Reuniting the Right

Conservative, CRDaily, Politics

In his new book, The Conservatarian Manifesto, Charles C. W. Cooke proffers a bright and eloquent vision for the future of the political Right – one that recognizes the mistakes of Bush-era centralization, but that maintains a fierce reliance upon the great tenets of traditional conservatism. Of course, the evolutionary process is not so simple, and if one wishes to follow Cooke’s advice for forging a renewed philosophical groundwork, one has to also reject the typical pundit’s lazy predictions regarding the Right’s great, unassailable divide. Accordingly, in its refreshing and lively way, The Conservatarian Manifesto considers a few powerful reasons for doing so: On the one hand, conservatives and libertarians must recognize the importance of their mutual respect for individual rights and limited government; on the other, they must defend the concept of federalism and convince the public that what California does is not necessarily so confining for Texas or North Carolina. At the end of the day, the Right ought to draw comfort from the fact that the political environment with which it is presented is, after the Obama years, ripe for change.

The book begins, though, by clearing up some of the stickier misconceptions about political ideology within the American system: While modern liberalism effectively boils down to an ardent belief in centralizing power and in government intervention, conservatism takes the classically liberal tradition and reinterprets it in a twenty-first-century context. Many observers consider this to mean that those on the Right want to keep all sorts of traditions, going as far back as you wish; but as Cooke points out, conservatives want to preserve the radical philosophy of the Founders – not tradition for its own sake, but rather the American tradition specifically because the Constitution does a wonderful job of codifying individual rights and preserving liberty.

Inasmuch as it dislikes the slowness of conservative change, however, libertarianism is different, thoroughly rejecting the Burkean, “socially conservative” element of the Right by opposing the Drug War and defending a more secular conception of marriage. According to Cooke, a conservatarian is someone whose opinions are torn between these two philosophies, not quite finding either one of them entirely convincing – whose motivation is “to render the American framework of government as free as possible and to decentralize power, returning the important rights to where they belong.” Cooke concludes, “This way can many of the cracks between the libertarians and the conservatives be mended.”

As such, the importance of federalism cannot be overstated, especially since it may be the key to bringing about a firmer cohesiveness between Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians. With regard to social issues, for example – a conflation that Cooke finds useless because it pretends as if the answers to abortion, gay marriage, and drugs are necessarily the same – federalism means that states can adopt policies that are particularized to the proclivities of their own people, without upsetting too much their friends in adjoining states. It may be true that a conservatarian is most likely to support gay marriage, and to oppose a Drug War that needlessly interferes with the private consumption of goods; but the key is to recognize that if the federal government got out of the way, the states could act as laboratories of democracy in which localism and bifurcation of power are respected. Under such a framework, social issues would not be so divisive, and conservatives and libertarians would be able to unite around a philosophy of returned power to the states. Although a good portion of The Conservatarian Manifesto is dedicated to Cooke’s own views regarding such issues as immigration, foreign policy, gay marriage, and the Drug War, its argument’s ultimate reliance is upon the beautiful notion of federalism.

But perhaps the most inspiring takeaway from Cooke’s writing is the way in which it expresses the utter commonality of the Right: It may be difficult to say for sure whether government should recognize gay marriage, but it is easy to see how conservatives and libertarians, alike, love the Constitution. Instead of harping pessimistically about the supposed “great divide,” the media would do well to understand that Rand Paul and Scott Walker both care deeply about individual rights and free markets. And as long as this remains true, the Left ought to be gravely worried, for its vision of equality of outcome will be the Right’s common enemy – its excessive focus on bureaucratic dominance will be the scourge around which, Cooke is confident, the Right will gladly take a stand.

Interview with Sean Haugh, Libertarian Candidate for U.S. Senate (Part Two)

Elections, North Carolina Politics, Politics

As the 2014 midterm elections are quickly approaching, a large amount of the nation’s attention has turned to North Carolina, a state that many consider a swing state after it flipped from blue to red between the 2008 and 2012 elections. The battle has mainly focused on Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis. There is, however, a third player in this traditionally two-party game: Libertarian Sean Haugh. The Durham pizza delivery man has gained a fair amount of attention thanks to his multiple YouTube videos, and currently has five percent of polled North Carolinians supporting him. Haugh previously ran for the US Senate in 2002 and had served as the national political director for the Libertarian National Committee.

