway. This was an advertisement for Roger MacBride, the party’s presidential candidate for 1976. It outlined the basics of the Libertarian platform; generally, absolute freedom with the proviso that no harm come to another as a result. I agreed with that. There was an address on the pamphlet, so I wrote to that address and requested as much information as they could send to me. As a result, I received a couple of more pamphlets in the mail some weeks later. I found that I agreed totally with what was said in these pamphlets.
In Massachusetts - as is the case in many states - when a person registers to vote, he or she must choose to register as a member of a political party or as an unaffiliated voter, a.k.a. independent. I had originally registered as a Democrat, since that was my heritage. My Family had had a number of people heavily involved in politics, as Democrats. A few of my ancestors had been elected to office and others had worked within various governmental administrations and agencies. However, I now wanted to re-register as a Libertarian.
I found out that it was impossible to do so. It turned out that the choices were limited to Democrat, Republican, or Independent. You could not designate yourself as anything other than those three choices. This was my first clue that I was definitely on the right track in my choice of political parties. I mean, if the government would only allow you to self-designate as one of their three pre-approved choices, it meant that there was definitely room to grow insofar as freedom of speech was concerned, at the very least.
After the 1976 election passed, with MacBride and the Libertarians not winning through the mere force of righteousness, I was slightly dismayed - though hardly surprised - and I didn’t linger on politics very much. I was going to be a rock-n-roll star, after all, and I figured I’d make my own rules, so whuffo I need that shit? I did very little politically, beyond a small bit of proselytizing to my dope-smoking brethren, to really affect change.
Fast forward now, through the 1980’s. I didn’t become a rock star. I worked a series of nowhere jobs, for nowhere money, while shooting for my big break. I continued to vote for Libertarians, whenever one appeared on the ballot – which was pretty much once every four years - but I wasn’t actually involved in the party. When the subject turned to politics, I mentioned the philosophy to people, but I didn’t beat them about the head with it. That was about it.
A number of major changes took place in my life between 1986 and 1990. Many of these changes will make interesting stories of their own, but would only serve to detract from this story, so I won’t go into them here. However, they include: my addiction to cocaine, the loss of a job I had held for four years (which was longer than I had held any other job in my life), a ‘Dear John’ letter from my girlfriend of the time, a temporary insanity, meeting MY WIFE, going to broadcasting school, and getting married, which is where we once again pick up the story.
MY WIFE and I were married in 1992. We honeymooned all over the eastern seaboard, ending up in Washington, DC, for the final part of our sojourn.
(I’ll explain here that MY WIFE knew of my political leanings, but she agreed to marry me anyway. Interestingly, she was something of a socialist. Now, you can’t find two political theories much further apart than libertarianism and socialism, but love conquers all, as they say, so we got spliced in spite of our differences. We both cared about politics, and we both believed in systems that were on the mere fringe of acceptance in American society, so we had that much in common. Beyond that, we were able to see past such ephemera as politics, to the essential goodness of each other. At least, I was able to see that in her. What she saw in me, I don’t know; perhaps a reclamation project. However, I have reached the usual point in my stories where I have digressed beyond all reasonable bounds, so I now return you to your originally scheduled programming.)
Why did we choose DC as our final destination? Well, we wanted to take a train trip, and that seemed like a reasonable place to end it. We spent some time in Hershey, some time in Delaware, and then on to Washington. We both enjoy history somewhat and knew there was lots of good stuff to see there. We also wanted to tour The Smithsonian. In addition, I wanted to make a side trip to see the Libertarian Party headquarters, which I imagined to be a sleek and bustling affair, full of bright-eyed and efficient justice-seeking radicals, as would befit an organization that had in the near past garnered close to one million votes in a national election.
It was a great honeymoon. I’ll tell you more at a later date, since it’s another good story, but now I’m coming out of the Metro, Washington’s subway, in the middle of what can only be described as a ghetto and I’m wondering if I got the directions wrong. I wandered around a bit, looking for the street address, and it turned out I had the directions right because there it was.
I’m working from memory here, and it may be faulty memory, as often happens when one has been in a state of shock and the brain blots out that bad stuff. It was a building I never would have entered had it not been for the fact that it supposedly contained the center for dispensation of my political beliefs. I’m not unfamiliar with slums, nor with areas that might be dangerous for a stranger to be in, so I knew enough to carry myself as if I knew where I was going and what I was doing, but even so I was not as self-assured as I had been when I began my pilgrimage that morning.
I mean, it was a hovel. It was a tenement, basically, and the door I entered through was (as I remember) dented steel, and the stairs I climbed to the office on the second floor were not entirely clear of trash. I entered the office and was amazed to see two people collating piles of leaflets from atop an ancient wooden table.
And that was it; two people! There were a couple of filing cabinets, some crummy desks, and not much else. I introduced myself to the two people doing the work, and found out that one of them was the national director of the party. He seemed pleased to see me, and his co-worker also, but I’m sure the shock of what I was seeing showed on my face. I made some small talk, asked if I could have some literature to add to my small collection at home, and then made my way out the door and back to the subway, all the while wondering what this organization could do if they actually had some money. I mean, they organized a 50-state presidential campaign out of this rat trap. What could they do given the resources available to the “major” parties?
I returned to our hotel knowing that, upon my return to Boston, I would seek out the local branch of the party to see what I could do to help. It was time to fish or cut bait, so to speak.
However, it is now time for me to do some actual work, so we’ll pick up the story tomorrow, back in Boston. See you then!
Go to Part II