Friday, July 30, 2010

Interview with Clark Duffe

Clark Duffe is the Libertarian Party candidate for Oklahoma's 5th Congressional District. He will be running against Independent Dave White, Democratic candidate Billy Coyle and whoever wins the August 24 Republican runoff between Kevin Calvey and James Lankford.

I had a chance to do an interview with Clark and below is the transcript of that interview:

1. Why are you a Libertarian as opposed to being a Republican?

Republicans only go halfway towards freedom. They’re okay on economic and a few other issues, but too often they ignore their own stated values. Consider the 8 years of Bush the Younger, more than half of which they also held both houses of Congress – they spent like teenagers let loose in the mall with mom’s credit card, ending up with a trillion dollar deficit during Bush’s last full fiscal year.

At the same time, the Republicans are officially against personal freedoms I support: Drug legalization for adults, gay marriage, women’s reproductive rights, etc.

I agree with the idea of drug legalization but I'm still up in the air on the whole gay marriage thing and, of course, you know how I feel about "reproductive rights."

2. Why are you running for Congress?

Both the Republicans (conservatives) and Democrats (liberals) in Washington, D.C. are failing the American people. Strangely, even though they’re at each others’ throats, they’re almost working as some sort of evil totalitarian team, with one side acting to strip away half of the individual’s rights, and the other side working to strip away the other half. It’s getting so bad that I can hardly even find anyone to vote for anymore. And since there weren’t any other Libertarians lined up to run, I decided to.

3. Why should the people vote for you as opposed to one of the other candidates?

I won’t be beholden to either the Republicans or the Democrats, and can act individually on each issue, without party pressure. Given the belligerent situation between the Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C., I can also act as a sort of go-between, trying to find common ground – Libertarian ground, of course – between them and help form the coalitions necessary to get the U.S. out of the pit the parties have dug us into.

By the way, I am not a hardcore Libertarian, wanting everything yesterday. I am a pragmatic Libertarian: While I stand with our goals, I understand that we need to engineer a soft landing for our nation and its economy. not nosedive into the ground on principle. We’ll have to hold onto at least a modified version of some of what we’ve already got in place for a while until people can adapt to the changes I’ll work for.

4. If you were elected, what would be your priority as a Congressman? That is, what is the #1 top issue that concerns you and how would you address it?

I have my CARDS plan – Cut spending; Audit the Fed; Restore individual rights; Demand government honesty; Secure the borders – but recently I’ve moved “ending our government’s imperial ambitions” to the top of my list. We need to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan except in a diplomatic context. I believe there are members on both sides of the aisle who agree, and will work to bring them together.

I think ending imperial ambitions is quite a noble effort.

5. What are your personal thoughts on term limits and salary caps for elected officials?

In theory, I don’t like term limits. I think they thwart the will of the people, who should be allowed to vote for whomever they wish. On the practical side, however (there’s that pragmatic Libertarianism, again), term limits are probably necessary because of the extreme advantages incumbents have given themselves. Twelve years each in House and Senate sounds about right to me.

As for salary caps, I oppose them. But congress should have to directly vote for any increases, not let some commission do their dirty work for them.

6. Do you support legislation that would make English the official language of the United States? Why or why not?

I don’t support English only. However, governments at all levels should not be required to accommodate foreign language speakers, either. If, say, Oklahoma wants to provide information in other languages, that would be up to it. But it should not be forced to.

7. What sort of ideas do you have for tax reform? How do you feel about the Fair Tax?

I support the Fair Tax. Let’s pass it quickly, and watch it work.

8. How would you go about fixing the failing education system in this country?

We need to remove the federal government from education. Abolish the Department of Education and fire all the bureaucrats. Let the states and local governments take care of education their own children.

Since many school districts are dependent on federal money, however, we might take an intermediate step. We could retain a couple of accountants and a handful of clerks who would distribute cash to the schools on a per capita basis. (I was going to give numbers on how much we could save, but I couldn’t find an accurate, consistent number for the Department of Education’s budget. Suffice to say that for $30 billion, we could fund the small office described above and provide school districts $500 per student, saving at least $50 billion. Maybe as much as $150 billion, give the stimulus money being thrown at education lately.)

9. What ideas do you have to control government spending and are you concerned at all with the percentage of the budget that is allocated to military spending? Do you think the percentage is too much or too little?

The only rational way to control spending is to reduce the size and mission of the federal government; get us back to our Constitutional mandates. Many duties would be returned to the states, which might very well eliminate them as unnecessary. But the states would have to work that out.

The military should not be exempted from these cuts. Getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan and cutting back or eliminating most of the 648 to 798 foreign bases (again, it’s nearly impossible to get accurate numbers even for something as fundamental as this) will naturally reduce the military’s budget to a more sensible level.

The percentage of the budget going to the military means nothing, however; it is the real dollar amount spent that counts. Once the rest of the government is finally trimmed down to size, the military’s percentage of the total spending should actually increase, even as the dollars spent goes down.

10. Do you feel like a third party candidate would ever have a viable change at electing one of its candidates to a major political office?

Third parties can win major elections, but only if given better ballot access. With more candidates on the ballot, the parties’ visibility will increase, leading to membership growth in those parties with viable messages. And that will lead to success in minor elections followed by major ones. This method takes years, if not decades, for a third party to rise to prominence, however..

The real opportunity is if a third party becomes attached to an important major issue, the way the Republican Party did in the 1850’s with slavery. Then a third party can leapfrog to the front of the pack. But again, only if it has reasonable access to the ballot.

11. Any final thoughts?

This campaign is an uphill road for me. I don’t have the instant visibility of being in a major party, or the advantage of straight-party voting. All I can do is reach as many voters as possible with the Libertarian message, and hope people realize that freedom in all things is the best path.

You can read more about Clark on his website Duffe For Congress.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview Steve! I like some of what this guy has to say. Too bad he's got a snowball's chance in Hades of winning.