Wikinews interviews Jo Jorgensen, U.S. Libertarian Party presidential nominee

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Jo Jorgensen
Image: Jo Jorgensen for President.

Professor Jo Jorgensen of South Carolina, the U.S. Libertarian Party's 2020 presidential nominee, answered some questions about her campaign from Wikinews accredited reporter William S. Saturn.

Jorgensen is a psychology professor at Clemson University.   In 1992, with the Libertarian Party's backing, she ran for public office, seeking South Carolina's 4th congressional seat in the United States House of Representatives. She finished the race in third place with almost 2.16 percent of the total vote. Four years later, the Libertarian Party tapped Jorgensen to be its vice presidential nominee. She joined a ticket with the late Harry Browne. Browne-Jorgensen appeared on every state ballot and received a total of 485,798 votes, which was roughly 0.5 percent. This marked the best performance for the party since 1980 and would not be topped percentage-wise until 2012 when former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson attained 0.99 percent of the vote. Johnson bested that performance in 2016 as the party's presidential nominee for a second time, earning 3.27 percent of the vote, the highest percentage for the party since its 1971 inception.

For the 2020 nomination, Jorgensen navigated through a primary campaign that featured the short-lived campaigns of former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee and Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, the first sitting Congressman to be a member of the Libertarian Party. At the virtual 2020 Libertarian National Convention, Jorgensen won the nomination on the fourth ballot, edging attorney Jacob Hornberger, performance artist Vermin Supreme and activist Adam Kokesh, among others. Podcaster Spike Cohen, originally the running mate of Supreme, was picked to be the party's vice presidential nominee. Cohen spoke to Wikinews back in June. The Jorgensen-Cohen ticket has since secured ballot access in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

As a libertarian, an ideology that advocates for lesser government, both in the social and economic realms, Jorgensen's issue positions include a mix of traditionally liberal and conservative stances. She supports both LGBT rights and gun rights. She opposes the police state and the taxing authority equally. And, she supports an open immigration policy while arguing against the welfare state.

With Wikinews, Jorgensen discusses her background, COVID-19, her potential cabinet, gridlock, and an assortment of issues including climate change, foreign affairs, free speech, and race relations.


Background & leadership

President Thomas Jefferson
Image: Rembrandt Peale.

 ((WSS )) : Which past U.S. president(s) do you most admire and why?

Jo Jorgensen: Thomas Jefferson. Hey, he wrote the Declaration of Independence. I would, however, change the phrase, "that all men are created equal," to "that all people are created equal"!

 ((WSS )) : How have your past experiences prepared you for the job of President?

Jo Jorgensen: The most important preparation for the job of president is to learn that businesses and families and people everywhere are better off when they are free to run their own lives without government interference. My grandmother, who immigrated from Denmark, instilled in me a love of freedom when I was a child. Ever since, life has taught me, over and over, that government must be strictly bound to protecting our life, liberty and property - and nothing more.

 ((WSS )) : How would you describe your style of leadership? How does it compare to the leadership styles of President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama?

Jo Jorgensen: My leadership style is rooted in the principle, "first, do no harm." I will assemble a cabinet and staff that, with me, will scrutinize any proposal for use of government force for any purpose. That's the polar opposite of both President Trump, former President Obama, and his former Vice President [Joe] Biden.

COVID-19 & the campaign

 ((WSS )) : If you were president, how would you have handled the coronavirus pandemic differently than President Trump?

Jo Jorgensen: I would have made sure the bureaucrats at the CDC [(Centers for Disease Control)] and the FDA [(Food and Drug Administration)] did not block access to tests and treatments developed by the free market. Once it became clear that the primary danger is to people with comorbidities, I would have used my bully pulpit to strongly advise that those people use masks, socially distance, and self-quarantine as needed to avoid contagion. I would have ended any emergency economic lockdowns and trusted people to take care of themselves and go back to work and school in a safe manner.

 ((WSS )) : How has the pandemic affected your campaign and your ability to reach out to voters?

Jo Jorgensen: It has limited our in-person events to being mostly outside and socially distanced. That has obviously decreased the number of people able to participate in rallies and the ability of volunteers to execute a traditional ground game. On the positive side, it has tied people closer to their cell phones and computers and, we hope, increased our ability to reach people through social media.

 ((WSS )) : In 2016, Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, the former Governor of New Mexico, received about 3.28 percent of the popular vote, a record for the party. Based on your polling and general feeling on the ground, what percentage of the popular vote do you expect to receive in the 2020 election?