I went to Durham to sit down with Haugh and discuss why he thinks he can win this race. In the second part of my two-part interview with him, Haugh and I talked about the problems surrounding his two opponents, the episode in Ferguson, Mo. and his main method of campaigning: YouTube.

If you have not yet read Part One of this interview, you can find it here.

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United States Senate candidate Sean Haugh (Photo courtesy of Rachel Mills)

Alex Thomas: Let’s talk about your opponents. The race has mainly been focused on Speaker Tillis and Senator Hagan, with neither side being able to confidentially secure a majority of voters. A September 10th poll by Rasmussen has Senator Hagan up over Speaker Tillis by six points, while a month ago a similar poll by the organization had Speaker Tillis up by five points. Why do you think neither of them can get a majority of people on their side?

Sean Haugh: Because the majority of voters see them for what they are: people who represent corporate special interests and not the people. I found it amusing that Senator Hagan had commissioned a poll that she was touting a couple of days ago, and right there in the stuff that she was trying to point out, her negatives still outweighed her positives. But, her negatives are closer to her positives than Speaker Tillis’ are.

I hold the opinion that Speaker Tillis is completely unelectable. He has no point being in this race. He’s just out there to fly the flag of his party. He has no chance because he has lost such significant demographics. So many people have looked at his performance in the General Assembly and want to reject him.

I’m getting a lot of support simply because I’m not either of them.

AT: You are currently situated around five percent. That is according to a Civitas Institute poll, which, unlike the previously mentioned poll, did actually mention your name directly —

SH: I don’t consider a poll legitimate unless it mentions me by name. That Rasmussen poll that you mentioned is worthless because it’s “some other candidate”. It’s so bizarre to me that the political class and  a lot of media are so wrapped up in the Washington game, that they, too, have lost any sense of reality.

One thing that really amazes me about this race and the lack of legitimacy of media coverage of it is that they are all focused on control of the Senate. That seems to be the only thing that matters to them at all.

A lot of the times, they really just don’t know what to do to me. I just don’t fit into their conception of reality.

AT: Why do you suppose you don’t fit into it?

SH: Because I’m actually talking about issues that matter to people. You watch this news coverage, and there’s almost nothing about how this election is going to affect the people of North Carolina. It’s all about how it’s going to affect what happens underneath the dome in Washington, DC.

I think that is one of the reasons why more and more people are getting their news from Twitter and Facebook instead of the mainstream media. They can actually get real news. Like a lot of people who live in the 21st century, that’s how I get my news.

I talk to people who just watch cable news, and just wonder how they hardly know anything that’s going on in this world. They certainly know plenty about sharks and the Kardashians, but not much about, for example, what happened in Ferguson, Mo. a month ago.

AT: Since you mentioned Ferguson, let’s say a similar incident occurred here in North Carolina. If you were Senator, how would you address a Ferguson at home?

SH: We do have Ferguson here at home. The only difference is that we didn’t shut down the city and protest over it.

There are three cases here in Durham alone since our current police chief, Jose Lopez, took office. Situations where people died through interacting with the police, but not necessarily in confrontation. One in particular is the case of Jesus Huerta, who was shot in the back seat of a patrol car. They still maintain that he managed to sneak a gun in and shoot himself, even though he was handcuffed in the back of the police cruiser.

Overall, the police really have changed over the last few years to really be opposed to protecting and serving the people while having a good community relationship. These kind of things have happened all across the country.

One thing that really concerns me is the militarization of police. To me, that’s a sign of just how opposed to the people the police have become. Why do you need this big, mine resistant armored vehicle for local police work? It’s completely unnecessary unless you want to go to war with the people.

What happened in Ferguson is really a national problem. One thing I would like to do as a Senator is stop this 1033 Program of giving police department and local law enforcement military weapons.

But, I’m not sure how much else I could do besides being supportive of local groups who can really address their local issues. The only way to restore that relationship between the public and the police is for the public and the police to work it out themselves.

