The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

There are more than two: media shuts out alternative parties

Many of you are probably trying to make a decision on who you’re going to vote for in November. Ron Paul is still in the race, but it’s most likely going to be a choice between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in November according to the mainstream election coverage.

A majority of voters are somewhat pleased with the option. A Gallup poll found that 60 percent of prospective voters were satisfied with a choice between Obama or Romney.

But not everyone is happy. Nick Holmes, president of the Students for democratic Society (SdS) on campus, says, “We don’t have a good option. Our interests are not being represented by either of the candidates.”

“Neither candidate is left of center on social, economic or international issues. We are being given a choice of a conservative and a reactionary conservative,” says student John Michaelson.

Barack Obama gained the support of 66 percent of college students back in 2008. After a disappointing first term he is still favored over Romney. According to Pew Research Center, 61 percent of prospective college-age voters support Obama, compared to Romney’s 33 percent.

With the rising liberal-conservative polarization in Washington, more voters are identifying themselves as independent. At the end of 2011, 40 percent of voters surveyed in a Gallup poll said that they were independent or not with the two major parties.

It all boils down to the laws surrounding presidential campaigns. They discourage third-party candidates.“It’s a really uneven playing field that we have to exhaust ourselves in. The Democratic and Republican Parties can start off right away and get out their message. It’s a rigged system, a totally rigged system,” says Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

The current plurality voting system discourages minor parties. The candidate who gets the most votes wins all of the electoral votes of a state. Even if a minor candidate wins 20 percent of the popular vote, he will receive no delegates.

In a proportional representation system a candidate who receives 20 percent of the votes would get 20 percent of the electoral votes. Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland and Denmark all have multi-party, proportional representation systems.

Ballot access laws make it difficult for candidates to even get on the ballot. Democratic and Republican candidates are automatically put on state ballots whereas others have to persuade voters to sign petitions to get their names on the ballot.

Money, as always, is a huge factor. Unless the candidate can finance his or her campaign themselves, as in the case of Ross Perot, it is next to impossible for a candidate without the backing of one of the two major parties to raise the money necessary for a successful campaign. While major candidates like Obama and Romney have corporate donors like Google and Goldman Sachs, third-party candidates get few to no large contributions.

The Citizen’s United ruling that allows for unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns further increased the role that money plays in election outcomes. Large companies use the ruling to back major party candidates who they think support their interests, leaving the minor party candidates with little financial backing.

The Federal Elections Commission allows for a Democrat or Republican to ask for funds in advance of an election, while third party candidates must spend their own money and hope they get the required five percent support to apply for public funding after the election.

The media also plays a large part in the success or failure of presidential candidates. The attention the media gives to candidates outside of the Republican or Democratic parties is sparse. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader was not even allowed to participate in nationally broadcast 2000 presidential debates, though he received 3 million votes overall. He called the treatment of third parties in the media a “blackout” and “political bigotry.”

“Our strategy has a lot to do with alternative media,” says Jill Stein, stating that she didn’t expect the major media outlets to engage her in debates.

Student RJ Baroumand says, “The majority of third party candidates are painted as nut-jobs, optimistic, childish idealists or conspiracy theorists. I view this as problematic, since it only perpetuates our problems even further, and the only way to break this cycle is to vote for a candidate who will take a stand and make a difference.”

Richard Winger ballot access expert says, “The extreme disparity of the burdens placed on old, established parties versus new parties has no parallel in any other democratic nation in the world.”

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About the Contributor
Millie Mccord, Staff member
Staff member, fall 2012.

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There are more than two: media shuts out alternative parties