On August 15, U.S. Senate candidate Robert Sarvis was a guest on “Inside Charlottesville,” hosted by Coy Barefoot on WCHV-FM. Their conversation focused on recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Sarvis' reaction to them.
“There's a lot of reasons to be unhappy” about the situation in Ferguson, said Sarvis, who is the Libertarian Party nominee running against incumbent Democrat Mark Warner and Republican nominee Ed Gillespie. “I think everyone was shocked looking at their TVs and seeing what's going on” there.
All of this, he continued, “is seriously problematic. The event that started it all was the tragic death of an unarmed young black man,” adding that “from beginning to end, it's been a serious problem and a question of what's happened to our civil liberties: freedom of the press, private property, freedom to assemble to protest. We should all be standing up and saying something's wrong here.”
Sarvis identified “the heart of the matter” as “the militarization of the police, the loss of civil liberties, and the changing relationship between police and citizens.”
The real issue, he continued, “is the drug war,” which has led to the militarization of local police forces. He noted, however, that with legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state, and polls showing support for more widespread legalization, “we're moving forward on it as a country.”
Barefoot asked whether there is a contradiction when conservatives argue that government is too big but then support laws that limit individual freedoms.
“When people ask the difference between a libertarian and a conservative,” Sarvis replied, “I jump at the chance to point out that I'm consistent on individual freedom. Republicans care a lot about law and order; I do too. Being a policeman is a hard job but that doesn't mean we should give up our civil liberties.”
The federal government, he pointed out, sells – and often gives outright – military equipment to local police forces, including armored vehicles and high-powered weapons.
Sarvis noted that although these events are happening in Missouri, “it still affects Virginia.” He brought up the example of last year's controversy when ABC agents arrested a University of Virginia student who was buying sparkling water, which the plainclothes agents mistook for beer before surrounding her vehicle and drawing their weapons on her.
“How could that have turned out differently,” Sarvis asked, “if it was a young black man rather than a young white woman?”
Too many laws
One of the issues that concerns Sarvis, he said, “is this mentality that we have to extirpate everything we don't like in society. We have too many criminal laws.”
He pointed to a study, highlighted in Harvey Silverglate's book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, which "shows individuals commit three felonies a day – not because they're criminals but because we have too many laws.”
American citizens, he said, “need autonomy in their own lives. We can't be micromanaged” by the government.
Despite all that's happening – not just in Ferguson but also with regard to NSA spying, the continuing drug war, and attempts by the government to insinuate itself into the private lives of citizens – Sarvis maintained that he is “optimistic.”
He explained that, “if you look at technological changes that are undermining government's ability to control our lives, it's a good thing for freedom.”
In addition, he said, “the growing interest in third party and independent candidates is a good thing. I think we all ought to take advantage of opportunities like this year's Senate election to register a huge protest vote,” which could result in expanding the number of parties recognized as political parties in Virginia. (If Sarvis manages to earn 10 percent of the vote or more, the Libertarian Party will qualify under Virginia law as the equal of the Republican and Democratic parties with regard to ballot access and other rules.)
“This discussion is healthy,” Sarvis said. In this election, “critical issues like immigration and legalization of marijuana [are] really important. People call it the 'libertarian moment.'”
Our future, he concluded, “can go in different directions. Elections are about choosing our future.”