Below is Part 3 of an interview, provided exclusively for ATPR, with Nicholas Hensley, the National Secretary of the Reform Party National Committee. Part 1 of the interview was published on July 7th, 2016 and can be read here. Part 2 was published on July 11th, 2016. This is the final part of the interview:
Question: What is your personal stance on social issues?
Answer: Just so we are clear, I am speaking personally and not for the party. My social views are my own, and not indicative of all Reform Party members, or the organizations beliefs. The only reason that I am answering this question to a great length, is to combat the idea that the Reform Party is a socially conservative party.
I come from a conservative background, but got more liberal as my years progressed. Had I been asked about this ten years ago, I would have given a completely different set of answers. My social beliefs are moderately libertarian, and based off my views of the role of the state versus the role of an individual.
Government’s role is to create peace and stability, not regulate morality. My view of the state being “live and let live”.
I believe that the freedoms of speech and vote are the most important rights. The ability to speak your mind, give an opinion and protest status quo, through vote and voice, is the foundation of a healthy republic. Those rights allows us to create dialogue about issues, create compromise and progress as a nation through elections and civil dialogue .
My personal value is that I am pro-life. I would go to great lengths to keep a child with a part of my genetic code from being aborted, but I do not believe that government should be put in charge of that issue. The government is not a doctor, and should not legislate as if it is, thus government should not regulate uteruses, birth control or anything of that caliber.
Even though I am a heterosexual male, I believe that if marriage is to be regulated by the state – and furthermore have benefits attached to it, then those benefits should be available to all people regardless of their sexual orientation.
I am pro-gun. I believe however that we should have mandatory background checks for all gun purchases, and common sense gun regulation. I would not regulate rifles, shotguns or hand guns. I do not however believe that military grade heavy weapons belong in the hands of civilians. I do not believe it necessary to overthrow the state, because the founding fathers gave us the ability to change our government with the ballot box.
I understand the necessity of regulating illicit drugs, as their effect on a population can be well documented. With that said, even though I would not legalize cocaine, heroin or any “hard drugs”, there is merit to legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana. Some of my fellow party members rather vocally disagree with me on that point. I believe that legalization would help patients, create jobs, fill government coffers, and help the economy in numerous ways.
Q: What do you think of the Black Lives Matter Movement?
A: What you’re expecting me to do, is throw out some talking points and choose a side. I am not, and have never been, the kind of politico that get people riled up, or purposefully feed the cycle of anger. My opinion on this issue is that we all bleed red. If we are not careful, we will learn that the hard way as violence escalates.
There’s about 320 million Americans living across the country that must learn how to coexist together in a peaceful society. Blaming one group and praising the other isn’t the answer, because that just reinforces battle lines, and creates more reasons for discontent. Instead of escalating the situation further, we need to have a civilized, adult discussion about the underlying issues and find solutions.
Stereotyping is not going to help us here.
In the history of civil bureaucracy, there have always been people that hid behind their authority and privileges for protection while abusing their positions for personal gain. That authority might be the Presidency, a Congressional seat, a governorship, a judgeship, a uniform or a badge. Corruption can taint government from the highest legislative halls to the lowest precinct vote counters. The Reform Party has always stood up to that kind of corruption at every level. More than 97 percent of civil servants are good people though, that do their best to help others. We cannot allow the few people that abuse their authority to overshadow all institutions, and all public servants. Painting all government workers in general terms will not help the situation.
In the history of impoverished and working class communities, of all ethnicities, there have always been those that have broken the law as a means for enrichment, however most working people work within the system. Most working class people find ways to provide for themselves and their families through meaningful work, live in accordance to the laws, and benefit their communities through perseverance. Painting these communities and their inhabitance in general terms based off of the actions a few bad actors only breeds anger, and divides our society even further.
Q: That was a sensible answer. Why can’t more people think that way?
A: In politics it is easier to sell an “us” versus “them” narrative, so they play demographics against each other. Once people start understanding that, and work to move past it, we will see meaningful change.
Q: Do you believe that the “us” versus “them” narrative has created polarization in the country?
A: Yes. When people start to appeal to the worst in people and advocate for violence and obstructionism, it gives the worst parts humanity room to root itself into the political environment. The end result is an infinite cycle of political warfare between sides, with so much distrust and disdain for each other, that they cannot meet in the middle ground to compromise. The sides drift farther and farther apart, until another force comes in to fill that gap in the middle ground. The Reform Party wishes to be the force that fills that gap.
Q: What is your opinion of other third parties?
A: I try not to bad mouth other third parties. The Reform Party functions best when it is fighting a two front struggle against the Democrats and Republicans. Many of the things that other third parties do, do not affect us, so there’s no use creating new battle lines for no reasons. The last thing we need to do is name names, and open up a third, fourth, fifth, and/or sixth front.
I will however speak in general terms about how other third parties have generally become stagnant, or failed and how the Reform Party deals with those issues.
There are numerous small parties founded by a single person, or a tiny group. Those parties struggle, gain no ground, and die without anyone ever hearing of them. The Reform Party has never had that problem. At one point in time, the Reform Party was the third largest party in terms of popular vote.
There are numerous third parties that are flash in the pan parties. They form, get a bit of media attention and then die for whatever reason. Some of those parties never quit, and survive long after they should have folded. Many people claim the Reform Party is that kind of party, but I disagree, and can name much better examples. The Reform Party still receives attention, and still, at times, plays a role in local or regional politics.
