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INTERVIEW: Dr. Jo Jorgensen, Libertarian Party candidate for president

Dr. Jo Jorgensen, Libertarian Party candidate for president. (KUTV)
Dr. Jo Jorgensen, Libertarian Party candidate for president. (KUTV)
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SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — It's been 172 years since the United States of America elected a president who was not a member of either the Republican or Democratic party (Whig Zachary Taylor). Libertarian presidential candidate Jo Jorgensen hopes to change that.

Polls including third-party candidates are almost non-existent. An ABC News/Washington Post poll from Sept. 27, and a Monmouth poll from a day later both included President Donald Trump, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the top two third-party candidates: Libertarian Jorgensen, and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins.

ABC News/Washington Post poll from Sept. 27:

  • Biden - 49%
  • Trump - 43%
  • Jorgensen - 4%
  • Hawkins - 3%

Monmouth poll from Sept. 28:

  • Biden - 49%
  • Trump - 45%
  • Jorgensen - 1%
  • Hawkins - 1%

Still, the last time a president was elected who wasn't a Democrat or a Republican was in 1848, when Whig candidate Zachary Taylor won the presidency. He died one year into his term, leaving Millard Fillmore as the last president who wasn't a Republican or Democrat to hold the office.

2News is interviewing the top third party candidates for president, according to ballot access. Check our our other interviews:

2News Digital Special Projects producer Adam Forgie chatted with the top candidate according to ballot access, Dr. Jo Jorgensen, a senior lecturer at Clemson University. Jorgensen is the only third-party candidate who is on the ballot in all 50 states.

You can watch our uncut 23-minute interview with Dr. Jorgensen below and below the video we've transcribed the questions and answers from our interview with Jorgensen.

You can follow Forgie on Twitter and Facebook.

Forgie: “We’re in Utah and it’s a pretty unique state, thanks to our religious demographic. 62% of the state are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the LDS Church, or Mormons, and in 2016 Trump won Utah with 45% of the vote. Hillary Clinton came in second with 27%, but a third-party candidate, conservative independent Evan McMullin 21%, showing that Utah’s willing to vote third party. How do you convince those McMillin voters to vote for you?

Jorgensen: “For Trump supporters, I completely understand why you voted for Trump. He came in as an outsider, he said ‘I’m a businessman,’ I know how to balance a budget I know how to cut spending and by the way I’ll bring the troops home as well, and yet he’s done none of that. And I would say I’m the outsider you were looking for in Trump in 2016.”

“To the Democrats I say, you know, the Democratic Party that I knew of the 1960s, they were the party of peace. They were antiwar, they believed in individual freedoms, and we don’t see that with the Democratic Party. The Democratic machine muzzled Tulsi Gabbard, they kept her off the stage the only antiwar voice. And yet Barack Obama Hillary Clinton in 2012 both thought that gay marriage should be illegal. I don’t see them supporting the rights of the little guy like they say they will. And by little guy, you know what I mean, people who don’t have economic clout. They’re supposed to be standing up for people who don’t have power on their own.”

“It doesn’t surprise me that people are going for a third party, in fact, 75% of our volunteers are from outside the party, and they say they’re just tired of the old system.”

Forgie: “We had our presidential debate recently and it was widely criticized because of how chaotic it was. Google searches for your name actually spiked during the presidential debate, first off, what does that tell you and second, how would you have handled the debate if you were there on the stage?”

Jorgensen: “If they loved the choices they were given, then they certainly wouldn’t have been looking up my name, they would be donating money to their preferred candidate. My short answer is I’m a teacher and I know how to handle problem students, so I would just be fine on stage with them. My longer answer is I would be the only one giving Americans a real choice. We hear the media call them, and even some people say, they two old, rich white guys. That’s the least of the worst part. The worst part is both of them were on stage saying they want to give you a one size fits all. They both want to spend your money, they both want to make choices for you, and neither one is bringing the troops home and by the way neither one has an answer to the crushing healthcare choice. So, if I were on stage, I would be explaining to people that you know how to spend your money better than any politician or burrecrat in Washington. You know what’s best for your family, you should be making your own decisions.”

