Photo and story by Craig Zirpolo for VCU’s The Commonwealth Times
Libertarian presidential candidate dares VCU students to ‘waste a vote’ on him
As recent debates clarified the choice between the two major candidates to voters, third-party candidates have struggled for inclusion. Though the American Civil Liberties Union and other interest groups and as politicians endorse his presidential campaign, former New Mexico governor and current Libertarian candidate for president Gary Johnson spent much of his campaign stop at Virginia Commonwealth University on Oct. 11 simply asking students to inform their peers about a third choice on Election Day.
“I want you all to know that I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think I could do a really good job as President of the United States,” Johnson said to open his speech to a crowd of about 200 students and Richmond residents on Oct 11.
Johnson’s Richmond visit marked his first official appearance in Virginia during his 2012 presidential campaign. After making a stop at the Maggie Walker Governor’s School, he gave a brief speech and answered questions concerning his views on Syria, the Second Amendment, drone strikes and Israel. Afterward, he met with his supporters for pictures and autographs.
Read more about Gary Johnson from The 12 here.
Johnson spoke candidly about his professional career, from building his one-man handyman business into one of the largest construction companies in New Mexico to vetoing over 700 bills as Governor of New Mexico. He also tried to showcase his personal drive to potential voters with stories that included his scaling of Mt. Everest after breaking his leg in 2003 and a near-fatal hang-gliding accident in 2005 after which he used medical marijuana for three years to cope with the pain.
In an effort to inform his audience and bolster support, Johnson spoke about many of his specific views, including foreign non-interventionism, gay marriage as a constitutional right, repealing the NDAA and the PATRIOT Act, establishing a flat tax, holding Congress accountable for a balanced budget and ending trade embargoes to promote free market interests in Iran and China.
“How about challenging Democrats on what they are supposed to be good at, civil liberties,” Johnson asked during his speech. “And then on the other side…imagine Republicans griping about a Libertarian president who wants to spend less.”
Johnson summarized his views as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, which many attendees regarded as the clear advantage of his platform.
“The whole event just exuded simplicity and sensibility and I can’t think of two things America needs more right now,” said VCU junior Rose Bono after the speech.
Though Gov. Johnson asked attendees to disregard traditional notions of “wasted” votes, some still weren’t convinced and were unsure of Johnson’s potential impact on the overall election.
“I agree with Johnson on some issues, it’s just the big picture (of the election) that makes me cautious,” said Trey McMillan, another VCU student who attended event.
Despite huge odds, Johnson was both impassioned and optimistic about his chances.
“What’s more of a wasted vote than voting for someone you don’t believe in?” Johnson asked the assembled group to close his speech. “If you ‘waste’ your vote on me, guess what – I might be the next President of the United States.”