Yesterday’s NYU Libertarian Event Was Sort Of Insane

Have you heard the one about the retired pro wrestler, Elliot Spitzer’s madam, the 90‘s MTV star, the judge and the governor?

Such was the cast of characters brought to Kimmel yesterday by the NYU College Libertarians, supporting centerpiece speaker Libertarian presidential candidate Governor Gary Johnson.

The crowd, composed of about 200 NYU students and members of the general public, filtered into the Rosenthal Pavilion after noon yesterday. While the crowd claimed seats and various city politicos mingled with the student group’s officers, New York-based singer/songwriter Tatiana Moroz performed from a front corner of the room. With an acoustic guitar and a clear, high voice, Moroz shared her original, liberty-themed songs before closing with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.”

After a brief welcome by College Libertarians Chairman Will Cromarty, who introduced the group as “the largest political group on campus,” the first speaker took the podium.

Lisa Kennedy Montgomery (stage name “Kennedy”) was host of MTV’s late-night Alternative Nation program in the 90s. Since MTV’s turn away from actual music content, Kennedy has appeared sparsely on various TV and radio shows, in addition to promoting her libertarian views.

And promote she did, making an energetic case for the party’s hands-off philosophy. Kennedy focused mainly on the war on drugs, which libertarians oppose. “It’s ridiculous, it’s insane, and it’s downright dangerous,” Kennedy said of the country’s decades-long effort to stamp out illegal drug use and manufacture.

Kennedy also defended marriage equality, relaying a hypothetical argument with her prim LA friends. “There are millions of gay animals,” Kennedy argued, Eastwood style. “Some people are gay animals. Let them be gay animals!”

Next up was Kristin Davis, who introduces herself on her website as “the woman behind the most successful prostitution ring in the history of the sex industry.” In 2008, the “Manhattan Madam” was busted by federal agents investigating New York’s then-governor Elliot Spitzer’s use of prostitutes. After the bust, Davis served four months in Rikers Island prison. After her speech, Davis told Local that it was this experience that helped coalesce her libertarian philosophy. “I spent a lot of time in solitary confinement, reading Rand,” she said.

In 2010, Davis ran for governor of New York as a protest candidate, touting an “anti-prohibition” platform. Davis said that her career in libertarian politics is far from over. “It’s no secret that I will run for mayor next year as a libertarian,” Davis told the crowd. “Sadly, New York City politicians are a bunch of whores — so who better than me to control them?”

Former pro wrestler and Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura spoke next. He began by apologizing that he would have to depart as soon as he finished speaking, because “it takes me a day and a half to get home” to Minnesota. Ventura went on to explain that since facing TSA “sexual assault” and having a lawsuit against the agency dismissed, he now only travels by train — perhaps taking libertarians’ fixation with Atlas Shrugged to a whole new level.

Ventura compared America’s two main parties to gangs, the metaphor behind his new book Democrips and Rebloodlicans. “Loyalty goes first to the gangs,” he explained. “Loyalty goes second to the moneymakers.” On the parties’ joint control over presidential debates, from which Governor Johnson is being excluded, Ventura remarked, “we’re dealing with a gang where they get to write the rules.”

Before dashing off to make his train, Ventura dropped a tease that celebrity presidential runs weren’t just a treat for 2012. “Who knows,” he said. “In 2016 it could be Ventura/Stern.” Ventura clarified later that he was referring to shock jockey Howard Stern. With that, Ventura turned the podium over to Judge Andrew Napolitano, formerly of the New Jersey Superior Court and now a Fox News contributor.

Napolitano described the founding fathers’ political philosophies and their then-radical views on preserving liberty. “The 2nd Amendment did not mean the right to shoot a deer,” he said. “It meant the right to shoot the government if they become tyrants!”

Finally, Governor Gary Johnson took the podium. Johnson, 59, has short grey hair and wore a black blazer over a peace sign T-shirt. Johnson was elected to two terms as the Republican governor in the overwhelmingly blue state of New Mexico, from 1995 to 2003. “People in New Mexico wave at me with all five fingers, not just one,” Johnson joked.

In November, Johnson will appear on ballots in 47 states — and his campaign is in litigation to shore up the remaining three. The candidate is working to position himself as a viable alternative to the major party candidates.

Johnson’s main argument is that Obama and Romney’s platforms are nearly the same. “I’m the only candidate who does not want to bomb Iran,” he declared. “We’re going to make ourselves a hundred million new enemies if we do that.”

