Rapper Kanye West said that he will run for president of the United States in 2020, but if a Libertarian candidate with local ties has his way, the popular rapper will appear on a ticket this election season in the vice presidential slot.
Though the headline “Kanye West be my running mate” is catchy, underneath the flash is a well-reasoned argument from Dr. Marc Allan Feldman about why his policy positions make him a candidate worthy to run as the Libertarian’s entry into the already crowded 2016 presidential race.
For starters, he is strongly against what he considers the corrupting power of money in politics. It’s why Feldman, 56, has declared the title of his campaign is “Votes not for Sale.” The maximum amount of money Feldman will accept from an individual is $5.
“I feel very strongly that no matter what candidates say, they primarily represent the people who pay their campaign bill,” said Feldman by phone from Cleveland, where he lives. “Basically, if I were to get one or two million donations of $5, that would pay for a significant campaign.”
He said, “It’s not a limit to the total cost of my campaign; it’s a limit on the influence of the wealthiest donors and promotes the interests of those who have the least amount to spend.”
He noted that fellow Jewish presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has done well with the support of small donations. As of the recent interview, Feldman estimates he has raised $1,000 from 200 donors.
The Kanye West gambit, he said, is “not a publicity stunt because one, I’m not getting any publicity” – the rapper hasn’t reached out to him – “and two, it’s not a stunt,” Feldman says.
“There are 100 million nonvoters in America. They are about 30 percent Hispanic, a lot of black and minority, they’re discriminated against, poor,” Feldman said. “I’m not part of their community; I can’t speak to their community, so how can I reach these people? Who is someone they trust and understand?”
“Kanye West is trying to get across the same message [as I am]. He’s not someone who is going to be sucked into the Democrat or Republican parties either,” said Feldman.
Libertarians generally are for small government and personal liberty, and Feldman is no different.
“The government would shrink dependent on the decision of the taxpayers,” said Feldman. “If people are happy with the government, they can send all their money to the IRS and the government will stay the same.
“In the Libertarian Party, we have people who are anarchistic, want no government; others who are min-archistic, government should be smaller; I call myself agn-archistic because I don’t know what the right size is,” said Feldman.
(It’s largely the same response Bob Johnston, chairman of Maryland’s Libertarian Party gives when asked how small the government should be and how bureaucracy would change.)
Libertarians, like former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), are often accused of being isolationist. And it’s true, Johnston confirms, that libertarians are for “non-interventionist foreign policy.”
“We believe that our constant involvement in other countries has resulted in the blowback that has made the situation [in the Middle East] what it is today,” added Johnston.
‘Unusual view on Israel’
For an observant Jew who participates in daily study and sent his four boys to Jewish day schools, having a non-interventionist point of view, particularly when it comes to Israel, could raise eyebrows in the Orthodox synagogues Feldman frequents near the home he shares with his wife, Anne.
“I have an unusual view on Israel in that I’m a big supporter of Israel,” said Feldman. “I have a sister who lives there. I’ve supported [Friends of the Israel Defense Forces]; however, I feel strongly that the amount of foreign aid should be zero and Israel is a good way to start. It does not help Israel, it’s a drain on the economy.”
Feldman has expounded on his views of Israel, Zionism and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (he’s against BDS, calling the movement “an act of war”) in blogs posted to the Times of Israel.
Feldman was born in the District of Columbia, and attended Beth Sholom and the Hebrew Academy when both were located downtown. He remembers having a “fascination” with Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Vietnam, Watergate and other political lightning rods of that era.
Though he knew politicians personally, he was not inspired to join a political party.
He didn’t register to vote until he was 50 years old, and, instead, considered himself an “engaged, educated nonvoter.”
“I was aware there was a Libertarian Party, but I never saw it as an option like Democrats or Republicans,” Feldman said.
Finally, after graduating from medical school at Johns Hopkins, where he trained in anesthesiology, and being recruited to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Feldman joined the voting public.
“It wasn’t so much that I discovered the Libertarian Party as an option, as much as Democrats and Republicans were not an option, nor was staying home,” he explained. At the urging of others in the Ohio Libertarian Party, Feldman ran for attorney general of Ohio in 2010. He didn’t win, not by a long shot, but said he did fairly well for “a guy without a law degree.”
(During his time at Johns Hopkins, Feldman worked with Dr. Ben Carson, who despite a poor finish in Iowa, was still in the presidential race at press time. Of his former colleague, Feldman quipped, “What I usually say about Ben Carson is that he says what he believes. What I don’t like about him is that he believes what he says.”)
Working toward the convention
So why run now?
“The underlying reason I’m running is there is no other candidate I want to support,” said Feldman. “I feel that staying home is not an option anymore.”
Feldman has a lot of work to do between now and the Libertarian Party’s nominating convention in May in Orlando, Fla.
Johnston, who works for the party, explained that 500 to 800 delegates will vote using tokens until a candidate wins the majority of the votes. Delegates are divvied up depending on the number of registered party members in the state. Maryland has 22 delegates.
Like Feldman, Johnston, who lives in Dundalk, became disenchanted with the two-party system, or in his case, the failure of the Republican Revolution of the 1990s. Libertarian emphasis on liberty and personal responsibility are attracting young voters and first-time voters, he said.
Still, it’s “very hard to get elected as a non-establishment candidate,” said Johnston.
“No third-party candidate has been elected in Maryland in 99 years. We run candidates to get [our] issues out on the table,” he said, pointing to Libertarian’s long support of gay marriage and marijuana decriminalization.
There are 12 candidates vying for the Libertarian nomination. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson has the most visibility; at this stage he’s the candidate to beat. But Feldman does not appear afraid of the odds.
Said Feldman, “The one thing I learned from my son who passed away is there should be no fear in life. Fear should not limit what you do.”