In many ways, the Haight-Ashbury section of the city was the epicenter for the counter-cultural revolution of the late 1960’s, and in a very real sense many of the young people who were so much part and parcel of the period, in addition to those who were influenced by it later on down the road, are now in significant positions of power and influence in both our financial sector and our federal government. It’s not altogether too much of a stretch to point to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, as the embodiment of this particular state of affairs.
The liberal, spend-all-the-money-you-want-because-it-doesn’t-really-matter mantra that is still to this day so much a part of the city of San Francisco specifically, and in a more general sense the state of California has brought what is arguably our most important state in the electoral sense (43 votes) to the brink of complete and utter economic ruin.
Those who would scoff at this notion either do not understand fiscal common sense or do not want to. Somehow, some way, California needs a financial intervention; as it stands right now, it seems as though the paternalistic federal government would like nothing better than to provide yet another bailout to an entity that is “too big to fail” and to further chain millions of the American people to its largesse.
To these points, America’s Right has the pleasure of introducing John Dennis, a libertarian Republican who, despite the fact that he still faces a challenging Republican Party Primary in the 8th District against Dana Walsh, is generally viewed as the candidate who may have a legitimate chance to do what 89 percent of the country–based on an abysmal (even by Democrat standards) 11 percent approval rating–are ardently hoping for, which is to unseat Nancy Pelosi.
When Mr. Dennis was asked whether a Republican can actually win in San Francisco, his immediate response, without hesitation, was simple and resolute: “Absolutely.”
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America’s Right: Thanks for taking time out of your campaign schedule for America’s Right, Mr. Dennis. Let’s get right to it and begin with the obvious. We’ve seen that during the course of the past couple of weeks, the Democrats essentially made a partisan effort to turn the legislative process into a pretzel, through the use of Reconciliation, the threat of “Deem-and-Pass,” and bribes and various assortments of backroom deals in order to secure the necessary votes. What’s your take on the potential fallout, and do you think that it can ultimately be repealed?
John Dennis: Oh, yes, I definitely feel as though it can be repealed, especially since benefits do not start until 2014. The most likely route for repeal or rescission is by the states filing lawsuits. There is some time, therefore, before people become dependent on the programs or the law. One of the most important ramifications of the entire process, however, is that the people in Washington exposed the fact that their agenda is more important to them than following the rule of law. The American people resoundingly said “no,” and these people pushed it through anyway. My best hope is that the initial recourse will be seen during the elections in November.
As to the entire bill, the people in government need to learn that the free market must be allowed to work. The laws of economics are as immutable as the laws of physics. To pretend that any one person can design a better health care market makes absolutely no sense. It simply cannot be done, because markets are self-organizing; they can’t be designed. Government must get out of the way and allow resources to be allocated according to purchasing power and free choice, and eventually, everyone will get the appropriate health care that they need.
AR: It seems as though the entire debate should not be about “universal” coverage as it should be about access, affordability, and portability. For whatever reason, the hard left does not want to see it that way.
JD: It’s interesting to see the free market work over the course of time, and there’s a great example of that in the health care market: Lasik surgery. There is no third-party payer, no government involvement. The prices are coming down, the quality gets better, and more and more people are satisfied with the services that they receive. It’s now down to the point at which it’s affordable for nearly everyone.
AR: In past interviews, you’ve made reference to the government’s and the Federal Reserve’s belief that they can essentially “create money out of thin air.” Why would they believe this, and what would they hope to accomplish?
JD: The reason that they print money is actually rather simple – they’re afraid of the correction that has to happen in the system. In the 1930’s the Roosevelt administration paid farmers to plow under their own crops. People were starving to death, but the government was focused on keeping commodity prices high, as if that was some sort of road to prosperity. We’ve had an over-extension of credit, and now the system needs to re-set itself so that we can build again for the future. Maintaining the current level of money supply is preventing that from happening.
As a practical matter, those involved in a centrally-planned government have to protect their own interests, their friends and political connections, and the interests of those people as well. A centrally-planned economy is all about allocating resources according to political connections, whereas capitalism is about the free market and the individual’s freedom to choose for himself.
AR: One might say that it is only the political class in America right now that is allowed to practice freedom and capitalism.
JD: Well, they’re practicing something, but I’m not sure that I’d call it capitalism. Capitalism is based on production and savings. The individual tries to produce more than he consumes, sells it, and then in turn saves and/or re-invests the surplus in the growth of his business.
