Dr. Jo Jorgensen was elected the Libertarian Party’s 2020 nominee a week ago at their virtual convention. In a wide-ranging interview with Hot Air recorded on Friday morning, Jorgensen discussed the George Floyd protests, Social Security, growing the Libertarian Party, ballot access, being an alternative to President Donald Trump and Joe Biden in 2020, and playing ice hockey.
The transcript has been edited for clarity and, at one point, a cell connection.
Taylor Millard: The president tweeted very early [Friday] morning he would send in the National Guard to Minneapolis and “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” How does a President Jorgensen handle rioting and what’s kind of your reaction to that tweet?
Jo Jorgensen: Well, I mean a few things. First of all, I want to back up and just say it was the government that put all of the tension between the races to begin with. We’ve had, you know, systemic, institutionalized racism since about ten years after the Civil War. A lot of people don’t realize and this is the frustration I have with Democrats and minorities going to the government to solve these problems when the government caused it. So, if you go back…right after the slaves were freed, just like anybody starting a business, just like I did, the former slaves went around and offered their services for a lower price and they had excellent quality, excellent craftsmanship. So they offered their services at a lowered price. What did the whites do? Instead of saying, ‘Okay, how do we compete against them? Let’s offer even lower prices.’ No, they said, ‘We’ll get the government to do the job for us.’ And so they started passing all sorts of laws that set it up basically racism in the government so that the blacks couldn’t compete with the white. This lasted all the way through the Rosa Parks era. And, what a lot of people don’t realize is that the bus that Rosa Parks was asked to sit in the back of, was owned and operated by the government. So, here we are today, and it’s just a horrific situation thanks to a lot of government.
Now, I had not heard President Trump’s tweet yet, so I can’t really respond to that. But let me say that, in general, my default position is to not intrude on the state, not intrude unless the federal government is absolutely needed, and I would not have sent people out as early as he did because it looked like it was being taken care of locally. The officers were immediately fired and they gave indications that they were investigating charges, and so it sounded like they were doing their job just fine. I think if the federal government gets involved then people start feeling as though they have no power and the federal government is coming in and taking over everything. And I think that that just helps escalate. My question is, would we have the rioting if we hadn’t sent the federal government in and instead asked the people of Minnesota, ‘Okay, we’ll let this unfold, we’ll see, we’ll just make sure that you take care of this, and we’ll step in only if needed.’
Millard: When it comes to what’s going on now with looting and rioting. You’re still taking, not really a hands-off approach, but really a wait and see approach when it comes to what’s going on in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, or New York?
Jorgensen: Well, I wouldn’t call it wait and see. I would say, leave it to the state and the local citizens to see if they need the help. My question is…has Minnesota gone to the federal government and asked for help? If a state came to me and asked for help, of course, I would offer help, but my point is that the federal government just intervenes way too early, in general.
Millard: What’s your thought about the executive order regarding social media.
Jo Jorgensen: I can give you the Libertarian Party platform which is basically that the government needs to stay out of it. I’d like to read it to you, “We support full freedom of expression and oppose government censorship, regulation, or control of communications, media, and technology. We favor the freedom to engage in, or abstain from, any religious activities that do not violate the rights of others, and we oppose government actions in these.” So basically that people have the freedom to express themselves and that just because you involve technology doesn’t change that.
Millard: The Washington Times called you a psychologist grandmother in their write-up of you winning the Libertarian Party nomination, but there’s a lot more to you. You worked in computers ‘cause you were at IBM, right, and you later co-founded your own company.
Jo Jorgensen: Yes, like many Libertarians, I have had a career in computers. First of all, I’m technically not a psychologist. Usually, when people say psychologist they think clinical psychologist, somebody who treats psychological disorders. My degree is actually in industrial-organizational psychology which is more of a business-oriented psychology. It deals with like leadership, motivation…in the business world. In fact, I also have an MBA. But, yes, I did have a computer software duplications company in which we duplicated software, legally, and before that, I sold accounting software, and this is after I worked for IBM. I was actually in marketing for IBM, and the last to be kind of an independent contractor for software.
Millard: I’m sitting here in North Texas, probably an hour and a half north of Waco, near SMU. You did SMU and Baylor.
Jo Jorgensen: Yeah, that’s what I was going to say! When I worked for IBM, it was actually out of the Fort Worth branch office, although I lived in Dallas, at the time. So, I got deep Texas roots. I lived there for eight years. In fact, I recognized the… area code because I used to have a phone number [with the same area code].
Millard: So you’re originally from Illinois, right?
Jo Jorgensen: Yes, I grew up north of Chicago, and then after I graduated from high school, I went down to Baylor.
Millard: So you’ve done Illinois to Texas. How’d you end up in South Carolina?
Jo Jorgensen: My husband at the time, it was his work. I’ve been here pretty much since 1983.
