Libertarian presidential candidate speaks at USC

Libertarian presidential candidate Austin Petersen spoke to a group of USC students about his life and platform at an event hosted by the USC College Republicans Thursday night in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center International Plaza.

Before an open discussion regarding his policies and positions in the upcoming election, Petersen gave a quick summary of his upbringing in Peculiar, Missouri, and the values of hard work and a love of country that were instilled in him.

Petersen went on to pursue a career in media in New York City, where he began his work in politics advocating for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in 2008. Petersen touted his credentials as a producer for the Fox Business network show Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano. He said that some of the content he pushed to be featured on the show was controversial, but that his position on the program was rarely in jeopardy as long as people were tuning in.

“Fox doesn’t care as long as you get ratings,” Petersen said, discussing a particular occasion during the program’s run in which he featured the history of the pledge of allegiance.

Petersen also talked about Gary Johnson, one of his opponent’s in the Libertarian Party’s primary election. Petersen criticized his opponent and said that Johnson smokes marijuana on the campaign trail and expects to be the nominee, a hope Petersen believes was dashed once he entered the race.

Petersen questioned the donations provided to Johnson’s campaign by marijuana businesses and other companies, emphasizing the individual donations that fund his campaign and his hands-on dedication to running for president.

“I’m kind of the anti-establishment candidate in my anti-establishment party,” Petersen said.

After speaking about his career path and qualifications for the presidency, Petersen opened up the discussion to allow students to pose specific policy questions toward him.

On the question of abortion, Petersen believes he has distinguished himself as a self-avowed “pro-life atheist.”

“It confuses people, it gets them curious,” Petersen said, believing that one should take a “rational secular viewpoint” on this issue, viewing all life as important and valuable. Still, he believes this is an issue that should be decided on the state level, a sentiment echoed all throughout his discussion on policy.

Despite his enthusiasm for free trade, Petersen admitted reservations regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership, saying it would “manage trade, rather than [provide] real free trade.”

When asked by a student on how to interact and debate with more liberal-leaning classmates and professors, Petersen mentioned specific inroads that Libertarians could make with liberals, particularly with those outside the establishment, due to their similar viewpoints regarding the War on Drugs, civil liberties, interventionism and criminal justice reform.

Petersen addressed the Libertarian Party’s slim chances of reaching the White House, and why he is the best representative for its ideals.

“When you don’t have a chance at the White House, you’re sort of acting as a torchbearer for the movement. I would be able to pass the torch forward,” Peterson said.