Forgie: “The feeling in our country right now, it’s probably safe to say that we’re more divided than we’ve been in a generation. What would you do as president to unite the country?”

Jorgensen: “One thing, by allowing people to live their own lives and not go through a one size fits all government. I think the reason we’re divided is because we all have to go to the ballot box and somehow agree on one choice. So for school, say you want to send your kid to a school with prayer, or with vaccines or whatever, and your neighbor doesn’t. What you have to do is you have to battle it out. You have to pick your own candidate, you have to donate money, you have to get all your friends to vote, you put yard signs out, you go to the ballot box on voting day and one of you is going to win and one is going to lose, it’s no wonder we’re so polarized because we each have to fight for what we want. Under the Libertarian way, you get to keep your resources and if you want to send your kid to a school with prayer and your neighbor wants to send his kid to a school without prayer, great, you both get your own choice. But trying to put everything through the government, a one size fits all, whether it’s healthcare, education, retirement or even wearing a mask. We should be able to vote with our feet or vote with our dollars every day. We should be making our own choices on a daily basis and not one size from the government.”

Forgie: “Speaking of education, you mentioned in the past that you want to eliminate the Department of Education and the IRS, are there any other federal agencies you’d want to eliminate and if so, what would you do with the fallout from that elimination?”

Jorgensen: “I would basically keep the original ones that we originally had, like the Department of the Treasury and Department of Defense, but all of these recent ones have just created more problems than they’ve solved. And you specifically said Department of Education. Education is a local issue, it should be decided by parents, teachers, and students. And the needs of rural Appalachia are much different from the needs of downtown New York City, very different from the needs of your city. You should decide what you want in your schools, including whether or not to meet in person, including whether or not to wear masks, there shouldn’t be a one size fits all from the government. And, right now we’ve got, depending on how you do the math, at least $500 if not closer to $1,500 per pupil going to the federal government. Why not just keep that money and spend it in your local school districts so teachers would have to go buy boxes of Kleenex and crayons on their own.”

Forgie: We just learned that President Trump and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19. You’ve been critical of the president’s response, and the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, what would you have done differently?”

Jorgensen: “I would have gotten rid of the FDA requirements, the FDA obstacles that are in the way. When people ask me why I’m running for president, I tell them it’s because government is too big, too nosy, too bossy, too intrusive, but the worst part is they end up hurting the very people they’re trying to help, and we saw that with the FDA and the CDC. There were dozens of testing kits that we could have used, and they blocked all of them initially except for two of them. We had our first coronavirus case within like a day of South Korea’s first case. They’ve had massive testing, and they were able to contain the spread without any lockdowns so they could keep their economy going. Meanwhile, we lost tens of millions of jobs, the government is giving us no choice, and some of those jobs are never coming back and now look at the economic shape we’re in. Again, testing was key and the government, they try to fix one problem, they just create ten more.

Forgie: “Speaking of other recent current events, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Republicans are rushing to try and fill her vacancy before the election, Democrats say we should wait until after the election. What would you do in this situation and what qualities would you look for in a Supreme Court candidate?”

Jorgensen: “I would nominate somebody as well. The constitution allows it, I’m running for president because I think that I can make the best choices when it comes to these matters, so of course I would put my person forth. I jokingly say I want somebody who has read the constitution because apparently some of these people on the court haven’t, so we need somebody who is impartial. It’s just a shame that we’ve got to where we are. I was under the weather so I was out of the news cycle for a couple of days so I did not hear the Democratic response to Trump’s nominee. When I started watching the debates on Tuesday and they asked Trump to tell us about his pick, I thought to myself, you know, I already know what Joe Biden’s response is going to be, he’s going to hate her. It doesn’t matter who one side picks, the other side is not going to like that nominee and it didn’t used to be like that. Years ago, we would have confirmations that were 96-4, 98-2, it was usually single-digit people. Now even the court has become politicized and it’s a tragedy. As far as [Trump’s] pick, I wouldn’t have personally have picked her, because I think there are people who would stick to the constitution a little more than she would, but if I were asked if I would vote for her, I would vote yes just because I would be afraid they would nominate someone so much worse than she is. I don’t think she’s a bad pick, but again, maybe some one who is a little closer to the constitution but she’s actually a pretty good pick.”

