Thursday, September 1, 2016

Prohibition Party: Jim Hedges

Since many people seem dissatisfied with the choices offered in the Presidential election this November, I decided to do a little research into the alternatives offered by third parties.  A couple of the candidates agreed to phone interviews, so I will have the pleasure of introducing them to you!
First, let's meet Jim Hedges, candidate for the Prohibition Party, the oldest existing third party in the United States.  Mr. Hedges is a native Iowan, who currently resides in Pennsylvania.  He was a professional tuba player in the Marine Band.  He also has been a science writer and editor, serving 11 years as the editor-in-chief of the National Speleological Society Bulletin, the most widely circulated journal in the world on the science of caves.

Hedges became the first elected official from the Prohibition Party to hold office in the 21st century in 2002 when he was voted tax assessor for his township.  He was the first Prohibition Party candidate to hold any elected office since 1959.  And now...he's running for President of the United States.

Interview with Jim Hedges

Bethany Carson: Would you tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in politics?

Jim Hedges: I'm an Iowa City area native, raised on farms in Johnson and Iowa counties. I attended Iowa City high school, and it was in high school when I got interested in politics--a lot of people get interested in politics around that time.  I felt that the Prohibition Party most closely matched my own views.

BC: How so? Have you ever consumed alcoholic beverages? Why were you drawn to the Prohibition Party?
JH: Even at that time, I could see how much damage alcoholic beverages do in society. I've never been a drinker. My parents never had any kind of alcohol in their house, except for vanilla extract used in cooking, if that would count. I was raised to be a dry. I've always thought that was the best policy.

BC: Why do you believe the Prohibition Party is still relevant today? And considering, as I've read, all--I think it's 30--members are over 50 years old, what is your plan for drawing in younger voters?
JH: We need to modernize our platform to address the contemporary issues. Some of that has been done this year, but I have to keep in mind that my political base really is conservative Christians. I can't totally abandon the things they care about. 
We need to use social media to attract younger people, and there have been several high school and college students in recent weeks who have discovered us and expressed an interest in helping out.

BC: That's good. In how many states will you be on the ballot?
JH: Probably about half a dozen...and before you give a big gasp of amazement, most third parties get on only in a few states because the cost of getting the ballot petition processed. If I get on in half a dozen states, this will be the best the Prohibition Party has done since 1976.
Photo courtesy of www.prohibitionists.org
BC: What would your foreign policy look like? I believe your platform says that, “American garrisons in foreign countries should not receive the level required to protect American diplomatic missions, unless specifically authorized by Congress.” How would that look?
JH: I had a major influence in drafting the platform. I think that the large bases in countries like Germany and Japan should be closed. Bring the troops home. If America is directly attacked, then of course we'd go out and fight. But as far as trying to have an American empire, bending the world to our will, I don't think that's proper or feasible anymore.

BC: What about in, say, Syria? Would you impose a no-fly zone, or have troops on the ground? How would you defeat ISIS? And would you depose Assad?
JH: I think America should never have gotten involved in Iraq, which is how it sort-of all started. It should not support the Israeli expansion against the Palestinians, which is the basic underlying cause of the dislike the Middle Eastern people have for us. 

As far as Syria specifically, I think we should pull out: allow people settle their own differences in their own way, even though there would be a continuing blood-bath.  America has to realize at some point that it cannot occupy and control everybody everywhere.

BC:  Do you believe in using enhanced interrogation methods, such as water-boarding and torture against terrorists?
JH: No, never.

BC: Let's go to domestic issues. You want to create a sound Social Security system. What would be your plan for creating it?
JH: First, raise the eligibility age to 70. When Social Security started, the average life expectancy was much lower than it is today: people might live 3-4 years after beginning Social Security at 65. Now a lot of us live into our 80s, and a lot of us are capable, and in fact work, until 70 or later. For instance, I was a professional musician, and I still go to band practice and play my horn at concerts. I'm 78. I can't do parades anymore, but when I was 70 I could do parades, and I did parade. 

