I had a fascinating discussion this morning with John Dennis, the Repubican candidate running against Nancy Pelosi. He’s not going to win, of course, but he’s gotten some national press, including a nice piece by John Nichols, the veteran liberal editor at the Madison-based Capitol Times and a plug from the Huffington Post. Matt Gonzales has endorsed him.
Dennis is a libertarian Republican, but not a nut job or a conspiracy wacko. He’s intelligent, articulate and makes some very good points. He is, for example, totally against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and calls for an immediate pullout of both quagmires. He supports same-sex marriage (it took me a while to get that out of him, but he does), supports Prop. 19, opposes DADT, and wants the feds to stop cracking down on undocumented immigrants in California. He’s against warrantless wiretaps and torture, and wants to repeal the worst parts of the PATRIOT Act. He thinks we should review all of our military bases abroad -- just as we have with domestic bases -- and close the ones we don’t really need anymore.
In other words, on Iraq, Afghanistan, the Pentagon budget, social issues, the drug war and civil liberties, he’s way out of synch with his party -- and a lot better than Pelosi, the good liberal Democrat. And Arthur Bruzzone, my old pal and the former chair of the Republican Party, came down with Dennis and told me that the Guardian really ought to endorse him.
We’ve said some bad things about Pelosi; after all, she privatized the Presidio. She’s been weak on the wars, weak on same-sex marriage, weak on taxes and corporate welfare -- and a lot more interested in raising money for Democrats than in representing her district. She won’t even debate Dennis, which is typical of her arrogance.
On the other hand: Dennis has a problem. He’s a member of a party that’s run by barbarians, and if he got elected, and was part of a GOP majority, some very bad people would be in charge. He knows that, and says he wants to change the GOP from within; good luck with that.
And since I spent much of my time these days talking about the gap between the rich and the poor and how utterly unsustainable a nation is when 5,000 families at the top control more wealth than 160 million at the bottom, I have a hard time with libertarians who don’t believe in income taxes.
And that’s Dennis. He told me that he thinks the income tax should be replaced with a consumption tax (that is, a sales tax), which is about the most regressive idea you can imaging. He said he thinks the Bush tax cuts should continue. He thinks government is too big and ought to be dramatically cut back.
I don’t think Pelosi much supports a radical redistribution of wealth in this country, but the Democrats at least are going to let the insane tax cuts for the rich expire. And that’s something.
So I understand Matt Gonzalez, and I had a wonderful talk with Dennis, and I hope you all listen to it (below). And I get the "beyond left and right" thing that the HuffPo talks about. But on the basic economic issues -- like wealth redistribution through progressive taxation -- the good libertarians and I will never agree. And that’s kind of a deal-breaker.