Forgie: “Let’s talk about another big issue that seems to be talked about online more than it is on TV, and that’s child sex trafficking. What would you do at a federal level to combat child sex trafficking?”

Jorgensen: “A couple of things. First of all I believe that all crime is local. Whether it’s assault, robbery, burglary, or even molestation or even underage prostitution, it’s still crime that happens somewhere under someone’s jurisdiction. I would try to get the government out of cases as much as I can because often times what happens is the FBI, different levels of police get involved, sometimes they make the situation worse because now they get into turf wars, they start arguing about things are run, I would like to keep the FBI as a clearinghouse for information or ways that people can test things. I still say things can get done better through the private industry, through individuals, than a bureaucratic government. There is a former journalist, and his name escapes me, who was looking into statistics and realized, you know what I can come up with an algorithm that predicts serial killers. And he actually thought there were a few serial killers in Indiana. He actually contacted the police and said hey you may want to look into this. The police completely ignored him and then they found out a couple years later, oh yes, there actually was a serial killer. So what he has done is he started a private organization, and I can’t remember the name but the initials are MAP and he’s got someone from the FBI working with him and the FBI is saying you know this is great, we’re able to do so much work in so little time because we don’t have the bureaucracy of the government. I would suggest that if the government could do such a good job controlling child trafficking, they would have done it by now and they haven’t. In fact, we’ve had the opposite, we’ve had Bill Clinton on the Lolita Express, so I don’t know why people are turning to government when they’ve done such a poor job.”

Forgie: “So speaking of law enforcement, protests have been going on around the country since the death of George Floyd in May. A lot of those protests turned into riots, with violence, property destruction, what would you do, if anything, on a federal level to ease the tensions right now?”

Jorgensen: “I would get rid of a lot of the laws they are rightfully complaining about, now let me say rioting is a crime, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but peaceful protesting is fine, and the peaceful protesters have been asking to eliminate qualified immunity, they want to eliminate no knock laws, and they want to get rid of the racist war on drugs, and they’re absolutely right, these are problem laws, we need to get rid of them. I would suggest that the government has had institutionalized racism for so long and by the way they still have it in the court system. Drugs that people of color use have longer prison sentences than those that whites use and whites and people of color use drugs at about the same rate, and yet six times as many Blacks are incarcerated as whites, and so we need to fix those problems. I would say many of the demands are correct, but the rioting absolutely has to be stopped.”

Forgie: “You mentioned the War on Drugs and in the past you’ve said that’s failed. What would you do regarding certain schedule I drugs especially marijuana which is labeled more dangerous than meth and cocaine?”

Jorgensen: “First of all, the DEA is crazy for thinking that. By the way, for anyone who is tuning out right now saying ‘I don’t use drugs so this doesn’t concern me’, I don’t use illegal drugs either. Somehow I got through high school and college in the 70s never having tried marijuana, my drug of choice is bourbon. I can tell you that bourbon is a heck of a lot more dangerous than marijuana. In fact, the old joke is that the only way marijuana kills you is if a bail of it falls on your head. Alcohol uses many more neurotransmitters, I could go into all the reasons, I’ve got a graduate certificate in drug and addiction studies. Here’s the problem, and I’m speaking to everyone who is a law-abiding citizen; when is the last time you heard of a liquor store owner going up and down the halls of a high school trying to push gin on students? When’s the last time you heard of a vodka addict trying to break into houses, trying to support a vodka habit? When’s the last time you heard of two liquor store owners having a shoot out over the best corner? These are not drug problems, these are drug prohibition problems. We had the same problems in the 1920s with alcohol, we had Al Capone in Chicago with all the gangs and the shootings, now we have the drug gangs with the shootings in Chicago, it’s the same thing. We need to decriminalize drugs. Again, if someone is peacefully smoking marijuana in his or her home what’s the difference between that and me drinking bourbon in my home? Of course, any kid of driving while under the influence is absolutely wrong, it should be a crime, and people should be arrested. However, what is wrong with drug use peacefully in your own home? It’s funny you brought it up as schedule I, if marijuana had been legal, so many people with these injuries, with back pain and so forth, they could have turned to marijuana which is much less addictive, and perhaps we wouldn’t have this opioid crisis right now because people go to a medical doctor, at high expense by the way, and they get hooked on these opioids and they get cut off from their medical doctor and now they’re on the streets getting heroin. If they had just started with marijuana, then they wouldn’t be in that cycle to begin with.”

