August 13, 2016, McSwiggans Pub, Hoboken, New Jersey
Hoboken, New Jersey is a great drinking town.
Though its eastern-most reaches face The City via piers and an Esplanade that hangs over the Hudson River, there is an insular quality to Hoboken (which reflects the insular mindset of a serious drinker).
When they exit Route 3 and 495 to enter Hoboken, drivers are faced with tight and narrow residential streets. These are the best streets of Hoboken; tree-lined and cozy with infinite alcoves for those lubricated with liquid love to run their hands over each other. Storefronts, restaurants, pubs and brownstone walkups are the norm for Hoboken.
The only hassle is, if you don’t display a permit in a window, it’s fine-city. Hoboken is a great drinking town; it’s not a great parking town, but that’s a small price to pay. Hoboken is the location of Stevens Institute of Technology, Dan Delaney’s alma mater. It’s also the location of the first recorded game of baseball (though other towns lay claim to that factoid), as well as the Chairman of the Board.
One could say that drinking is necessary to Dan Delaney’s pitch to his would-be constituents. Realizing that approaching PATH commuters to sign his petition to get on the 8th’s ballot was ineffectual, Dan began approaching Hoboken’s pub crawlers for their signatures. After he got on the ballot, Dan continued to speak with patrons at various drinking establishments.
This is grass roots campaigning at its finest.
“Please join us in support of Dan Delaney’s Campaign for Congress. Dan is running on the Libertarian ticket for Congress in New Jersey’s 8th District.
AND we’re also sending off Dara (Campaign Manager), to Rhode Island… for the 2nd time,” their website reads.
Dan says Dara LoBuono was instrumental in helping him develop his approach to constituents, called the “elevator pitch, where you have 90 seconds to get your point across.”
She got involved because, “I was always interested in politics and policy. And I saw the flaws of the two-party system.”
Dara will try to continue as Dan’s campaign manager remotely, while she’s working on her PhD in Nutrition. She already earned her master’s degree, and wants to “teach and conduct research.”
“She had fresh ideas and helped get the signatures I needed to get on the ballot,” Dan says.
It’s not been an easy campaign. Dara says, “It appears the existing influential people in Hudson County have close ties with the incumbent.”
Dan is not a strident person, but he’s smart and articulate and doesn’t hem and haw when I ask a question, even one that I think is tough.
Dan supports the Penny Plan, and adds, “I’d love to get government out of public education. And you cannot deny government debt is out of control.”
Public education is one of those issues in America that is affected by the incestuous relationship between federal, state and local governments. Dan believes how education is funded is wrong; he advocates a voucher system, where parents have a say over which school their kids attend, and that parents, and parents alone, are responsible for paying for their child’s education. Currently, the lion’s share of public education is paid for by homeowners’ property taxes. That doesn’t sit well with Dan.
“Older and childless homeowners are being taxed for something they’ll never see a return on,” he says.
This is one of the reasons I enjoy speaking with Dan. He’s running for a national office, but he wants to discuss issues important to him that he most likely could not influence, since they are state issues. New Jersey has particularly tough gun laws, and our state’s public teachers’ unions and responsibility for funding their pensions, was a highly publicized topic which our governor and former GOP presidential candidate (now, Trump hack) loomed large over (pun very much intended).
And it is his personality that is attractive.
I believe a candidate should be allowed to raise funds in any non-coercive way he chooses (critics of Citizens United are ignorant), but Dan’s borderline sheepishness when it comes to fundraising is very refreshing. He’s not a wallflower, but he doesn’t get in the faces of those who attended his events at Pilsener’s and McSwiggans and insist that they must pony up for the privilege of being in his presence. At Pilsener’s, he passed a hat, literally, around, and at McSwiggans, one of those coffee cans with a slot cut in the rubber lid, the kind door to door Boys Scout urchins shake in your face (disclosure: I shoved a Jackson into his cup at McSwiggans).
I ask him what kind of amounts he’s received from his online solicitations for funds. “A couple hundred,” he says.
“Do you like campaigning?” I ask.
Dan sings a refrain familiar with the majority of libertarians: raising awareness. “The greater goal is to keep making political posts.”
The problem, I feel, with this approach is that Dan is admitting to being cannon fodder. That someone behind him will come up to enjoy the space he sacrificed himself for.
“I’ve had a lot of beliefs but not had a place to articulate them,” he says. “The greater goal is to keep making political posts.”
Last time we talked, Dan said the first bill he’d introduce in Congress would be term limits, and assures me today that if elected, he’d term limit himself regardless of whether his favored legislation passes or not. “I’m not there for myself,” he says. “I’m there for my district.”
When we had met at Pilsener Haus & Biergarten, the Copa America was still being played; on June 7, the date of his celebration for gaining ballot access, America trounced Costa Rica 4-0. “I wish we went further,” Dan says. “And I was surprised Brazil crapped out. I lost $100 on Brazil, and another on Ireland.” He smiles and adds, “I won it back on blackjack, so it’s all good.”
Dan won his losses back in Las Vegas, and tells a familiar story about the failure of government regarding his flight to Sin City.
“I had a bottle with me that got through TSA inspection,” Dan says, and then comments on another related issue important to him: concealed carry.
“It’s meant to protect property and to stop mass shootings, but the terror watch-list is in shambles. Getting on is too easy, and getting off is impossible, and so those who shouldn’t be on can’t get a gun permit.”
I ask Dan about one of the Founding Fathers’ rationale for the right to bear arms, from that quote attributable to Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
“I support a more realistic use of the application of the Second Amendment,” Dan clarifies.
The TVs on the wall of McSwiggans were playing events from the Rio Olympics. I ask Dan and Dara what they think about the Russian team’s steroids scandal, a topic the writers of Being Libertarian had previously debated here.
Dara says “Being a dietician, I think athletes might try it because they do not know enough of the research of PEDs, the pros and cons. Being in the moment, they might be too tempted to help them get from point A to point B, but how will it affect them 40 years from now?”
Dan agrees with Dara: “The classic libertarian position is it’s your body: do what you want; but it’s important to know the pros and cons so they can make an educated decision. Government shouldn’t decide if PEDs are illegal, it should be left up to private organizations to allow them to be used.”
Dan is realistic about his chances. “Sires routinely gets 78% of the vote,” he says. “It’s expected. I want to do this every two years. A good goal for me is to beat the Republican in the race.” Dan lets me in on a bit of his campaign’s strategy: “One of the things we want to do is hook up with Khan and challenge Sires to a debate. If we challenge him and he doesn’t show, that’ll make news.”
Dan is also realistic about Gary Johnson’s election chances. “I doubt it’ll happen,” he admits, then adds an important threshold is if Johnson can get 5% of the vote, which gives a third party candidate access to public funding and a better chance of having universal ballot access in the next election cycle.
Most of the residents of the 8th Congressional District are Democrats, but “I’ve heard lots of people say ‘It’s a good time to be a libertarian,’” Dan says.