Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr was in town on Tuesday and we caught what we can only assume was his least enthusiastic crowd: students at the College of Charleston. There may have been 50 or 60 people there. About seven gave the man a standing ovation at the end (and I’m pretty sure three of those people weren’t students and another one felt obligated).
Oh, don’t listen to me. Barr was introduced as a proud alumni of Tau Kappa Epsilon and they were my frat’s arch rivals back in the day. Since we were back on campus, I felt obliged to be spiteful.
Barr is a former U.S. Congressman from Georgia who will appear on 46 or 47 statewide ballots come Election Day. Let me spoil it for you now: He will not win. But that’s not really the point. The campaign is about sending a message of dissatisfaction with the two main parties. Libertarians believe in most of the principles that Republicans believe in, but their argument is that the Libertarians “really” believe in them.
A fine example may be the recently proposed Wall Street bailout that failed regardless of support of key Republicans. Barr and other Libertarians say the House was right to refuse the $700 billion plan.
“Give the market a chance to operate here,” Barr says.
It was evident that we were on campus because progressive student issues came up. One student asked about the rights of poppy farmers in Afghanistan. Another girl argued with Barr over his support for off-shore oil drilling anywhere, anytime. A third student asked about gay issues, and got what is the reasoned conservative approach — repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and everything else is up to the states.
An often returning issue for third-party candidates is their exclusion from debates. When it looked like McCain would sit out last week’s debate, Barr sent out a news release claiming he would happily take his place. McCain showed up and Barr ended up hosting an anti-debate event available online.
“They might end up saying, ‘I don’t like Barr,'” he says of an imaginary inclusive debate. “But at least they would have the option.”
As for the argument that he’s a “spoiler,” Barr said that it’s a cheap shot to blame someone else for your own failure. Candidates should strive to put together a platform that draws a plurality of the voters or face the consequences.
If someone voters for him, Barr says, “That’s not taking votes from McCain. … That’s not taking votes from Obama. (They) wouldn’t have those votes in the first place.”