The Third Party Debate Part 2: Meeting Gary Johnson and the Debate

This is the second half of Rachel Burger’s series entitled, “The Third Party Debate,” where she describes her experience at the Free & Equal Third Party Debate on October 23rd, 2012. For Part 1, please click here. 

Following Gary Johnson’s interview, I decided: This was my one chance to meet Gary Johnson, and I couldn’t pass it up. Before another crowd accumulated, I walked up to him. He shook my hand and smiled. For a moment, I forgot who I was and what I wanted to say. He asked me what my name was. I told him that I was Rachel Burger, a master’s candidate at University of Chicago. I told him I studied foreign policy and that I really appreciate the noninterventionalist approach that he, Ron Paul, and the libertarians had added to the foreign policy discourse, even in academic circles. For whatever reason, this set him off. We talked in our tiny echo chamber for a good few minutes about the wars in the Middle East, drone strikes, and my generation’s willingness to serve. Finally, I asked for a picture. Click. Success. I had met my hero.

The energy at the debate was indescribable. Larry King told the crowd that we could clap and cheer as much as we wanted, unlike this season’s previous political debates. Regardless of who our candidates were, we cheered on everyone. Everyone was excited for Jill Stein, for Rocky Anderson, and for Virgil Goode. However, no one garnered as much enthusiasm from this crowd than Gary Johnson. He was by far the best speaker, the most charged, and had the most resounding platform. There were only a few moments when Virgil Goode lost the crowd’s interest—when he touted defunding Planned Parenthood, stopping immigration, and perpetuating the drug war—but even then, he had supporters in the crowd supporting his policies. I doubt that there was a single person in that room that cheered for only one candidate. Unlike the left-right dichotomy, the third party supporters were not only supportive of their candidate, but of each other, and of good policy. It was entirely refreshing.

As the debate closed, everyone stood in an ovation of solidarity, cheering on their candidates, Larry King, and Free & Equal. The energy in the room stayed with me long after the event. These people were excited about politics. Not just politics, but deliberative, nonconventional politics that challenged the status quo. It felt like being in a group where, unilaterally, everyone’s hope for political reform suddenly came together. The positive energy has reenergized me for libertarianism and for third party candidates in general. It is possible to reform politics with debates like these, and I think, in 2016, there is hope for real change.