A brief for independents

Letters to the Portland editor: March 21, 2008

May I offer a brief for independent candidacies for US Senate and House seats based on my experience as an independent 2006 Senate candidate (see "The Outsiders," by Deirdre Fulton, March 7)?

I found gaining any headway extremely difficult in that Maine media habitually treat Senate incumbents as demigods immune from serious criticism, even when they have blessed virtually every disastrous policy of the present administration, including unaccountable expenditures of tens of billions in Iraq. The media is more interested in what you are wearing and how much TV time you can afford than in your views on the issues.

In an op-ed after the 2004 election I proposed that the Legislature carve funds out of awards to candidates to buy space for 1000-1500 word presentations by candidates when they qualify for the ballot and again a month before the election and that, at the same times, TV and radio stations give them five to ten minutes.

When a chance to be heard presents itself, the independent has one advantage: being free to give voice to unpopular views without having to worry about it costing votes. Short of greenbacks falling like manna in his or her yard, an unimaginable media conversion to public responsibility, and a miraculous awakening of a largely uninformed, misinformed, or indifferent electorate, victory is quite beyond reach.

As Eileen McNamara pointed out in a 2002 Boston Globe article, independent candidates may have much to offer to the process, much that the prevailing major party candidates should consider. In 2006, after she provided ten-column inches of minority party or independent candidates’ perspectives in a Massachusetts gubernatorial debate, my exclusion from the first Senate debate was reversed. I’m told I won that and the two succeeding televised debates, presumably because I had more to offer worth hearing than my opponents.

It is, I believe, this prospect that explains why Laurie Dobson, Herb Hoffman, and I (should I enter the present Senate race), take on the onerous task of collecting 4000 signatures, twice what is required of party candidates, and, inevitably, commit significant personal funds to a campaign.

Susan Collins and Tom Allen are not talking about the threat of the military-industrial complex; about a racist foreign policy contemptuous of the freedom and human dignity of Palestinians, Haitians, Iraqis, Iranians, and Colombians; about government in the service of wealth accumulation increasingly abandoning its responsibility to the common good as in trade policy, safeguards for pharmaceuticals’ huge profits, and cuts in benefits to the needy; about the necessary impeachment of administration officials for lying us into war, failing to meet the needs of New Orleans and Gulf Coast hurricane victims, and trashing constitutional liberties with torture, unwarranted spying, and denial of habeas corpus and due process.

The varying percentages of votes independent candidates receive belies Sandy Maisel’s assertion that anyone on the ballot will get 5 per cent. My five-plus per cent, over 29,000 votes, was the highest any independent Senate candidate, save incumbent Joseph Lieberman, received nationwide in 2006 — and at 30 cents a vote likely the cheapest.

Bill Slavick

Related: Defined by struggle, Providence endorsements, Blowhard, interrupted, More more >
  Topics: Letters , Eileen McNamara, U.S. Government, U.S. Congressional News,  More more >
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