Speaks to wide range of topics, from abortion to leadership
By Michael M. Barrick
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – John Buckley, the Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jay Rockefeller, spent about three hours in a dialogue to explain his views and those of his party here on Oct. 6, between trips to Morgantown and Charleston. The questions are in bold.
Let’s begin with the challenge of being a so-called third party candidate. The mainstream media refers to all candidates not from the two major political parties as “third party candidates,” even though there are five candidates for the open West Virginia U.S. Senate seat. What does this say about our political system and the reporters covering it?
I don’t have any problem with being labeled a third party candidate. Libertarians are actually next in registration. That makes us the third party. The Mountain Party is then fourth by number of registered voters. What is frustrating though about being categorized as a third party candidate is the insinuation that you are not really serious. You might be serious about running, but not on your views to actually change the state. It lends yourself to being marginalized. I’m serious about running. I believe strongly in what I am saying.
The big challenge is getting the message out. My message will resonate. The challenge is when you lack the resources, it doesn’t mean your share of the vote means that the people have rejected your message, it merely reflects that people have not heard it. It is frustrating. The mindset of the media is, “You are not going to get anywhere.” Then they say after the election, “You didn’t get anywhere so we were justified in not covering you.” They cover it as a horse race. It isn’t about covering the issues. If you are not perceived as a contender, your message doesn’t get out. I had higher hopes that my thoughtful contribution to this campaign would be heard, but it has been routinely ignored. As a Libertarian, I am cutting across traditional labels of Republicans and Democrats, of conservatives and liberals.
West Virginia Public Broadcasting announced Friday it is holding a second televised debate later in the month, so as to include all five candidates. Are you planning on participating? If so, what will be your objective(s) in that debate?
(EDITOR’S NOTE: West Virginia Public Broadcasting is sponsoring a debate in Charleston Friday morning, Oct. 17 at 10:30 that will be taped and then broadcast that same evening. Mr. Buckley has agreed to participate, as have all the other candidates except for Republican Shelley Capito).
They have issued the offer to televise a second debate. They realized what they were doing was unfair and a disservice to the public. It remains to be seen if this will actually happen. I look forward to participating. I presume that public broadcasting will feature this debate even if only one of the major candidates accept. I don’t know if they will or not. I don’t know if the others will participate. Until it happens, I’ll not tell our people that this unfairness will be resolved. I’ll do that afterwards.
My objectives will be to contrast my Libertarian cross-cutting views with the same old same old politics of the Republican and Democratic candidates. The public needs to know they have an alternative. The Mountain Party is left of liberal. The Democratic candidate represents the liberal politics of the party. The Republican candidate represents the interest of big business. The Constitution candidate is far right of center, representing the view of religious conservatives. I’m the only one of those that offers a program of small government and individual liberty that cuts across right and left.
Polling and history reveals that you will receive a very small portion of the overall vote in November. Do you agree with that assessment, and if so, what do you hope to accomplish through your candidacy?
Polling and history would suggest that an underfunded candidate isn’t going to receive a substantial part of the vote. There are exceptions. We saw that in Virginia when Eric Cantor got beat by a strong margin. It wasn’t a runaway, but wasn’t a cliffhanger. From following politics, every election cycle, an election turns out that everyone is taken by surprise.
I’m running to win. But I’m also running to achieve as many secondary goals as possible. I want to improve the substance and quality of the debate. I want to advance my views, and I want to create a stronger Libertarian party so that we can be a stronger voice in the future.”
We are sitting in the county seat of Harrison County, which was just named a “High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area” by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Additionally, there have been several high profile cases of prominent citizens being convicted of distributing prescription drugs, the most notable being former Bridgeport Mayor Mario Blount. Meanwhile, Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational use of marijuana; and, nearly half the states have legalized it for medicinal use. Do you favor legalizing marijuana, and do you think, in light of the developments regarding the abuse of prescription drugs in the area, that the two issues are separate, or should the so-called “War on Drugs” be abandoned altogether?
I do favor legalization of medical marijuana. I have never tried it. I’m never going to. But I’ve had too many people tell me it benefits. Something you administer to yourself that doesn’t violate the rights of another, that you do in private in a free country should not be illegal. The average person is way ahead on this than the politicians.
It astonishes me that in 2014 that we are debating if marijuana should be legal. The average person is not going to have a problem with that. The legislators are bull headed.
I believe marijuana in general should be legalized. If you drive under the influence, that’s different. You can make that distinction. What you do in the privacy of your home should be your business in your own home, whether I agree with it or not.
I go further as libertarians do on the war on drugs. What makes drugs a threat to society is the drug gangs pushing them because there is a hefty profit in pushing it. We have not stopped the war on drugs. We have not accomplished the goal. We have spent money. We’ve jailed people, yet we still see an increase in crime. We haven’t made a dent. We have set horrible legal precedents in rigorous law enforcement. When you add them all up, and say we haven’t made a dent in drug abuse, it cries out, “Is there a new approach?” If you eliminate the profit, you eliminate the gangs and the terrorists profiting from it.
If we will take a new approach; then it allows us to address it as a medical issue, not a criminal issue.
You are a pro-life Libertarian. You explain your reasoning on your website, stating also, “…the law should ban abortion and protect the innocent.” If abortion were to be outlawed, what – if any – penalties do you believe should be applied to doctors who perform abortions, healthcare workers who participate in abortions, and the mother and father of the unborn baby who choose to have an abortion?
