Debates, Independents and Answering Matt
Well this must really be absolute crazytown. When I’m on the same side of an issue as Bob Plain and opposite from WPRO’s Matt Allen, it really makes me wonder if I’ve been replaced by aliens or something. Tonight on his radio show, Matt was debuting the new and more crotchety Matt Allen. A changed man. His opinion on whether non-Republicans, non-Moderates and non-Democrats should be allowed in to the debates has changed and he feels they should not. They’re a distraction and a nuisance just looking to make a spectacle of it all. And I mostly disagree.
Matt made many arguments as to why he now feels this way but I think each argument he made was on the extreme side and wasn’t completely vetted yet. Some callers were also backing Matt with similar comments. A more common feeling that stuck out to me is they don’t want to have “all those” people up there debating. Someone even picked a number and said that we don’t want to have “thirteen” people up on the debate stage. Well, I can see that point, but it’s being taken to a ridiculous end. There are only three that will be on the ballot. I don’t see why it’s hard to include just one more person. If we’re talking about the Congressional race, we are talking about people who had to get at least 500 valid signatures to appear on the ballot. To me, for a Congressional race, if you’re on the ballot, you’re usually serious about your candidacy, with only some obvious exceptions.
Another opinion was that if you’re serious, don’t run as an Independent, go build something like Ken Block did with the Moderate Party. All Independents have to do is get signatures and they’re on the ballot. Yeah, that’s true but that’s all Republicans, Moderates and Democrats have to do as well. So I don’t see how it’s any different for Independents. Just because they skated their way to election day? Heck, we have many GA races in this state that go unopposed because no one even bothered to go get signatures and simply “skate” onto the ballot. It makes perfect sense to me if you want to run as an Independent because your views don’t align with one of the parties in this state.
The argument that I make about the chicken and the egg also came up. How can someone get the 10% support in a poll (that is WJAR’s policy) if they aren’t getting the coverage? Give them the coverage and maybe they’ll get better support. It was also asked, why is it WPRI or WJAR or even WPRO’s job to make a campaign for these non-traditional candidates? It’s not. It’s no more their job for the non-traditionals than it is for the D or the R or the M candidates, but the party candidates don’t have as much trouble getting coverage? Why? Because they chose a certain letter that isn’t “I” next to their name?
Plus, we can’t just throw out a blanket statement that Independent candidates aren’t serious. We’ve had some get elected to the General Assembly. Lincoln’s Senator Edward O’Neill was elected as an Independent. Should his candidacy have been shunned? Of course not, it was obviously very viable. There’s even another politician in this state that ran and won as an Independent. Mayor Buddy Cianci.
Then there’s the argument that the non-traditional candidates have so little support and somewhere around a zero chance to win that they’re a waste of time. Using that line of reasoning, we might have some major party candidates that are wasting our time. We see some are trailing in polls by 20-25 percentage points. We don’t see them as a waste of time simply because of the party label they have attached to their name.
Lastly, an argument was made that if these non-traditional candidates are serious and really are about serving the people and not serving themselves then they’d be back for at least a second try, but they rarely do. It’s one and done for them. So that shows that they were never serious in the first place. Clearly this is bunk as well. Republicans and Democrats take one bite at the apple time and time again and then disappear, never to be heard from again but they don’t face the same criticism.
I get it, I understand that we don’t want to fill the stage with Vermin Supreme or Jimmy MacMillan but if we have someone who is clearly serious and trying hard, I don’t think we should turn that person away. I am glad that WJAR is allowing Abel Collins in to their debate and I disagreed with WPRI’s decision to not let him in.
Just to add, my cutoff for Presidential debates is that if you’re on enough ballots to actually win 270 electoral votes, you should be allowed in to the debates. Anything less and you’re out. Want to guess who gets to decide who is allowed in to Presidential debates? Yep, the Republicans and Democrats.
We know that the two-party system is broken but if we’re just going to make it harder for non-Democrats and non-Republicans to campaign for office, then we’re a big part of the problem.