Speaking in the Marvin Center Tuesday night, former Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr said he would have been a serious contender for the presidency, if only the media and government would have let him.
Saying that libertarian ideals are the principles upon which America was founded, the former Republican congressman from Georgia was outspoken in his criticism of a system that prevents third parties from getting a fair say in the political process.
“Inside the heart of every American is the heart of a Libertarian,” said Barr, who garnered just under half of 1 percent of the national vote in last November’s election.
As Barr sees it, the two major parties have created barriers – like campaign finance laws and ballot access rules – that prevent third parties from affecting elections.
“As long as we allow the two major parties to pass legislation that expands their own power, we’ll get more of the same,” he said.
The national media has also aided and abetted the Republicans and Democrats by making it nearly impossible to be a part of the presidential debates, he said.
“The media is beholden to a large extent to the two major parties,” Barr said.
A GW alumnus, Barr received a master’s degree in international affairs in 1972.
He did not shy away from disparaging his former party, relating an incident from one of the presidential debates last year when Sen. John McCain was asked a question about the education system and instead talked about childhood obesity.
“That’s the level of government we have here in America,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter if there’s a Republican or a Democrat in the White House.”
He was especially critical of the government’s response to the financial crisis. Questioning the constitutionality of the bank bailouts, Barr accused both President Obama and former President George W. Bush of playing favorites with different companies.
“There’s nothing inherently wrong with a financial institution going under,” he said. “Businesses need to rise and fall on their own.”
Speaking on common libertarian themes like civil liberties, small federal government and low taxes, Barr said the federal government needs to stop expanding and stay out of things like education.
“It’s easy to show,” he said. “An increase in federal spending in education has led to a decrease in standards.”
In an interview preceding the event, Barr reflected on his campaign last fall. Although he is ultimately disappointed in the numbers of votes he received, he feels that he was successful in raising issues no one else discussed and getting the Libertarian Party more media attention than ever before.
Barr praised Obama’s response to the Somali pirate hostage crisis last week and the efforts of the Justice Department to end some of the Bush-era policies. But Barr said the new administration has been “blissfully and gleefully spending money they don’t have.”
Obama and his policies currently enjoy high approval ratings, something that Barr sees as emblematic of a larger problem.
“That a large number of Americans support an economic plan that is running our country into the ground illustrates the depth of the problem the two-party system has given us,” he said.
Barr added that he has no plans to run for political office again.