Jo Jorgensen: As a popular former governor with another former governor as a running mate, who was also very popular with the media, our 2016 Libertarian ticket received unprecedented media coverage. As a result, they were polling double digits shortly after they were nominated. Those polling numbers declined as election day drew near. I started out with virtually no name recognition outside the Libertarian Party. Coming out of our (virtual, thanks to COVID) nominating convention, I was polling at one percent according to RealClearPolitics. That number has gone up and ranges from two to five percent in national polls. In addition, we are polling high enough in battleground states like Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Georgia and now Alaska to cover the spread between Biden and Trump.
We have already won in the sense that Republicans and Democrats now pay lip service to libertarian ideas (lower taxes, bringing our troops home, ending the War on Drugs, etc.) to win votes. This shows that our ideas are becoming more and more popular. Unfortunately, the Ds and Rs betray those libertarian ideals - and those voters. We'll keep fighting until we make government much smaller than it is today - whether or not I, and other Libertarians, are elected. That is the ultimate victory.
Gary Johnson in 2018.
Image: Gage Skidmore.

 ((WSS )) : During the 2016 campaign, Gary Johnson responded to a reporter's question about the Syrian city of Aleppo with "What is Aleppo?" This seems to be one thing people most remember about Johnson. If there's one thing the public will remember about you and your campaign, what do you want it to be? What do you expect it to be?

Jo Jorgensen: I expect that it will be one of two things: That I am the only 2020 candidate who has credibly campaigned to bring the troops home and make America like one giant Switzerland, armed and neutral.
Or that, when I hear politicians call for Medicare for All, I hear "VA for all." If there's one thing I want people to remember, it's this: We haven't had a free market in health care in over 100 years. As president, I will work tirelessly to remove government barriers to free market healthcare, so that it's a fraction of today's cost, much higher quality, and easily accessible to everyone.

Jorgensen administration

 ((WSS )) : What would a Jorgensen administration look like? Which specific individuals would you ask to be in your cabinet?

Jo Jorgensen: A Jorgensen administration would call on talented, seasoned public policy analysts from institutions like the Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, and others who are committed to the goal of a much smaller government to staff the cabinet and administrative agencies. We would also draw on the libertarians now holding office as Democrats and Republicans and those who show strength in particular areas of government.

 ((WSS )) : There is currently only one Libertarian in Congress, Justin Amash. He is not seeking re-election. If you win the election, the government will remain divided. How will you work with Congress to avoid gridlock and pass your agenda?

Jo Jorgensen: My biggest tool will be my veto pen. I will refuse to sign any budget that is not in balance. I will require all Department heads to propose budgets that are smaller than the previous year. Some issues like cannabis decriminalization and criminal law reform already have enough bipartisan support that they will get passed with a presidential nudge. I will immediately pardon all non-violent federal drug war prisoners as well as whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange. As Commander in Chief, I will immediately begin bringing the troops home.

Climate change & foreign policy

 ((WSS )) : What should be done, from the government's perspective, to combat global climate change?

Jo Jorgensen: All federal subsidies to the energy industry, especially fossil fuels, should be eliminated. Cronyist, anti-competitive policies that prevent the full development of nuclear energy should be ended. Zero-emission nuclear power will fare very well on a level playing field, cutting greenhouse gas and protecting our irreplaceable planet.

 ((WSS )) : What are your views on the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan? What would you do as president to help resolve the conflict and how does that comport with your overarching philosophy on foreign affairs?

Jo Jorgensen: The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is their conflict. Not ours. We have no business taking either side. Our foreign policy should resemble one giant Switzerland, armed and neutral.
Jorgensen campaigns in Arizona in October 2020
Image: Gage Skidmore.

Domestic policy

 ((WSS )) : Are you concerned about the deplatforming and social media censorship of notable conservatives and libertarians? How would you address this issue as president?

Jo Jorgensen: The kind of censorship I worry about is government censorship. That's what repeal of Section 230 would ultimately lead to. One of the reasons prominent social media platforms have been censoring users is fear of government regulation if they don't censor on their own. I would foster an environment where censoring platforms' biggest fear would be users departing to competing platforms that do not censor.

 ((WSS )) : What can you do, as president, to improve race relations in the United States?

Jorgensen (right) with Spike Cohen (center) and his wife Tasha (left)
Image: Jo Jorgensen for President.
Jo Jorgensen: The two most effective ways to improve race relations are criminal justice reform and ending restrictive, protectionist licensing laws.
Victimless crime laws like drug and vice laws put minorities in prison at a higher rate than non-minorities even though the actual crime rate in both populations is similar. Ending qualified immunity, no-knock raids, federal "gifts" of tanks and other weapons of war to local police departments, civil asset forfeiture and other oppressive police tactics will go a long way in restoring respect between people of color and government. Americans should not feel like enemy combatants in their own neighborhoods
In the long run, the best way to improve race relations is to provide equal economic opportunity to all. Ending overly restrictive licensing (which prevents people from learning trades, opening businesses, or growing their wealth) would extend American prosperity and opportunity to all, not just those whom the state favors.

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This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.