Election Day is less than a week away and voters have been casting their ballots on campus for nearly two weeks, but many students were probably unaware that a presidential candidate was stumping on Main West Tuesday night.
Bob Barr, Libertarian presidential candidate and former Republican congressman from Georgia, spoke to a crowd of about 100 students and Durham residents, in the Social Sciences Building Tuesday about limiting government expenditures and preserving civil liberties. Afterward, Barr fielded questions from the audience. The event was hosted by the Department of Political Science, which is chaired by professor Michael Munger, the Libertarian nominee for N.C. governor.
"A wasted vote is a vote for the Democrats or the Republicans because, regardless of the Republican or Democratic candidate being elected, nothing will change," Barr said at the outset of his speech.
Although Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain have received most of the attention this political season, Barr said the two major party candidates have failed to address the proper roles of government.
"It is the job of the president to protect our liberty," Barr said, criticizing both the Republican and Democratic parties for abusing the executive power.
He faulted the two parties and their respective presidential candidates for supporting new amendments to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, noting that it unjustly stripped American citizens of their privacy. Philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand correctly identified the right of privacy as foundational to civilization, he added.
The recent FISA amendments have been criticized for permitting the warrantless domestic wiretapping program of President George W. Bush's administration.
"Both of the two major parties have an institutional interest in not diminishing the power of the president," Barr said.
He also condemned the federal bailouts as an improper governmental intervention, and added that the politicians who constructed the recent congressional bailout of financial institutions had been "very clever" in construing the language of the legislation.
"The $700 billion was a floor, not a ceiling," Barr said. "They have already put at risk some $2 trillion of our money."
Some attendees shared Barr's frustrations with representation from the Democratic and Republican parties.
"In this election, I'm supporting Barr because I'm dissatisfied with McCain and Obama," said sophomore Chris Edelman. "I don't think Obama's competent enough to be president, and I don't trust McCain's decision-making ability.... I have supported Ron Paul, and Barr's the closest thing to Ron Paul."
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Barr concluded the first portion of the event by outlining the problems third parties face in gaining representation on ballots and in debates.
He explained that the Commission on Presidential Debates unfairly excludes third parties because it is entirely run by Republicans and Democrats. Barr said the debates were useless because the candidates fail to answer the questions.
He elicited laughter from the audience when he said that he respected Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin for admitting that she would not answer some debate questions.
Barr is on the ballot in North Carolina as well as more than 40 other states.
For the question-and-answer portion of the event, audience members submitted questions on index cards, which Munger then read aloud to Barr.
Topics ranged from the environment and immigration to abortion and the appointment of federal judgeships, and Barr noted Libertarian stances on the issues.
Some students, however, also questioned the sparse advertising for the event.
"The only flyers I've seen for the event were in the political science department," sophomore Mike McDonald said. "It was really lacking in this respect."
Munger, who was responsible for promoting the speech, acknowledged that more advertising likely would have drawn a larger crowd. He noted, however, that he only spent his own money-not the department's-on publicity for the event because he felt it would be a conflict of interest for him to use department funds toward a candidate he personally endorsed.
Gwillim Law, a Chapel Hill resident, said he read about the event in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.
"I'm conservative, and I don't feel like there is a good choice in this election," he said. "But I liked a lot of what I heard tonight."