I realize that when the results are not what we hoped, we sometimes rationalize by suggesting that the system is "rigged." Earlier today I reread my posts on the gubernatorial debates in West Virginia. I was once again struck by how both the Democratic and Republican candidates seem to be totally clueless to all of the changes that are going on around us -- their ideas read like they're living in another century. (In fairness to both the 19th and 20th centuries, I'm not sure that they would fit that well in those centuries either.)
After rereading my posts, I went looking for information on the third-party candidates for West Virginia governor. It didn't take long -- there's not much out there. Locally, you'll see this sentence from an AP report before one of the debates:
Third-party candidates Phil Hudok of the Constitution Party, David Moran of the Libertarian Party and Charlotte Pritt of the Mountain Party will not be included in the debate.
And other than a similar sentence before the other debate, that's the extent of it for the locals.
Statewide, this ignoring of third party candidates is the general rule. Even the Charleston Gazette-Mail, which tends to be willing to publish ideas that are not always in line with the two parties' positions, has published only a very limited number of articles about the third party candidates. This despite the fact that Pritt garnered 8% and Moran got 5% in the most recent statewide poll. (I would also note that six weeks ago the Mail printed a column by Hoppy Kercheval who argued that "historically, third-party candidates fare poorly in West Virginia, typically collecting around 2%, usually not enough to dramatically affect the results." Sadly, while Kercheval does look at the exceptions, his comments on this year's third party candidates are limited to speculation on whether Pritt will pull enough liberals away from Justice to give the election to Cole. I would also point out to Kercheval that this year's candidates are totaling around 15% rather than 2% of the vote.)
I think the larger problem for third party candidates is that our media limit exposure to ideas outside the Republican/Democrat mainstream. For example, given both major candidates' showing in the debates, think about what percentages the third party candidates might be getting had they been allowed to participate. Instead of being limited to the views of the Trump-wannabe and the Koch brothers' candidate (whose differences were primarily stylistic), we might have been exposed to a wide-range of possible solutions to the problems facing the state. This problem comes up in almost every statewide election. Here is part of what I wrote two years ago before the Capito-Tennant senatorial debate:
The problem with this affair is that the alternative voices with clearly different policy options have been excluded from the debate. Look at what might have been discussed if the sponsors had allowed the third party candidates to participate. The Libertarian candidate wants to get rid of most federal programs which might have forced the two major candidates to discuss what is the essential role of the Federal government? The Constitution candidate wants to restore our Christian heritage which might have led to a discussion of the role of religion in American politics. And finally and maybe, most importantly, the Mountain Party candidate opposes mountaintop removal and wants us to transition from coal to alternative sources. Since a majority of West Virginians are opposed to mountaintop removal, it would have been interesting to hear a response from the two major candidates on this issue. But since they both support MR, I doubt the issue will even come up. (Note -- it didn't.) And will either candidate mention "alternative sources of energy"? Not unless they want become a part of the "war on coal." The real future of coal in WV and elsewhere is bleak and it needs to be discussed but it won’t be at this debate. That's too bad.
In arguing that we receive limited exposure to alternative views beyond those of the two similar major parties, I realize that I'm sounding a bit like Donald Trump and a lot like Bernie Sanders with my own variation on "the system is rigged" argument. Yes, my point is similar to theirs but the difference is that this is not a new phenomenon for West Virginia -- it's been a part of our politics since before we became a state. (Note that the quote from 1884 in my "bio" section describes the same problem.) West Virginia has always been one of the richest states in the nation in terms of natural resources and yet its citizens have always been among the country's poorest. That's not a coincidence; it's a function of a system of government and a parallel media system that exists to protect the mostly-outside owners of the state's resources. In this scenario, Ogden, with its nine state newspapers scattered throughout the state, serves the system well.
I did want to recognize two media sources that have covered our third party candidates. Yesterday's Beckley Register-Herald features a good article on Moran and Pritt. Additionally, Corporate Crime Reporter did an extended interview with Pritt here that allows her to elaborate on her view of West Virginia politics.