Whatever the political class is practicing has nothing to do with capitalism. It has everything to do with cronyism, and it’s just not right. It’s a racket, that’s all.
Governments will not hesitate to take your money against your will. Think of it this way: if we really wanted all the services that the government provided, the government wouldn’t have to force us to pay for them. If I want my cell phone services, I’m happy to pay for it. What we should not be doing is becoming dependent on government services. We shouldn’t be forced to pay for what we don’t want, and that is what they’re doing.
AR: It certainly seems as though this law will eventually be deemed unconstitutional, but who knows what will happen.
JD: It’s clearly unconstitutional, but we’re so far into the realm of unconstitutional government that it’s almost become rhetorical to attempt to make that point. There are so many unconstitutional decisions at this point that it’s now commonplace.
AR: Do you feel as though there’s another financial crash coming this year?
JD: It’s hard to say when it will happen, but it very well could. The Federal fiscal situation is completely unsustainable. When you add up the debt, the unfunded liabilities, the losses from the backstops to things like the GSE’s — everything else in which the government is involved, all told we’re each obligated to the tune of $300,000 apiece, and that doesn’t include our other personal obligations.
When you consider that U.S. per capita income is about $45,000, we can’t pay our bills. As a result, the country is bankrupt and, as I said before, the laws of economics are as immutable as those of physics. You can fly that airplane for a while, but when you run out of fuel, you’re coming back down to terra firma.
AR: Should there be another economic meltdown, either this year or anytime during this administration, what might the ramifications be in terms of the federal government’s declaring a federal emergency?
JD: Well, now you’re talking about the reason that I decided to run. Economic historian Bob Higgs wrote about this scenario in Crisis and Leviathan. Governments are notorious for trying to expand their powers during times of crisis, and that’s why I decided to get involved. I feel that there are crises coming. It’s clear that something is going to happen; I want more voices for free markets and individual liberties to speak up so that people have–maybe–a fighting chance to turn away from the people who are offering more of what got them into trouble in the first place. It’s up to the people, ultimately, to stand up, and there are encouraging signs in the Tea Party and liberty movements.
It’s important to remember that the battle that is being fought is not between the Left and the Right; it’s a battle between the federal government and your constitutional rights. The expansion of government always comes at the expense of the liberty of the individual. Some type of crisis is going to happen; the only thing we don’t know is whether we as a people will choose the path of more government or free individuals to fix the problem.
AR: One of the most general characteristics of the leftist, progressive mindset around which I cannot wrap my arms is this “it doesn’t matter” attitude with regard to spending money. Where does this come from?
JD: I do a lot of community-related type meetings, and most of them are with Republicans during the primaries. The other day, however, I did one at which there were a fair number of Democrats and Independents. When I said that I was running as a Republican, that was apparently too much for some of the attendees to handle. When I began discussing all of the financial problems that this country is facing, one of the guys responded: “that’s not a problem; just print the money.” I sort of laughed in response, and as I turned away I began to realize that this guy was not laughing and that he was deadly serious.
I think in any city that has a strong ideological bent, left or right, there’s this type of intellectual inbreeding that allows some people to get away with thinking like that. It’s absurd. This gentleman’s mindset was the same as saying: “if I have checks in my checkbook, then I have money.”
I lived in Holland for a while. A guy over there once told me how they handle many of their politicians. They identify a rising star, usually left or progressive left, and they put him in charge of the treasury for a while or make him a finance chair so that he’s grounded in reality.
The one thing that I’ll say for our friends on the Left is that they truly feel that government can be agent for good. If they believe that then they need to get on a fiscal austerity program with the rest of us. They’re going to find out soon enough that their beloved government is not going to be able to do too much good with the overhang with which it is now burdened.
AR: You know, about 20 years ago, my understanding of politics was very rudimentary, but I knew that I was a Republican merely because of common sense and my basic values. This understanding was founded in what I felt was a fairly basic concept – if America did not exist, if the government fell, then how would we be able to service the needs of all these individuals and groups of people? The welfare of the country as a whole must come first.
JD: I had a meeting recently with a hedge fund guy. Ten years ago, his fund had $800,000 in investable capital. He told me that he saw what was beginning to happen, and he began to bet against the U.S. His hedge fund now has $3 billion in assets. What he saw in our future was nothing different than what you and I see – the potential collapse of the Republic. The external threats to America are serious and we must deal with them, but the existential threats are those which come from within.
