Wikinews interviews Darcy Richardson, Democratic Party presidential challenger to Barack Obama

Friday, November 25, 2011

Democratic Party presidential candidate Darcy Richardson.
Image: Darcy Richardson.

U.S. Democratic Party presidential candidate Darcy Richardson of Florida took some time to answer a few questions from Wikinews reporter William S. Saturn.

Richardson, 55, is a political activist that helped form the New Democrats in 1989 and founded the progressive Battleground Blog earlier this year. He is also a political historian, and has authored six books covering third parties and presidential elections, including A Nation Divided: The 1968 Presidential Campaign (2002). His current work, The Spirit of ’76: Eugene McCarthy’s Struggle for Open Politics, chronicles the late Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy's 1976 presidential campaign for which he volunteered. Richardson admires McCarthy, and served as manager for his 1988 presidential run. Recently, Richardson advised Brian Moore's Socialist Party USA presidential campaign in 2008.

In addition, Richardson himself has sought political office, albeit unsuccessfully. In 1980, he ran for Pennsylvania Auditor General, and in 1988, vied for one of Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate seats as a member of the Consumer Party. Last year, he ran for Lieutenant Governor of Florida as the running mate of gubernatorial candidate Farid Khavari.

Richardson has criticized President Barack Obama's policies for being too similar to those of former President George W. Bush. He hoped to convince several prominent progressives to challenge Obama in the Democratic primaries, but none were available to do so. Last month, Richardson decided to begin a campaign himself and announced through his Battleground Blog that he would challenge Obama in the Democratic Party primaries as a progressive candidate. So far, he has qualified for the New Hampshire primary in January and the Missouri primary in February. In an interview with the Independent Political Report, Richardson proclaimed his campaign slogan as "no fourth term for George W. Bush."


 ((William S. Saturn )) When did you first meet Senator Eugene McCarthy, and what attracted you to his campaign?

Senator Eugene McCarthy.
Image: United States Federal Government.
Darcy Richardson: I first met Senator McCarthy during his independent campaign for the presidency in 1976 when I was about 19 or 20 years old. I had been an admirer of the former Minnesota lawmaker dating back to his 1968 campaign when he courageously challenged LBJ for the Democratic presidential nomination, essentially risking his political career to end the unjust war in Vietnam. It was a candidacy of conscience. Similarly, I was strongly attracted to Gene's 1976 effort, believing that he was far better qualified than either Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford. McCarthy's campaign that year — striking down burdensome and discriminatory ballot access laws in no fewer than twenty-four states — was an heroic effort to further the cause of open politics in this country. McCarthy's legal team, headed by young lawyers John C. Armor and Philip L. Marcus, described it as "The Bloodless Revolution of 1976." McCarthy's candidacy that year had a lasting effect on my own politics. I knew Gene fairly well and visited him several times in later years in his book-filled home near the Blue Ridge Mountains, a rustic and comfortable dwelling lined with pictures of Yeats and Joyce. Gene was an original voice in American politics. He was also a pretty decent poet.

 ((WSS )) In 1980, to the surprise of many, Senator McCarthy endorsed Republican Ronald Reagan for president. Did you agree with this decision?

Richardson: No, I didn't agree with that endorsement. In fact, I had campaigned for Ted Kennedy in the New Hampshire and Pennsylvania primaries earlier that spring and later ran for statewide office in Pennsylvania on a ticket headed by environmentalist Barry Commoner, the Citizens Party nominee for president. Some Democrats never forgave Gene for endorsing Reagan. I wasn't one of them.

 ((WSS )) You are (or were at one time) a member of the Boston Tea Party, a minor third party whose platform supports "reducing the size, scope and power of government at all levels and on all issues, and opposes increasing the size, scope and power of government at any level, for any purpose." Do you agree with this platform?

Richardson: My involvement with the Boston Tea Party — a freedom-oriented, limited government entity — was relatively short-lived. I assisted them a bit here in Florida because of Tom Knapp's personal involvement. Tom, a self-styled anarchist and original thinker, had founded the party shortly after the Libertarian Party's mid-term convention in 2006. An edgy and contemplative guy, Tom is a libertarian writer and activist for whom I have tremendous respect. He's one of the smartest people I know and is also probably one of the most talented writers that I've ever encountered.

 ((WSS )) Which presidential candidates have you supported over the past twenty years?

Richardson: There are probably too many to mention here, but Eugene McCarthy, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination again in 1992, and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio would be the two that I've been most enthusiastic about during the past twenty years. We need more Democrats like them.

 ((WSS )) How have your political views changed in the past twenty years?

Richardson: We all change, of course, but my political views have always remained consistently progressive.


 ((William S. Saturn )) If you had been elected president in 2008, what would you have done differently than Barack Obama?

Image: Darcy Richardson.
Darcy Richardson: The fact that President Obama initially appointed Larry Summers as chairman of his White House Economic Council shortly after taking office, should have given everybody pause. Summers is probably more responsible for the country’s current economic mess than any other individual.
As President Clinton's Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to January 2001, Summers shaped and pushed the financial deregulation that unleashed the near-collapse of Wall Street in the autumn of 2008, particularly when he pushed through the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 during the final years of the Clinton Administration — legislation, as you know, that had prohibited banks from doing both commercial and investment banking.
An architect-turned-enabler of this never-ending economic crisis, Summers later supported the Commodity Futures Modernization Act that, unbelievably as it might seem, mandated that financial derivatives — including the reckless credit default swaps at the heart of the financial crisis — could be traded between financial institutions without any government oversight whatsoever.
It’s little wonder that Rolling Stone writer William Greider, in a marvelously detailed article in late 2008, pointed out that Obama’s choice of Summers and other key economic advisers, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, seemed designed to sustain the failed economic policies of the Bush presidency — an administration that never saw the financial crisis coming in the first place.
The Summers appointment told me that the President had no earthly clue how this devastating financial crisis happened or how to reverse it.
Things only got worse after that. President Obama failed to resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. He failed to include a public option in health care. He failed to assert his constitutional responsibility during the recent debt limit crisis. Unbelievably, he's failed to protect Social Security and Medicare. He extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. He failed to push for cap-and-trade. And he failed to close Gitmo. I could go on, but I think you get the point. If anybody deserves a serious intraparty challenge, it's the current occupant of the White House.
In retrospect, it's really incredible that a Democrat of national stature and credibility hasn't entered this race — at least as of now.

