Freelance writer Peter Gemma (cf. http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc_22_3/tsc_22_3_gemma.shtml and http://www.quarterly-review.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/QRGemma.pdf) talked policy and politics with Virgil Goode, the presidential nominee of the Constitution Party. Goode, who received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, served in the Virginia Army National Guard (1969-1975), as a member of the Virginia Senate (1973-1997), and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1996-2008). Gemma was acting a special corespondent for Independent Political Report.
IPR: Thanks Congressman for taking time off the campaign trail to talk with the Independent Political Report. What’s the latest news from the front lines?
Goode: We just got back from gathering signatures in Delaware for ballot qualification. It’s a small number in total that we need; about 600. However, those who wish to see our name on the ballot must change their registration. Believe it or not, the county registrar of voters actually calls people to say “are you sure you want to change party your affiliation?” We have to be triple sure petition signers understand the process.
IPR: What’s next on the roll call of states that you are targeting for ballot access?
Goode: Well, of course I’m working hard here in Virginia to get the Constitution Party on the ballot. Even this far from November and without any serious campaigning, political surveys show that we’re pulling five percent of the vote. We need 10,000 names on our petitions, which means we’re working overtime to get 18,000-20,000 signatures to be sure we cover the usual disqualification ratio.
New York is a big challenge: we must have 15,000 signatures—that means securing 25,000-30,000 names. That’s quite a hurdle, but the good news is that although there is a small minimum number needed in each county, the preponderance of the names can be collected anywhere—in other words in areas where we have the most volunteers.
We’ve also set our sights on California where the American Independent Party, which is not affiliated with the Constitution Party, already has a line on the ballot. Their state convention is slated for August and I will be there for a few days talking with party leaders and grassroots activists about having the AIP endorse the Virgil Goode-Jim Clymer ticket. California is among several states we’ll be visiting on a tour of the West including Utah, Wyoming, and Nevada.
Overall, I’m, hoping the Constitution Party ticket will be an option for voters in 40 states, even if in some cases Goode-Clymer are listed as Independents because party qualification is so difficult. But let me add this as a disclaimer: we have or plan to have lawsuits challenging unfair rules for 3rd parties in several states. Georgia is in the works right now.
IPR: It’s likely Ron Paul will not be endorsing 3rd party candidates this year as he has done in the past. His campaign has flatly ruled out any support for the Libertarian party nominee, and many political observers see Congressman Paul’s ultimate goal as building a Republican base for his son, Senator Rand Paul, to run a national campaign in 2016. In the meantime, millions of Ron Paul supporters are up for grabs come November. What will you do to reach out to them?
Goode: Ron Paul has been a friend from my first days in Congress. I learned a lot as a member of his Liberty Caucus in the House. I understand his interests in his son’s viability as a presidential candidate, but I’m always an optimist: I’d welcome Ron’s support. However, you’re right Peter—we should plan to face reality and capture the Ron Paul constituency on our own. Just look at the issues Ron has run on: audit the Fed, the gold standard, and a non-interventionist foreign policy. That’s our platform! Campaigning on the issues that matter most to those who believe in the Constitution will resonate with Ron Paul supporters. I think we might just pay a visit to Tampa during the Republican Party convention and talk with some of Ron Paul’s best organizers and grass roots leaders. When the Republicans crown Mitt Romney, we’ll be right there recruiting constitutionalists to our banner.
IPR: Let’s talk about some issues that would appeal to Ron Paul voters, starting with what you’ve just mentioned.
Goode: It’s clear we must reverse the Nixon administration’s decision of taking our currency off the gold standard. Just think of how reliable the dollar would be today if it were backed by gold, protecting citizens from hyperinflation and other economic catastrophes caused by government manipulations.
Regarding the Federal Reserve, they have put us trillions in debt because of bailouts and loans here and abroad. That’s with help from their allies in Congress and the U.S. Treasury of course. The Fed refuses to disclose the details of its so-called “emergency” lending. This kind of secrecy must stop. I fully support the Constitution Party’s language addressing this issue. We specifically call for a monetary system as spelled out in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The voluntary choice of using of silver and/or gold in individual states, such as legislation just considered in Virginia, is something I think should be part of our new emphasis on states rights.
