Goode for President – Interview

Virgil Goode. Alternative to the good cop bad cop choice?
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To paraphrase a quote from the Bible, it very well might be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for Virgil Goode to be elected president of the United States in 2012. Nonetheless, not only is his candidacy worth examining, but there is a realistic chance that he might decide this year’s election. In an interview reprinted here from The National Herald, Goode discusses his presidential campaign and dispels the rumors that he is a “racist” and a “bigot.”

Third party politics in modern-day America

Ronald Reagan, Lester Maddox, and Eugene McCarthy were instrumental, albeit inadvertently, in securing a victory for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford in 1976 presidential election. Surely just about everyone has heard of Reagan, but who in the world are Maddox and McCarthy?

My point exactly. (Eugene, by the way is not the “McCarthy” associated with McCarthyism. That one was Joseph.) Along with Reagan, they took enough votes away from Ford in 1976 in key battleground states enabling Carter to win. More recently, there is strong reason to believe that George W. Bush won the 2000 election because of Ralph Nader. Forget the recount and the ensuing legal battles: it all came down to Florida, which Bush won by 537 votes. Had the left-leaning Nader not been in the race, the lion’s share of his 97,488 votes surely would have gone to the Democrat (Al Gore) rather than the Republican (Bush).

That brings us to Goode (whose name rhymes with “food,” not with “good”). A former six-term Congressman from Virginia who has been both a Democrat and a Republican and has since parted ways with both major parties, Goode is the presidential nominee of the conservative/libertarian Constitution Party – which in recent years has become the third-largest political party in the United States. The reason Goode’s candidacy may be catalytic is because presidential elections are not decided by a national popular vote. Instead, the winner must attain a majority of electoral votes, which are determined state by state. The overwhelming majority of states are not even in contention: New York, for example, is so heavily Democratic that it is almost impossible to conceive that Romney could win it. Similarly, Obama has virtually no chance of winning Republican Oklahoma. Like it or not, the election is going to come down to a small handful of states, and Goode’s Virginia is one of them.

Keeping Goode off the ballot

Virginia Republicans have desperately tried to get Goode kicked off the ballot there, so that he doesn’t seal the election for Obama. Democrats, in turn, though certainly no fans of Goode, are quietly grateful for his candidacy, as they’ll take any help they can get.

Pennsylvania Republicans, in an even more outrageous maneuver, threatened a lawsuit against the Constitution Party to keep Goode off the ballot in their state, challenging the validity of the 30,000+ signatures that the party obtained – a number quite plausible considering the party’s size and that its headquarters are in Lancaster (PA). The PA GOP declared that its attorneys’ fees would exceed $100,000 and vowed to hold the Constitution Party liable for them. Not wanting to risk such an astronomical debt, that party relented, and Goode is not on the ballot. Pennsylvanians may still write in his name on Election Day. (By the way, far too many Americans do not realize they are not limited to the candidates they see on the ballot – they can write in other candidates’ names.)

Editor’s note: Good luck with that one. Pennsylvania is notorious for not even bothering to count write-in votes. And even if they do, all depends on whether the Pennsylvania Elections Commission will accept Goode’s slate of elector-candidates as suitable for appointment, if by some chance Goode should “carry the State” as a write-in candidate.

But Goode does not see himself as a spoiler candidate, because as far as he is concerned, it doesn’t really matter whether Obama wins or Romney wins. In his words, they are “Tweedledum and Tweedledee.” (I call them “Obamney,” but the idea is the same.)

Goode on the issues

Virgil Goode while he was in the House of Representatives

Representative Virgil Goode (D->R-VA). Photo: US House of Representatives.

Besides being in the right place at the right time, electorally speaking, Goode piqued my interest because of the substance of his campaign. His brand of Constitution-centered conservative populism, which resonates traditionally with voters on both coasts and especially in between, is not represented by any of the other major (or quasi-major) party candidates. Certainly not by the center-left Obama or the silver-spoon corporate Romney, and not by the very libertarian Gary Johnson or the very green Jill Stein, nominees of the parties bearing those names (minus the “very”), respectively. Incidentally, the PA GOP didn’t seem to have a problem with Johnson and Stein being on the state ballot, as neither of them is much of a threat to take votes away from Romney.

Immigration

Most of the other candidates, to varying degrees, speak vaguely about the need for immigration reform, and limit their preventive measures to stopping illegal immigration. Considerably venturing beyond that point of view, Goode also favors a moratorium on legal immigration – i.e. immigrant visas – until unemployment falls below 5%. Goode realizes that viewpoint is neither politically correct nor politically practical (immigration has long been considered a “third rail” issue that politicians of both major parties are afraid to touch, for fear of alienating the sizeable Latino-American population), but he emphasizes that each year, hundreds of thousands of new immigrants enter the American labor force, directly competing with American citizens for precious few jobs. Goode would provide for some exceptions to the moratorium, such as permitting visas for aliens with extraordinary skills and abilities, and those engaged to American citizens.

U.S. Military Intervention

Goode would bring troops home from Afghanistan and from other parts of the world as well. He is not against military force per se, but believes the decision to deploy troops rests with Congress, not with the president. He told me that as president, he would not send troops to Iran or anywhere else unless, as per the Constitution, Congress formally declared war.

Eliminate Income Tax and Replace it with a National Sales Tax

Goode favors a national sales tax, but only as a complete replacement of the income tax. Under Goode’s plan, American workers would keep 100% of their paychecks, with no taxes taken out of them. Instead, everyone would pay a national sales tax on goods. If Congress is unwilling to implement such sweeping tax reform, then Goode would prefer to change our current income tax system to a flat tax (with no national sales tax).

