Editorial: Should money equal time?

What does it take for a gubernatorial candidate to have the chance to express his or her opinions in a debate broadcasted statewide? As far as WIBW is concerned, $50,000 from non-personal sources.

At the Kansas State Fair in Hutchison Sept. 6, incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback and his opponent state representative Paul Davis went at it, quite heatedly, in a debate. For approximately fifty minutes, debate attendees and radio listeners across the state could listen to the policies and of philosophies of the two candidates.

But there weren’t two candidates. There were three.

Keen Umbehr, running as a Libertarian, will also have his name appearing on the ballot in November. He, however, was barred from debating alongside the other two candidates per a rule set by WIBW Radio. According to a director with WIBW Radio/ Kansas Agriculture Network, Umbehr was not allowed to participate because he had not raised $50,000 from sources outside of his personal funds.

How, then, are voters supposed to make as fully an informed decision as possible when voting if one of the three candidates was denied a large chance to inform them? This disallowing of Umbehr’s participation doesn’t just hurt him. It hurts the voters.

But this is all a part of a larger problem. This is just one incident of an ongoing process. As it stands, laws set congress and in this case rules set by the media allow those in power to stay in power and suffocate the chances of smaller groups such as Libertarians or Independents from rising up. A prime example is a law passed by Democrats and Republicans in cohesion, regarding Independents running for political office.

For an Independent candidate to have his or her name on the ballot, he or she must obtain a certain amount of signatures from the public. Republicans and Democrats obviously do not have to do this – they made that rule, and because Congress is made up of virtually all Democrats and Republicans, it passed. But what is truly astounding is that if an Independent wins office and even performs greatly in office, he or she still has to go back out and get more signatures next election, despite being the incumbent.

This piece is not about endorsing one party or another. It’s bringing to light the idea that, while we as America claim to believe in equal opportunity for everyone, our own government has passed laws, and our own media make rules, that deny or greatly complicate opportunities for those that aren’t in “the mainstream.”

There is nowhere in the Constitution that says the United States is a two-party nation. There is no law that say that. Sadly, though, while that is true in theory, it doesn’t seem to be in practice.

Imagine there are three candidates for a powerful position, and just as elections are coming up, the city/state/ country somehow inherits enough money to pay off its entire debt. Say the two mainstream candidates wanted to spend the money on less crucial things as part of their own grandiose schemes, but the third candidate simply wanted to use the money to pay off the debt. What if that third candidate never made it on the ballot because he or she was unable to obtain enough signatures? Or was unable to sufficiently spread his or her plan because of lack of media coverage?

This is an extreme analogy, but hopefully that is self-evident. Hopefully the point – good ideas may easily be passed up because of some of the laws and rules we have now – is obvious. We have so many laws against discrimination of almost every kind – why not laws against discriminating based on political affiliation?