Millard: During the Libertarian Primary, you were accused of being too pragmatic. I think it had to do with comments made on social security and paying back seniors what they paid in. Is that pragmatism or just good policy to eventually reach the Libertarian Party’s goal of a smaller, weaker government.
Jo Jorgensen: Well, not only do I think it’s good policy, I think it’s morally correct because you’ve got someone who, for 50 years, was required to pay into the Social Security system against their will. They had absolutely no choice, in fact the money was taken out before they even received their paycheck. So for 50 years, their money was taken away. I think it’s only right to give that money back to them. And so, we can do that, not through the Ponzi scheme that we have right now, where we take from other earners, from younger earners, but by selling national assets…assets belonging to the federal government. Because, after all, that’s what their money was spent on. Their money was not put in a lockbox, their money was spent on these assets, so I look at it that they are part owners, and let’s give them their money back.
Millard: What would you do with the rest of Social Security?
Jo Jorgensen: What do you mean by the rest of it, do you mean the younger people?
Jo Jorgensen: Have an immediately opt-out so that they wouldn’t have to pay into the system. So they wouldn’t have their money disappear from their paycheck before they even got it. And they would be allowed to invest in whatever they thought was the best tool for their investment. The best vehicle for them to get to where they want to be when they retire. It’s certainly going to be a lot better than the Social Security system.
And let me point out something else because again, getting back to race here, a lot people don’t realize just how much Social Security hurts blacks and especially black men. If you look at mortality rates-longevity rates, black men tend to not live as long as white men, white women, or black women. So, in Social Security, once you put that money in, it’s gone. And if you have some type of retirement account, if you put it into some kind of account or life insurance or whatever now, at least, you’ll still maybe die at a younger age than you’d like, but at least now the money can go to your children.
Millard: Explain the ‘One Giant Switzerland’ metaphor and is that something the average voter is going to understand?
Jo Jorgensen: I hope so, it’s resonating with the average voters. Basically, in World War II, Switzerland remained neutral, but they still defended themselves. The problem that the Libertarian Party has had with talking about bringing the troops home is people mistakenly think that that’s isolationism. That we don’t want to have anything to do with other countries. But the Switzerland is a good metaphor to show that, hey, Switzerland, they’re not an island in the middle of Europe there. They are trading with other people. There are people going across the borders. There are people vacationing. So to give Americans the sense of security, I hope, that we’re not talking about being isolationists we’re talking about just being a good neighbor.
Millard: We’re in the middle of a pandemic, right now, and who knows when this pandemic will end. Does the Libertarian Party have a ballot access issue and how are you doing to get your message out during this pandemic.
Jo Jorgensen: We’ll see. And you’re right, part of the reason that we nominated the presidential and vice-presidential nominees in May, instead of waiting until the in-person convention in July, was so that we could have a name to put on the ballot. There was concern that we might not be on the ballot in about two or three states if we waited until July, that’s why we did it in May. But, absolutely, there are states who are suing the government to say, “Hey, you want us to collect signatures, but you won’t allow us to go outside.” We’re still hoping to be on the ballot in all 50 states, but of course, it does make it a challenge.
Millard: How do you solve that challenge? Is it just getting out and doing as many interviews as possible? Is it organizing activists as much as possible to get you on the ballot? What are you doing specifically and what is the party doing specifically to get you on the ballot?
Jo Jorgensen: Well the state parties, of course, are taking the lead. Each state knows its state the best. Each state Libertarian organization. Now we do have national ballot access people who support them whenever they can. And once I am allowed to travel, of course, I will go to the state that needs me, more than the other states. That was another issue that came up in one of the final debates in which one of the other candidates said, “I’m going to make it a point to go to all 50 states.” My reply was, “I’d love to go to 50 states, but you know what, I’m going to go where I’m needed. And there are some states that have ballot access problems that they may need the publicity. So, I would definitely go to those states. As much as I’d like to go to all of them, we may have to concentrate on those.”
Millard: The Libertarian Party put Gary Johnson, Bill Weld as the ticket in 2016 but got 3.28% of the vote. Why will you bring in more than that 3.28%?
Jo Jorgensen: Well, first of all, I do agree that votes are important and we are a political party so of course, we need votes. But I think that membership is almost as important. Now, let me qualify that, some states need votes for ballot access, but aside from those states, there are other states in which I would say that membership, the total number of support we bring for our movement, is more important because if we bring more people into the movement, then we have more candidate at all levels: state, local, and federal. We have more supporters, more donors, more people knocking on doors, and all of that. And, I’d like to point out that, in 1995 and 1996 when I was Harry Browne’s running mate, we doubled the party’s size. We brought in 8500 new members even though we only got half a million votes.
