Libertarian presidential candidate Dr. Jo Jorgensen called for ending the drug war and curtailing American military interventionist policies, while Ricky Harrington, the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate, warned against government power laying claim to American lives, property and thoughts during a rally in Little Rock on Friday (Aug. 28).
In her remarks at the First Security Amphitheater, Jorgensen focused on a variety of issues consistent with the party’s small government outlook. She said she would eliminate the IRS, work with Congress to end the income tax, “audit and then end the Federal Reserve,” and reduce regulations to allow cryptocurrency. She said she would tell state governments to “get rid of every gun law in the last 100 years.”
“Basically, I’d get rid of every alphabet soup agency in the last 200 years, and just go back to the original ones,” she said.
Jorgensen called for reforming the nation’s prisons and criminal justice system saying, “We cannot claim to be the land of the free when we lead the world in incarcerations.” She said she would defund federal involvement in policing, end supplying excess military equipment to law enforcement agencies, end no-knock raids, and end the “qualified immunity” provided police officers.
She criticized the “racist and destructive war on drugs,” comparing it to the nation’s failed Prohibition against alcohol. As president, she said she would decriminalize drugs at the federal level, pardon everyone convicted of victimless federal crimes, and encourage states to treat drugs as a health issue.
“There should be no law to prevent you from owning an object whether it’s a gun to protect yourself, or drugs for whatever reason you wish,” she said. “If there is no victim, there is no crime.”
She said the Food and Drug Administration makes it too difficult for drugs to come to market and called for a free market health care system. Asked about the COVID-19 pandemic in an interview, she said the government can set an example and provide information, but “Americans have shown that they don’t need government to quarantine.”
Jorgensen called for a significantly reduced international U.S. military presence saying, “If I’m elected president, my first official act will be to bring the troops home. I’m going to turn America into one giant Switzerland – armed and neutral.”
SEN. COTTON’S CHALLENGER
Ricky Harrington is vying to become the state’s first African-American member of Congress. The Jorgensen campaign said the event was timed to coincide with the 57th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Harrington faces incumbent Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who does not have a Democratic opponent. Independent Daniel Whitfield is trying to gain a spot on the ballot through the court system.
Harrington, 34, said the country was founded under the idea that “liberty and authoritarianism cannot coexist in a free society.” He traced the expansion of liberty through the Civil War, women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement. However, he said, “Our government has become what our framers feared.”
He warned against an “unholy trinity” of government power he said is laying claim to Americans’ lives, the fruits of their labors, and their thoughts. He said citizens are being “killed in the streets by agents of the state.” However, he said the current turmoil “is just growing pains of liberty” where liberty and authoritarianism are clashing.
He criticized the Republican and Democratic parties for failing to take responsibility for the problems they’ve caused.
“You don’t get to spend decades in Washington and blame it on somebody else when you have the power to fix it,” he said.
Formed in 1971, the Libertarian Party has struggled to gain a foothold in Arkansas and elsewhere. Its presidential and gubernatorial candidates have failed to earn the 3% share of the vote that would qualify the party for permanent status under the law that existed then. Instead, it’s had to collect signatures before each election cycle.
However, its candidates in those races have been gaining larger shares of the vote in recent election cycles. Its gubernatorial candidate in 2018, Mark West, almost crossed the 3% threshold.
Friday’s event was small, but drew more attendees than the typical party stalwarts who convene at meetings at a Little Rock hotel.
It looked like a campaign event, with signage, presidential campaign staff members, an appeal for money, and remarks by Nicholas Sarwark, the recent national party chairman. Sarwark told the crowd that Arkansas had a chance to “lead this country into a new era of politics” in the U.S. Senate race.
“This opportunity is huge, but we have to seize it. You have a one-on-one race between a Libertarian and the most hated Republican in the Senate,” he said, referring to Cotton.
In an interview prior to the event, Harrington said his primary issues are health care reform, criminal justice reform, and ending the United States’ “strike first” military policy.
Harrington said he is taking family leave from his job as a program supervisor at the Arkansas Department of Correction’s Cummins Unit. His wife has joined the Navy, so he is caring for their three young children. He said inmates come into the system on a drug possession charge and leave as gang members and criminals.
“I want people to understand that we have to consider how we treat the less fortunate in our society, including those who’ve done terrible things, because it reflects on who we are as a moral people,” he said. “If we treat them like dirt, then we actually become what we hate.”
Harrington said he has raised about $20,000 so far.
“If we can appeal to independents, if we can appeal to Libertarians, if we can appeal to Democratic voters, and if we can peel off some Republicans that are dissatisfied with Senator Cotton, I can see us having a path to victory,” he said.
In an interview, Jorgensen said about 75% of her volunteers have come from outside the party. She plans on visiting 45 states and is headed to Alaska next week. She called for having a spot on the debate stage with Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
“If we have two people who are both for increasing government decision-making, both for taking power away from people, neither one wanting to bring the troops home, then there’s not much of a debate,” she said.
Asked about her goal, she said, “As an IO psychologist – my degree is in industrial organizational psychology – I understand that very difficult and even impossible goals work, so my goal is to win.
“However, if we can just grow the movement and change the conversation. My former campaign manager, who now has another position, said, ‘This year we’re going to elect our first Libertarian president.’ And then he qualified that by saying, ‘We’re probably going to elect him or her to being a mayor or statehouse, but that person later on will become president.’ So part of my campaigning is for down-ballot candidates to help them out so that we can grow the party at all levels.”