On The Campaign Trail: Sarah Harvard
by Kara Dunford | The George Washington UniversityImage courtesy of Sarah Harvard
On December 31, 2011, as he signed the National Defense Authorization Act, President Obama lost the support of Sarah Harvard, then a freshman in college.
The bill included a provision that allows American citizens suspected of terrorism to be detained in military custody without being charged or given a trial, an element that led Harvard to question her devotion to the Democratic Party.
“In 2008 and up until my first semester of freshman year, I had been a staunch Obama supporter,” Harvard, a rising sophomore at American University, said. “However, I had faced the hard hitting reality of the deterioration of America’s founding principles through his signing of the Patriot Act, NDAA, and his blatant use of crony capitalism.”
“After [President Obama] signed the NDAA, I was done with liberals and the Democratic Party.”
During her freshman year, Harvard immersed herself in the readings of John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Milton Friedman, as well as other Libertarian thinkers. As she developed her own views, Harvard began to follow the campaign of Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX). When Governor Romney captured the Republican presidential nomination, Harvard turned her attention to former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.
“I believed in liberty so much that I wanted to continue on spreading the message,” she said. “Gary Johnson had a lot of the same stances that Ron Paul campaigned on.”
A personal conversation with Johnson at the end of July cemented Harvard’s belief that she had selected the best candidate for her views.
“We talked about Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 and how that led to a blowback for the United States,” she said. “We had the same sentiments and it felt like he was the only other candidate in the presidential race that understood and shared the same principles as me.”
As part of her work for the Johnson campaign, Harvard seeks to collect signatures to help Johnson’s name appear on the ballot alongside Obama and Romney. By speaking to voters in the Washington, D.C. area about libertarian ideals and values, she said she hopes Johnson’s poll numbers can improve enough for him to be included in the presidential debates so more Americans can be exposed to his ideas. Traditionally, presidential candidates must garner support from 15 percent of registered voters in selected polls, as required by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
“It’s about the principles and message of liberty,” she said. “I long for a day where the American people won’t see things as a red versus blue nation, but as a nation of free individuals.”
In order to spread the Libertarian message, Harvard operates an online magazine called “Define: Liberty,” a place for young writers from across the country to express their opinions on the current state of political affairs. Her involvement in the movement also includes an internship with Campaign for Liberty, an organization founded by Ron Paul to promote the principles of individual liberty, sound money, and noninterventionist foreign policy, among other libertarian ideals (Editor’s note: Harvard wished to express that her opinions do not reflect Campaign for Liberty’s opinion).
Harvard attributes many of her political views to her experiences growing up as a first generation American.
“As a daughter of immigrants, I think I have that first generation American complex,” she said. “I’ve always been outspoken on the issues of civil liberties and foreign policy, because I grew up feeling like an outsider. Being involved in politics makes me feel patriotic, it makes me feel American – and rightfully so.”
Harvard said while Paul’s campaign excited the nation’s youth, she does not have high expectations for the November election.
“I think this general election cycle will be let down to not only the youth, but to all Americans,” she said. “We can thank the two party system for that.”Kara Dunford is currently a student at The George Washington University pursuing a degree in political communication.