Friday, October 15, 2004

I Love it When a Plan Backfires

The idea was to shut out Kenn Gividen and the Libertarians. The result was to give us more positive, sympathetic press than we could have bought with a million dollars. Observe:

First news report headline: "It's Kernan vs. Daniels in round 2". LP response: "Outraged Libertarians say they are considering a lawsuit. "This is horrible," said Brad Klopfenstein, executive director of the Indiana Libertarian Party. "We're not going to take this lying down." Indy Star report.

Later that day, the Star filed a report on the reversal. "Libertarians protested the exclusion of their candidate, with Gividen saying he believed voters were being cheated out of hearing from all those on the Nov. 2 ballot. "The voters need to hear our message," he said Tuesday. "As of last night we thought we were kicked out of the debate." Tuesday morning, though, he said he turned on the radio "and all they were talking about was me."

Both the Ds & Rs tried to take credit for wanting Gividen included, and blamed the other side. "I just want to make it very clear to the Libertarian Party: I've always thought it was fine for Kenn Gividen to be in the next debate," Daniels said. Tew then blamed Daniels. "Those guys tried to keep him out of the first debate. They're doing the backstroke better than Michael Phelps," he said. "We wanted him in from the beginning." Star article, Parties Now Say Three's Company.

Editorial headline from the Richmond Pal-Item: Inviting all candidates is right choice. Body: "The campaigns for Democratic Gov. Joe Kernan and Republican Mitch Daniels were correct to reverse an earlier decision that would have excluded Libertarian Kenn Gividen. Although it took demonstrations in Indianapolis by Libertarian Party members to bring about the change, it was the right thing to do. They should not have tried to exclude Gividen in the first place. Any party that is able to successfully show it has the needed support to get on the statewide ballot deserves full consideration for its candidates."

Editorial text from the Muncie Star Press: "Indiana's gubernatorial camps have again admitted the Libertarians to their exclusive club, thus avoiding further embarrassment over their "back-of-the-bus" treatment of the party's governor candidate, Kenn Gividen. Gividen had appeared at the first governor's debate, along with Democrat Joe Kernan and Republican Mitch Daniels. His inclusion didn't seem to harm the debate, and might have improved it in isolated spots. But the major-party forces wanted to ban Gividen from the second (and final) debate, Sunday in New Albany, preferring to keep all attention directed at themselves. Outraged Libertarians complained, sent angry letters to newspapers and said they were considering a lawsuit. "The voters have been cheated," Gividen charged. "The Republicans and Democrats are playing the same old game." Even Indiana University Southeast at New Albany, host of the debate, wavered over the fairness issue, at one point indicating it might deny use of the building unless Gividen was included. Public facilities, by their nature, dislike exclusionary tactics. The same concern caused the public broadcasting station involved in debate negotiations (WFYI, Channel 20 at Indianapolis) to side with the Libertarians."

Lafayette Journal and Courier headline: Keep room for three in governor's debate. Text: "The setup, as Daniels and Kernan envisioned it, might have been pragmatic. But it was lame, too.
Libertarians worked diligently in the past two decades to organize and guarantee their place on the state ballot. They have been equally diligent to field competent candidates who can articulate their views without so much of the flaky aftertaste attributed to Libertarians of the past. Gividen is proof of that, holding his own and offering some logical solutions to state problems that Hoosiers should hear -- even if they're inclined to think a Libertarian vote would be a wasted one. Gividen deserves a place at the debate on Sunday. Kernan and Daniels should have known that all along."

Thanks, D's & R's! Couldn't have done it without you!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Shamed Into Doing the Right Thing

The Republicans and Democrats conspired to exclude Libertarian candidate Kenn Gividen from the second televised gubernatorial debate after including him in the first. The idea, no doubt, was to crowd out interesting, fresh ideas to Indiana's problems.

This strategy backfired on them. The Libertarian publicity machine was underestimated. The message was simple: dignify the deomcratic process and included Gividen, for the benefit of the people of Indiana and for the LP. Press releases went out, letters went to the editors of newspapers across the state, and talk radio stations were flooded with calls. Calls went to the hosting university and TV stations, along with the HQs of the Daniels and Kernan campaigns. Had the debate included Gividen from the beginning, he would have appeared and that would have been that. Instead, the exclusion of Kenn Gividen was the story of the day. The LP was the sympathetic character, and the Democrats and Republicans the evil conspirators. The LP got a huge publicity bump that they couldn't have purchased.

LP Executive Director Brad Klopfenstein quickly called for a press conference for Noon today, to be held on the Monument downtown. It was well attended, adding to the sympathetic publicity.

Quickly, the two other camps have caved to the pressure. Gividen will be included after all. First Indy Star story.

Observe the nonsense Kernan and Daniels wring hands over- risers to make the two men appear as tall as Gividen. Pathetic.

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!

Take The Quiz

I can generally tell who I am talking to by how they peg me. If I am called a right-winger, I know that I have someone on the line who self-identifies as a left-liberal. Same thing the other way. Problem is, it doesn't work. I'm neither left nor right. I'm a libertarian.

David Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party, recognized this shortcoming in the left-right political spectrum and devised what is often now referred to as the Nolan Chart. Rather than being a linear device, it is diamond shaped. It includes the traditional "left-liberal" and "right-conservative", but adds "centrist", "libertarian" and "statist".

Adding these three designations makes the identification process imminently more useful. Consider: Using the old left-right spectrum, would you call Hitler a left-winger or a right-winger? Given only those two choices, I would answer, "Yes". Hitler was obviously an authoritarian statist.

The Advocates for Smaller Government host "the World's Smallest Political Quiz". I plot libertarian, but to the left side of the libertarian designation, 100-90.

Take the Quiz and see if the left-right approach hasn't in fact let you down in terms of your own self-identification.