 ((WSS )) Do you believe Obama has done any good things as president?

Richardson: Nothing I could write a book about, unless it's a work of fiction. He's generally been disappointing, allowing the GOP to frame the debate on issue after issue. Who in their right mind wants the Republicans to dictate fiscal or economic policy in this country? The folks in the Occupy Wall Street movement have already figured that out. It's just a matter of the rest of the country coming to the same conclusion...

 ((WSS )) What necessary freedoms are currently lacking in American society?

Richardson: Since the beginning of the Bush Administration, most of our personal freedoms have been under constant attack — including freedom of assembly, as many in the Occupy movement can sadly testify.

 ((WSS )) Do you disagree with any parts of the current U.S. Constitution?

Richardson: Not really, but I'm not particularly crazy about the second amendment.

 ((WSS )) What are some of your policy proposals, and if elected, how would you implement these?

Richardson: First and foremost, I'm advocating a capital levy on wealth, not unlike the proposal currently being debated in Germany and other European countries. Much of our current $15 trillion national debt should be recouped from the rich — the pampered and privileged class that hasn't paid its fair share in recent years.
Though I'm still developing my platform, I also support a second stimulus package — roughly five or six times the size of Obama's meager $447 billion "Son of Stimulus" — to jump-start the U.S. economy; a Medicare-for-All health care plan; and a moratorium on home foreclosures (for primary residences only), not unlike that initiated by Minnesota's radical Farmer-Labor Party during the Great Depression. I also want an immediate end to the war in Afghanistan and am strongly opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline.
The American people are hurting, and they're hurting badly.


 ((William S. Saturn )) You wrote that you had wanted somebody like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, economist Jeffrey Sachs, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), or former Representative Alan Grayson (D-FL) to challenge President Obama in the primaries. You mentioned that you had "encouraged several of them to run". Which of these individuals did you contact and what were their reasons for declining?

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.
Image: Robert Reich.
Darcy Richardson: My personal preference was former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, whom I had urged to run several months ago. I never received a response. In my opinion, Reich's talents are being virtually wasted in academia. He's a brilliant man and has probably forgotten more than Obama ever knew. The country desperately needs him. I also personally encouraged Kucinich to enter the fray, but he was clearly focusing his attention on being re-elected to the U.S. House, a re-election contest complicated by redistricting. I received a nice reply from Kucinich's congressional staff. I never got around to contacting Jeffrey Sachs, but the Columbia University professor, like Bob Reich, would have been an ideal candidate, too.

 ((WSS )) Of the candidates currently running for the Republican Party nomination, which do you most admire?

Richardson: Well, I sort of miss Harold Stassen; he was a truly progressive Republican. But to answer your question it would probably be Buddy Roemer and gay activist Fred Karger. I also like former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. Roemer, a former congressman and ex-governor, is probably the most principled candidate in the crowded Republican field, but the powers-that-be in both the GOP and the media have denied him a fair hearing. I wouldn't be surprised if he runs as an independent. I also admire Congressman Ron Paul's tenacity, but I find his politics a little too conservative for my blood. After all, government isn't the enemy.
I've never completely agreed with McCarthy's assessment that the Republican Party was like the lowest form of plant and animal life, but the rest of the GOP field — from Gingrich to Santorum and Cain — comes awfully darn close to matching that biting description.

 ((WSS )) What campaign activities have you taken part in and where do you base the campaign?

Richardson: I've mostly just done newspaper and television interviews up to this point. I enjoy doing them, but television interviews are probably the toughest. Can you imagine what would have happened to civilization if Aristotle and Plato had to speak in sound bites?
In any case, I do plan to campaign actively in New Hampshire shortly after Christmas and plan to make a major effort in Pennsylvania — my old stomping ground — next spring as part of a major effort of sorts in the tri-state area. We hope to petition our way onto the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware primary ballots and to pay a filing fee in nearby West Virginia. I'm also willing to campaign in other primary and caucus states where we're organized.
Believe it or not, we actually have a functioning campaign headquarters on St. Johns Bluff Rd. in Jacksonville, about twenty-three miles from my home. We share the office with a couple of local businesses.
Our low-key campaign is progressing nicely. We recently named Frances "Dolly" Simplot — a Hillary Clinton supporter and longtime Democratic activist from Bellingham, Washington — as my honorary campaign chairperson. Dolly is in her mid-seventies, but has more energy than somebody half her age. She's amazing. Like millions of other lifelong Democrats, she's deeply disappointed in the Obama Presidency. Then again, she is a Democrat.

 ((WSS )) Have you or do you plan to file with the FEC?

Richardson: We've already raised a few thousand dollars and plan to file with the FEC shortly.

 ((WSS )) Would you consider running as a third party or Independent candidate?

Richardson: I have no plans to do so, but I've learned in life never to entirely rule out anything.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.