Making a number of stops in a packed two-day schedule this weekend, Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor of Virginia, campaigned at several locations in and around Charlottesville.
His itinerary included an interview with the editorial board of the Daily Progress, a policy speech at a state conference of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), shaking hands at the weekly farmers' market on Saturday morning, and meeting with supporters at the historic Court Square Tavern on Friday, October 4. One day earlier, the Washington Post ran a front-page story about the Libertarian nominee.
Sarvis spoke with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner after the Court Square Tavern meet-and-greet, answering questions about the federal government shutdown, health care policy, and the candidate's appeal to younger voters as revealed by recent public opinion polls.
Younger voters like Sarvis
According to various polls conducted in recent weeks, between 8 and 13 percent of Virginia voters plan to cast their ballots for Sarvis on November 5. Among younger voters (aged 18-29), he is polling about even with Republican rival Ken Cuccinelli and Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe, with 23 percent.
Why are twenty-somethings so heavily attracted to Sarvis?
“For one thing,” Sarvis explained, “young people recognize a lot of the pathologies of our political system where we've criminalized behavior that they see a lot of their friends doing without any harm to anyone. They see the ravages of the drug war. They find senseless the idea that you wouldn't treat gay couples equally. They see their dim job prospects when they leave college. They see how much college costs and they understand that it's because we allow all the subsidies to be captured by the institutions and they see the fact that if they do get a job, we take a lot of their money and give it to retirees.”
These were just a few of the reasons Sarvis identified that show how “young people are being underserved by the political system, a system they didn't even vote for.”
What's more, these voters, he said, “grew up on the Internet. They don't want to see government's hands on the Internet; they want Internet freedom. They have a natural inclination toward civil liberty and freedom.”
Finally, Sarvis said, “younger people are more willing to look outside the two-party system. We're running a campaign that really appeals to young people on a whole host of issues, so it's a natural alignment.”
Shutdown and dysfunction
On the federal government shutdown, Sarvis asserted it is “the result of two parties that aren't really looking for solutions so much as they are to score political points.”
The shutdown, he said, is “just emblematic of the dysfunction in our two-party system and that's why so many people are looking for something else and looking at my campaign” for governor.
If he were governor and the General Assembly reached a budget impasse, Sarvis has some ideas about how he would work to avoid a congressional-style shutdown.
“There are a lot of ways that we can find solutions,” he said.
“One of the things I like to do is to talk through the problems and actually understand them at a deeper level than we're used to hearing from politicians. That's how we get to compromises, when we all understand the issues and recognize that each of us doesn't have the full set of answers.
There are, he said, “a lot of areas in our budget, a lot of areas in health-care policy, transportation policy, where there's room for compromise. I just think we need leadership to make sure that compromise is not compromising our principles, it's not compromising the interests of taxpayers, that all the compromise is in the public interest.”
The federal shutdown, he explained, stems from “the fact that we've been having this discussion for several years now. The Republicans haven't really provide much of an alternative. It's almost like they're merely obstructionist.”
As a consequence, he said, “when you're digging your heels in and everybody's saying 'my way or the highway,' you've backed yourself into a corner and basically all you have to do is either shut down the government or give in.”
On the other hand, “when it comes to strategy and the real principles you have about opening competitive markets, you can do so much more and there's a lot more room for compromise as long as you're willing to invest the time over the course of a year or two to actually get agreement on certain things.”
Neither party in Congress has been willing to take that time, Sarvis said.
“Both the Republicans and the Democrats have taken these positions that are absolutist and that's what boxes each one into the corner. That's what leads to shutdowns because nobody wants to look weak and everybody wants to win the political game.”
Obamacare, regulations, and the marketplace
Sarvis also said that Obamacare, which seems to be the focal point of the budget impasse in Washington, is the result of shallow thinking on the part of politicians and policymakers.
“We've had several decades of federal regulations that have really interfered with the ability of the marketplace to provide health care services at reasonable cost,” he said.
To get better health-care policy, he continued, “the most important thing that we can do is to vote for politicians who understand health-care economics, understand that a lot of the problems we have stem from past regulations, and understand that a lot of the regulations that are in Obamacare are going to worsen the problem and set us up for having to have another round of regulations and new laws in another generation.”
As an alternative, Sarvis explained, “what I've been focusing on in my campaign is fixing some of the state laws and regulations that we have so that we can actually better accommodate more demand for health care by increasing the supply of doctors and nurses, expanding the roles of nurses, and freeing entrepreneurial service providers from some of the onerous regulations that we have.”