Wikinews interviews Jim Hedges, U.S. Prohibition Party presidential candidate

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Public domain image of Jim Hedges from the Partisan Prohibition Historical Society website

U.S. Prohibition Party presidential candidate Jim Hedges of Thompson Township, Pennsylvania took some time to answer a few questions about the Prohibition Party and his 2012 presidential campaign.

The Prohibition Party is the third oldest existing political party in the United States, having been established in 1869. It reached its height of popularity during the late 19th century. The party heavily supported the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which banned the sale of alcohol, and resulted in the US period known as Prohibition (1919–33). It was repealed in 1933. The party has declined since this period, but has continued to nominate candidates for the presidential election.

In 2003, the party split into two factions. Preacher Gene Amondson and perennial candidate Earl Dodge were nominated for the presidency by their respective factions. After Dodge's death in 2007, the party reunified and named Amondson as its sole presidential nominee for 2008. During the election, Amondson was interviewed by Wikinews. He died in 2009, leaving an opening in the party for 2012.

Jim Hedges is a longtime Prohibition activist, who holds the distinction of the first individual of the 21st century (and the first since 1959) to be elected to a political office under the Prohibition Party banner. In 2001, he was elected as the Thompson Township tax assessor, and was re-elected to the post in 2005. He served until his term expired in 2010. Hedges declared his intent to run for the Prohibition Party presidential nomination on February 18, 2010. This marks his first run for the presidency.


 ((William Saturn )) When and why did you decide to join the Prohibition Party?

 ((Jim Hedges )) I have identified with the Prohibition Party since being in high school, in the 1950s. Being "a member" is trickier to specify, as I’ve sometimes registered to vote in other parties for temporary pragmatic reasons (or have not been registered, at all). I could not be active in the Party until after I retired from the military, in 1980.

Why? Well, I liked, and still like, the Prohibition platform better than I do the platform of any other political group. Partly, this is because of the anti-alcohol plank, but more generally because it seems more principled and more reasonable.

 ((WS )) You are the first (and only) member of the Prohibition Party to be elected to any office in the 21st century. How were you able to accomplish such a feat?

 ((JH )) I ran for an insignificant local office which no one else wanted. Minor party people are always complaining that they can’t get elected – they can, if they start at the beginning instead of aiming at impossible goals.

 ((WS )) According to the New York Times, you were heavily involved in the 2004 split of the party that centered around five-time presidential nominee Earl Dodge. What exactly caused the split, and has the party since healed?

 ((JH )) To answer the last part first: It has largely healed. A few months after Dodge died, his hand-picked vice-chairman also died. The man who was third in line refused to carry on. That man, and the Dodge relatives, then dropped out completely; the other folks mostly are now working with the regular organization.

The split was caused by dissatisfaction with Dodge’s management. Dodge was a somewhat paranoid person who trusted no one to help him. For example, he made one of his daughters "treasurer" of the Prohibition National Committee, but he did not allow her access to the bank account. He was the only "signer" listed on the check card. Another example: He used money from a bequest to purchase a small office condominium, then without telling even his vice-chairman, he mortgaged the condo, cashed it out, and after a time lost it (because the mortgage was not being paid); the vice-chairman discovered all this only after Dodge died. Dodge could sell the office condo undetected, because he held it in the name of a shell corporation controlled by himself and the said daughter.

 ((WS )) The late Gene Amondson, the 2004 & 2008 presidential nominee of the Prohibition Party was the national face of the party for a number of years. How well did you know Mr. Amondson, and what is the current state of the party with his absence?

 ((JH )) I met Amondson at a couple of conventions; otherwise, I knew him only from correspondence and from telephone calls.

Amondson was a congenial person, warm and approachable. He was recommended to us by one of our supporters. He had an act, a re-creation of Rev. Billy Sunday’s sermon on booze, which he performed at conservative churches and other sympathetic venues. We hoped that his name recognition and the audience appeal of his act would enhance the Party’s appeal.

As it turned out, he had a handicap, analogous to dyslexia, which prevented him from stringing words together into fluent sentences. His act was great. His public speaking and his writing were, um, unremarkable.

