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Hard-core libertarian strives to banish Democrats from his life

After Obama’s re-election, Eric Dondero opts for big freeze-out

- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2012

Eric Dondero refuses to speak to his brother. Not on Thanksgiving. Not over the holiday season. Not now, not ever.

The reason?

Mr. Dondero's brother, Alex, is a Democrat. As such, Mr. Dondero assumes he voted for President Obama.

"Everybody I know that voted for Obama is dead to me," Mr. Dondero said. "I don't want to talk to them again. I don't want to see them again. I won't even attend their funeral. The nation committed suicide on November 6."

Two weeks after Mr. Obama's electoral victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the mood on the political right remains a disconsolate mix of shock, disappointment and defiance — from state secession petitions garnering tens of thousands of signatures to an Arizona gun store owner taking out a full-page newspaper advertisement informing Mr. Obama's voters to shop elsewhere.

Mr. Dondero, however, may be in a category all his own.

A 49-year-old former aide to retiring Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, and self-professed libertarian, Mr. Dondero attracted national attention after publishing a post-Election Day manifesto on LibertarianRepublican.net, in which he declared Democrats to be "enemies of liberty" who deserve "nothing less than hatred and utter contempt."

In the same online post, he also announced an immediate, indefinite personal boycott of all things Democratic Party, encouraging others to follow his lead by:

Forgoing contact and communication with Democratic and Democratic-learning friends and family members.

Divorcing or breaking up with spouses or significant others who voted for Mr. Obama.

Refusing to speak with Democratic co-workers, dropping Democratic business clients and quitting your job if your boss is a Democrat.

Having your pet dog defecate on the lawn of any neighbors who voted for Mr. Obama.

Spitting on the ground in front of any Democrats you meet — while being careful "not to spit in their general direction," so that you won't be charged for violating some "stupid little nuisance law."

"I haven't had the opportunity to do that one yet," Mr. Dondero said. "But I hope to very soon.

"I was listening to a radio talk show last night. [Conservative pundits] Hugh Hewitt and Bill Kristol were on. You can't get more diehard Romney fans than that, and yet they were just yukking it up like, 'OK, we lost another election, time to move on.' Like nothing happened! And I'm thinking, 'Oh, my God, it's not another election.' It was a horrible defeat. I'm not ready to move on."

While Mr. Dondero's manifesto itself sounds like talk-radio hyperbole — the election night equivalent of an angry, heartbroken 3 a.m. drunk dial, to be sheepishly shrugged off the next morning — he insists his boycott is both real and ongoing.

Case in point? Mr. Dondero has two sisters. One of them, Pam, is a Republican who voted for Mr. Romney.

The other sister, Wendy, has a Republican husband who also voted for Mr. Romney. Yet when Mr. Dondero visited the couple about a month before the election, he suspected his sister was leaning toward voting for Mr. Obama.

"She didn't want to talk to me about it," Mr. Dondero said. "I hope [her husband] Micah will text me and tell me that she voted for Romney. I'm too terrified to ask her myself."

Seeds of self-secession

On Halloween, Mr. Dondero went to a Wal-Mart near his home in Angleton, Texas, and bought candy for trick-or-treaters. He then put a handmade sign near his front door, behind the numerous campaign signs for Mr. Romney crowding his yard.

REPUBLICAN FAMILIES ONLY, the sign read.

"If you were an Obama supporter, you weren't allowed to get any candy," Mr. Dondero said. "Now, there was no way for me to check that. It wasn't like I chased anybody off my property. But I did put out some Romney literature and bumper stickers and stuff with the candy."

Mr. Dondero's self-secession from Democrats isn't entirely sudden. A professional petitioner who makes a living collecting signatures for referendums and political candidates seeking ballot access, he long has refused to carry petitions for the Green Party or initiatives he considers liberal.

"You typically make $2.50 per signature for Libertarian candidates, and the Greens will pay the same," he said. "My fellow petitioners think I'm absolutely nuts."

Similarly, Mr. Dondero declines to greet other petitioners — whom he otherwise considers friends — with fist bumps, which he has considered "an Obama thing" ever since the president and first lady Michelle Obama performed the commonplace hand gesture during a 2008 campaign appearance.

"Most people laugh," Mr. Dondero said. "But I've had people who were offended. That's OK. It gives me an opportunity to let them know I hate Obama."

A lifelong libertarian, Mr. Dondero said he only votes for Libertarian and Republican candidates and has never voted for a Democratic candidate in any election — in fact, he abstains from voting in Texas judiciary elections because candidate party affiliation isn't listed on ballots, and he doesn't want to unknowingly support a Democrat.

At stores that accept Electronic Benefit Transfer payments, Mr. Dondero likes to ask cashiers what the letters "EBT" mean. When cashiers explain that the acronym refers to Electronic Benefits Transfer, or government assistance, he gives them a loud, pre-prepared earful: "Really? I'm paying for this shopping cart full of food out of my hard-earned dollars, and you're telling me that other people can buy food with my tax dollars and get it all for free?"

Mr. Dondero traces his political beliefs to a pair of formative experiences: living through the "pain and shame" of the Iranian hostage crisis under President Carter and viewing the 1980 television series "Free to Choose," a 10-part primer on free-market principles hosted by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman.

