Dr. Hagelin spoke with DEMOCRACY IN ACTION after moderating a Congressional Prevention Caucus  forum "Stress Prevention: Its Impact on Health and Medical Savings" in the Longworth House Office Building on June 24, 1998.
 

What is your first political memory?

Was there someone along the way there, who was helpful in getting you to learn the ropes?

What do you remember most about that first campaign in 1992?

Americans seem disengaged from the political process. Do you see this as a problem and how should it be addressed?

Do you have a framework or a formula for looking at the role of the federal government?

The Natural Law Party places a strong emphasis on transcendental meditation, which doesn't really have roots in American political culture. The party may be seen as somewhat alien to American political culture. Do you agree with that?



 

What is your first political memory?

My first political memory was sitting in Iowa with a bunch of frustrated people in Iowa. This is right after Bush and Clinton had secured their presidential nominations in 1992, and a lot of people were scratching their heads, saying we should be able to do better than this. And that was the birth of the Natural Law Party and I was its first presidential candidate back in 1992. That was my first act of political involvement--was to run for president.

匟ow about when you were a kid?

I recall my mother once when I was quite young, probably nine or ten years old匢 asked about politics and she said don't go into it, it's a dirty business. And I hadn't paid much attention to politics until, as a scientist, I became increasingly aware of solutions that were clearly scientifically beneficial and scientifically based that were simply being ignored by government. And I thought why is that? I learned a little bit about government functions, how campaigns are financed, how elections are waged, and I came to the conclusion that the wrong influences are controlling government decisions and that's when I really started to get interested and ultimately involved in the Natural Law Party and its birth.

 

Was there someone along the way there, who was helpful in getting you to learn the ropes?

When I decided to run as a candidate for a third party, I quickly spoke to my congressman and my friends here and on Capitol Hill and everybody I could who knew anything about how the system worked. And I found that actually as a third party candidate it was much more difficult and much more complicated than even being a Republican or Democratic candidate. I had to find millions of people willing to sign a signature to put me on the ballot in fifty states. It takes 35 times as many signatures to get on the ballot if you run as non-Republican or non-Democrat. So there's a lot we had to learn, and we ended up suing the Federal Election Commissions and the debates commissions and changing election laws governing ballot access and debates in many states, I think for the benefit of democracy as a whole. Opening up the political process so libertarians and other voices of all kinds could be heard.

But did you have mentor, someone who you looked up to?

Not at the time, really. There were political figures that captured my imagination. John F. Kennedy, I thought was an inspired leader and of course Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson stand out in my mind as being truly inspired political leaders and political thinkers, but recently, as I said, politics was not a main issue in my life. I'm a research physicist; I was involved with research in cosmogenesis--understanding the physics of elementary particles and writing papers on unified quantum field theories before I left my ivory tower and really got my hands and feet dirty out there on the campaign trail.

 

What do you remember most about that first campaign in 1992?

Yes, I call it the agonies and ecstasies of the campaign. Some of the agonies were being excluded from debates, for example--presidential debates--even though we jumped through hoops that were put in our way by the so-called debates commission. We satisfied all of their objective criteria for participation and that didn't make any difference; they really didn't want us on. And it was really just a decision made between the two leading candidates of the two main parties as to who would debate, when they would debate, what they would ask. So that's an agony. Another agony is facing ballot access obstacles that are just so impossible. For example to get on the ballot in Florida requires more signatures than the entire continent of Europe as well as New Zealand and Australia and many other countries combined. So no one's ever done it except Ross Perot as a third party candidate, and that was tough.

 Some of the ecstasies were actually getting the message out. A USA Today insert carried our 16-page platform to 6 million readers. That was in '96, but similar breakthroughs with good shows, national media coverage, when it would come, was very satisfying because when people would hear about what we were doing, almost always they were inspired to participate, to write, to send e-mail letters of support and so forth.

When you were running in 92 you were driving around the country or how did that go?

Yes we don't have Air Force One, you see, so our travelling is done by plane and bus and automobile. And my vice presidential running mate Dr. Mike Tompkins also put in a year's travel by bus, plane, train and automobile. It was a low-budget campaign. But what we relied upon entirely is grassroots support from the people and the hundreds of candidates who jumped on the bandwagon. By 1996 we had almost 500 candidates running for federal, state and local offices and that was a major grassroots uprising which is continuing to grow today.

