Just about every family has that one relative. The one you try to stay away from. The one you never ever ever talk politics/religion/race with. The one who drinks too much, or gives creepily extended hugs. For our purposes, let’s call him Weird Uncle Pete.
As uncomfortable as Weird Uncle Pete makes everyone, he still gets invited to Thanksgiving dinner. Because he’s family.
But that doesn’t mean you have to invite him to a gubernatorial debate.
Well, it does, but only in Vermont. There, occupying the designated Fringe Candidate chair at Tuesday night’s debate, was Peter Diamondstone, perpetual candidate of the Liberty Union Party. (At the first debate, it was Hempily Peyton.)
And I have to say, as admirable our attention to inclusion may appear, people like Weird Uncle Pete add absolutely nothing to a high-stakes political debate. They occupy space, they take up time, and they limit the opportunity for real interaction between the candidates who have a prayer of actually being elected. Their inclusion is a disservice to the voting public.
Now, I don’t mind if Peyton and Diamondstone get one round. But I sure as hell hope I don’t have to hear either one of them again this year.
This ain’t the Special Olympics, folks. Everyone doesn’t get a ribbon for participation. I don’t mind that Vermont’s ballot access law is extremely lenient, but you don’t deserve a place on center stage or 20+ minutes of my time just because you got your name on the ballot.
Emily Peyton got on the ballot by collecting 500 signatures. Diamondstone got on the ballot because in 2012, the Republicans and Progressives didn’t run a candidate for Secretary of State, which left the Liberty Union candidate alone against Jim Condos. And of course, she got enough votes to guarantee her party ballot access for 2014. Diamondstone didn’t do a damn thing to “merit” a seat at the debate.
You may think me undemocratic, but I ask you: what is the purpose of these debates? I argue that they exist to serve the voting public. And the voting public is best served by an uncluttered presentation by candidates who, again, actually have a prayer of becoming Governor. Debates are designed to help the undecided make up their minds. The vast majority of those undecideds are never, in a million years, going to even consider voting for the likes of Weird Uncle Pete and Aunt Hempily.
We only get four gubernatorial debates this year. We can’t afford to hand them out like participation ribbons.