This man said that, at that time, he was already beginning to see capital restrictions on capital going outside the United States. It’s already affecting his business. As we were sitting there talking, his secretary came over to us and asked who the check was for; he pointed to me and donated the maximum amount to my campaign. He said that he regretted that he couldn’t do more. Just before I left, I found out that he’s a Democrat.
AR: Amazing. Okay, let’s move onto a more general issue, one that I feel needs to be addressed in a cultural sense. I’m an assistant principal in an all-boys’ Catholic high school, and I’ve been in education for nearly twenty years. Over the course of that time I’ve been able to interact with our young people and their families each and every day. I mention this because it seems to me that during the past twenty-five years or so, the term “conservative” has been demonized, in that a person who identifies himself in such a way is automatically branded as selfish, racist, mean-spirited, and a war-monger, among other things. My question then is simply this: how do you define what it means to be a “core conservative?”
JD: I think that the core conservative is a person who wants to preserve that which the framers, the founders of this country, tried to establish. I believe that they tried to establish this country on the noblest of political principles – an idea. And not just any idea, mind you; rather, that the individual is a sovereign, that the individual is the one who grants the rights to the state and not the other way around.
A core conservative believes that he has the right to live his life in any way that he chooses, as long as he does not hurt anyone else and no one hurts him. No bureaucrat or organization should have the right to tell you why and for what you should live. That is the ideal that we’re now trying to conserve.
AR: Characterize the divide that currently exists between the mainstream Republican Party and the resurgent sense of conservatism that we’re now beginning to experience in this country.
JD: That’s a great question. It seems as though we’re seeing a lot of people in the Republican Party suddenly turning around and labeling each other RINOs [Republicans In Name Only]. The trouble is that the Republican Party wants the proverbial “big tent,” but the question is whether that tent should include big government Republicans. This is another reason why I became involved in politics. I was furious with my own party. We had a great opportunity during the first part of the last decade to truly reduce the size of the federal government. It was an opportunity that we hadn’t had in a long time.
The Republicans also blew it in the early 1950’s, when the Eisenhower administration had both the Congress and the Senate. I think that we have to find a home in the party for these big government types, but they can’t have a central role. We can’t have these kinds of mistakes again.
AR: It would seem to me that a “big government Republican” would have to be, to some extent, a sell-out — a person who is ultimately more concerned with his own interests rather than the country’s.
JD: Well, yes, there is that element. The problem is that conservatism is too often confused with ‘neo-conservatism’. But neo-conservatism is not about limited government. That’s what we’re up against in the party as a whole. Neo-conservatism is not based on traditional conservative principles to which true conservatives adhere.
AR: Why are the elected members of the political left blatantly ignoring their constituents? After the stunning elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, along with all of the Tea Party protests, it seems inexplicable that they can simply turn their backs to their own people.
JD: It’s hard to turn from the things on which you’ve made your career as an individual politician. Those elections were certainly reflections of the fact that the American people do not accept the direction of their governments. I think that those on the political left assumed that one day America would simply grow accustomed to bigger government and simply accept it.
There is, however, something deeper to this, especially at the national level. The big government types are committed to an agenda, an agenda that they know is inconsistent with this country’s founding principles. For example, we have never found an instance when Nancy Pelosi has talked about defending individual liberties or respect for the Constitution.
I think when it comes right down to it with Nancy Pelosi–all other considerations aside–she’s just a big-city, machine politician who is plying her trade on Capitol Hill. Look at what she just did – we’re hearing that she extracted votes from certain representatives from California in exchange for keeping the water flowing in the Central Valley.
AR: In a real sense, can these people still be referred to as “Democrats?”
JD: The term “Democrat” probably still fits, because democracy in and of itself is flawed, and this country is not a democracy. Our country is a constitutional republic. Straight democracy is tyranny of the majority.
Look at what just happened in the House. We saw tyranny. The Liberals have the majority.
In fact, just the moniker “liberal” gets me upset, because “liberal” is supposed to stand for freedom. Classical Liberals were much closer to conservatives than they would be to today’s “liberals.” I’m upset that they lifted that name, because they’ve done much to besmirch it.
AR: In a prior interview, you’ve stated that Nancy Pelosi is the poster child for collectivism. What do you mean by that?
JD: She’s a poster child for everything that’s wrong with the government, which is on a mission to collectivize us.
