Monday, October 11, 2004

When Businesses Do This, It's Called Collusion

The Democrats and Republicans have a nice little game going. They control the action, excluding anyone that sounds remotely outside their narrow, marginally differentiated products, trivializing these (all sneer now) fringe, third-party radicals at every turn. Libertarians, Greens, Socialists, Constitution Party advocates- you are all RC Cola to the domination of the Coke and Pepsi that are the Republicans and Democrats.

The 2004 Presidential debates have been the exclusive domain of the R's and D's. In their frustration, Libertarian Michael Badnarik has staged debates with Green David Cobb, with the Socialist and CP candidate. The frustration level peaked for Badnarik and Cobb such that they were arrested in St. Louis together, trying to crash the recent debate. Didn't hear much about it? The press is in on it, too.

Indiana is a little different. The Libertarian Party has automatic ballot access and polls consistently better than any other third party in the US. In the LPIN's 2002 ballot access race, Rebecca Sink-Burris earned just under 5% of the statewide vote, gaining better than 7% in four Hoosier counties.

So, it was not surprising when the LPIN gubernatorial candidate, Kenn Gividen, was included at a recent televised debate at small Franklin College. It was surprising that Republican challenger Mitch Daniels complimented Gividen five times during the debate.

Apparently, the Democrats took sharp notice of that. The second Indiana gubernatorial debate is scheduled for this Sunday, to take place in little New Albany, on the campus of IU southeast. This time, Gividen has been excluded in a decision driven by the incumbent Democratic governor, Joe Kernan, and agreed to by the Daniels campaign. The exclusion was so thorough that Gividen wasn't even part of the negotiations. He had to learn about it from the manager of the PBS affiliate hosting the debate.

It's curious that at once the Libertarian party is trivialized by the D's & R's, and yet, we're great enough a threat to shut out. Of course, Gividen was getting great press. A prime example is new-terrain I-69. Long-time Democrats furious with Kernan for failing to protect the environment, proposing a new highway through wetlands, woods, and farmland. From Monday's Indy Star, in an article titled "Environmental Concerns Taking a Back Seat":

"The only major point on which the candidates differ is how to pay for the new road -- Kernan says he'll fight for more federal funding; Daniels said he might consider toll roads.

But if the new roadway is not a campaign issue for the two major candidates, it certainly is for many Hoosiers -- some of whom are supporting Libertarian candidate Kenn Gividen, who opposes the route.

John Smith is director and founder of COUNT US!, a Solsberry-based group that opposes the route. "This is the first year I've not called myself a Democrat, and I'm a third-generation Democrat," Smith said. "I've looked at this issue for three years now, and I'm opposed to it on the same grounds as most people: It doesn't make sense to me."

John Maier lives in Hardinsburg, in Orange County -- nowhere near the proposed route -- but he's so angry that it would cut through environmentally sensitive areas that he may vote for Gividen. If he decides to vote for one of the major candidates, however, Daniels is probably his man, simply because he wants to send a message to Kernan."

When you're a governor up for re-election, the prospect of losing a constituency you thought you could take for granted can wreck your whole day. What to do? Honor the democratic process? Or crush the opposition like an ant under your heel?

It isn't merely the Libertarians who are being ripped off by two campaigns taking the low road. The public loses, as the issues that Gividen has given sole voice to, such as opposition to new terrain I-69, public school reform, and cutting the size of government, will disappear.

All sorts of ethical questions are raised by this insult to democracy:

Don’t the people of Indiana have the right to hear the positions of all three candidates on the ballot from the same stage?

Kernan and Daniels are candidates for Governor, the highest office in the state. Shouldn’t these men have more respect for the Democratic process in order to be fit to lead?

Should publicly funded property, such as IU Southeast, be offered up to Kernan and Daniels as a campaign contribution?

Shouldn’t public PBS broadcast outlets such as WFYI and WTIU put the public interest of the voters first instead of accommodating Kernan and Daniels? These two already buy millions of dollars worth of commercial time and air infomercials. Is there any shortage of exposure for them?

When business conspires in the way Kernan and Daniels have, it is called collusion, and it is illegal. When two candidates for Governor do this, it is beneath the prestige of the office they seek, and it is ugly.

Accountability is necessary, and it is the job of the Secretary of State to ensure fair elections. Secretary of State Todd Rokita has an obligation to investigate the collusion of the Kernan and Daniels campaigns and to reverse the exclusion of Gividen.

Again- it isn’t merely the Libertarians who are being ripped off. All Hoosiers have a right to hear each candidate in the debate. All people who believe in fair elections and the democratic process will eagerly action from Mr. Rokita.

These principles apply in all 50 states. Demand the inclusion of all candidates who are on the ballot in all debates!

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