They should raise the eligibility age and get rid of the early retirement option.  I think it would make more sense if they removed the disability part of the Social Security Administration, and put that in a separate agency, so what we pay Social Security goes entirely into the retirement fund, and the money that's spent on disability programs would come from some other federal agency. I think that would make the accounting easier.
BC: In your platform you mention that you would prefer that federal insurance programs—I would guess the Affordable Care Act—would be replaced with state healthcare programs. What would that look like?
JH: My preferred option is single-payer on the federal level. I couldn't sell that to the platform committee. What they prefer is having each state organize its own medical program, and sort of ironically, using Governor Romney's program in Massachusetts--the Republican program--as a template. The other aspect of having the states do it is that if each state goes its own way, designs its own program, we have 50 chances to get it right. If the federal government does it, there's only one chance of getting it right.

BC: Also in the platform it says that you guys want to reduce the inefficiency imposed on healthcare by the insurance industry by 33%. What would be your top ways of reducing the inefficiency?
JH: The one-third number is not exact, but it's the number that's kicked around as what the insurance company overhead and profits are: one-third of what people pay for medical bills these days. With a national health service like the one in Great Britain, the overhead is about 3%. So, if we would go either to single-payer or to a national health service, we could eliminate the entire insurance industry overhead part of the medical bill.

BC: Do you believe vaccinations should be mandatory?
JH: For schoolchildren, yes.

BC: Another part of your platform is that you're pro-life. How would you work to minimize abortions without, “thrusting government into family decisions about child-rearing.”
JH: Fifty countries which have received the greatest reduction in the number of abortions in recent years are the countries which make contraception easy to get—cheap to get—and which have strong programs of sex education in the schools. I think that is the most effective way to go.

BC: Speaking of the schools, the platform says that the “sole power of education is granted by the 10th Amendment to states and the people.” Would you abolish the Department of Education?
JH: No. Part of my base is concerned about too much federal interference in education. I think we should keep the Department, but give it an advisory role, instead of a rule-making role. If there are gross Constitutional violations in the states, like having schools that are segregated again or spending lots of money on some districts and not on others, then I think the federal government should step in and require equal treatment within the state. I'm a public-school product, but as I look at education now, I see the heightening of a bureaucracy more interested in following rules than in getting results. And that's why I would like to turn things back to the states.

BC: How can prayer be brought back into the schools in light of the 1962 Supreme Court ruling?
JH: There cannot be any mandatory religious exercises in the public schools. I'm in favor of having a moment of silence, which I believe the Supreme Court has also ruled against. But I would have no problem with providing a moment of silence. The kids could pray privately if they want to. They could do their home work. They could sit there and fidget as they see fit.

This has never been a strictly Christian country. It is becoming less and less so as the years go by, and the government should not allow any sort of sectarian discrimination.  By that, I don't just mean against different types of Christianity, I mean against different kinds of religion: discrimination against Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, or whatever. The government can not, should not, allow any sort of mandatory religious observances in the public schools.

BC: Ok, so your platform mention of it is your party encouraging prayer, but on a strictly voluntary basis?
JH: Probably you are referring to religious liberty plank, which is voluntary prayer and other religious liberties shall not be prohibited.  The schools could set aside, as I said, a moment of silence to do whatever religious or irreligious activity they want to. If a religious group wants to use school facilities during the off hours, they should be treated the same as any other community organization.
BC: That makes sense. Thank you for explaining.

BC: Your platform calls for a marriage amendment to the Constitution. Do you believe it's possible such an amendment could be ratified?
JH: It's doubtful. I would go around advocating that, but it'd be a hard sell.

BC: It also calls for the abolishment of the Federal Reserve, and its replacement with a national bank. Would the fractional reserve banking system be eliminated as well and sound money be instituted? Or how a national bank differ from the Federal Reserve?
JH: This is a plank that some of the fellows wanted to include. I don't understand it. I'm not able to address that. You know I'm honest; I'll tell you, “I don't know.”

