JIM HEDGES is the kind of presidential candidate you might enjoy having a beer with, if only he drank.
The central Pennsylvania resident - he lives in McConnellsburg, population 1,015 - is the national Prohibition Party's official presidential candidate, with his name on the ballot in three states (Arkansas, Colorado and Mississippi) and pending in at least three others (Iowa, Louisiana, and New Jersey.)
Yes, the Prohibition Party exists, and for that its three dozen dues-paying members can thank Hedges, who publishes its quarterly newsletter and calls the party "an exercise in living history."
After his failed bid for the 2012 nomination, party regulars nominated Hedges to their presidential ticket during a conference call last summer.
At 78, he's older than both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. He's a teetotaler but not an extremist. When out with a friend who has a mixed drink, "I may take a spoon and dip it in what they have and lick the spoon to see what it tastes like," he says.
He isn't a single-issue candidate, either. He and the Prohibition Party support the gold standard and free college education, among other planks in a largely conservative party platform.
And Hedges, raised on an Iowa farm, isn't easily defined. He designed his home in the early 1970s to be eco-friendly. During his 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, he played tuba. He has run the National Speleological Society's professional journal on the science of caves. He collects letterpress equipment.
Hedges spoke recently with reporter Christopher Yasiejko about Pennsylvania's temporary suspension of blue laws for the Democratic National Convention, the widening legalization of marijuana, and how a sloppy drunk in the Marine Band - emphasis on the sloppy - contributed to Hedges' lifelong interest in prohibition.
Q It's been a rough-and-tumble primary season in the two dominant parties. What does it say about America's future?
If people want more of the same, then Clinton is their person. They'll get more war, more deficits, more exporting jobs. But if they vote for Trump, I'm sure he's going to alienate the entire world. It will not be a productive four years.
I don't like either one. I could go for Sanders, but it looks like he's not going to get it.
Q Does Trump's claim that he doesn't drink help or hurt the cause of Prohibitionists?
Some of my non-drinker friends like him, although for anti-establishment reasons.
Our demographic is similar to Trump's - lower-middle- to low-income whites, but I have the impression that most of ours are better educated than are most of his.
Nearly all of the Prohibitionists I know personally have at least a B.A. - professionals. Which is anomalous, because frequency of drinking, statistically, rises with increasing education.
But anyway, about Trump - being a spectacle and being a role model are different things. I'd like him to keep quiet about being an abstainer. We have our share of loudmouth lunatics, already. The Republicans are welcome to him.
Q From what does your lifelong activity within the Prohibition Party stem?
When I was on active duty, I saw some alcohol-related things going on that were harmful to the unit and were sort of disgusting.
Like the fellow who had to play at a patriotic ceremony at one of the hotels in Washington, and he felt sick, so he put his hand up to his face, he puked into his sleeve, and then he put his hand down - this is on stage, now - and all of the vomit came out on the stage. And then he played the job anyway.
Q Let's say you were elected president. Would you try to enact prohibition?
It can't be imposed from the top down. We would concentrate on education and statistics, not try to go out and impose behavior on people. Try to clamp down on sales outlets, bars that are neighborhood nuisances or places that provide, say, beer to underage people.
But it's not going to come all at once. It would take a lot of preparation.
Q How do you feel about the state lifting blue laws during the DNC convention?
I don't think it's a good idea to get people tanked up at the meeting.
A law should be uniform, state-wide. It's not fair to have a bunch of big wigs that flout the law and make their own rules.
Q Medicinal marijuana is legal in 21 states, and four states, along with Washington, D.C., have legalized it for recreational use. What do you think about the ebbing prohibition on cannabis?
When the law apprehends and punishes people who have personal amounts of marijuana, that's criminalizing the victims.
I'm all for restricting the traffic, the trade - I'm opposed to selling the stuff in stores or making cookies with it - but to round up users who might have a couple of joints in their pocket and send them to prison is not good use of the taxpayers' money.
Persecuting pot users has just given America the world's largest prison population. It's not the land of the free, it's the land of the screw-you. I think that should be changed.
Q What surprises people most when you get into the details of your party's platform?
They're surprised we have a broad-based platform. They're surprised we're reasonable and not a bunch of hotheads, though we've had our share of hothead candidates. I hope I'm not a hothead candidate.