“I’m the only candidate who believes that marriage equality is a constitutional right,” Johnson said later, echoing the earlier speakers. “I’m the only candidate who wants to end the drug war,” the governor said. “Let’s legalize marijuana now.” He announced, “I am the only candidate who wants to repeal the Patriot Act,” which received cheers.

In concluding his short stump speech, Johnson rebutted one of the primary arguments against voting for a third-party candidate. “What will happen if you all waste your votes on me?” he asked. “I will be the next President of the United States,” he answered, to standing cheers.

After Johnson left the stage, NYU Local spoke with students in the audience to gauge their reaction to the little-known contender for the nation’s highest office.

Katie Kumbar, a Sophomore and a member of NYU College Libertarians, found Johnson to be “inspiring, eloquent, simple.” Johnson would receive her vote in her home state of North Carolina, Kumbar said.

Naturally, not everyone agreed. Spyridon Mitsotakis, a senior and a member of NYU College Republicans, said that he would be voting for Romney in upstate New York this November. “The reason why I oppose [libertarians] is because of their foreign policy,” he said. “We were attacked. America has enemies and we have to defeat them.” Still, Mitsotakis emphasized that Libertarians and Republicans were allies “against the Democrats — against the Left.”

That alliance is unlikely to hold up much longer, as libertarian candidates like Johnson and Ron Paul pull votes away from big government conservatives and centrist Democrats such as Romney and Obama. Already, this election looks to be one of the most successful for third-party candidates since independent Ross Perot won almost 20% of the vote in 1992.

Such an outcome isn’t unthinkable for the near future, as the libertarian message of individual freedom gains traction among young voters. Gary Johnson is unlikely to win the presidency in 2012 — but within our lifetime, it’s conceivable that one of his libertarian peers might.

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    Share Your Thoughts


  1. David Raygoza says

    On the 6th paragraph from the end, the one beginning: “In concluding his short stump speech…” after “I will be the next President of the United States.” I may be wrong, but I do think that it should be “he answered,” instead of “he answer.”

    That said, this is a really great article. Currently in High School, I’m a fan of political discussions in class (to distract AND to educate) and I’ll definitely send a link out so that we can discuss whether or not the Libertarian Party might have an impact on the election this year. Here’s hoping they do!

  2. David Raygoza says

    Here’s hoping they “will”? Gah. Way to start a comment with a possible correction and then end the same comment with a mistake of my own. :P

  3. Patrick McClellan says

    “-but within our lifetime, it’s conceivable that one of his libertarian peers might.” No it’s not. The absolute best that a third-party presidential candidate can do in our system is to be a spoiler. More often than not they’re simply statistical afterthoughts in the final tally. First past the post electoral systems create two-party systems- period. Unless our electoral system is radically changed or the Libertarian Party displaces one of the current major parties (ala the Republican Party taking the place of the Whig Party in the 1850s), no libertarian candidate is going to be elected president.

  4. Brett Chamberlin says

    David, thanks for the catch and thanks for reading. I’m sure we’ll see you at NYU soon!

    Patrick, you’re right that our current voting system is unlikely to produce a third-party president. That said, the way we do vote can be changed — and it does change. Remember that the VP used to be the second place winner, which would change the picture considerably (Cox’s “n+1″ Rule re: Duverger’s Law, if you want to get technical).

    There are also the primaries, where third party candidates can capture a main party’s nomination (as happened in 2010, when Tea Party candidates booted Republicans in dozens of midterm races). This can also lead to transformations in parties over time – as with your example. Alternatively, imagine if Ron Paul had been a viable candidate in the presidential primaries (which he nearly was).

    We could also modify the way we vote entirely, although that’s unlikely. My fantasy government setup? Parliamentary system with proportional representation and single transferable voting — but I’ll probably have to wait for Sid Meier’s Civilization X to see that particular dream realized. That too, will hopefully fall within my lifetime.

    All together, that makes it, as I said, at least “conceivable.”

  5. Lee Elliott says

    Good article, but I have to disagree with the Libs/Repubs alliance, that is not accurate. If you review polling, Gov Johnson takes more from Obama in a lot of states than Romney, e.g. Colorado where marijuana legalization vote is on ballot, and NM Johnson takes more from Obama. Gov Johnson will receive a lot of left of center votes for his civil liberties/anti-war.