BC: Well that's good. It's good to have an honest politician for a change!
Mr. & Mrs. Hedges, courtesy of www.hedgesandbayes2016.org
What about the protectionist policy of tariffs? Do you know how the tariffs would work?
JH: There's an article about that on my Prohibitionist history website. The idea here would be to abolish the income tax because it has become so complicated, incomprehensible. In addition to the national sales tax, we'd place tariffs on imports. I have no figures on how much or which ones. It sounds protectionist, and I suppose it would be.

The idea is that's something relatively simple to administer and collect—both the tariffs and the sales tax. The tariffs would, obviously, go some way toward protecting American jobs. Having stuff made in America might cost more, but when you balance the higher cost of products against the fact that your income wouldn't be taxed, per se, I don't think that there would be a big change. It's taking money out of one pocket instead of out of the other pocket. 

BC: Do you believe the minimum wage should be raised?
JH: Yes.  A $15 number sounds good to me. It might be varied from region to region, depending on local living costs, but basically the $15 minimum.
BC: That's gained a lot of popularity recently with Bernie Sanders.
JH: I followed him. I was disappointed he did not get the Democratic nomination.

BC: Your platform says that it would be good to subsidize alternative energy to combat climate change. Do you support the Keystone Pipeline, and would you like more fossil fuels utilized? Or do you think we should concentrate solely on alternative energy sources?
JH: I think we're going to have to rely on natural gas as a bridge energy source. The Keystone Pipeline, as I understand it, really wouldn't benefit us. It would be to allow Canadian oil to be exported to the United States ports in the South. I think money ought to be spent on alternative energy, instead of building more infrastructure to support the coal and petroleum-based power plants.

BC: What do you think of corporate welfare, and would you have supported the auto-industry and bank bailouts?
JH: Not the bank bailouts. The cars—as it happened—that turned out well. I was very skeptical of that at the time that it was done. It gets down to the big guys are being saved, and the little guys are being allowed to drown, which I think is fundamentally unfair.

BC: Do you support the Patriot Act and its successor, the USA Freedom Act? Where is the line drawn between protecting privacy and ensuring security?
JH: The line needs to be raised quite a lot in favor of privacy. Now you understand, when I was in the service, I lived in the city. But I was raised in farm country; I'm living in farm country now. I feel no threat at all from terrorism. It's something I read about that happens to other people.

But when I was on active duty, I had friends whom the Secret Service didn't like. And I was blackballed from assignment—from doing duty at the White House, not because of anything I did, but because these anonymous spooks objected to some of my friends. So I feel harmed personally by the national security apparatus, and I would like to see a lot less security and a lot more freedom.

BC: That's understandable. Your platform advocates agitating against gambling and the lottery. Do you believe it should be illegalized?
JH: I think it harms communities, and it harms poor people. The state governments should not be involved in running lotteries. If you stand in stores where lottery tickets are sold, you see your friends and neighbors come in, whom you know are getting by on small incomes. They're the ones who go buy lottery tickets; it's not the wealthy people around town that do that.

The lottery makes a big deal of sales in wealthy counties subsidizing social services in poor counties or lottery sales subsidizing education. Well, yes, but government lotteries are taking money from us. They subtract a service fee, and they give back what's left; and they tell us they're doing us a favor. Well, they're not. If we would pay taxes directly and support these things, it would be cheaper, and it would be more fair because the cost would be toward people who could afford it rather than toward people who can't afford it.
Disposal of alcohol during the Prohibition.  Photo from Wikipedia.
BC: That makes sense. What the Prohibitionist Party is known for is being against alcohol. There are still some dry counties in the United States. Do you have hopes of the Eighteenth Amendment ever being re-instituted? Or do you hope Prohibition is promoted on a more local level with the encouragement of more dry counties?
JH: It's not going to happen in my lifetime. It might not even happen in your lifetime, but as I see the way the tobacco problem has been handled, by making smoking socially unacceptable on a community basis—one town, one kind of building at a time--alcohol prohibition needs to... Well, it started out that way in the 1800s. It was never imposed from the top down until most of the local communities already had accepted it.