AT: So far, your campaign efforts has consisted of around 30 YouTube videos explaining your positions on a variety of issues, ranging from immigration reform to Israel. Have you found this method of campaigning to be successful in attracting support?

SH: Absolutely. It is so easy to share videos and it’s incredibly inexpensive. It costs me around $50 to make each video, and I’ve been able to get my message out to a very large number of people.

In addition, I’ve been able to establish a larger social media presence than either of my opponents because I actually use it to engage people, talk to people and listen to people. They [my opponents] don’t seem to understand Facebook and Twitter in particular. They just use it as a bullhorn to get people to listen to them.

People being able to talk to me and get to know me as a real human being really sets me apart from my two opponents. I mean, you call up Senator Hagan’s office now to try to get some help with something or ask a question or state your opinion. More often than not you’ll get a busy signal. To me, that’s an insult in 2014. Nobody needs a busy signal anymore. You can at least put up a voicemail saying, “I’m sorry we’re so busy. We can’t take your call right now, but you can leave a message or we can call you back in a little bit.”

Getting back to YouTube, it is certainly a lot of fun. It really gives me the opportunity to present myself and my ideas in the exact way I want to. Since government is still kind of locked in the 20th century, it’s a lot less regulated than if I was making TV ads. If I was doing TV ads, I would have to include a lot of other language, so YouTube is very liberating.

I’m really enjoying this campaign a lot more than 2002 for exactly that reason. I can just be myself, say exactly what I want to say in exactly the way I want to say it. The technology makes it easy for me.

AT: You did not get a chance to participate in the September 3rd debate with Speaker Tillis and Senator Hagan. Do you think you will get an opportunity to debate them on a public forum?

SH: I am invited to a debate on October 9th sponsored by the League of Women Voters and WCET-TV. It’ll be down in Wilmington, and at various points all three of us had accepted that offer, but now everything is really in flux.

Once it was pointed out to my opponents that I would be there, all of a sudden they were a little bit less certain they would be there, too. They are incredibly afraid to face me at all. I really see these debates that don’t include me as them auditioning for their corporate special interest masters instead of actually trying to address the people.

There has been not only just my supporters but voters who want a real debate and don’t necessarily support me putting pressure on groups like WRAL and the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters to include me in a future debate.

Having been down this road before in 2002, I hope I’m being too cynical when I suggest that that’s the last thing either of them want. They [his opponents] are the ones controlling the process. I don’t blame debate organizers at all when I’m excluded because it’s not their call. It’s totally up to Hagan and Tillis, and they have both made it very clear that they don’t really want to face me or the people.

Things change every day. I’m still planning on going to Wilmington on October 9th, and we’ll see if either of them have the guts to show up.

AT: If there was one thing you could tell the people of North Carolina that could convince them to vote for you, what would that be?

SH: I’m the only candidate that wants to stop all war. We’ve been in the state of perpetual war for over fifteen years now. There are people in this country that are about to become a voting age that have known nothing but war. The majority of Americans and North Carolinians look at this and know that it’s untenable. We have to do something else other than just more bombing.

It’s not radical or extremist anymore to talk about libertarian issues like stopping all war or spending money that we don’t have. Everybody knows this debt we have is unsustainable, and yet my Democratic and Republican opponents promise nothing else but increasing that debt.

The main thing is if you’re voting for either the Democrat or the Republican, even though there are differences between the two, you are also voting for more war and more debt. It’s time that we send a message to the Democrats and the Republicans that we want something different.

Interview with Sean Haugh, Libertarian Candidate for U.S. Senate (Part One)

Elections, North Carolina Politics, Politics

As the 2014 midterm elections are quickly approaching, a large amount of the nation’s attention has turned to North Carolina, a state that many consider a swing state after it flipped from blue to red between the 2008 and 2012 elections. The battle has mainly focused on Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan and Republican challenger Thom Tillis. There is, however, a third player in this traditionally two-party game: Libertarian Sean Haugh. The Durham pizza delivery man has gained a fair amount of attention thanks to his multiple YouTube videos, and currently has five percent of polled North Carolinians supporting him. Haugh previously ran for the US Senate in 2002 and had served as the national political director for the Libertarian National Committee.

