It's Their Party 

A word about the other guys and the politics of obscurity

A word about the other guys and the politics of obscurity

It’s easy enough to offer righteous indignation about censoring presidential debates. After all, barring major third-party candidates from going head-to-head with the big boys is universally unpopular—in spite of the fact that not even the most impassioned critics of such sanctioned political muzzling could make a convincing case that inclusion would change the election outcome all that much.

But there’s a point at which even the most earth-lovin’, vegetarian, no-animal-testing shampooers (on the left) and black-helicopter-fearing, militia-joining, U.N.-hating gun toters (on the right) just have to roll their eyes at third-party candidates.

While the Green Party’s Ralph Nader and the Reform Party’s Patrick Buchanan happen to have solid accomplishments and commonsense approaches on their sides, most of the lesser-known independents who will be listed as presidential candidates in some combination of the 50 states are loyalists to platforms that are, well, nothing short of laughable. This alternative weekly receives its share of pleadings from ardent political activists who have long rejected what nevertheless remains a political truism: We are a two-party society. They want coverage, they want analysis, and they want play for their candidates.

Some have gotten it—well, really only one. That’s Libertarian Harry Browne, mostly because he lives in Franklin, but certainly not because his party’s platform is any less unrealistic than some of the other guys’. In fact, if it weren’t for Browne’s incredibly articulate and professional demeanor, the party in favor of eliminating most of the federal government, legalizing prostitution, and decriminalizing drugs—among other things that have virtually no support among American voters—wouldn’t have gotten the attention it has.

Suffice it to say that the Scene does not plan to write about—at least not with a straight face—Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin, whose answer to crime is basically to light some candles for assault-weapon-carrying drug dealers and rapists and give them a massage. “The combined stress of all the individuals in society builds up and creates a dangerous, criminal atmosphere in the whole community,” Hagelin says on his Web site. “This societal stress and tension becomes a breeding ground for more crime and violence. Thus, to reduce crime, stress must be reduced in at-risk individuals and throughout society.... The Natural Law Party offers systematic, scientifically proven programs to reduce stress in the individual and throughout society—thus eliminating the root cause of crime.”

At least one such program, Hagelin says, is transcendental meditation, which “has been scientifically shown to reduce individual and social stress.” He goes on to say that “The Natural Law Party envisions an America free of crime, where all citizens live fully in accord with both natural law and national law; where people freely move on the streets without fear; and where Americans live and work together harmoniously for both their own fulfillment and the national good.” (Hagelin, by the way, is on the ballot in Tennessee, in case this sounds good to any of you voters.)

The Scene is also unlikely to write—again, with a straight face—about Constitution Party candidate Howard Phillips’ upcoming Franklin appearance. Nothing personal. We just happen to think that not many voters, much less readers, support or even want to know about legislation against homosexual conduct or instituting term limits for broadcast licenses, which would put Dan Rather and Peter Jennings in the unemployment line.

While everyone at some point or another has had some beef with the media, we don’t think many people subscribe to the kind of paranoia the Constitution Party peddles. “Big Media,” its Web site says, “is responsible for much of the ignorance and misinformation which has been directed to the American people.” (Phillips is also on the ballot here, for those of you who support turning the federal Education Department into a ghost town.)

Tennessee voters will have nine presidential candidates to choose from when they step into voting booths Nov. 7, and chances are pretty good they won’t have heard of many of them.

Trust us, there’s a good reason for that.

Misinformed

Never let it be said that the Gore press machine is not a productive bunch. Just since last month, the campaign’s press office has e-mailed a whopping 162 missives to the Scene. What is even more notable than the sheer volume of political propaganda is the quality of that information.

It would be fair to say that the substance of these hastily written, mass-produced proselytizations contains the same sort of truth-to-fiction ratios that candidate Gore is known for. This week, for example, The New York Times quoted three Texas Democrats as saying George W. Bush has misled voters about his health care record. Once processed through the Gore machine, the story became that the Times itself had offered that criticism.

Sigh.

To reach Liz, call 244-7989, ext. 406, or e-mail liz@nashvillescene.com.

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