Tobacco prohibition is working the same way; it begins at the community level and works upward. The people who are anti-alcohol need to work harder on local dry elections, on making drinking unacceptable socially. And from there moving eventually again to a national Prohibition. I think it will come someday, but I'm not able to put a time-frame on it. 

BC: That is an interesting way to look at it. My older relatives have told me about how there used to be smoking in the stores and in the restaurants, and that's now very frowned upon.
JH: Yeah, I remember all that. When I was young, I would go to band practice or orchestra practice, and the musicians would smoke in rehearsal. They'd pick up a cigarette and take a puff, and then lay it on the music stand and play a few notes.
BC: That almost sounds dangerous.
JH: Well, it is. I didn't see this, but there was a story going around—this was in Cedar Rapids, I believe. One of the string bass players smoked at rehearsal, and when he had to play, he'd take his cigar out and stick it in his string bass. Then one day he pushed it in too far, and the cigar fell inside the bass. He picked it up over his head, and the cigar fell out. Nothing caught fire. For wind instrument players especially, smoking is a large handicap.

BC: That sounds pretty bad. Now the prohibition against drugs is the only prohibition I can think of that's enforced right now on the federal level. But there are some rebel states like Colorado. How should the war on drugs be maintained? And how important is it that the federal government maintain it?
JH: I'm inclined to do whatever my doctor tells me; maybe that's because of my military background. If my doctor insisted that I would go out and buy a joint and smoke it, I'd probably do it, simply because I respect his authority. But as far as recreational use, I think we're going in the wrong direction. Marijuana is not as dangerous as a lot of other things, but especially if you smoke the stuff—and if you smoke anything—you're still going to hurt your lungs.

 If you put it in pastries or candy, children are going to eat it—and maybe consume quite a lot more than their body-size can deal with. And they're going to be harmed. I hate to see, for example, alcohol-laced candy or brandy-soaked fruitcakes advertised in catalogs with children's toys.

All of these things need to be kept illegal, but as far as enforcement goes, going out and arresting people because they have a personal amount in their clothing, I think is a waste of time. That's what's filled up our jails, to no useful purpose. The people who manufacture and sell the stuff are the ones we need to go after. 

BC: Why should people vote for you as President?
JH: If they don't like either of the major party candidates this year, and a lot of them don't, they can vote for me and make a statement of personal disgust with the alternatives that the major parties have. In the American system, about the only way you can tell the major parties to go take a hike is to vote for third party candidates.

BC: Is there anything you'd like to add?
JH: I don't care what third party you vote for, but vote for some third party.


Thank you so much to Jim Hedges for taking the time to interview with me!

Did you know the Prohibition Party still exists?
Have you voted third-party in any election?  And if so, for which third party did you vote?

24 comments:

  1. My goodness, you have put a lot of time and thought into this post.
    I am a Republican and will vote for Mr. Trump...I feel any vote not going to him will be given to HRC and she is the last person I would want to lead our nation.

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    1. I completely understand, and may end up voting the same way because of my dislike for Clinton.

      I was talking though with a relative who supported Sanders the other day, and I asked her if she was going to be able to bring herself to vote for Clinton. She said, "Yes. If I don't vote for her, it'll basically be a vote for Trump. And he's the last person I want to see as President."

      I guess the thinking is if a Democrat fails to vote for her party's candidate it's a vote for Trump, and if a Republican fails to vote for hers, it's a vote for Clinton... In a way, that may seem logical, but it also seems strange.

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  2. Well, just seeing your post here, Bethany, and the comments, I feel blessed to be living in Canada. I am neither a fan of Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton! :(

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    1. I guess living in Canada you won't be faced with the beautiful decision of which of those to vote for this year!

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  3. I had no idea that party still existed. Thank you for th education & great interview. ;) You are wise beyond your years dear Lady. I try to not discuss politics much in my blog world - as I like keeping it as something light and fun for myself. But I commend your dedication to your faith and political beliefs and respect your desire to share them here with us. ;)
    Blessings for a wonderful holiday weekend! xoxo

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    1. I was clueless on the Prohibition party still existing until probably last year. I find myself sharing everyone else's political views nearly as often than my own. It's pretty neat learning what other people think.

