A Libertarian in a sea of red and blue
A little while ago, I had the privilege of covering the vice
presidential debate in Danville, Kentucky, at Centre College. On the campus
lawns stood hundreds of supporters, both Republican and Democrat. They
displayed buttons, stickers, posters, and pins promoting their candidate.
Yet amidst the throngs of Romney/Ryan and Obama/Biden supporters stood one young man who went against the grain. Richard Meier, a college student from Union College, sported a sign and sticker for his candidate, Gary Johnson.
Johnson, a former New Mexico governor, is the Libertarian Party candidate for President. Johnson believes in smaller government, lower taxes, economic freedom, and personal liberties. He began his campaign for President in the spring of 2011 as a Republican. After being excluded from most of the Republican debates and his lack of success in the first two primaries, he switched to the Libertarian Party where he won the party's nomination in May.
Because Johnson is a third-party candidate — that is, someone who is not a Democrat or Republican — he has very little chance to win the presidency. (No Libertarian candidate has ever received more than 1 percent of the popular vote.) So it puzzled me why a voter would stand for a candidate destined to lose, even if the candidate was the best choice.
"Someone asked me about that once," Richard said when I asked him why he would vote for Johnson. "They said that I was wasting my vote. But if I were to give my vote to the Obama campaign or the Romney campaign, I wouldn't be voting for who I truly believe in."
Of all the things I learned in covering the VP debate, one of the most important was the lesson that Richard taught me. Since Franklin Pierce, every U.S. president has been either a Republican or Democrat. After decades of the same parties, it is possible voters could think that they have to choose between just two parties for the candidate that best represents them. This experience with Richard has opened my mind to a whole world of politics that I knew nothing about. It has exposed me to many of the other political parties that represent smaller groups of individuals, including the Libertarian Party, with more specific beliefs on policy.
This experience with Richard reminded me of what this great country stands for: equality and representation for every citizen, a voice for all people, regardless of status, race, gender, or background. As the election comes to a close, let us all remember that individuality, not conformity, is what makes this country special.
Kid Reporter Andrew Liang recently interviewed Gary Johnson about his campaign for President. Read his interview on the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps website.
—Kid Reporter Ben Frigon