While Hillary Clinton supporters cheered at comments made by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – Clintons’ surrogate at an on-campus rally in front of Mesa Vista Hall on Tuesday – a contingent just as energetic congregated closer to the SUB, countering with political signage and chanting anti-Clinton rhetoric.
The vast majority of this group was for Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, who has steadily polled around 10 percent nationally in recent weeks, and as high as 24 percent in the state, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Some still were undecided, voicing their dissatisfaction at Sanders for joining the caliber of campaign that they allege he spent so much time criticizing during his run. Chants of “Free Bernie!” and “Sellout” rang out from the crowd, combating the applause from those who agreed with what Sanders was saying.
Jay Lovell, a combat veteran from Las Cruces who attended the rally supporting Johnson, said the Libertarian candidate is the only alternative choice who can beat Clinton.
“I think he has a chance to make it to the Oval Office,” Lovell said, citing the possibility that the election goes to the House of Representatives if no candidate reaches the 270-electoral vote threshold.
Beverly Burris, a former UNM professor and current Jill Stein supporter, echoed the sentiment felt by many who are against both Clinton and Trump that 2016 is the right time for a third-party candidate to, at the very least, make a dent in the national numbers on Election Day.
“Both of the mainstream candidates are terrible, for very different reasons. In their own ways, they would be very dangerous for the country and the world,” she said.
Burris said though she doesn’t expect Stein to win, and she doesn’t have to to help her party gain relevance for future elections.
According to Ballotpedia, getting support from five percent nationally on Election Day would ensure that a party gets access to more federal campaign funds. That would already put a campaign ahead in terms of working to get support, as the only way to get on state ballots is by collecting thousands of signatures.
The exact amount varies by state. In New Mexico, candidates must collect a little over 15,000 signatures.
Burris also said reaching the five percent threshold would ensure that the Green Party gets its ticket punched to the ballot in all 50 states, but the Daily Lobo hasn’t been able to confirm that.
Burris called Johnson a “corporatist,” signaling that he’s a similar candidate to Trump and Clinton in that regard.
“I think he doesn’t know anything about foreign policy, and I think he’s not for the people,” she said. “We need a voice in Washington that’s for the 99 percent of the population.”
Many across the country – particularly Millennials – thought that Sanders would have been that voice. And while he has had success in encouraging many of his supporters to go to the polls for Clinton since the Democratic National Convention in July, others still are reluctant, exhibiting a sense of unease perhaps over not knowing exactly why Sanders is supporting the official Democratic nominee.
That group includes one undecided voter who held up a sign that read, “Bernie, thanks for inspiring us,” and said he won’t vote for Clinton as he disagreed with her platform that leans more towards the establishment politics that Sanders consistently denounced mere months ago.
While Johnson and Stein – the former in particular – have been extensively covered in the media as third-party hopefuls who have the potential to break a different kind of ceiling that Clinton has shattered with her official nomination for president, members of other parties still used the rally – which was reportedly attended by over 1,000 – as an avenue to get the word out about their candidates.
Marcus Nells was one of several members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation perusing the crowd, working to gather support for Albuquerque native Gloria La Riva, who is on the ballot in New Mexico.
“After going through a lot of different research and learning about this election,” Nells said, “Gloria La Riva has been the only candidate that I’ve personally thought to be a logical choice.”
Loud chanting from anti-Clinton proponents drowned out the rally’s official speakers at times, as a large banner ominously bearing the words “Never Hillary” in black paint was draped over the entrance to the SUB’s lower level.
While for most of the rally the metaphorical battle lines were drawn, a war of mincing words being waged from attendees – many of them former supporters of Sanders – there was a moment near the end of the senator’s speech when Clinton supporters had had enough of the interruptions, and began to confront a small contingent of outspoken Johnson proponents. University officials broke it up before it became anything more than passionate arguing.
Nonetheless, for people like UNM student Anthony Jackson, in an election with so much at stake – which Sanders made clear time and time again in his roughly half-hour speech – there is as much to be said in not casting a vote as there is in checking off a box on Nov. 8.
“I hope he says she’ll stop accepting foreign money, and stop accepting (donations from) super PACs,” Jackson said, repeating a condition that many former Sanders supporters from Clinton to consider supporting her. “All the money she gets should be from the people — not from corporations or any foreign powers overseas that want to advance their agenda.”
David Lynch is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.