Monday, August 11, 2014

Fourth Estate Throwing a Shutout


Since the sports sections of our local papers often share as much, if not more, of the news hole of the daily paper as local or national news, I thought this post title was appropriate for what follows.

Elect Terry Link to Michigan State University Board of Trustees
Some of the handful of folks who might regularly look at this blog may know that I am a current candidate for the Board of Trustees at Michigan State University, an institution I recently retired from after nearly 30 years of walking its wonderful campus. MSU is among three state universities in Michigan (University of Michigan and Wayne State University being the others) for which our constitution requires the state electorate to choose the trustees. While I was last elected as a Democrat for a county commissioner seat, I chose to run this time as a candidate from the Green Party.

Why, you might ask, given the minute likelihood a Green Party candidate could win a statewide election? To be honest, my past experience with major party conventions is that the outcomes are largely predetermined. Those candidates nominated have dollars, connections with party leaders, and/or wide name recognition. What one stands for, what knowledge and experience one has with the issues and the system they will oversee, is not a serious consideration. The primary institutional relationship is usually limited to being an alumnus/a--a process not too different, I suspect, from how ambassadors to other nations are selected by
the White House, regardless of its resident at the time.

Pursuing a nomination in such an atmosphere would offer neither much chance of winning nor a real opportunity to raise all the issues around the position and the challenges facing higher education that I think ought to be raised. The other option was to pursue running as an independent.  While this might be a future pursuit, the effort needed to secure enough signatures from all congressional districts of the state would take a boat load of time, money and energy. I wasn't optimistic that this would work.

I was well aware of the Green Party having done research in the mid-1990s on how local Greens made decision rules and became enthralled with their dedication to fair process and giving every participant a voice. I was also aware of and support the global Green Movement's commitment to Ten KeyValues:

*       Ecological Wisdom
*       Nonviolence
*       Social Justice
*       Grassroots Democracy
*       Community-Based Economics
*       Diversity
*       Feminism
*       Decentralization
*       Personal and Global Responsibility
*       Future Focus

So I sought and won the nomination at the party's state convention earlier this summer.

Now the game plan for trying to win a statewide election as a minor party candidate is anyone's guess, since no one in this state has ever successfully done it to my knowledge. So, given all this, one of the approaches to help somewhere around 1.5 million voters choose to vote for Link this fall is to attempt to get a serious consideration from newspapers around the state that make endorsements for this race. As part of that effort I communicated with one daily paper late last week that bluntly told me they did not make a practice of interviewing minor party candidates. That's right, folks, a major daily newspaper in the state denies the existence and legitimacy of those candidates, legally named on our ballots, as deserving any consideration.

I wrote them back that as a former instructor in the school of journalism, I found this an abrogation of the responsibility our country's founders gave the press. So now we have the floods of anonymous money at one end, and the shut out from the news hole at the other. What are the voters supposed to do? Even neoliberal economists recognize that for markets to work well there must be full information available to buyer and seller. As I noted in the last blog, this happens in real life less and less often. But in a democracy, how can voters make good choices if some of the choices are not visible to them?
Photo: Terry says:

"Many thanks to the volunteers over the weekend helping me reach out to voters at THE GREAT LAKES FOLK FESTIVAL - Sarah Ann Mullkoff, Ellen Link, Melany Mack, Robert Mack, Mary Herr, Dan Dekker, and Sharon Monod. We spoke and handed out somewhat more than 1,000 pieces of literature, plus some of us were wearing the yard signs as we strolled the festival. 

Pass the word. we need between 1.4-1.5 million votes based upon the 2010 outcome!!!"

(Photo courtesy of Catherine Gibson.)
I'm not asking for an exception for myself. I want all minor party candidates to have EQUAL access to the voters and not to be dismissed by the watchdogs of our democracy as unworthy of their interest and consideration.

If you feel similarly, it’s time to let your local media know it. Otherwise, come election day, we'll be voting from ignorance of the possibilities.