Protecting American Jobs

Recognizing that windfall profits in corporate America do not necessarily mean more jobs for Americans – as corporations often outsource jobs to China, India, and other nations where labor is much cheaper – Goode wants to repeal any agreements that do not protect American labor, and bring outsourced jobs back to the United States.

Other Issues

Goode is staunchly pro-life, strongly supports gun owners’ rights, wants to establish English as the official language in the United States, and favors Constitutional amendments that set Congressional term limits and that would define marriage as being only between one man and one woman. Goode also pledges to take big money out of politics. Leading by example, he does not accept any Political Action Committee (PAC) money, and limits individual campaign contributions to $200.

The Anti-Muslim controversy

The main reason that I decided to interview Goode was to inform the voters about his candidacy. The other was to clear his good name (no pun intended).

Countless Internet blurbs claimed that Goode was a “racist” and a “bigot,” who wanted to keep Muslims out of the United States. Soon enough, I realized the rumor probably wasn’t true, because a good rule of thumb I follow is: the more random websites – ones that look like they were created in someone’s basement or garage – that report a particular tantalizing rumor, in large, bold black-and-red font marked “URGENT,” the more likely that it is all a bunch of hogwash. Rather than rely on counter-rumors, however, I decided to get the story straight from the man himself.

The key question I asked him was:

Would you treat anyone with less respect and deny that person any opportunity based on his or her race, nationality, or religion?

Goode’s answer was an unequivocal

No.

Goode’s objection to Muslims centers from his objection to immigration diversity visas. What many Americans don’t know is that in addition to the “green cards” (legal permanent residence status) given to aliens based on family or employment reasons, 50,000 diversity visas are granted every year to aliens from nations that have experienced comparatively low immigration rates to the United States over the previous five years. Effectively, that is affirmative action for immigration. Goode rails against both major parties for virtually turning a blind eye to illegal immigration, and for not having the courage to curb legal immigration as well, at least until America’s economic conditions improve. He lambastes Republicans for wanting to flood America with more immigrants so as to keep wages low and, in turn, corporate profits high, and says the Democrats want to bring in immigrants from nations that would tend to vote Democratic – including ones with substantial Muslim populations. That is the crux of Goode’s “anti-Muslim” sentiment.

The other part has to do with Goode’s objection in 2006 to Congressman Keith Ellison’s private swearing-in ceremony on a copy of the Quran (officially, incoming members of Congress are sworn in en masse). Ironically, it was a copy of Virginian Thomas Jefferson’s Quran that Ellison, an American-born Muslim, had borrowed for the occasion. Goode’s reaction, taken on its face, would certainly sound offensive: that the oath should be taken on the Bible, not on the Quran, and that unless we change our immigration laws, a majority of Congress will take the oath on the Quran someday.

Goode explained to me what he meant: first, religion aside, he considers the Bible the traditional book used for swearing-in processes. His comment about Ellison’s choice of book was less anti-Quran than it was pro-Bible for cultural American rather than Christian purposes. Goode would have been critical as well, for instance, if Ellison had taken the oath by placing his hand on a copy of Sports Illustrated or Time magazine. Goode also stated that his comments about “a majority of Muslims” had to do with his objection to the diversity visa program, geared toward increasing immigration among specific groups, including Muslims. He said the voters have a right to elect whomever they want and that person has a right to take the oath on whatever book he or she chooses. To the extent that Goode would permit or deny legal immigration, he ensured that it has nothing to do with a person’s religion. I asked him how he and Ellison fared as Congressional colleagues, to which Goode replied:

When I saw Congressman Ellison in the halls of Congress, I spoke to him just as I did to other members of the House.

Not a conspiracy theorist

Conservative third-party candidates often attract the type of fringe voters who are “birthers.” They insist that Obama was really born in a foreign country. Some take the notion further, insisting that Obama is some sort of “Manchurian candidate,” whose mission is to destroy America from within. Goode does not believe that Obama wants to harm America on purpose, but emphasizes that the president’s policies – as well as Romney’s for that matter – will hurt millions of Americans nonetheless.

Goode is not a birther, but he does not expressly denounce the birthers, either.

I would like to hear chief proponents and chief opponents of whether [Obama] was born in Hawaii make their arguments in the presence of each other.

The loudest statement of all

Goode’s stance on the nation’s prevalent issues is bold and unequivocal. Accordingly, he will have many supporters and detractors. And even though many will agree with what Goode says, they will hesitate to vote for him for fear of “throwing away” their vote. It is important to note, then, that much of the sweeping reform that has taken place in American history – such as guaranteeing the right of women and persons of color to vote – happened because a third party candidate ran and lost – yes, lost.

Often times, when third party candidates lost but gained enough attention, one of the two major parties adopted their popular ideas anyway. The candidate may have lost, but the idea won.

Of course, none of that matters to folks who think that Obama is clearly superior to Romney, or vice versa. Obama’s supporters will vote for their man, and hope that if disgruntled Republicans can’t bring themselves to do so, too, then at least they’ll vote for Goode and not for Romney. Meanwhile, Romney supporters hope that Goode steps aside, lest he hand Obama four more years. But for those who see Obama vs. Romney no different than, say, a temperature of 78 degrees v. 79 degrees, a vote for Virgil Goode might be the loudest statement to make of all.

Goode relishes the chance to debate Obama and Romney directly, but he won’t get that chance. The Commission on Presidential Debates, which is heavily stacked with Democrats and Republicans, has very strict entry rules that make it incredibly difficult for third party candidates to be eligible to share the same stage with the major party nominees.

I say the things other candidates are afraid to say. If they let me into the debates, I’d win the election.

One Response to Goode for President – Interview

  1. […] note: see this article, reprinted from The National Herald, for further insight on Virgil […]

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