Readers often tell me they find election-season news coverage exhausting — but I also hear a steady stream of objection from people who have a huge appetite for stories about candidates with lower profiles.
“I have been just so discouraged about how (The Star) hasn’t given enough coverage to Lisa Johnston’s campaign against Jerry Moran,” said a caller last week. “You know, we see her so far down in the polls … and I just think people would donate more if they knew more about her.”
Supporters of candidates whose names aren’t followed by a (D) or (R) have offered similar observations.
“We all know the Libertarian Party is getting more and more successful in placing names on ballots in all the states,” said a caller a few weeks ago. “People say they want change in Washington, but until the reporters start giving equal play to all the candidates, not just the big two, we’re never going to get the critical mass to get our message out.”
Perusing my notes from years past, I see many examples of similar trains of thought, most requesting more information about Libertarian and Constitution Party candidates. Some readers have asked for profiles of write-in candidates in particular.
All these are perfectly valid points, though there’s always the question of resources. The major parties don’t spend much time or money tactically on races where their candidates are a shoo-in or have virtually no chance. Similarly, journalists tend to focus on the races where the stakes are highest. One major new resource this year is the Midwest Democracy Project site at midwestdemocracyproject.org. There, every candidate regardless of affiliation received unlimited space to present their positions. Interestingly, some major-party candidates declined to participate at all.
But there’s great merit in the idea of broadening our political perspective far beyond questions of Republican and Democrat, or especially the unrealistic and ill-defined “conservative” and “liberal.”
Uncountable numbers of callers and e-mailers have implored me to tell reporters and editors not to lump individuals together as groups. I recall one reader who told me she’s a registered Republican who is the proud mother of a gay daughter, protests nuclear energy development and participates in the annual Life Chain anti-abortion/pro-adoption demonstration. “So what does that make me?” she asked. “Some of my friends think I’m a raging liberal, and some of my others think I’m a right winger.”
A caller lauded the art with a story about the U.S. Senate race, which ran in the Oct. 20 Missouri editions of the Neighborhood News sections. “I can’t believe my eyes that I’m seeing the Libertarian and Constitution (candidates’) photos right here as big and prominent as Carnahan and Blunt,” he said. “The article doesn’t really mention them much, but it’s something.”
This column was originally published in the Kansas City Star on Oct. 23, 2010.