  6. George Whitfield says

    Gary Johnson is a breath of fresh air in this stifling Presidential election campaign. He is a clear choice to restore America to peace, prosperity and liberty. Live free.

  7. Will Cromarty says

    For any students interested in the NYU College Libertarians, we meet from 5-6 PM on Tuesday evenings in NYU’s Kimmel Building. We’ve rapidly outgrown our last two meeting rooms, so look at our Facebook Page/Group for location information.

    Whether you want to write for our publication, join our debate team, or simply enjoy the greatest intellectual discussion anywhere on campus, we’d love to see you at a meeting.

    Will Cromarty
    Chairman, NYU College Libertarians

  8. says

    Great article, Brett. Thanks for taking the time to check it out and write about it.

    Lee Elliott said: “Good article, but I have to disagree with the Libs/Repubs alliance, that is not accurate.”

    I agree. It’s important to note that the assessment of a GOP/Libertarian “alliance against the Left” was that of an individual College Republican, not necessarily the belief or desire of the national Republican or Libertarian parties. Hopefully Libertarianism will become more mainstream as more people learn about it. In general terms, we embrace the social issues of the Left and the fiscal issues of the Right, but at the end of the day it’s all about one thing: freedom.

    The freedom to chose who you marry, the freedom to spend your money the way you want, and the freedom to govern yourself so long as you’re not harming anyone else in the process.

    Britton T. Burdick
    Media Chair, NYU College Libertarians

  9. Ben Miller says

    It would be great if Libertarianism worked. It would be great if Marxism worked too.

    Both are functionally useless.

    I think it’s really easy for a bunch of NYU students to rally around the social part of the libertarian agenda without realizing the deep danger that libertarianism presents to education, health care, and economics.

    Localized education doesn’t work, we’ve been trying it for hundreds of years and have amongst the worst schools in the developed world.

    Localized/individualized health care doesn’t work, we’ve tried it and it’s led to the highest costs in the world and 47 million uninsured. Medicare costs aren’t a driver of our health care problem, they’re a symptom – dollar for dollar, Medicare costs less than anything the private sector can offer.

    The fact is, no man is an island. Nobody is alone. We’re all in this together. The existence of a state is founded on the idea that we have more to offer as one people than as millions of persons. We create roads and trains and airports for transportation, we preserve forests and rivers for clean air, we help those who cannot help themselves, and we try to make peace with one another. Our freedoms don’t come from some divine trumpet, they are social policies we create together, because we realize that free speech is critically necessary and morally right, and because free marriage is the defining civil rights issue of our time, and because people who have different skin colors are the same inside. This is a long process but it’s a necessary one, and it’s one that requires active government, not exploded government. That’s at the centerpiece of our social contract, and it’s why I’m not and will never be a Libertarian.

  10. Ben Miller says

    More, via Cass Sunstein:

    “In what sense is the money in our pockets and bank accounts fully “ours”? Did we earn it by our own autonomous efforts? Could we have inherited it without the assistance of probate courts? Do we save it without support from bank regulators?…Without taxes there would be no liberty. Without taxes there would be no property. Without taxes, few of us would have any assets worth defending…
    If government could not intervene effectively, none of the individual rights to which Americans have become accustomed could be reliably protected. Most rights are funded by taxes, not by fees. This is why the overused distinction between “negative” and “positive” rights makes little sense. Rights to private property, freedom of speech, immunity from police abuse, contractual liberty, free exercise of religion–just as much as rights to Social Security, Medicare and food stamps–are taxpayer-funded and government-managed social services designed to improve collective and individual well-being.This raises some important questions, to be sure. Who decides, in the United States, how to allocate our scarce public resources for the protection of which rights for whom? What principles are commonly invoked to guide these allocations? And can those principles be defended? These questions deserve more discussion than they usually receive, unclouded by the dim fiction that some people enjoy and exercise their rights without placing any burden whatsoever on the public.”

  11. Christopher Blair says

    Ben – and centralized government functions work as well? The fact is that you have to have a competitive system to create constant improvement and growth. Europeans have tried centralized systems of healthcare, government run business and lately monetary and fiscal policy. All of them are failures. The U.S. hasn’t been truly capitalistic since before the 1920’s and even the 19th century is filled with crony capitalism as well with well connected businessman pushing government for licenses, etc. While Libertarianism is an ideal that I don’t think will ever be acheived, it is closest political system that goes with true human nature and the desire to constantly improve oneself.