We miss his ability to attract attention to us.

 ((WS )) Mr. Amondson stated that "Prohibition was America's greatest 13 years" and that he would "rather have 100 Al Capones in every city than alcohol sold in every grocery store". Do you agree with these comments, and additionally, do you second his projection that "Prohibition will come again for the fourth time"?

 ((JH )) I expect that national prohibition will come again "someday," because nothing we've tried since then has worked as well in reducing per-capita consumption of alcoholic beverages and the related social problems.

The rest of that is campaign hyperbole.

 ((WS )) Why did you choose to run for president and what are your qualifications?

 ((JH )) It’s partly a "finger-in-the-dike" tactic, because I see no one else in the organization who has the free time and the personal background needed to mount a plausible campaign. Partly, also, it’s the realization that, at age 72, if I’m ever going to do it, I’d better get on with doing it now.

Many times in the past, the Prohibition Party has recruited presidential candidates from outside its own ranks. The same may happen again this year. If not, I see myself as being the most broadly educated and widely experienced person within the core group of the Party.

I have a BA in musical performance (Iowa, 1960) and served 20 years in one of our nation’s most elite military units, The United States Marine Band.

I have a family-farm background, plus 20 years of life in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. I understand both rural and urban communities.

I have an MA in Geography (Maryland, 1972), have published research in refereed journals both here and abroad, and for 11 years edited a journal.

I have done volunteer work with and served as an officer of community organizations ranging from The Salvation Army to friends of the library to recycling programs to historical and literary clubs.

I have done newspaper reporting, primarily on local government.

 ((WS )) Who are some of your opponents for the nomination and why do you believe you are a better choice for the party?

 ((JH )) To my knowledge, no one else has yet expressed an interest in the Prohibition Party nomination.

 ((WS )) When and where will the party hold their convention, and how will a nominee be decided upon?

 ((JH )) Cullman, Alabama, in June. See the National Committee's website for details.

A vote of the credentialed delegates will determine who is the candidate.

 ((WS )) Do you agree with the decision to allow prominent Libertarian Stephen P. Gordon to speak at the convention, despite his support for the sale of alcohol?

 ((JH )) Yes. First of all, the Prohibition Party and the Libertarian Party share some common interests, such as small government, balanced budgets, and personal freedoms. Secondly, we should all take time to listen to those who disagree with us, in order to sharpen our debating skills. Thirdly, we shouldn’t be complacent, because... we might actually be wrong!

 ((WS )) According to the Ballot Access News, the Prohibition Party has qualified for the ballot in only Florida. What will you do to gain ballot access in other states?

 ((JH )) Most likely, we will be able to meet the ballot requirements in only 2 or 3 states in addition to Florida (which has among the most lenient ballot access regulations today). Colorado is a likely one, as are Mississippi and Louisiana.

For small parties, the states where they run has very little to do with where they have the most support and very much to do with which states have the easiest regulations.

 ((WS )) What issues or policy stances form the basis of your campaign?

 ((JH )) Inasmuch as beverage alcohol is our signature issue, I anticipate spending most of my time talking about the alcohol connection with various social problems: public safety, public health, taxes, homelessness, spouse abuse, child welfare, military preparedness, industrial efficiency, product quality, and so forth.

The platform most likely will address a lot of other things, but, let’s face it: The Prohibition Party today is an exercise in living history. We’re like the weekend warriors who put on costumes and re-enact the Civil War. The South is not going to rise again. Neither is national prohibition going to come back (not, at least, in our lifetimes). But in both cases, we think there are important historical lessons which ought not be forgotten. And so, we soldier on against all odds.

Unless we stay on the message (of alcohol), our living history lesson will be lost.

 ((WS )) Have you received any notable endorsements thus far?

 ((JH )) No. Neither have I sought any.

 ((WS )) According to Weekend America, Vice-Presidential nominee Leroy Pletten was incapacitated following a stroke during the 2008 campaign. Have you chosen a running mate, and if not, will health be a factor in the decision?