I’m in a minority as a pro-life Libertarian. I’ve been pro-life since college. My first inclination was to say, of course government should not be involved. But then, as I paid attention to the biological facts, it is clear that human life begins at conception. Government should exist to protect life, liberty and property. I see another life there. Other Libertarians warned me against speaking on this issue. But if I felt that I needed to withdraw that issue, I would withdraw from the race. I see a wrong and I am in politics to right it.
I am astounded and almost offended that West Virginians for Life has endorsed Shelley Capito for U.S. Senate, when she is unapologetically in favor of Roe v. Wade. She has thrown a few bones to the pro-life movement such as opposing late-term abortions and public funding of them. But if a politician favors Roe v. Wade, they don’t deserve an endorsement. West Virginians for Life would not meet with me, answer my call or emails to hear my point of view. They would not even hear me out. I find that astonishing. With that attitude, I’m afraid the pro-life movement will be marching for another 70 to 100 years.
Determining penalties are tough. The object is to save the life of an innocent or an unborn life, not to cast judgment or aspersion in a case of a confused and bewildered woman that takes the life of a human being. I don’t have any problem if abortion were to be outlawed for penalties to those who perform abortion. Perhaps we can take their license to practice. We haven’t gotten that far, so I don’t’ really know. It’s hard enough on the mother, so I wouldn’t want to see penalties on parents. I just say there is another human being and let’s use the law to protect it.
I look for the day when liberals, progressives, Libertarians and humanists, who support the rights of the disenfranchised and the poor, come back into the pro-life fold. Because that baby is literally voiceless and deserves an advocate.
According to your website, you are opposed to the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.” You prefer a free-market approach. Do you have concerns that, whether Obamacare remains in effect or is repealed, that insurance companies would have too much control over the healthcare decisions that need to be made between patients and their doctors?
I am an unapologetic proponent of complete repeal. I don’t think it’s affordable. And it’s not going to improve medical care. I don’t want to move back, because it wasn’t affordable then. I want the free market to offer rates that people can afford. I think we can get that just as we do food care. The market caters to our food needs. You can take your lunch to work or go out to get pizza or eat at expensive places. All because the providers are in business and have to cater to the consumer. I really believe we will have better care if we get the government out of healthcare.
Between 40 and 50 years ago, public school systems in West Virginia began consolidating schools. Since then, the state and federal governments have gained significant control over local schools. Do you think it would improve our public schools to have them reverse consolidation, revert to more community schools, and have schools overseen by their own boards of education rather than county boards?
I certainly favor decentralization from the federal government to the state and local level. More local control is better. When people have their own funds at stake, they’ll pay more attention to see if they’re getting their money’s worth. The customers of public education are students and parents. Their vehicle is the local schools.
On your website, you are critical of the National Defense Authorization Act. What do you believe is the proper balance between protecting the homeland from terrorism and protecting individual liberties?
The act, among other provisions, says you can be arrested and detained without due process of law for mere suspicion for association with suspected terrorists. That is fundamentally un-American. To give up fundamental liberties to protect ourselves from terrorism is a dangerous trade off. We have gone overboard. We know the government has the information to spy on our emails and telephone calls. A government that is strong enough to give us everything we want, is capable of taking away anything they want.
Besides her people, West Virginia’s greatest asset is its natural beauty and resources. This has led to tremendous conflict among her people, as conservationists and energy companies are at odds as to how these assets should be used. What do you think is the proper balance between preserving the state’s environment and developing its energy resources of coal, oil and gas?
I was born in New Orleans and lived there through high school. I am like a kid in West Virginia. It is beautiful beyond compare. The scenery is magnificent. I have been on an eight month scenic tour. I love the mountains.
I don’t have a problem with tapping energy resources. But, I can see the detrimental effect literally downstream. If landowners are suffering, that is a property rights violation. Let’s use the free market to remedy the situation. That’s easier said than done. How does the little person afford to go to court? Regulatory rules get used against the people it was designed to help. And, regulations can be onerous and ridiculous. I prefer market forces, but how that works, I don’t know.
Every campaign slogan is like a headline. Yours is “Live and Let Live.” Explain the story behind it.
When you have a political philosophy, it’s like branding for a commercial product. For me, the slogan sums up my view of government. Everybody can learn to get along. I tell my very conservative religious friends don’t give up your values. Just respect mine. People who are different can get along. If you respect my rights, I’ll respect yours. We are unique. We were the first revolution in favor of liberty. I wish our children could get taught that. It’s why people want to come to the U.S.
Is there anything you would like to add as we close out this interview?
Our political system desperately needs to go in a different direction. The two party system has become two rival gangs. They just want power for power’s sake. They have the resources to get what they want. Most people disdain politicians and I think it is for this reason.
I’m a bleeding heart Libertarian. I do care about the poor, about those in need. But I don’t believe in government as the solution to their woes. People in the community are better able to recognize those who are genuinely in need from those who are gaming the system. And, we need to end corporate welfare – tax incentives and bail outs. The individual welfare recipient is no worse than the corporate one.
I also want to speak about leadership. We reward politicians for doing what the public wants. Sometimes you have to get out ahead of the public. You show leadership by convincing them to get behind you, not be figuring out where the parade is going and jumping out in front of it.
© Michael Barrick / Appalachian Chronicle, 2014.