AR: You’ve also stated that you feel that she has no fundamental understanding of liberty. If that’s the case, how has she managed to rally people to her worldview in the past?
JD: I’m not really sure that she ever has. Over the course of her career she has managed to tap into what people have been programmed to believe. Television, cable news – it’s all propaganda. She’s managed to ride that wave and make a political career for herself. Look at her on a strictly superficial level – she’s actually not a great candidate. If she ever had to run in a district that was split 50-50 liberal/conservative, I can’t imagine that she’d succeed. I can’t envision a scenario in which the other side couldn’t field a candidate that could beat her merely on the merits.
She’s in a machine-oriented district, and she rides the wave by telling people what they want to hear. The one thing I will say for her, however, is that she’s very good at her game, which is wheeling and dealing on Capitol Hill. Remember, though — that’s not rallying people to her worldview; that’s just the ability to cut deals among political organizations.
AR: The signature policies of this administration are the stimulus and jobs bills, healthcare, cap-and-trade, and amnesty. What is the endgame for this administration specifically, and for the political left more generally?
JD: Controlling resources. That’s what the game is all about. Look at cap-and-trade. If this were actually sincere, the aggrieved would benefit in one way or another; instead, the money flows to the government. If this were neutral–if the government were truly acting in the best interest of the people–then the government wouldn’t take the money that comes from cap-and-trade. They would distribute it to the people who are presumably the ones injured in some way by the toxins and toxic gases that are being poured into the atmosphere. The reality is that bills like cap-and-trade are set up to have more resources flowing through the government.
AR: Now that this administration has managed to shove universal healthcare through, do you feel as though this will embolden them and that they’ll try to force their entire agenda through on Reconciliation?
JD: That’s the message that I’ve been giving to the Tea Parties. If we don’t run these people out of office, they’re going to become more and more emboldened. The Tea Party and liberty movements have now drawn a line in the sand and flatly said: “no more, we’re not going to take it.” If they don’t show up at the polls in November, however, if they back off in any way and don’t vote these people out of office, if they’re lethargic in their voting patterns, then the crowd in Washington is going to look around and think: “the people took their best shot at us and we’re still standing.” From that point forward, Washington will run roughshod and do whatever they want.
AR: Given that there are still about seven months until mid-term elections on November 2nd, and that there may now be enough time for the Democrats to try to quell the degree of anger that’s percolating around the country–to say nothing of basic human nature, in that it’s probably difficult to maintain a high degree of anger for an extended period of time–do you think that this may indeed result in a lethargic voter turnout?
JD: I see what you’re saying. I think if this congress continues to push ahead, and if there is no movement out of this malaise–which there can’t be, given current conditions–then that anger will still be there. People will hopefully turn out to vote.
AR: It strikes me that the Democrats are in a difficult predicament. If they forge ahead and attempt to jam through more of their legislation, they risk ratcheting up the anger even more; if they back off, they must have an idea that there’s a strong chance that they’ll never get this stuff through, given the electoral predictions for November. Will they risk ensuring their own doom?
JD: That’s true, and you have to remember that President Obama has, above all else, political self-preservation as a primary instinct. He may back off, because if the Republicans take over in strong numbers, he may even run the risk of impeachment.
The other consideration here is that he was willing to use Reconciliation to pass his measure through, which in my mind speaks volumes about the man’s character. I understand that America’s Right is about the Left and the Right, but I’m in no way looking at this as a left-right consideration; this is about a specific, true criticism of him. I’m deeply disappointed in Mr. Obama as a president, in that he was willing to allow the bill to pass by way of the Reconciliation process.
You know, there is obviously something to be said for persistence and standing for something in which you believe. When you’re at the very point that you’re preparing to pass one of the seminal pieces of legislation of this generation if not in all of American history, however, you’re content to do it through a back-door cheat? It doesn’t speak well of the man.
AR: Given that about 39 states have either filed or are preparing lawsuits to fight this legislation, do you think more will try to re-assert Tenth Amendment rights?
JD: Absolutely. This has been coming for a while now. As you said, given that we’re now up into the thirties in terms of the number of states that are planning some type of legal action under the Tenth Amendment, this is clearly an indication that millions of people around the country see this as an abuse of power. And let me tell you, these are precursors as to what may actually happen.