There are other parties that do well, but have not created a large enough tent. These are niche parties with few followers, that may be vocal, yet have too few resources and too little manpower to create true change. The Reform Party castes a wide net, which has the potential of capturing a large number of centre-right and centre-left voters.
Then there is the last type of minor party to compare and contrast us to. Those are the third parties that have some resources, some manpower and enough influence to have some impact in the political arena. The problem with these parties however is that they sellout, and begin to act like the establishment, thus losing the principles they were built on. In doing so, they lose the members that built them. The Reform Party has never betrayed its principles, except for the one time we were taken over by the far-right. We have modified our proposals to adhere to both our founding principles and the twenty years of change since they were first written, but at their root, they are still within the same spirit the Reform Party founders envisioned.
Q. The Reform Party has been the poster child for political infighting, especially amongst third parties. Has that been resolved?
A: We have had no problem is the seven years after the McKay vs. Crews Ruling. We have gone from an organization that was in a state of civil war to an organization that has civil discussions. Most of this has come from the demise of John Blare and his lackeys, which liked to cause trouble.
Q: What is McKay versus Crews ruling?
A: The McKay v Crews ruling was about the time I joined the party. I was only privy to the final days of the fiasco. As a rank and file organizer, I was not involved at the same depths as some. This is the truth as I know it, and I know Beverly Kennedy is going to lecture me after I get this partly wrong.
In a nutshell, to the best of my ability:
Shortly after the Ralph Nader candidacy on the Reform ticket, a group of renegade Reform Party leaders splintered off, held a rival convention, and declared themselves to be the legitimate Reform Party Executive Committee. They teamed up with the Independence Party of New York, which was attempting to use the Reform Party to gain the national spotlight, and further itself. The Independent Party is chaired by Frank McKay.
This led to a multiyear legal battle over the leadership of the Reform Party between the Blare faction and the Collison faction. It cultivated with the standing of both sides rejected by the courts due to violations of the bylaws, and the Reform Party was put into receivership. Allison Crews was placed as the receiver and a convention was organized to hold a proper election. John Blare, and many of his faction, were not happy with the outcome of the trial, and did not attend the convention. The Collison faction, of which I supported, was victorious in that election.
Blare then filed a lawsuit against the court receiver and the legally elected officers. That lawsuit was McKay v Crews. The judge ruled in favor of the Collison faction in a summary judgment. That ruling was the end of this saga, and brought stability back to the Reform Party. John Blare and some other rift raft still claim to be the legitimate Reform Party, but they will never be recognized as such by any judiciary or sensible organization.
A: What do you think about Hillary Clinton’s emails and Benghazi?
Q: This is a question that is going to start a line of questions about so-called controversies that both the Democrats and Republicans use to go after each other. I am not an alchemist that specializes in taking manufactured bullshit and spinning it into gold. I do not wish to comment on falsehoods the two parties use to create polarized partisanship, because that does nothing for the political discussion in this nation. We need to stop this negative mentality of burning everything down we don’t agreement with, and start the practice of building up positive things that lay down the foundations of progress for our nation.
Q: So if you don’t think this “manufactured bullshit” is important, what national issues do you think are important?
A: Where do I start? I’ve already talked about ethics and government reform..Hmm…Let’s start on the education system, and work our way towards everything else.
Any child in this nation should be able to attend any school, and get a world class primary education. Our educational levels have been slipping for decades compared to those in Europe. Common Core had a good foundation in regards to the idea of bringing every school to a level that delivers uniformed educations to all students. It failed in regards to deliverance, because it relies too heavily on standardized testing. No Student Left Behind compounds the conundrum by penalizing and takes money away from the schools that need it most.
Instead of using the federal Department of Education to dictate policy to local school boards, it should be reutilized in a supportive role. It should lend aide and help failing school districts, and find ways to focus on brining those districts up to higher standards.
Infrastructure is a big deal. Periodically a group of civil engineers gives American infrastructure a report card. Whenever we do this, we score poorly – especially when compared to our Western counterparts. We see a lot of infrastructure problems in the news, everything from collapsed bridges to undrinkable tap water in Flint. We could create thousands of jobs, and create demand for manufactured goods by rebuilding America’s infrastructure. People will scream “How do we pay for it! How do we pay for it!”. Paying for it is simple, we cut Wall Street subsidies and payouts, and use that money create Main Street jobs while rebuilding America.
Trade with China. Our trade imbalance with China is massive, and it’s only getting worse. One thing I will point out is how China is dumping steel into US Markets. Another is how you can order a .77 cent trinket on Ebay from China, and they can ship it free of charge to your doorstep. The Chinese have excelled at dumping goods into the American market so well, that they have cut out American middlemen like Wal-Mart.
Trade with South and Central America is also something we should look at. Before the Central America Free Trade Agreement, the United States had a trade surplus in Central and South America, and now we have a growing deficit with both regions.
The tax system has to be reworked. We have a tax system that lawyers and specialists have a hard time understanding. We need to cut out the loopholes, create uniform tax rates, and even the playing field for the middle class and small businesses. We are giving to many special interest tax cuts paid for by taxing the middle class. Even Billionaires like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are saying their tax rates are unfair for the middle class.