Of course, to call him a "politician" is to diminish him. He was a folk hero. He was a perennial statewide candidate, running unsuccessfully for a variety of state offices, something which, for anyone else, would have made him a laughing stock. Instead, it only endeared him the more.
His signature cowboy hat and boots became a familiar sight to those who followed public affairs in Kentucky.
If you talked to the candidates who ran against him or anyone who ever had any dealings with him, the sentiment was the same. Everyone loved Gatewood. Anyone who saw him speak--and he was always the most entertaining speaker on any program--came away saying, "Well, I know he supports legalizing marijuana, but he's smart--and funny."
In fact, someone needs to go around and find out how many people--those you would least expect--secretly voted for Gatewood for Secretary of Agriculture, or Attorney General, or Governor. I'll be the first to step forward.
I did. And I'm proud of it.
Did he have some kooky positions? Sure he did. He was in favor of marijuana legalization, for example. But is that any less kooky than allowing commercials for prescription drugs in a country where prescription drug deaths are legion? He wasn't in favor marijuana legalization for some abstract political reason. He favored it because he saw its advocacy as a strike against the forces of what he called "synthetic subversion," his idea that we have moved from an authentic, agrarian culture to an artificial industrial society. Gatewood Gatewood was a unique amalgam of libertarian and traditionalist, champion of agrarian localism and individual freedom.
Here is an excerpt from his book that gives a taste of the sometimes kooky, but always good humored and largely serious beliefs:
But if you did not know me or what I stand for, and if I only had thirty seconds to get your vote, I would have only one question to ask you.
And if you answer this question one way, I’ve got your vote, no matter what else you think about me.
And if you answer this question the other way, I don’t think you understand the question.
The question is, ‘Did our forefathers’ generation hit the beaches of Normandy and Iwo Jima so that we would have to pee in a cup to hold a job in America?’
The introduction of the police state methods into American culture is fatal to our freedom. The solutions to our problems lie in the words of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln not Mr. Yamamoto or Helmut Schmidt.
And let’s get this straight. I’m not a racist and I’m not xenophobic. I’m a Nationalist.
I’ll trade with other countries, I’ll have lunch with them and I’ll play golf with them. But until they adopt a Constitution and Bill of Rights that gives their own citizens the rights and freedoms we enjoy, they are not our political peers.
If we abandon our principals of individual freedom and dignity, then our liberty and right to self-determination will abandon us. Our standard of living will fall and our jobs will evaporate as our children and grandchildren are thrown open to competition in the workplace with Four Billion other people on the planet, many of whom will work all day for a bowl of rice and a mat to sleep on.
That is not my vision for Kentucky and its citizens. My vision is rooted in the traditions of our Founding Fathers.
As to the size of government, Thomas Jefferson said, ‘The least government is the best government.’
As to the role of government, Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Prohibition strikes at the very heart of the principles on which this country was founded.’
And as far as having to pee in a cup to hold a job, I look to the words of General George Patton. ‘****** you Nazis!’I ran into him at one of former Gov. Brereton Jones' August picnics. I walked up and shook his hand and thanked him. I told him he forever won my gratitude for walking out in front of a float lying down in the road at a Fourth of July parade in Lexington that Mayor and former hippy Pam Miller had redesignated to also honor the United Nations. He was carried away to jail to the delight of the crowd.
One of the things I most admired about him is his willingness to go beyond a strict libertarian view of culture. He didn't champion a sterile, contentless freedom. His politics was a human politics, which is perhaps why, in recent years, he changed his pro-abortion position to a pro-life one on the issue of abortion.
Ask around Kentucky, and you will find that liberals, conservatives, and people of every political stripe had a great affection for this man. It's a shame to see him go.