"I was like, 'Wow, this free-market stuff makes sense to me. I really like it,'" Mr. Dondero said. "Then I found out that the Libertarian Party was in favor of free-enterprise economics and wanted to legalize drugs. I said, 'That's me right there.'"

The series, Mr. Dondero recalled, was broadcast on public television.

"There's some irony there," he laughed. "If it wasn't for PBS, I probably would not be a libertarian today."

Bye-bye, Bon Jovi

On election night, Mr. Dondero was too nervous to watch television. Instead, he clicked back and forth between four different conservative websites, going from early-evening optimism to mid-evening despair as Florida and Virginia were not called for Mr. Romney.

When networks pronounced Mr. Obama's victory shortly after 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Mr. Dondero wept.

"Man, I cried, and I don't even remember the last time I cried," he said. "I know liberals will sit there and giggle at me, but I bawled for an hour."

Friends knew Mr. Dondero would take Mr. Romney's loss hard. A number of them, including Libertarian Party national ballot-access coordinator Bill Redpath, called to make sure he was OK.

The morning after the election, Mr. Dondero sent out a mass email announcing his decision to no longer associate with Democrats. Richard Winger, a San Francisco-based ballot-access specialist and Libertarian Party consultant, was one of the recipients.

"I considered [his boycott] not really mature, but I didn't feel like arguing with him," Mr. Winger said. "It wouldn't do any good. Eric is very passionate about everything he does. I was sort of hoping he was over that by now."

Not quite.

"Last night I went to the store, got my Heineken and some coffee," Mr. Dondero said. "When the nice girl at the checkout asked me how I was, I said, 'Not well ever since Obama got elected.'

"Then I laid it on. 'Oh, this store is going to start laying people off because of the Obama economy!' I think she got scared."

Mr. Dondero's boycott extends to movies and television. Actress Eva Longoria? DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg? Both supporters of Mr. Obama. Both banned.

As for music, Mr. Dondero said he is a major rock 'n' roll fan but has "literally thrown out half" of his collection of compact discs — including albums from Jon Bon Jovi, who campaigned for Mr. Obama.

"That hurts, because I really like Bon Jovi," Mr. Dondero said. "If Bruce Springsteen comes on the radio, I'll switch the station. I'm thinking about dumping [the rock group] Rush, too. They used to be hard core, Ayn Rand Libertarians. Then they did an interview where they said that was just a phase. I was like, 'Really?'

"John Cougar Mellencamp is an interesting situation. He is a big-time Democrat, and I absolutely hate him. But a couple of years ago, he had some nice things to say about Sarah Palin. So he is kind of dicey."

Bending the rules

Mr. Dondero is the first to acknowledge: Boycotting Democrats completely isn't entirely practical. He can't do a background check on the partisan preferences of every musician, doesn't have the time to figure out if every product he buys or uses comes from a corporation with liberal ties.

"I'm ashamed to admit this, but you know what? I have a Chevy pickup truck," he said. "It was purchased in 1998, years before the auto-industry bailout. So we're talking grandfather clause. I have to bend the rules a bit to make this work."

In an interview with New York magazine, Mr. Dondero answered a series of increasingly difficult — and ridiculous — questions designed to test the limits of his political conviction:

A Democratic family member is dying of cancer. He wants you to come visit him in the hospital, which is within walking distance, before he passes away. Do you go?

You come upon a neighbor — whom you know to be a Democrat — drowning in a lake. You're the only person in the vicinity. Do you help him?

You require a risky and complicated brain surgery, one that is performed by only two neurosurgeons in the country. One is a Republican and the other is a Democrat, but the Republican is generally unknown, and the Democrat was just heralded by Time magazine as the nation's best neurosurgeon. All other things — the cost, location, etc. — being equal, which doctor do you choose?

(For the record, Mr. Dondero answered no, not sure, and have the surgery performed in Mexico to avoid red tape.)

"It pained me to talk to a liberal magazine like that," Mr. Dondero said. "But the guy who interviewed me was so nice. My rule now is that I tell liberal reporters to [expletive] off and die right at the beginning of the conversation. And then it's OK for me to talk to them."

For Mr. Dondero, the pain of speaking to liberal reporters — or even reporters he suspects to have liberal sympathies — is eased by the opportunity to spread his message. He wants others to follow his example, and said he already has been contacted by a number of supportive readers as well as a group of businesspeople in Texas, Arizona and California who collectively have decided to stop working with firms owned by Democrats.

"I don't think you'll see people take it to an all-encompassing extreme as I have," he said. "But I hope people look at me to see how to do this."

One person Mr. Dondero doesn't have to break ties with? His wife. Originally from China, she isn't particularly interested in American politics.

"I don't think she realizes what all of this is about," he said. "But I know she's cool. She reads Chinese newspapers, and one day she turned to me and said, 'You know, maybe I'll become a U.S. citizen, and if I do, I think I'll be Republican because I hate Obama."

Mr. Dondero laughed. "I was like, 'Right answer!' " he said. "No wonder I married this woman."

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