PAULIE CANNOLI: I’ll cut right to the chase. You’re giving this interview to announce your support for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. Why?
STEVE KUBBY: Well, let me get the endorsement in first! I support Ron Paul for the GOP’s presidential nomination, and for the presidency. I’m asking my fellow freedom activists to do so as well. If Dr. Paul wins the Republican presidential nomination, I’ll withdraw my candidacy for the LP’s nomination, ask the LP to nominate “None of the Above” at its national convention next year, and go to work as a volunteer on Dr. Paul’s general election campaign. And I’m urging my fellow Libertarians to approach this in the same way. But at the same time, I’ll continue preparing to give the LP the best presidential campaign I can give it if that doesn’t work out.
Now … why? Believe me, this was a tough decision. I am not, and have never been, a Republican. For me, the Libertarian Party has always been, and remains, our last best hope for achieving freedom through the American political process. And until recently my position was that the Libertarian Party needed to stick to its own guns, stake out its own territory. But sometimes a special situation comes along. And this is a VERY special situation.
PC: What makes it special. Or rather, what makes it more special now than it was a week ago or a month ago?
SK: I declared my candidacy for the LP’s nomination last August. Ron Paul declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination in March. According to the 2nd quarter FEC reports that came out this week, he’s raised more money each and every day since then than I have over the entire course of my campaign.
Also, in the last couple of days, there’s been an interesting move in the establishment Republican blogosphere. All of a sudden Ron Paul’s opponents are predicting that he’ll come in second in next month’s Iowa Straw Poll. They’re predicting that because they’re afraid of it … but they wouldn’t be afraid of it if they didn’t think it was likely.
And last week, Libertarian Lists released the results of a poll they did. The poll’s methodology isn’t perfect, but it looks reasonably honest and representative. That poll says that 70% of LP members support Ron Paul, and that the “front runners” in the LP race — George Phillies, myself, and Wayne Allyn Root — are only pulling 2% to 3% each.
PC: So the odds are stacked against you in a big way?
SK: Well, yes, but that’s not the point.
Look … I don’t mind long odds, okay? When I was working to get Proposition 215 passed in California, I couldn’t even count the number of people — including a lot of long-time friends and some very hardcore libertarians — threw the “long odds” argument at me. This will never happen. If we even suggest it, we look crazy. Let’s put a different foot forward. Let’s run away from medical marijuana and find something that doesn’t put people off.
I’m glad I ignored that talk. I’m glad that Proposition 215 passed and that twelve other states have since adopted essentially the same law. We took a real long shot and turned into a bunch of high-profile victories for freedom. So screw the odds. You do what you have to do.
PC: If it’s not the odds, then what is it? Why this sudden change from telling Libertarians to stay the LP course?
SK: There are two things to think about here.
The first is that if I could have put together the kind of campaign in the LP that Paul is running in the GOP, I wouldn’t have considered endorsing him. But I couldn’t — and he did. More people are lining up to vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primaries right now than have ever lined up to vote for the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee. And that number is going up, not down. He’s already raised three times as much money for his nomination campaign than Michael Badnarik’s 2004 presidential campaign was able to raise and spend in that general election. He’s already received more media coverage as a GOP presidential candidate than any LP presidential candidate ever managed to get, and far more than all of the current candidates for the LP’s 2008 presidential nomination combined.
Now, if I think that Ron Paul is a reasonably solid libertarian — and despite the fact that we disagree on some big issues, I do — then at some point I have to look at what he’s accomplishing and ask myself whether my priority is being the big fish in the small LP pond, or whether my priority is advancing liberty, and act accordingly.
Secondly, I don’t just bow down to majority opinion, but I do respect the views of my fellow Libertarians — and 70% of them say that Ron Paul’s campaign is their choice for advancing liberty, at least in this part of this election cycle. If I was convinced that those Libertarians were wrong, I’d keep trying to convince them otherwise. But every day, the evidence that they are right gets more overwhelming. This is a no-brainer. If they’re right, I should be working with them. If they’re wrong, then I’m wrong with them … but I’m also the guy who was working with them, not the guy standing off to the side quoting the long odds at them.
PC: You say you disagree with Paul on some big issues. What are they?
SK: Immigration. Equal rights for non-heterosexuals. The importance of addressing climate change in public policy. Those are the big three that come to mind, and to me they are important issues.
When I decided to run for president, one of my goals was to help the Libertarian Party appeal to the “left” while sticking to its principles. If we think of the party as an airplane, it’s not too hard to figure out why it’s been taxiing up and down the runway for 35 years without ever taking off — it’s only got a “right” wing! I don’t think we’ll get anywhere as a party until we get a lot better at pulling votes and support from the “left” as well, and I think that 2008 is a year when we have incredible opportunities to do so.
Ron Paul is a “right-wing” libertarian, and that’s one of the reasons I kept on plugging for so long after he announced. To the extent that his campaign is successful, it’s going to overshadow the libertarian movement’s “left” outreach in many ways. On the other hand, he’s picking up a lot of “left” support for his opposition to the war on Iraq. We’re just going to need to find ways external to his campaign to get them to stick with us. Believe me, I’ve been thinking about how to do that. A lot.
I disagree with Paul on some major issues. But as one of my friends likes to tell me, “stick two libertarians in a room with an issue, and they’ll come out with three mutually exclusive opinions on it.” If I never supported or worked with anyone I had disagreements with, I’d be a hermit. When it’s all said and done, Ron Paul is working hard to change the focus of America’s political debate, and he’s doing a far better job of it than I or any of the other Libertarian Party candidates are. And when it comes to freedom, I’d rather follow success than lead failure.
PC: So … does this mean your own campaign is over?
SK: Absolutely not. I’m still running for president. My campaign’s first television commercial will debut shortly. I’m continuing to debate my opponents, attend public events as a candidate, and appear on talk radio to make my case. There are important things that need to be said, and I’m saying them. Dr. Paul and I disagree on some issues that I want to skyline, and I firmly believe that I’m the best candidate to represent the party next November. But when 70% of your own party believes so strongly in a candidate that they’re willing to cross party lines to support him at least until he’s out of the running, you owe it to them to back their play.
When the television commercial is finished, we’ll be releasing it on YouTube and through other Internet channels. We’ll be raising money to air it on broadcast and cable television. I’m hoping to get back “on the road” shortly and start attending LP events. I’m also talking with an “Internet radio” outfit about doing a weekly talk show — I just wrapped up a series of 20 weekly podcasts, and I want to get more interactive, change this thing from a lecture to a discussion.
The big difference this endorsement makes is that when people ask me about Ron Paul, I’m not going to ask them to support me instead of Paul — I’m going to tell them that they should support both of us. If Paul can pull this off, great. I’ll be his biggest cheerleader while he’s trying and if he succeeds I’ll shut down my own campaign and support his to the hilt, in and out of the Libertarian Party. But I’ll also continue preparing myself to carry the LP’s banner into the general election if the Republican Party unwisely chooses someone other than Dr. Paul to represent it.
PC: At least one of your capaign staffers has publicly opposed Paul’s campaign in very strident terms. Will there be a staff shakeup?
SK: You’re talking about Tom Knapp, my communications director. I don’t agree with his take on Ron Paul, and he knows that. Part of our agreement for having him on the campaign staff was that he’d remain his own man when he’s not officially speaking for me. I thought that was an acceptable deal and I still do. I hope he’ll come around concerning Dr. Paul, and I’ll keep talking with him about that, but if he leaves the campaign it will be of his own accord. Unless he claims to be speaking for me, he’s only speaking for himself.