      Always enjoy your blog, Carrie!

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  4. Bethany, this is excellent. You have great interviewing skills.

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  5. Even though I don't live in your country and I'm not entirely sure how everything works, I do understand what it's like to be between a rock and a hard place when it comes to voting! In Canada, we always have more than two parties to choose from, so at the very least, if you don't like the two front runners, there is an alternative.

    This was a great interview. I read the entire thing and found myself truly enjoying it; questions and answers. I found Jim Hedges to be an intelligent man with well thought out ideas. I even found myself agreeing with quite a few. Well done, Bethany!

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    1. It's nice that we have some alternatives here as well, but it's also kind of sad that we all know they don't really have much of a chance.

      I'm surprised and delighted you took the time to read the entire interview! This was a long post, so I was sort of expecting just about everyone to skim and only read the parts that interest them most.

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  6. That's very interesting. I didn't know that party was still around. I will be voting for Trump. I'm not a big fan, but I really dislike what HRC stands for.

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    1. Definitely understand--I may end up doing the same thing as well.

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  7. Unlike Europe and some other places in the world, there is almost zero hope of a multi-party system. Gary Johnson failed, Ralph Nader failed, Ross Perot failed, even Teddy Roosvelt couldn't win on a third party ticket.

    If I had to choose, I guess I end up with the Green Party. But I don't like Jill Stein at all. She seems so ego-driven and doesn't really have any real purpose. I'll have just as many electoral votes as her in November.

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    1. Heh! Your last remark gave me a smile. It's kind of a pity alternative parties aren't more popular.

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  8. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into this, Bethany! The argument that stops me from voting for a third party candidate is that the third party is highly unlikely to win...therefore in a sense I am wasting my vote. This year I am incredulous about the two major party choices! I appreciate that anyone has the drive and gumption to put themselves in the line for public service...but Mr. Trump's rhetoric often embarrasses, frightens, or simply does not represent me...which means for the very first time in my 65 years my vote may go to the Democratic candidate....

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    1. Well, when a person really doesn't want either candidate to win, voting third party is a reasonable idea--it might be better than breaking your lifetime non-Democratic voting record. :)

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  9. GREAT job, Bethany! Thank you for putting such work into this. I will be voting for Trump, Lord willing, because a vote for anyone else is wasted, in my opinion, and would only propel Clinton to the white house. I shudder to think of her as our president. To know that she is walking around free is appalling. To know that she is running for president just shows you what a wicked, evil world our society has truly become. If this doesn't open our eyes, what will? It all just really, really burdens my heart this year, and I am finding it hard to even get too involved in it all. This nation has turned away from God, and to be honest, I try to pray for His mercy, but why would He have it? We are celebrating blatant sin, we are killing precious unborn babies by the droves every, single day, and we are doing our utmost to remove HIM from everything imaginable. I have to ask myself, why would God have mercy on that? But, that is why it is called mercy. Whether He will choose to bestow it again remains to be seen. I am not sure that we, as His people who are called by His name, have humbled nearly enough. It is a sad state of affairs, and HE, not a man, is our ONLY hope. Thanks for letting me vent!

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    1. In light of the moral decline in the U.S., it's good to know that we are citizens of God's kingdom. We, as Christians, are "a peculiar people, a holy nation that should shew forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness, into his marvelous light." There is a song that says the darker the night, the brighter the light, when Jesus is there.

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  10. Very informative, thanks for doing this interview! What other third party candidates did you do interviews with?

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  11. Hi Bethany, Great interview! Its great to hear unique perspectives from alternative parties which unfortunately will never reach many Americans. People form opinions on such limited information. Even if I don't agree with certain positions thinking through the motivations and reasons behind those positions can be quite illuminating.

    Thank you for being so open minded in your whole coverage of this election - and also in sharing clear arguments behind why you might disagree. I really appreciate it.

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    1. Hi Thienan, Agreed. It's a pity so many people just get their news from 30 minutes a day spent watching the major networks. Even if the networks were unbiased (haha), there is only so much that could be aired in that short of time! Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment.

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