By Dylan Hock
With all the “lesser of two evils” talk creeping into the 2016 presidential campaign already, the timing is just right for pointing out the dismal, largely non-existent coverage Independent and third-party candidates receive in what is largely an unspoken two-party arena — those parties being, of course, the Republican and Democratic parties.
Take it from Connecticut Green Party 5th District congressional candidate and vehement Bernie Sanders supporter Stephanie Piddock. Coverage of her potentially historic campaign has received next to no coverage whatsoever by local and national outlets. What coverage she has received barely mentions her at all and falls a good deal short of mentioning any of the focuses of her campaign, let alone points readers toward her campaign website. The same cannot be said of her mainstream party opponents, however, who receive plenty of coverage, leading to the name recognition they’ll need to win the election. Some of the media coverage Piddock received was even pulled shortly after publication for reasons that are still unclear to the founder of Occupy Torrington.
For example, Piddocks’ main passion and focus for her campaign is poverty and homelessness. Her vision is to open urban housing centers for the homeless, built out of refurbished vacant industrial buildings.
Poverty and homelessness were also a large part of Piddock’s work with Occupy Torrington, founded in solidarity and in response to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Yet one of the few articles that mentions Piddock at all only mentions her campaign in passing and doesn’t state its focus whatsoever. Despite a lengthy interview with the Register Citizen, Piddock only received a one-line mention and a two-line quote at a function dealing directly with homelessness, compared to Republican Rep. Jay Case attending the same function, who received double the exposure with details linking his campaign and political history to the issue of homelessness and poverty, even though they are not major components of his campaign.
Piddock was also not labeled in a photo she was a part of accompanying the article. Instead, she was left anonymous, like any random citizen who happened to be in the picture. Again, the same cannot be said of Rep. Jay Case, who received a prominent photo in the article underlining his presence at the event, above and beyond Piddock’s. Such treatment of Independent and third-party candidates is so common that even Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is still feeling the sting in what many are calling the “Bernie Blackout,” largely because he is still treated like the Independent politician he has long identified as, not to mention his position as a democratic socialist. If politicians as big as Bernie Sanders are feeling the rub, you better believe candidates like Stephanie Piddock are, as well.
Such coverage is indicative of the treatment Independent and third-party candidates receive every election, from local to federal, all across the country, and people wonder why they seldom stand a chance in elections. That perspective only helps feed the impulse many have that one must vote for one of the two major parties and that any other vote is like throwing your vote away. It creates a Catch-22 – a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more folks vote for “the lesser of two evils,” the more the media will only focus on the two major parties and the more marginalized Independents and third-parties become, thereby guaranteeing their failure, which only encourages others to continue voting for “the lesser of two evils.”
This boxing away of one’s conscience to vote out of fear for “the lesser of two evils” really limits America from becoming the truly liberal or conservative country so many people yearn for it to become. Voting for the lesser of two evils limits us all to the safe doldrums of the middle, but America is more vast, more diverse and dynamic than that. Our Independents and third-parties should get equal coverage and people should vote for the candidate that best aligns with their own beliefs and agendas, regardless of party. Let the chips fall where they may. That’s an honest game. Then, the country will finally reflect much more of the American spirit. After all, it’s incredibly ironic that both major parties, especially the Republican Party, are being strong-armed by quite small sections of their respective parties already. The number of people they represent really only corresponds to a small number of constituents in those parties.
For example, The Tea Party wished to become a major contender in American politics, but once it failed to catch on as a major third party, it instead turned toward strong-arming the mainstream Republican Party. With proper coverage and opportunity, Independents and third-parties such as the Tea Party and Green Party would have a fighting chance and wouldn’t have to hijack the Republican and Democratic parties to let their voices and influence be heard, thereby expanding the range of voices and perspectives offered the American people in every election. It helps pull us away from the banal, ultimately conservative safety of the middle. That is one way America begins to shift toward a more honest democracy. It is one way candidates like Jill Stein and Stephanie Piddock have a fighting chance to not only stand out, but actually win.
On that subject, check out Stein’s video on this very issue called, “Plan B? Green Party Candidate Jill Stein’s Message to Bernie Sanders Supporters,” below:
As Piddock told Bipartisan Report, “I want to win.”
Winning, obviously, is Piddock’s ticket and best hope for affecting the change she so adamantly would like to see for the impoverished and homeless.
Once America finds the courage to begin supporting its Independent and third-party candidates, strong women like Stephanie Piddock and Jill Stein will have a real chance at leading this country in a positive direction. Until we do, we get what we pay for – only the scraps our own fear allows us.