I went to Durham to sit down with Haugh and discuss why he thinks he can win this race. In Part One of my two-part interview with him, Haugh and I talked about his motivation for running for Senate, how he would respond to multiple issues facing the United States currently and what makes this election so unique from his previous attempt to become Senator in 2002.

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United States Senate candidate Sean Haugh (Photo courtesy of Rachel Mills)

Alex Thomas: Why are you running for United States Senate?

Sean Haugh: Because I can’t count on the Democrats or Republicans to talk about stopping this state of perpetual war or spending more money than we have.

I had retired from politics in 2010, and I was very happily retired. But, as I saw this race shaping up, I thought there was a need for a really strong libertarian voice, especially now that we know my opponents are really not going to talk about much of anything besides their own kind of disassociating talking points.

I just wanted to walk into the voting booth myself in November and be able to vote for something besides more war and more debt.

AT: You did run for this Senate seat in 2002, a race which was won by Elizabeth Dole. Do you feel this election is different from that attempt? What’s your attitude towards this election compared to 2002?

SH: From their perspective, I don’t think things have changed at all.

Back in 2002, I thought it was very odd that, at the time, I had lived here less than 20 years and was a lot more connected to life in North Carolina than either of my opponents. I mean, Elizabeth Dole had to claim she was living in her mother’s house to run for this seat. This time, even though my opponents have better North Carolina credibility, they’re both still completely disconnected from how the average person lives.

For me, it’s just a completely different world compared to 2002 for two main reasons. One is that everybody knows what a libertarian is now. I don’t have to spend much time explaining to people what a libertarian is. We have a very favorable view to the point where we have a lot of people who aren’t really libertarian try to claim to be libertarian because it is cachet, so it’s nice in that aspect.

Also, one major thing that’s changed is social media. Back in 2002, we didn’t have Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, that sort of thing. So, in order for me to get my message out, I would have to drive all over the state. On some occasions, I would drive three hours to talk to a dozen people, then drive home afterwards. Now, I can do most of my campaigning from home with the YouTube videos and also on Facebook and Twitter. I’m very easily accessible. People can engage me.

Before, I would go do a talk radio interview, the show would end and I would be done. Now, listeners can continue to engage me after the fact. If people have any kind of follow-up questions or didn’t get a question into the show, they can ask me on Twitter or Facebook. That’s allowed me to be able to get my message out very inexpensively.

AT: Your career experiences range from serving as an administrative assistant for the Duke University Hospital to now working as a pizza delivery man. Have you learned anything from your diverse employment history that can help you win this race?

SH: Oh, yes. One thing I love about my job delivering pizza now is that it keeps me connected with people. I deliver to about 20 families a night, and we have a very diverse city here in Durham. As a result, I’m meeting people from all walks of life every night. It really keeps me connected to what life is like for most of us who are trying to make ends meet.

My job at Duke University Hospital was also very informative to me. I worked with people on their insurance, especially with Medicaid and Medicare patients. It just gave me a real firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to try to be on government benefits. All the bureaucratic Hell they had to go through just so they could keep up with the most substandard benefits that we offer here in the United States, and I’m sure in the intervening time it has gotten worse not just for patients, but for providers, too.

One odd job I had in the past was doing telephone surveys for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) where some naïve researchers thought, “Oh, it would be a really great idea to poll doctors and see how they feel about Medicaid and Medicare and understand what they are facing. Maybe we can incorporate that into policy.” Of course, by the time that reaches the floors of Congress, it’s completely distorted from reality.

But, that experience also gave me a lot of perspective from providers on why a lot of them are getting out of taking care of Medicaid and Medicare patients, as well as why government makes it so difficult for people who need healthcare to be able to get it.

With most of the other jobs I’ve had in my life, that’s the common theme. Being out in public, being in the customer service role and really having to listen to people and get to know what their perspective is.

AT: Your campaign slogan is “Stop All War”. What exactly do you mean by “all war”?

SH: War has infected so much of our public policy. It’s not just the direct war and drone warfare that we are conducting all around the world, but it’s also how we arm everybody in the world. We really need to stop arm sales.

