Reflections on the campaign for VP
Many people have asked me what it was like to be the 2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice President of the United States, along with Governor Gary Johnson as our candidate for President. I can say that, on the one hand, it was a deeply humbling, uplifting, interesting and gratifying experience, and I tried to represent all of the people of our country well. On the other hand, believing that the Governor and I were far more qualified than anyone else in the race, and seeing us almost completely frozen out of the national media and excluded from the national debates, it was eternally frustrating.
More specifically, I can tell you that it is a big country, which makes money much too important in elections. But considering the fact that probably 75 percent of the people who voted in the election had never even heard of us, I think we did quite well.
Probably the most interesting experience on the campaign trail was when I was invited to speak at the Harvest Festival in Monticello, which is in upstate New York. Almost literally we were back in time and participating in Woodstock. The place was filled with hippies young and old in tie-dyed clothes with peace symbols and long hair. Our guide was a gentle middle-aged man who was wearing a leather vest filled with metal emblems and badges who introduced himself by saying that his real name was David, but everyone called him “Trashy.” I spoke on the stage after Pete Seeger, and it was a wonderful event. Yes, there was some marijuana being smoked on the grounds, but people were completely well-behaved with not a policeman in sight. It is not my lifestyle, but it was great to see people harmlessly enjoying themselves as they wished.
I also spoke at a lunch event in Spokane, Washington. Since I arrived a bit early I had occasion to meet and get to know Jake, who was three years old and had been brought along by his mother. Then, as I often did, I used his name during my presentation by saying that my generation had made a financial mess of our country, that our children would have to pay it back, and that people like Jake were bankrupt. Of course, little Jake had no idea what the word bankrupt meant, but it sounded bad, so he started to cry. So here I am as a candidate making three year-old children cry. But as I tried to dig myself out of the mess I had made, I did say that if he actually knew the bad financial condition he was in, he would have every reason to cry!
At another event when I met a young girl and asked her how old she was, she responded by saying that “I’m pushing four!” So that made us laugh, which at least was a better result than with Jake.
I traveled so much that if I only flew on one airplane per day, that was an easy day. As a result, probably the hardest thing that I had to do on the campaign trail was to remember my daily hotel room number. Each day the number changed, so I had to develop the habit of writing it down and keeping the note in my pocket.
Some of the most fun times were spent at the 4th of July Parade in Wasilla, Alaska; eating at “Varsity,” “6 Feet Under” and the “OK Café” in Atlanta and at the “Commanders” Restaurant in New Orleans. It was also fun when I arrived late one night at the airport in Knoxville, Tennessee and was welcomed by a crowd of people with campaign signs and a television news reporter. In addition, I had lived my entire life without ever signing my name to a van, but I signed three of the “Governor Gary Johnson for President” vans during the campaign, as did many other people.
The most gratifying thing occurred when three students came up to me after my presentation at Stanford University and said that they were never so excited about voting (although, upon reflection, I suppose they could have been excited to vote against me). That was immediately followed by the most sobering event, which occurred when an athletic young man wearing Purple Heart and Bronze Star ribbons on the lapel of his suit coat came me up to me after that same Stanford event. After saying that he had been in the Marines in the Gulf War, he looked right at me and said: “Judge Gray, please be our voice. Our troops are prepared to go where they are ordered and even sacrifice if we must, but please make it be important to our country’s security.” I looked right back and vowed to him that I would do everything I could to do just that.
Finally, although I have no idea that this story was true, I was told that a Chinese-American seamstress was quoted as saying the there was no way she would vote for Obama because he took her facewash. When asked to explain, the lady said that people with the TSA had taken it from her at the Minneapolis Airport, and had sent it to Obama. She knows, because that is what happens in China. Thus Obama had lost her vote. So who knows, maybe that is one vote we received by default.
Throughout the campaign when people asked me for more information about the Libertarian philosophy, I referred them to two books. One is “Libertarianism in One Lesson,” by my friend David Bergland, and the other is “Libertarianism: a Primer,” by David Boaz. I also refer them to you.
At the end of the campaign, I flew into Albuquerque from Kansas City and my wife Grace flew in from Orange County so that we could be together at the election celebration that evening. Since my plane arrived before hers, I was able to meet her at her gate with a hand-printed sign that said: “Grace, remember me? I’m your husband.” Fortunately she did, and I am deeply grateful for her support throughout this whole process.
It was a long campaign, and I believe that all of us did our best. But it was also nice to have it over, and to return to my private life at home with my wife and family. I am deeply concerned about the direction of our country, but Life is Good!
James P. Gray is a retired judge of the Superior Court in Orange County, California, the author of “A Voter’s Handbook: Effective Solutions to America’s Problems” (The Forum Press, 2010), and was the Libertarian candidate for Vice President in 2012. He can be contacted at [email protected], or through his website at www.JudgeJimGray.com.