Here is what I see now, and let me be very clear – I honestly hope that I’m wrong and that it doesn’t happen. It’s also another reason that I chose to become involved. The dollar could very well collapse at some point. We cannot keep doing what we’re doing. If and when the dollar does collapse, the states are going to look around at each other as they’re reconstituting new currency in Washington, and they’re going to say: “Why should we use money run by the same folks who just destroyed our stored wealth? Should we stay in this Union? We are sovereign states, and we can take care of ourselves.”
Do you know what I’m really concerned about? The loss of the Republic. Future generations of Americans, and those who understand and love their freedom, will wonder at what we had and how we let it slip through our fingers.
AR: So it’s possible that somewhere farther on down the line we could begin to see some movements toward secession?
JD: What we’re seeing right now are merely precursors. The states’ Attorneys General are going to attempt to stop this health care bill. That’s just the first step.
The Executive Branch has become far more powerful than the Framers intended. We have checks and balances deliberately embedded in our system. But what happens if the federal government begins to use powers that extend beyond the Constitution? What holds it in check? The states are supposed to. They formed the Union, which has to be made crystal clear in the minds of the people. They need to be reminded that the federal government reports to the states, not the other way around. Ultimately, the states are going to have to stand up for themselves and correct the balance that is supposed to exist between themselves and Washington.
AR: One of the ideas that is never discussed by political pundits is that there is nothing in the Constitution that specifically says that the Supreme Court is limited to nine Justices. Should the fight over this legislation reach the highest court, do you think President Obama would have any compunction about appointing more justices, given that FDR threatened to do it in 1933?
JD: All I can say to that is that if we have a congress and a President who are willing to accept Reconciliation as a method of passing this bill, then they’re capable of anything. Nothing would surprise me.
JD: Yes. As dark as things are still going to become, I’m more optimistic now than I’ve been in a long, long time. I don’t think it will happen without pain, and I don’t think that it will be a comfortable process; at the end of the day, however, I think that things are going to turn out well, because too many people in this country are aware of what our government is supposed to be. Too many people have already come, and are still coming here, for freedom – they’re not going to let it slip away.
AR: Will it take as long as an entire generation to regain many of those freedoms?
JD: Probably. But people are re-discovering America. I was ecstatic at CPAC with the enormous number of young people who were there and who understand liberty. It was very exciting and, I think, a sign about the future of this country. This is still a great country, and I think the people are ready to reverse the course of history. There are those who feel that the American republic turned into an empire; after all, Rome went from a Republic to an empire. I think the people of this country are prepared to turn this country back to the roots of its republic, because the foundation is simply too strong.
AR: As Glenn Beck has said many times, it’s impossible to go to Washington and not lose one’s soul. If elected, how can you avoid that?
JD: I look at Ron Paul and see that it is possible. Here is a man who has endured. He stood up for and stuck to his principles. He never voted to increase taxes and never voted for an unbalanced budget. He has always done his job along strict constitutional lines and has inspired a lot of people throughout the country along the way. He has shown and continues to show that it can be done.
AR: What are the most pressing issues in California-8?
JD: The creation of jobs and turning around the economy. People are concerned about paying their bills. The only way to address this situation in San Francisco is that Washington has to begin addressing fiscal problems, regardless of the electoral ramifications. There’s a big, big cloud of debt and unfunded liability hanging over our heads. Business people have no idea how we’re going to move ahead without addressing these issues. If it isn’t addressed, the malaise will go on. This is an issue first and foremost in a place like San Francisco, which relies on a robust economy in order to keep the more high-profile businesses moving along.
AR: Last question. Is it possible for a true libertarian conservative like yourself to be elected in a place like San Francisco?
JD: Absolutely. It won’t be easy; if we get the resources, however, we will win this district. Our ideas can connect across the political spectrum. If it’s done in a personal way and common ground can be identified, we will build these relationships. The people with whom I’ve spoken so far, I think, know that I’m sincere and that I’m not the type of man to turn his back on the issues for which he claims to stand. The events that we’ve done around town have shown me that while there are, indeed, some disagreements, a true libertarian conservative can establish an environment of trust and mutual respect.
AR: Mr. Dennis, thank you for taking some time out for America’s Right today. Best of luck in your campaign, and we hope to hear good things from you in the future.
JD: Thank you very much.
For more information on John Dennis, or to make your own contribution toward the defeat of Nancy Pelosi and the reclaiming of traditional American values, visit JohnDennis2010.com.