You look at the Middle East where everybody, friend or foe, is armed with our weapons and training. There is the possible exception of Hamas, but they can easily get our stuff second hand. The first thing we have to do in the Middle East is stop the flow of arms to the region.

But, “Stop All War” also involves the militarization of police at home as well as culture war, even though the latter isn’t really a federal issue. I don’t want the United States Senate to start ruling on matters on culture war.

The chance to be able to run for US Senate has given me the opportunity to talk about how this war mentality has infected all of our thinking. We have been so used to being at war for so long, that now we are really turning on each other. There is just no political solution that begins with the half of the country that disagrees with you dropping dead. I’ve been able to use the campaign as an opportunity to talk about how we have to talk and listen to each other, and sometimes agree to disagree. We’re all in this America thing together, and we’ve got to develop a mutual respect for each other again if we’re going to be able to solve any of our problems and move forward as a country.

AT: Since we are talking about the Middle East, let’s start talking about your position on multiple issues by discussing the threat of ISIS. Over the past few weeks, every political leader has been talking about what the United States and its allies should do to diminish ISIS’ power in the Middle East. If you were currently Senator, what plan would you advocate for?

SH: Well, not doing the same thing over and over again that created this Islamic state in the first place.

You listen to that debate between my opponents from a couple of weeks ago [September 3rd], and, to me, the theme of it was “Well, if you loved Iraq War I and Iraq War II, then you’re going to really love Iraq War III.”

They [My opponents] don’t have any solution besides more bombing, and that’s what really created the problems to being with. We have been interfering in the affairs with the Middle East for so long, we created this blowback with these groups who, again, are armed with our weapons and our training. We’ve just become more and more virulent when we think we’ve gotten rid of one threat and then much greater threat arises in their place.

So, the first thing we have to do is just stop interfering in the affairs of Middle Eastern countries and stop that flow of arms to them.

One thing that really upsets me is seeing John McCain on TV. I can’t believe anybody takes him seriously anymore. Last year he was saying we have to arm ISIS to defeat Assad, and now he’s saying we have to help Assad defeat ISIS. People will listen to him say this stuff with a straight face.

Then you look at my Democratic opponent. Senator Hagan is now trying to say, “Oh, I’ve been trying to warn President Obama we need more bombing months ago.” All they think of is that throwing more bombs fixes the problem.

There’s no magic wand we can wave to make this problem go away, but we can undermine it by going back to what Washington and Jefferson counseled, which was free trade with all and entangling alliances with none.

AT: One of the biggest issues that faces my generation is college tuition and, more specifically, student loans. Student loan debt has accumulated to around $1 trillion, which is second in consumer debt only to mortgages. What do you think needs to be done to make that number and the amount of students in debt decreases?

SH: Well, the first thing we have to do is stop flooding the higher education system with federal dollars because it’s just basic economics. If the federal government is going to put all of this money out there for it [an education], then the universities are going to raise their prices to suck up all of that money.

I went to Tufts University in the early 1980s, and at the time tuition was about $8,000 a year. The whole college experience for four years would probably be around $50,000. Now, it’s a quarter of a million dollars. It just doesn’t make economic sense anymore to go to college and take out loans for that.

One aspect of that that really bothers me is when people get out of college and they’re in this mountain of debt. That really restricts people’s freedom. You really don’t have the freedom to be creative with what you want to do with your life. Keeping people in all this debt is a way to control people. I’m in favor for forgiving a lot of student debt.

I don’t know if you remember a few months ago, but President Obama had this happy press conference about forgiving a bunch of student loan debt, and really that plan was just more corporate welfare. It was giving a lot of banks the full value of a lot of these outstanding loans which they will probably never collect. There are so many ways we use issues to transfer wealth to big business and large corporations, and that was one of them.

So, I think it would take a little bit of time, but just cutting off that flow of money from the federal government would not only make college more affordable again, but it would make more economic sense to go to college.

Stay tuned for Part Two of my interview with Haugh, in which we discuss the problems surrounding his two opponents, the episode in Ferguson, Mo. and his main method of campaigning: YouTube.