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