Wednesday night, CNN held a town hall to showcase and discuss policies with Libertarian Party candidate former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and vice president pick former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. This is in the wake of a particularly controversial presidential race between Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R).
The two major parties of the U.S. have held a duopoly of presidencies for more than 170 years. CNN held the primetime debate after national poll numbers for the Libertarian party candidate reached record highs of 10 percent against Clinton and Trump.
According to Johnson, Libertarians self-identify as being fiscally conservative and socially liberal, and the party is about allowing people to “do what they want” with minimal government. Johnson refers to his party as the “comet” to the “dinosaurs” of the two major parties.
The moderator started the town hall with self-introductions of Johnson and Weld and then quickly turned the floor to audience questions.
Jeanette McCoy, a woman present at the Pulse Club shooting in Orlando asked the candidates their position on gun control. Johnson touched on keeping guns out of the hand of mentally ill and how we should be more open toward these discussions. He pointed out the FBI was in contact with the shooter three times, yet he still had access to guns.
The moderator pointed out that although Johnson doesn’t believe in restriction, he has suggested restricting gun use for those with mental illness. The moderator was quick to point out that Johnson contradicts himself in this way.
Weld, who spent seven years in the justice department, said we should use the FBI more functionally, treating ISIS as an organized criminal organization.
On the democratic gun filibuster, Johnson doesn’t agree with the persons sitting in on the senate floor. He said he believes means of gun control like a no-fly list can target Americans who aren’t a threat.
“The list is subject to error,” Johnson said.
He spins this to talk about what he says is a ¾ error in the death penalty, showcasing watch lists and the justice system as flawed establishments.
Johnson believes that there should be competition when it comes to healthcare. Claiming to have not been to see a doctor in three years due to taxes and fees, he’s a firm advocate for capitalizing healthcare. He says there could be a “Stitches-R-Us” and other sorts of competitive healthcare stations, which would bring down costs significantly because of competition.
The Libertarian refers to women’s right to choose whether to have an abortion as the “law of the land” and that they don’t intend to change the law.
Religion was brought up, and Johnson said that he does believe in God but that God doesn’t have a particular religion. Libertarians stand firmly in that religion shouldn’t be a determining factor in political offices.
Weld called Trump’s wall proposal “incendiary,” that immigrants should be able to obtain work visas with more ease. He suggested that because there isn’t an easier way to enter the U.S. legally, they are more inclined to enter illegally.
“The rounding up and deportation of 11 million people — it’s not a realistic prescription whatsoever,” Weld said.
Weld went on to say this type of rounding up people could result in distrust with the government.
Johnson is open to a work visa immigration reform that would allow migrants to work in the U.S. for a time and then return to their country.
“They don’t have to be citizens,” Johnson said. “They can be held to their limited amount of work and then move on.”
When asked whether the pair would vote for either Hillary or Trump, while Johnson said outright that he wouldn’t be voting for either candidate, Weld distinctively said Hillary was a better choice.
An audience member asked the running mates to speak on legalizing drugs such as marijuana, after an anecdote about her son who overdosed. Johnson said that prohibition on drugs is what causes overdoses and deaths because of drugs. He brought up examples of Swiss drug facilities that test heroine for lacings and provides clean needles to encourage the gradual weaning off of hard drugs. However, he does believe in taking marijuana to full legalization.
“Drug problems are health issues,” Johnson said. “They are not criminal justice issues.”
He compared recreational marijuana use to drinking alcohol, saying that in the same way others are expected not to drive after drinking so it should be with smoking.
With foreign policy, the running mates said that we shouldn’t be waging wars on or occupying countries that have not attacked the U.S. Johnson suggested that Congress should be involved in voting on whether we should attack or police other countries.
“If we are attacked, then we will attack back,” Johnson said. “We’re obligated to protect borders in countries that congress hasn’t (approved on).”
The Libertarians said they would seek tax reform, with unorthodox solutions like abolishing the IRS and instituting something similar to the Fair Tax model.
“Government tries too much, and therefore, it taxes too much,” Johnson said.
The party’s stance on social security reform is about raising the retirement age to 75 and to unify the country as a whole to come to a conclusion.
“Everyone is saying ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ in this election,” Weld said, “and nobody is asking ‘how, how, how?’”
The town hall ended with closing statements and was tracked with the tag #LibTownHall on social media.