Jo Jorgenson

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With the election coming up, everyone must choose a presidential candidate that they want to see in office. The main two parties being talked about in the media are Democratic and Republican. 

Libertarians at UTK want people to know that they have another choice, which is to vote third party. 

Libertarians at UTK is very new to campus and was started earlier this year by junior Austin Tallent, president of the club, and junior Cameron Rogers, vice president of the club. The two had the idea to start the club after a conversation about their similar political beliefs in the spring outside of Subway in the Student Union.

Rogers spoke about the versatility of Libertarianism that initially drew her to her beliefs. 

“Libertarianism is socially liberal, but economically conservative. So you don’t necessarily have to fall on the left-wing or on the right-wing, but you can have different ideas and still be part of something,” Rogers said. 

Sophomore Chloe Weaver, recruitment chair of Libertarians at UTK, is also among the few who has been involved with the organization since the beginning and just recently identified herself as Libertarian.

Weaver was drawn to Libertarianism because her political philosophy aligns with the non-aggression principle, which is a common Libertarian value saying: Don’t hurt people, don’t take their stuff and people can choose how to live their lives themselves. 

“The government, or a larger entity, can’t decide how an individual lives, so making overarching policies and regulations is not the way to create large-scale political change or societal change,” Weaver said. 

Weaver described how Libertarians don’t believe that generalized policies over the masses is the best way to govern people, and that individuals making their own decisions will increase their quality of life. 

When school went online in the spring, Weaver turned to researching her own political philosophy in her freetime. Weaver wasn’t satisfied with what she was reading from both democratic news sources or republican news sources, so she started investigating Libertarianism.

“Since quarantine, I have had a lot more time to evaluate my morals and political philosophy, so I started watching videos from both sides like Fox or CNN, and I found flaws in both. … Everything started to line up with Libertarianism,” Weaver said.

Libertarians value individual decision-making and do not trust the government to act in the best interest of the people. Weaver was attracted to the individual freedom advocated by Libertarianism and how it promotes peace above all. 

“I think the most attractive thing about Libertarianism is you are free to live however you want to live, as long as you are not hurting other people or hurting their stuff. If we can be peaceful, then it will create a better social climate and encourage better relations among individuals,” Weaver said. “If we can just respect each other or respect others’ decisions, we will all be okay.” 

Rogers also had similar experiences, where she didn’t feel a strong pull to either of the parties and saw attractiveness in how Libertarianism offers different scales. 

“Libertarianism has different scales, so as a social libertarian, I am more concerned about social issues than economic issues, but I recognize that the economy is important and is related to social issues,” Rogers said. “Most Americans fall on a moderate scale, and that is what Libertarianism is. You can be independent, you can think what you want to think. You don’t have to agree with all Libertarian values, but it has a mix of the values that both parties have.”

Both Rogers and Weaver like how Libertarianism lets you pick and choose the values that are important to you, while respecting everyone’s rights to make their own decisions. 

Weaver explained that her and other Libertarians aren’t focused on immediate change, but they want to see long-term political and social change. 

“We want very long-term, societal change, rather than have someone in the White House telling you how to live your life,” Weaver said. “It is all about encouraging individuals to be the best they can be, so they can build their own skills and grow in every aspect instead of someone else telling them how they should be.”

Rogers encouraged everyone who doesn’t find themselves aligning with values from the right or the left to vote third-party. 

“I can understand if you don’t like Biden, and I can understand if you don’t like Trump; America’s two-party system is failing us. Those who don’t like either of those candidates can vote third-party, and increase our numbers in the polls.” Rogers said. “If we get 5% of the votes, then we will get funding, which will give us a larger platform. We would see the process of the two-party system, hopefully.”

Rogers wants individuals to look past party affiliation and vote for those who will raise awareness to issues they care about. 

Rogers attended the Jo Jorgensen rally in Knoxville on Oct. 19 and relayed what Jorgensen had to say. Jorgensen is the Libertarian candidate on the ballot this year. Jorgensen held a rally in Lakeshore Park on Monday, Oct. 19. This was the final stop on Jorgensen’s campaign tour before the election. 

“She [Jorgensen] talked about victimless crime laws. So that goes back to the drugs, sex work and gambling, so she wants to pardon those who have gone to prison for those crimes,” Rogers said. “She talked about the environment. She wants parties to be responsible for their pollution and to have alternative sources to non-renewable sources. We need to take the environment into account when you make decisions on your own property.” 

Rogers also mentioned Jorgensen’s foreign policy outlook, which is centered around withdrawing from conflicts and making the U.S. focus on itself. 

“She [Jorgensen] reassured us that she would make the United States an armed Switzerland. We want to bring our troops home, we don’t want to be involved in conflicts that are not important to us,” Rogers said. “She reiterated that America should focus on itself. And, it’s not our job to act as the world police”

Both Weaver and Rogers acknowledged that voting is important, and every election is an important election. They encouraged individuals who are questioning their political beliefs to look into other ideologies, like Libertarianism. 

Libertarians at UTK hold bi-weekly meetings, where they discuss different political concepts in the context of Libertarianism. In previous meetings they have talked about justice reform and nuclear energy. 

If you are interested in learning more about the club or Libertarianism, you can reach out to Cameron Rogers at croger54@vols.utk.edu.

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