Forgie: “I have a few questions from our viewers on Facebook. Amanda R. asks, “A lot of people say that Libertarians lack compassion and would gut healthcare. Could you please explain how the Libertarian philosophy of healthcare would provide a more affordable solution than what is currently available?”

Jorgensen: “I would suggest that we need to look towards countries that work and that don’t work. I don’t know how the Democratic Party got to be the party of compassion when we’ve got people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren suggesting we following the system of Great Britain or Canada in which people literally die waiting for care. A place like Canada where a veterinarian famously talked about how dogs in her practice get better care than people do in the Canadian system, because there are such long waiting lines that she can give an MRI to a dog quicker than a human can get it. If we look to Singapore, their costs are one third our costs. Their doctor visits are only $10. They’re doctor visits are cheaper than our copay. That’s because they have insurance that’s real insurance. The biggest problem in our healthcare system is that our insurance isn’t actually insurance at all. What if your car insurance paid for gas, oil, car washes. First of all, you would have no reason to shop around to find the cheapest gas price, in fact you might even go to the nicest gas station because, what do you care, you just whip out your $5 copay card and go to the nice one that gives you free coffee, you’re not paying for it. Therefore gas stations would have no reason to compete, in fact they could raise their prices and you wouldn’t even know it. They would pass the higher costs onto the insurance companies and then the car insurance companies would simply increase our premiums the following year, and we’ve got this big cycle going. That’s exactly what’s happening in health care. If you look at the only two somewhat free systems in our country, cosmetic surgery and Lasik surgery, prices have gone down dramatically over 20 years because people are competing for you, it’s not the special interests in there. I would say allowing you to have a system in which Singapore, their heart bypass surgery costs $18,000 compared to $130,000 here because we have the federal government limiting the number of doctors, surgeons, hospitals, we don’t have competition.”

Forgie: “Rich H. asks: ‘What should voters know about your plans for Social Security?’”

Jorgensen: “We need to take care of the people that have been paying in their entire lives, however, I don’t want to leave them under the whims of Congress. That money was not put into a lockbox like Al Gore said, that money was spent on downtown office buildings, and stuff, so I want to sell those government assets, the fancy real estate, oil rights, mineral rights, take that money, give it to the retirees so that have a safe, secure amount, and then for the young people, I would have an immediate opt-out because they know they’re not going to see their social security.”

Forgie: “Ashton M. asks: “What is your position on abortion?”

Jorgensen: “The Libertarian Party says that the government should stay out of it. That’s a highly contentious within the Libertarian Party like it is on the outside. For instance, we did have Ron Paul as our presidential candidate, who was pro-life. While the Libertarian Party says that the government should stay out of it, I’d like to point out that even the staunchest pro-choice Libertarian would never spend one penny of taxpayer dollars on abortion because many people believe it’s murder. You can’t say that about the Republicans, who have actually put money towards Planned Parenthood and so forth, and you have Obamacare, which my heart breaks for those nuns who were forced to offer what they thought was murder, abortion. When the Republicans had the chance to overturn it, we saw John McCain give the famous thumbs down. So Republicans, they have pro-life in their platform, but they’re not voting pro-life, so, again, we need to get the abortion money out of government, because people who are against abortion should not be forced to pay for it.

Forgie: “Anything else you want our Utah voters to know?”

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Jorgensen: “75% of our volunteers are from outside of the party, because they are sick of the system and if you’re casting a vote for me you’re not actually casting a vote for me, you’re casting a vote for yourself because I believe that you know better what your family needs and how to spend your money than any special interest or bureaucrat in Washington knows and to go to to check me out.”

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