11 October 2010

Third Parties and Independent Media: Not Quite a Perfect Fit

Metroland is "The Capital Region's Alternative Newsweekly." As such, it could be expected to give some recognition to independent gubernatorial candidates in New York as viable alternatives to Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino. Last weekend's issue expanded upon the joint appearance of Green candidate Howie Hawkins and Libertarian candidate Warren Redlich in Albany the previous week, but the resulting article by Ali Hibbs, reflecting Metroland's progressive editorial policy, proved largely a puff piece for Hawkins. While the subject headlined was the mainstream media's exclusion of both Hawkins and Redlich (not to mention unnamed others) from gubernatorial debates and campaign coverage in general, Redlich didn't exactly get equal time from Hibbs. When he's quoted, it's not to articulate the Libertarian position, but to praise Hawkins. Redlich did get to make some telling points about Bipolarchy-induced paralysis, however.

“People are tired of what’s going on in Washington and Albany,” says Redlich. “They’re not happy. There’s a perception that the Tea Party is opposed to the Democratic Party, but the problem is that people aren’t happy with both parties. We don’t agree on some of the issues, but I can tell you that I think Howie Hawkins is a man of principle and that he’s not in bed with special interests.”

Redlich also gets the last word -- again on behalf of third-partyism in general rather than his own particular cause.

“If we had the media attention that the major-party candidates have,” asserts Redlich, “then people would know more about what we’re saying. I can only tell you that when I speak to audiences, people like what I have to say. I’ve seen Howie speak to audiences and people like what he has to say. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t say anything. Carl Paladino says stuff that appeals to a narrow, angry group of people. I really think that, if people were able to hear what we have to say—if we were able to get that message out—you would see some pretty surprising numbers.”

Overall, however, the editors of Metroland have packaged Hibbs's article to make Hawkins appear as the real alternative to Cuomo and Paladino. The cover art shows Hawkins, not Redlich, entering a boxing ring to challenge the front runner, and the article is illustrated by equal-sized photographs of Cuomo, Paladino and Hawkins; Redlich goes unpictured. The bulk of the article describes Hawkins's history of activism and steady improvement in Syracuse elections. He won 41% of the vote in a city council election last year, after earning just 3% on his first try. That's an admirable story of perseverance, and equally worthy of attention is Hawkins's key plank of his platform: the repeal of the stock-transfer tax rebate that has been in effect since 1979. For more than seventy years before, stock traders paid a tax which theoretically "amounts to a penny or two per trade." Under Democratic governor Hugh Carey a substantial rebate was instituted, giving much of the money back to the traders; within a few years it had become a 100% rebate. Hawkins claims that repealing the rebate would produce a budget surplus nearly double the projected deficit for the fiscal year. He also questions whether Wall Street would pack up and flee the state if the rebate were repealed, as Governor Paterson fears. He'd use the proceeds from the repeal and more progressive income tax to stimulate the state economy with "a plan to employ every New Yorker who wants a job."

Given the setup of the article, I would have liked to read Redlich's opinion of the rebate-repeal plan, though I suppose I can predict his opposition to it. An article and an "alternative newsweekly" more interested in promoting a necessary real debate than in simply promoting the Green Party would have provided Redlich more room to explain why his platform, which "tends more toward austerity," would be more palatable than Cuomo's or Paladino's, or why it might be more necessary than Hawkins's program. I appreciate that Metroland represents progressive opinion and is usually open to libertarian opinion on cultural issues only, but if there is a necessary debate that Democrats and Republicans aren't offering us, it has to include the full range of conscientious opinion, whether it has hitherto been pigeonholed as "right," "left" or other. I say this as a New Yorker who will most likely vote for Hawkins next month. I agree with the candidate that "having a third significant party in American politics is necessary," but I wouldn't stop there. I'd like to see a fourth, a fifth, and however many more are necessary to represent fully all the reasonable options open to the country. I still believe that a no-party system is the ideal, but my paradoxical suggestion is that we'll get there sooner by expanding rather than contracting our choices.


Anonymous said...

I suppose the Libertarians could invest in a weekly of their own. Just to prove what astute businessmen they really are. But then, since they're all such rugged individualists, I don't suppose they'd see the advantage of pooling resources and talent to get the word out in a collective format.

hobbyfan said...

Metroland's editors have always had their own agenda, their own definition of "progressive", which apparently doesn't include the Greens or Libertarians. I stopped reading Metroland on a regular basis months ago because it stopped being, well, interesting. Take whatever they tell you with a grain of salt, if not a whole shaker worth.

Anonymous said...

Actually, they are very pro-green. Although I also stopped reading it regularly a few years back when they became more focused on fashion trends and the local excuse for an art scene than on politics.