Gary Johnson, Libertarian candidate for President, appeared yesterday at Macalester College, Kagin Commons, in Saint Paul, MN. Organized by Macalester Young Americans for Liberty, there were approximately 200 interested voters attending, a mix of mainly students and “third-party” supporters. In a brief interview with PNC-MN as he left for the airport, Gary Johnson announced he had just learned he was officially excluded from the upcoming Presidential Debates. He stated his campaign already had plans to file lawsuits in at least three states to contest the ruling. Civil suits were reportedly filed late yesterday against both major parties and the Commission on Presidential Debates based on violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which prohibits monopolistic practices.
Opening the afternoon was Murphy’s Midnight Rounders, a local folk pagan band, who were well received by the crowd. They played two songs with “hemp” themes which got a rise from supporters of the Grassroots Party , Libertarians, and other groups who support decriminalization of recreational drugs.
Andrew Ojeda, a Macalester undergraduate running for office in district 64A as a Republican, and Ms Yer Lor, a representative from “Minnesotans United for All Families” , both gave opening remarks. Lor implored Minnesotans to defeat the marriage amendment. Several local Pagans are supporters of this group, and the group was active soliciting signatures at Twin Cities Pagan Pride.
During the band performance Gary Johnson slipped into the audience front row, to little notice from the sizable media contingent present. Later, as former Governor Jesse Ventura arrived and sat near the PNC-MN contingent, the main stream media all shifted to front stage, to get shots of the colorful former wrestler in his Jimi Hendrix T-shirt. It appeared main stream media saw the story as Ventura’s appearance and implication of a 2016 run for President as the prime story over the visit of an existing candidate, polling 6% nationally at this point, Gary Johnson.
Ventura spoke next and praised Johnson’s efforts as a third-party candidate, and for his Libertarian, fiscally conservative but socially liberal, views. He suggested Presidential candidates should be required to wear “NASCAR style suits”, with “patches from all their biggest donors, their biggest bribers” . He said voters should know, “Who owns them, who has bought them off?” Ventura encouraged young Libertarians to fight for a constitutional amendment to remove a corporations ‘personhood”, from having rights of free speech and spending in political campaigns. He said the American political system was threatened as long as unlimited and undisclosed money can flow into political campaigns. He tells people who say a third-party candidate vote is wasted that “a vote for a Democrat or Republican is a wasted vote, because you are going to get the same thing. ” He encouraged the audience to support free speech even if the content it is not popular, because the protection is there to protect unpopular speech. He chided main stream media as being controlled by four major corporations, and no longer a “watch dog'” of the three branches of government. While he personally is not a technology or even a cell phone user, Ventura supported the internet as the last place where the “truth” can get out, saying, “Thank goodness for the internet”. He encouraged Americans to get out and vote, and stressed the importance of voting for Gary Johnson who is paving the road for future candidates.
Ventura stressed the importance of inclusion for Gary Johnson, and all minority candidates in the presidential debates. He sited the history of the Commission on Presidential Debates and its Candidate participation rules reform, pressured to adopt by the major parties, designed to specifically excluded third party candidates. He reminded the audience that he was polling at 10% in the state primary for governor and seven weeks later was elected Minnesota Governor. If he had not been allowed to participate in state debates, he believes this could have never happened.
In his speech Gary Johnson reminded the audience the United States has been in a state of “perpetual war” and warned if either major party candidate is elected, Americans will find themselves in a “heightened police state”, a state of increased “military interventions”, have an “unsustainable debt” that will end in a “financial collapse if not fixed”. He particularly attacked the actions of President Obama in not following through with many of his 2008 campaign positions. Of Obama’s promises to relax medical marijuana prosecutions in states where it has been approved, and pledges to support LBGT and marriage rights Johnson said, “The words are magic, but the reality does not matched the words.”
Johnson warned we must plan to “embark on a path that involves mutual sacrifice, or we are going to find ourselves with nothing.” He pledged to take debate and discussion of the Libertarian issues to the public as president, and work doggedly every day. Johnson referred to the website, http://www.isidewith.com/ , as a place where when his positions are compared to the values of the American public (over three million have used this polling site) he scores over 200 electoral votes and a strong second today on that site. He ended with the question, “What if you all waste your vote and vote for me? I am the next President of the United States.”
Johnson’s many proposals, including to repeal the Patriot Act, abolishing the IRS, the Federal Reserve, the Department of Education, a 43 percent cut in military spending and the controversial ‘Fair Tax’ plan, generated many questions from the audience.
To a question of how will he, as a Libertarian President, move congress to act, Johnson answered:
” By Challenging Democrats to be good at what they are supposed to be good at, civil liberties! How about getting out of Afghanistan, how about not bombing Iran, how about bringing about marriage equality, how about ending the drug war. ” … “Challenging Republicans to be good at dollars and sense, they are not good at that at all! … the suggestion that we, “Balance our budget in twenty-eight years, and even that is incumbent upon growth, is burying your head in the sand. ” … “I am more conservative than Romney on many of these issues, and more liberal than Obama on others. “
Gary Johnson is a vibrant and engaging speaker, and he clearly has a vision for America’s future and path forward that causes both Democrats and Republicans to have fits. This audience received him enthusiastically, but did not appear to be particularly representing Pagans. Many of his ideas may appeal to Pagan voters; his emphasis on civil and religious liberty, demilitarization, and embrace of diversity. Whether the whole package he represents, including his economic free trade solutions to complex economic and social problems, appeals to Pagans will be determined in November. His positions are thought-provoking, and an exploration of them is warranted by voters of all stripes.