 ((JH )) The Public Radio announcement appears to be a case of mistaken identity. I have checked with Pletten, and no such thing happened.

I’ve been asking around. I know who I’d like to have, but it’s still under discussion.

Health should enter into it. We don’t need another Reagan!

 ((WS )) How often do you campaign, and how might that change should you win the nomination?

 ((JH )) Very little campaigning, at this point. I sent out a series of monthly postcards last year, presenting myself to the people on the Party mailing list. There is also a (very rudimentary) campaign website – I’m in touch with the people who will make the decision, at the Convention this coming June.

If I should receive the nomination, the website will have to be improved, and there will have to be press releases and some personal visits to states where we get on the ballot. I’ll have to obtain advice on making more effective use of the internet.

 ((WS )) Describe a typical day for Jim Hedges. How do you spend your time?

 ((JH )) Before going to sleep each evening, I map out the following day in my mind. Then, in the morning, I roll out (not too early), tend to personal care and a hearty breakfast, go to the other house (when my wife and I were married, 20 years ago, we each had a paid-for house, and it was convenient to keep both of them) and tend to the pets. The rest of the morning is spent dealing with paper mail and other clerical work. In warm weather, afternoons are devoted to yard work and to gardening; in cold weather, I do household maintenance chores, work in the shop, work on the wood pile. After supper, if there is not a rehearsal or a concert to go to, I practice half an hour on my tuba, then look at the internet or read.

Every day is different, but that’s the basic schedule.

 ((WS )) What is your main source for political news?

 ((JH )) Three weekly newsmagazines: The Economist, The Nation, and Science.

 ((WS )) What is your biggest political concern at the moment?

 ((JH )) In the next 10 years, eliminating governmental deficits, primarily in the United States and in Europe. In the next 100 years, dealing with the social and economic consequences of the rise in sea level due to climatic warming.

 ((WS )) How would you assess the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama?

 ((JH )) Bush the Younger was unquestionably the most damaging president since FDR, perhaps the most damaging of all time: His "Patriot Act" and other security measures trashed the Constitution, our Constitution. His deficits have never been equaled. His foreign military adventures are the longest wars ever fought by our country.

Obama was dealt a miserable hand, but even so, I’m becoming disappointed. We still have Bush‘s deficit spending. We still have Bush’s wars. We still have Bush’s failure to secure the border with Mexico. We still have Bush’s exporting American jobs overseas. What is there to like?

Obama did end Bush’s "global gag rule," which attempted to prevent family planning agencies all over the world from even discussing abortion. And he did make a stab at improving medical care.

 ((WS )) What are your thoughts on Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Movement?

 ((JH )) Palin was given a job for four years by the voters of Alaska. When she got bored with it, she handed the office key to her lieutenant governor and walked away. That’s not responsible behavior.

The Tea Party folks are on the right track in trying to get the federal budget deficit under control. I fear, though, that they lack the patience and flexibility to do the job gracefully. And, they’re too easily distracted by unrelated issues.

 ((WS )) What is your take on the the health care bill?

 ((JH )) Obamacare is a step in the right direction, but it leaves intact the private insurance industry, which is a major source of waste. We need a public health service, like the one in England.

 ((WS )) What are some of your foreign policy views?

 ((JH )) America first! Our unqualified support for Israel is doing us a great deal of damage elsewhere in the world. We need to stop all aid, both civilian and military, to Israel until Israel abides by the Oslo Accords.

We need to stop being the world’s bully and, instead, lead by example: ratify Kyoto, ratify CEDAW, rein in the international corporations.

 ((WS )) What historical or contemporary figures do you identify with?

 ((JH )) You know, I think it would be appropriate to name Jimmy Carter. I didn’t always agree with what he did, but I could sympathize with why he did it. To the extent that any president can be, he was an honest, well-meaning person.

Look at the things he has done since leaving the White House, then look at the things other presidents have done after their terms ended. Carter has continued to serve the American people, and the world, while the others have hie’d themselves to their clubs and estates, to their lecture circuits and their corporate boards.

Yes, I would like to be a person such as Jimmy Carter.


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