 

Americans seem disengaged from the political process. Do you see this as a problem and how should it be addressed?

I see it as a symptom, a symptom of the fact that the Republicans and Democrats are not presenting to them any new solutions really, and the same problems of escalating crime and certainly spiraling health costs, and declining health, environmental problems?There just卬ew solutions aren't there. So yes people are disengaged. They don't see why it's worth taking a day off of work to vote even sometimes. You've got the lowest voter turnout of any democracy in the world. What we found with the Natural Law Party was because it was a fresh approach and because it offered manifestly effective commonsense and humane solutions to problems that have not gone away, people became very engaged. The campuses got very engaged. A half of our registered voters in California--we have about 125,000 registered Natural Law Party members in California alone--half of them are students. So it really shows a re-awakening of political interest among the youth who otherwise see no reason to get involved with the current political negative campaigning and political process as it stands today.

 

Do you have a framework or a formula for looking at the role of the federal government?

Yes, I believe government has a role--in that sense I'm not really a libertarian--government has a role in helping society fulfill its purpose, which is the progress and happiness of its members. And as long as government is helping, playing that coordinating role in society by helping citizens be all they can be, to grow as individuals, and fulfill their life purposes, then there's a role for government.

Natural Law Party government especially is concerned with the development of full human potential-- giving the citizens of the country all the education and developmental technologies, including meditation technologies, that they need in order to realize their full human potential. And that in the long run is the solution to all our national problems. Because if we're only using, typically, 5-percent of our God-given potential, then we're creating all kinds of otherwise avoidable problems; we're electing 5-percent politicians to concoct 5-percent solutions to these 5-percent problems. It's a tremendously expensive and inefficient enterprise. So government can be much better, but the way government will become better is by the population also rising in their own higher stages of human development through the sorts of programs and educational technologies that the Natural Law Party promotes.

 

The Natural Law Party places a strong emphasis on transcendental meditation, which doesn't really have roots in American political culture. The party may be seen as somewhat alien to American political culture. Do you agree with that?

I agree that some people might see it that way, but as we saw today for example, in the houses of Congress, in the Longworth House Office Building, there was a large group...who came to hear about the importance of stress reduction and its impact on health and reduced medical costs. And a lot of the research, in fact most of the research on stress management has been done on transcendental meditation, and what we saw from the response of the audience today, that increasingly over the past year, is more and more openness to new approaches that work.

Now for example gravity, the force of gravity, is something we all take for granted--we utilize every day--in fact it holds us down. But that was really an English discovery with Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton and we've come to accept gravity as something that belongs to all of us. Similarly, stress management, including transcendental meditation, is not foreign. It simply takes advantage of the innate capabilities of the human nervous system to gain deep rest at will. So taking advantage of something that may have been discovered in India thousands of years ago in the U.S. today has a long political history. In fact politics is really science-based. There's a habit of the government taking advantage of new technologies, new scientific breakthroughs that come from science. Transcendental meditation is no different.

But for most American mainstream political thought the Constitution is a basic starting point. Do you have that as a basic starting point?

Yes, I think the U.S. Constitution is the most inspired foundational political document that's ever been written. I don't treat it as scripture. I think Thomas Jefferson was right. He said--[it's] in the Jefferson Memorial here--that as human knowledge evolves and as human society grows there will be newer and better ideas that may ultimately supplant some of the tenets of the U.S. Constitution. Remarkably, over the last couple hundred years though it has stood up very well and the number of amendments have been relatively few. But I'm not afraid of amendments if amendments are needed; I just wouldn't take that route lightly or ill-advisedly.

Is it simplistic or false to refer to the Natural Law Party as the "transcendental meditation party?"

That wouldn't be accurate at all. Only 2-percent of our registered party membership, approximately, practice transcendental meditation, as far as we can tell. Others have been attracted to the party for its strong environmental stance, its pro-growth and yet very compassionate economic stance, its preventative medicine and sustainable agriculture, strong stances against genetic engineering, for example. So there are 1,001 reasons people would be attracted to this party. Especially the 60 million Americans who call themselves cultural creatives, who are involved with either environmental issues, holistic or alternative medicine, responsible investing, sustainability in agriculture, energy renewability--all these people--and now we're talking about the majority of voters--these constitute more than half of all U.S. voters--look to the Natural Law Party increasingly as their voice because who else speaks for them? Not the Republicans and the Democrats.
 
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