October 10, 2012

Debates, Independents and Answering Matt

Patrick Laverty

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I'm on the same side of an issue as Bob Plain and opposite from WPRO's Matt Allen, it really makes me wonder if I've been replaced by aliens or something.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.

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Pat well said... I couldn't believe what I was hearing from Matt... just because you don't necessarily agree with a 3rd party's (anyone not labeled 'D' or 'R') point of view doesn't mean their view shouldn't be heard.

Posted by: jgardner at October 10, 2012 10:31 PM

I know people who insist on getting into this discusion hate hearing this, but I'm going to say it anyway: Duverger's Law. Living in a single-member plurality system, means that minor parties are always going to be disadvantaged by either (1) the wasted vote perception or (2) the cognitive dissonance of pluralistic outcomes. This second factor I think is a real killer. No one likes it when a candidate wins with 30% of the vote, so voters are drawn to support the parties they feel are more likely to poll at least 50%. A majoritarian outcome is psychologically more satisfying than a pluralistic one, so we tend to gravitate toward two parties. If you want to fix the problem that is our two party system (and, for the record, I REALLY see it as a problem) then I'm afraid nothing short of institutional reform will do.

Posted by: Ron Dobbsworth at October 10, 2012 10:39 PM

This is why I occasionally read anchorrising and also the guys on the other side, rifuture.

Every so often I see responsible opinions, some real reformist discourse! It is obvious that our politics, both nat'l and local is done a disservice by the unchallenged existence of these ridiculous two parties. We can keep 'em, but we need to challenge them with alternatives.

I'm not keen on having too many parties either... we don't have a parliamentary system to manage them, as a few other nations do.

To me, a solid block of Independents (both from the far fringes, and inside the moderate middle, 20% of the seats?) to mix it up is what's needed. We need far less of this ridiculous, misinformation junky, whiny, voting block absurdity... ugh.

Posted by: Mike at October 10, 2012 10:51 PM

For all of the 'majoritarians' out there -

Less than half of registered RI voters actually go to the trouble to vote - AND - far less than 100% of adult RI citizens are registered to vote.

So, whenever someone wins with 60% or possibly even 70% of the vote, they are not getting elected by a majority of the population.

People are seriously turned off by what politics has become in this state and in this country, and that has to change.

Blackberry was the king of smart phones, until they got their clock cleaned by Apple and Google. The Dems and GOPs run the real risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant as the two main parties become mostly litmus tests for partisanship, and new parties and independent candidates come forward with platforms more appealing to the general population.

'Elect me because I am an xxxx' will hopefully continue to lose its significance, and voters will cast their votes for the candidates who can convince them that they can actually fix what is broken.

That day cannot come soon enough for me.

Posted by: Ken Block at October 11, 2012 10:13 AM

If these are truly privately run debates, let them choose whomever they want to participate. If they want to have perennial candidate Chris Young and some socialist loonie screaming at each other for an hour, let them have at it. Let the hosting organization decide who is a viable candidate and who isn't and who will make for the most interesting debate. This is like arguing over whether there should be fourth Transformers movie or whether Pepsi is better than Coke.

Posted by: Dan at October 11, 2012 1:28 PM

Dan, that's not the point. Of course they can do anything they want, but I'm simply voicing my opinion on their choices. It's like me saying "You're a jerk!" and you getting upset about that and me saying that I have a right to say it! Of course I have a right to say it, but that doesn't mean I should.

Of course these businesses can run their debates any way they want, but I and others are just giving our opinion on how they should.

Plus, if we really want to go down that road, aren't radio and tv stations supposed to be acting in the best interest of the public or whatever that standard is that the FCC puts on them? That's all.

Posted by: Patrick at October 11, 2012 4:00 PM

Fine, Patrick, but you know that our progressive "friends" would require equal access this and fair participation that in the form of Federal or state mandates in a heartbeat. They consider basically anything politics-related to be inherently public and thus fair game for restriction, especially when they feel like their statist brand is being excluded. So when discussing the concept of "should" in this context, it's a good idea to clarify that you're expressing a simple market preference and not making a case for further government intervention into the "failed marketplace" of ideas.

Posted by: Dan at October 11, 2012 5:32 PM

If a candidate makes the ballot,he or she should be included in all debates.

I'm not forgetting when Green Presidential nominee David Cobb and Libertarian Presidential nominee Michael Badnarik were both arrested and hauled off to jail for trying to enter the venue for a Presidential debate which was a public University no less.
Michael Badnarik on the ballot in all of the states,by the way.

This nonsense which is against the public interest must cease.

Posted by: helen at October 13, 2012 8:54 PM

@ron dobbsworth,

Real institutional reform would mean doing away with the political parties.

I like the idea.

Posted by: helen at October 13, 2012 9:20 PM
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