Democracy Inaction

Mr. Gonz doesn't go to Washington

It underscored a central point: Just when you think the Libertarians are human, they peel back their shirts, open an access panel and reveal malfunctioning circuitry. It happened time and again at the convention. During the platform debate, they had some good discussions about issues that the Republicans or Democrats would never bring out in similar settings, like supporting gay marriage. I thought it was a great idea until they tried to make it part of the platform and it was met with opposition--but not because the delegates were against it. Most, to their credit, were in favor of it. They just didn't think that they should have to make it part of the platform, because they believed it to be self-evident that the government should stay out of our bedrooms. Every salient thought and good idea they had was crushed by scatterbrained rebuttals. It reminded me of a piece I'd read in The Onion headlined "Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department":

CHEYENNE, WY--After attempting to contain a living-room blaze started by a cigarette, card-carrying Libertarian Trent Jacobs reluctantly called the Cheyenne Fire Department Monday. "Although the community would do better to rely on an efficient, free-market fire-fighting service, the fact is that expensive, unnecessary public fire departments do exist," Jacobs said. "Also, my house was burning down."

Over two-plus days in College Station, they got next to nothing done. The loudest applause was saved for an unidentified delegate who began his speech by calling the U.S. government a "foreign power" and continued with this: "The U.S. government created D.C. and put its government there. Laws that are created in D.C. shouldn't affect us here in the great state of Texas."

Only Gonz would hold a pre-election rally outside his district.
Mark Graham
Only Gonz would hold a pre-election rally outside his district.
More than 6,000 Texans think Gonz should represent them in D.C. That's scary. Really, really scary.
Bottom photo by Merritt Martin
More than 6,000 Texans think Gonz should represent them in D.C. That's scary. Really, really scary.

With that, a great cry went up, and people patted him on the back.

It was too much for my pal Chris and me to take. We ended up drinking heavily, seeking solace in the bottom of large plastic cups of beer at some hick bar called the Dixie Chicken. While vapid A&M sorority girls and fraternity clowns sat all around us, Chris and I worked on campaign slogans while trying to figure out a way to put distance between me and the Libertarian Party.

There were good and bad parts to holding strategy meetings while drunk. The campaign slogans we came up with safely fit into the bad category: "I'm John Gonzalez, and liberty is a friend of mine"; "Common Sense Government--It's Common Sense"; and "My Bladder Has Diabetes" (written down after my 18th beer-induced trip to the bathroom).

The best idea we came up with was slapping a "New" in front of the Libertarians in an effort to assuage voter fears about my temporary political affiliation. By adding the "New," it suggested that I was helping to remake the Libertarian Party. It's an old political ploy, but it worked well for Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, so I stole the idea.

When the Libertarian Party heard about it, though, they were less than thrilled. I received a phone call from party flack Wes Benedict not long after. He wanted to ask me a few questions about my position on various issues in order to make sure I wasn't "a Communist." I wondered if the party would try to dunk me in a river to see if I'd float, too.

His questions, word for word: 1) Do you think taxes are too high? 2) Do you think women should be allowed to own guns? 3) Would you support John Kerry having anal sex with George Bush?

At first I felt bad for Benedict, because he clearly drew the short straw in having to call me. But then I remembered the party had given me no money and no support, so I hung up on him after I yelled about the ridiculous anal sex question. That was in July. It was the last time I took a phone call from the party.

I went it alone--a completely grassroots campaign with little money (I raised less than $5,000) and a support staff that was, well, less than adequate. My two main strategists--Chris and Pappalardo--live in Austin and D.C., respectively; the majority of their help came via e-mail or on the phone. And Michalski never bothered to show up on time for the meetings. Plus, like me, they're all a little strange. At one point during the campaign, Chris told me that I should advocate "an all-robot military," and Michalski was pushing for me to become the "pro poker candidate." I would have fired all of them if they weren't working for free.

Instead of running a campaign like Hensarling's--complete with lawn signs and advertisements in The Dallas Morning News and a real staff with good ideas--I made do with what I had. I forced my friends to go door to door with me, and I used the little money I raised for campaign business cards and T-shirts. The cards were great, except for the fact that the first printing had a picture of the Chilean flag on them. The Chilean flag, for those who don't know, looks remarkably similar to the Texas state flag. That little error cost the campaign a good amount of money (not to mention respect), so I had to come up with other ideas to market myself.

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