Libertarian leader warns NU students of party exclusion

Libertarian leader warns NU students of party exclusion
Dan Fishman, the Northeast director of Gary Johnson's presidential campaign, spoke to the Young Americans for Liberty about the exclusion of the Libertarian Party Jan. 16. / Photo by Alex Melagrano

By Christopher Butler, news correspondent

In the 2016 presidential election, Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson captured just 3.28 percent of the popular vote and no electoral college votes. But Dan Fishman, political director of the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts, told a group of Northeastern students Jan. 16 that libertarianism is unfairly and arbitrarily excluded from national politics.

“When we talk about where our politics is going, we’re talking about tribalism,” Fishman said. “The idea that there are kings of tribes and they’re the ones who are getting elected.”

The Young Americans for Liberty, or YAL, a student-run political organization at Northeastern, invited Fishman to be a guest speaker at its meeting last week. Fishman worked as the Northeast director of the Gary Johnson campaign and has been an active member of the Libertarian Party since 2011.

The main facets of libertarianism, Fishman said, revolve around keeping civil rights intact and protecting personal liberties.

“We defend the idea that there really is no liberty without our amendments,” Fishman said during his speech.

This marked his second time speaking on campus since the club was founded in fall 2016.

President and founder of Northeastern’s YAL chapter Aubrey Kenderdine, a fourth-year biology and political science double major, explained that the club does not exclusively identify with one party.

“A lot of us are Republicans, some of us are Democrats, some of us are in the Libertarian Party, but we all believe in freedom of individuals and limited government,” Kenderdine said.

The club works to organize various activist events on campus to spread awareness for Libertarian ideals.

“We’re kind of in this small sect of the political compass,” Kenderdine said. “If you have an idea of what libertarianism is and you have this idea in your brain about what a libertarian looks like and what they believe, it’s probably not accurate.”

Fishman explained that these misunderstandings of Libertarians could stem from various stigmas surrounding their political stances, such as their support for legalization of marijuana.

“We’re not necessarily in favor of cannabis because we want everybody to get high all the time,” Fishman explained. “We’re in favor of cannabis because we don’t think the government has the right to tell you not to do something that doesn’t hurt anybody else.”

He further explained that the two-party system in United States politics plays a large role in the lack of Libertarian support.

“The way we’ve set up our system — tribalism, Democrats on the left, Republicans on the right — it’s very difficult for anyone to find a position in the middle,” Fishman said.

That system is one reason the Young Americans for Liberty club was created — to raise awareness and support for the party, Kenderdine said.

Club member and second-year business major Adam Sliwinski explained that Northeastern’s student body needs more “diversification of thoughts and political views on campus.”

Sliwinski emphasized that the club is happy to accept students of any political stance.

“All the members of the club are open-minded people,” said Sliwinski. “We are always happy to hear someone else’s opinion. We are always happy to argue, to discuss. Every single view is accepted here.”

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