As far as a non-interventionist foreign policy goes, let me say this to begin with: I’ve learned a lot in my years as a member of the Executive Committee of the Constitution Party. Some votes I cast in Congress were not well matched with Constitutional principles. I oppose the Patriot Act provisions and the NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] that trample on the Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens. I do not believe we should be involved in wars that have not been declared by Congress as specifically provided in the U.S. Constitution, so we must come home from Afghanistan. And I don’t think we can afford—nor is it strategically necessary—to have military bases all over the world. We owe too much money to underwrite the stationing of so many troops all around the world. Finally, I am against placing our armed forces under United Nations command.
IPR: Can you address some domestic issues?
Goode: Let me just add one thing about the military. Of course I want the U.S. military to be the strongest and have the cutting edge weaponry necessary to keep us number one in the world. That does not mean however, that the Defense Department automatically gets all the monies it wants—which is always more than its budget the previous year. America is broke. We must balance the budget immediately which means every aspect of government spending must be assessed, cut back, or cut out. In the Goode administration, the Defense Department is on that list.
The children of illegal aliens are now granted automatic citizenship. That’s wrong and must be addressed right away. This is central to my opposition to granting amnesty for any and all illegal aliens. And I go a step further: legal immigration must be cut back too—Americans with talent and experience must be put to work first before we import foreign job takers.
When I was in the Virginia Senate, I co-sponsored a bill urging our congressional delegation to vote against NAFTA. It’s bad for business and a challenge to America’s sovereignty. Our trade surplus with Mexico is now a trade deficit. When I was in Congress, I co-sponsored legislation to repeal NAFTA. These free trade treaties are exporting U.S. manufacturing jobs overseas. In my area of Virginia we were once known as the sweatshirt capital of the world but not now—the textile industry all across America is suffering because of NAFTA and similar treaties.
I was the co-chair of the Second Amendment Caucus during part of my tenure in Congress and received “A” ratings from National Right to Life, the NRA, Gun Owners of America, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), as well as the Christian Coalition on family issues.
IPR: Finally, why didn’t you run for re-election to Congress? You always had a strong support base—elected and re-elected as a Democrat, Independent, and Republican—and you lost by just a few hundred votes as part of the Obama landslide in your area of Virginia.
Goode: I’d be a very lonely voice in the wilderness, and the establishment parties wouldn’t give me much leeway to pursue a constitutionalist agenda. Here’s an example of how things work in Congress. Along with Walter Jones [R-NC] I was among a very few Republicans opposed to a free trade treaty—the House Republican leadership really put the pressure on us to change positions but we refused to go along. Now you know that every Congressman gets certain monies allotted to their districts from the federal gas tax to be used for road and transportation projects. The funding recommendations go through the House leadership. I suppose it was just a coincidence, but that year the districts Walter and I represented received half of the anticipated allocation. I had several such coincidences when I was in Congress.
I want to take our Constitution Party message across the nation—more people are ready to listen to it than ever before. The Ron Paul supporters, the Tea Party movement, home schoolers, and so many constituencies will vote for the Constitution Party if we give them the chance. That’s why we’re working hard to get ballot access. Jim Clymer did so well in Pennsylvania running for U.S. Senator in 2004: he received over 200,000 votes! Now he’s organizing people to get us on the ballot for the 2012 presidential campaign. Of course we are already on the ballot in many states, like yours in Florida. That’s our starting point, but we’ve got quite a challenge ahead. My work with the leadership and the grass roots activists of the Constitution Party has convinced me that only with an issues-oriented campaign—as opposed to the slick establishment candidates—we will make history.
IPR: I appreciate your time Congressman.
Goode: Thank you Peter and the Independent Political Report for the opportunity to say what’s on my mind.