So, Gary Johnson, with his over four million votes, he brought in only 75-hundred members. So, what I’m hoping to do is bring in more long-time members so they stick around and so that we can grow the movement enough that we don’t have to worry about ballot access laws. But that’s kind of my disclaimer up there. But to more directly answer your question: I think that this pandemic, well let me say the government response to this pandemic, will help us. In that the government came in, and, again, took away all of our liberties to the point of keeping us locked up in our houses. We can’t go to work, people had to shut down their businesses, and they really intruded on our economic liberties with all of their spending. And, if you look around the country, see some of these protests you know Michigan and so forth, in which people are saying, “No, government! You’ve overstepped your bounds! We have the right to go outside and go to work!” And so, I think that a lot of people are now seeing how much power the government has taken and I’m hoping that they will look at us as an alternative.
And also, a lot of people voted for Trump. You know, the reason that the predictions were so off with Trump is that they weren’t polling the people who either had never voted or hadn’t voted for like 20 years. And they finally said, “Oh, yay, there’s someone who finally gets it, who finally gets it.” And now they’re discovering that Trump really isn’t different than any of the other Republicans. He’s increasing government just as much as everybody else. He said he’d get rid of the deficit – it’s getting larger. Now people will see that there is a real alternative. So, I’m hoping that once they see that Trump did not deliver the small government he promised, that maybe they’ll take a look around and see us.
Millard: So, what voters are you going for?
Jo Jorgensen: Mostly, well, first of all, libertarian-leaning voters. There are estimates that at least 40-million people are libertarian-leaning but either they don’t know it or they’ve never heard of the party or they don’t know enough about the party. But there are a lot of people who just instinctively they should have the right to marry who they want to marry but also to be able to own a gun. And also younger people. I read a great book by Jean Twenge called iGen. And she looked through a lot of data and pointed out that the current generation that she called iGen are naturally libertarian. That they do believe what we would normally call, freedom on the left and freedom on the right. Freedom to marry who you want and to own the gun. Now, I don’t use those terms anymore, I used to say Libertarian takes the best part of the Republican, you know the economic freedom, and the best part of the Democrat, which is the social freedom, but now we’ve seen from both parties that they Democrats no longer give us social freedom and the Republicans no longer give us economic freedom.
We’re just for freedom in all areas.
Millard: How is your campaign and messaging going to be different from Gary Johnson in 2016?
Jo Jorgensen: One thing I’m going to do is try to emphasize my issues. For instance, we talked about bringing the troops home and if you hadn’t brought that up, I would…the other two issues I’m strongly pushing are medical care, the extremely high health care costs, and the environment. And, one of the reasons why I have the environment on my list is that that’s what young people are interested in…In general, Libertarians have had a certain set of issues that they were very interested in and they pushed those interests, instead of saying, “Okay, let’s see, what are the American voters excited about and let me talk about those.” So, Libertarian candidates usually haven’t talked about the environment too much, but that’s what young people are interested in so that’s what we need to talk about.
And then health care is just so major out there. And the myth, the huge myth, that we have a free market system is what’s hurting us. People are saying, “Well the free market isn’t working, so we need to go to single-payer,” but they don’t realize that we haven’t had a free market since at least World War II. So, if we would actually have a truly free market then we wouldn’t have many of these problems.
Millard: Are you a spoiler?
Jo Jorgensen: Am I a spoiler? Oh, in other words, am I going to win the presidency or am I going to throw the race to one person to the other, I guess that’s what you mean.
Jo Jorgensen: Well, you know, there’s another myth out there that Libertarians tend to pull more from the right than the left. But, actually that’s not the case. Libertarians tend to pull, in general, from both sides. Equally. Republicans and Democrats. However, we get most of our support from either Independents or people who just haven’t voted yet or haven’t gotten into politics yet.
Millard: Couple last questions…are you and [running mate Spike Cohen] a good team?
Jo Jorgensen: Well, I think we are the best team to unite the party because there was definitely a pragmatic faction and definitely a, let’s say, radical faction. And so now we’ve got one of each although I would like to quickly add that I received a B rating from the radical caucus and there was only one presidential candidate who did receive an A and that candidate was nowhere near the top six people who were invited to the last round of debate. So, I tied with the highest rating with the radical caucus from the final round. I hate to say I’m only pragmatic because I do follow the Libertarian Party platform and it’s kind of a shame we have to use the term ‘radical’ to mean following the platform.
Millard: So, what position do you play in hockey? Who’s your favorite team and have you ever ‘chucked knuckles’ on the ice?
Jo Jorgensen: [Laughing] Oh gosh. So, I play defense in hockey which is kind of unusual because when any other sport, I love playing offense because I love scoring. But when it comes to hockey, I just love taking away the puck basically from everybody else. My favorite team, you know, not many people know this because a lot of people keep asking me who my favorite team is, I don’t really watch hockey because I like playing it. So, however being from Chicago, if I had to pick a team I would pick the Blackhawks. But, I’ve only watched one entire hockey game from start to finish. And, would you believe, I’ve gotten high-sticked. I won’t talk about chucking knuckles but, hey, I’ve been high-sticked and I had to have surgery on my nose…twice.
Millard: Dr. Jorgensen, Jo, thank you so much. Good luck in November.