Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Word For The Mountain Party - and Local Politics

Turning away from despair, I would like to say a word for state political parties. That is, parties that focus on a home state, with no national aspirations.

Personally, I saw this in action very briefly back in Rhode Island. There, a libertarian attorney from the seaside town of Warren ran for Governor in 1994 and won 9% of the popular vote, enough to establish ballot status for his own political party. Thus, Rhode Island's Cool Moose Party was born, and I was a member of its founding platform committee. (I wrote about that here.) Unfortunately, after a good start, the party did not succeed in recruiting good candidates for office, and after losing ballot status a few years later, the party dissipated.

Our politics would be served well by more state parties that are focused on local economics and energy, the integrity of small places and local communities. At the state level, campaigns are easier to fund than national campaigns, and national politics need not be a distraction.

In West Virginia, the Mountain Party established ballot status in the 2000 election. This means they are on the state ballot and can run candidates for any public office in the state without a petition drive. They have several candidates running for local office this year. Scan the party's platform here.

The next beachhead is being admitted to the candidate debates. Consider: the Mountain Party has the same ballot status as the Republican and Democratic parties in West Virginia. Interestingly, the Republican and Democratic candidates reportedly have no objection to Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson participating in debates. (Good for them! Stout fellows!) Still, the West Virginia Broadcasters Association is holding their gubernatorial debate at a non-profit center, and aims to exclude Johnson.

Johnson has filed suit, making the argument that this amounts to an improper endorsement. All legally recognized and qualified candidates ought to be granted participation - that is simply just, fair, and democratic. Johnson is not some quack running a limited campaign; he is the head of a legitimate and legal political party in the state of West Virginia, independent of the Democratic and Republican operations, and there are no grounds to exclude him from the West Virginia debates. Let me note again, even the other two candidates have indicated they would welcome Johnson.

We wish them well in their legal fight. We need more smart, decent, locally-rooted people participating directly in politics - and we need them especially at the civic level and the state level. We need them on our regulation commissions and utility boards, city councils, police commissions, county governments, and boards of education. We need citizens working locally to create and maintain disciplined organizations focused on Main Street (and the farms), because we know the true measure of the national parties' dedication.

We need local politics much more than we need Cynthia McKinney running for President.

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