Students that attended Husky Fest last Thursday might have noticed that Jeff Sickel, a senior accounting major, was talking to his fellow students about politics.
Sickel said he was at Husky Fest because he believed many students were looking for “a voice outside the political establishment” and believed he could be a voice to an alternative. For Sickel, this alternative is libertarianism.
Libertarians are not monolithic in their political views, but the fundamentals include free market economics, minimal government, and isolationist foreign policies, Sickel said.
Sickel considered Husky Fest a success because he received contact information from 85 people. Libertarians are against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Sickel said this is a major selling point for many USM students.
He plans to start an official student group at USM that would be Maine’s first college chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. Weekly meetings for the group on Wednesdays are planned along with an on-campus event on September 17th to mark Constitution Day.
Brent Tweed, 31, of North Berwick, the coordinator of Campaign for Liberty, YAL’s national sister organization, said that turn-out for libertarian events around Maine has been good and the organization has over 1,100 members in the state. “The campaign is a national non-profit organization funded primarily by personal donations,” said Tweed.
“Members of the Democratic and Republican parties have received libertarians well,” said Tweed. He said the goal is to have a Young Americans for Liberty chapter at all four year-colleges in Maine.
The two organizations will not run candidates in elections because they aren’t part of the Libertarian Party, but they could endorse a candidate, said Sickel.
The Campaign for Liberty’s primary political goal was “to have a bill passed by the Maine State Legislature that would nullify the Obama health care bill” said Sickel, referring to the bill signed into law last spring.
USM political science professor Ronald Schmidt said “encompassing ideologies like libertarianism are generally attractive to college students.” This attraction, combined with a broad base of dissatisfaction, is more likely what makes libertarianism popular to some college students today, Schmidt said.
Assistant Dean of Student Life Chris O’Connor oversees student groups at USM. “Historically, political groups tend to get more active when elections come around,” he said.
Though O’Connor said there isn’t necessarily more interest in politics on campus this year, it is the first time in his memory that political groups have survived on campus in mid-term years. In recent years, people representing individual political issues have been more active on campus than political party oriented groups, he said.