Third Party & Independents Archives

Kinky Politics

Author and singer Kinky Friedman has announced his candidacy for Governor of Texas in 2006. While I find no cause for concern in his platform, which focuses on education and judicial reform, and I appreciate the levity he brings to the table, are third parties doomed to only get media coverage if they can run a ‘gag’ candidate? Third parties have a tough time competing beyond the State Legislature level anywhere.

There are notable exceptions of course, but for the most part a lack of funds and a complete lack of interest on the part of the media prevent us from being able to reach a substantial audience. While money is a big issue, the media and the district boundaries probably have a far greater effect on third party candidates for any office.

Unless the candidate already has a high name recognition factor, they will be completely ignored by the media. Even the local TV stations and newspapers will only cover the Democrat and Republican candidates in most districts. In St. Louis we have neighborhood papers as well as the daily ones and even at that very local oriented level, where candidates can actually speak to every single voter in the course of a campaign, the neighborhood papers ignore third parties. Without media coverage, candidates cannot reach outside the already committed base.

The other major factor that is changing the dynamics of local and state elections is district boundaries. Gerrymandering by both Democrats and Republicans attempts to create as many "safe" districts as possible. Which means if you support anyone other than the party in power, then your vote likely is wasted? Again, in St Louis City the Republicans don't even bother running anyone in a lot of the wards. In many parts of the country, the Democrats don't bother running anyone in "safe" Republican areas. With that being the case, what chance do third parties have? In Friedman's case, even he admits that since Texas has been gerrymandered so wildly there is pretty much zero chance of any non-Republican ever winning a state level office there again.

How do we get our message out when the duopoly is doing everything in their power to retain and consolidate their power? The very idea of "safe" districts is fundamentally undemocratic. And yet it is becoming more and more the norm. Fewer than 5 percent of Congressional races in 2004 had any level of risk to the incumbent at all. The media goes out of their way to not cover these sorts of problems and tries to deny they exist when they have to address them. I don't have any answers; I want to know what ideas you might have on how to deal with these problems.

Posted by rev_matt_y at January 19, 2005 4:27 PM