Here's the text of a letter I just submitted to Sacramento News and Review regarding a recent article entitled "No Clowning Around". In the article, Kel Munger at SN&R notes:
Even if they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the mayor’s seat, we’ve got some “fringe” candidates with a lot on the ball.Here's my letter:
That’s why SN&R’s editorial board reacted with shock to Bee columnist Marcos Bretón’s decision to slam lesser-known candidates in print, referring to them as “court jesters” in his May 18 column. (For more on that, see “Bullies and Ballots,” SN&R Bites, May 22.)
We interviewed all the mayoral candidates (except Richard Jones, who didn’t return our calls, and Adam Daniel, who’d already dropped out of the race). It’s clear from those interviews that these people are not clowns of any kind.
SN&R’s editorial board was shocked by media figures kicking lesser-known mayoral candidates around? Boy, that's a surprise! In the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election, SN&R led the California media pack in kicking lesser-known gubernatorial candidates around. With 135 candidates running, many with impressive credentials, SN&R featured just five or six of the most notorious publicity-seekers, all with the aim of discrediting the entire election, ignoring all the others. Nothing like kicking around the weak to show you mean business.
Why the change? I can only hope that the slovenly gatekeeping exercised by the national media over the last decade, which led directly to the Iraq War, has caused some rethinking even on SN&R’s editorial board. Elections are always vital and should never, ever be scorned. Candidates are rarely frivolous: it's a weary, expensive process to chase votes.
Fringe candidacies often announce the birth of important new political forces. Democratic presidential politics example: 1972's Shirley Chisholm led ultimately to 2008's Barack Obama.
Overlooked constituencies generally have only fringe candidacies to push new ideas into the political mainstream. 2003 recall election example: several candidates championed the rights of non-custodial divorced fathers in California courts. It's an oddball political issue, and if you read SN&R faithfully, you will remain blithely ignorant to it, plus being completely blindsided if it ever develops into something bigger.
The media in general, and SN&R in particular, must stop righteously abusing public-spirited citizens for wanting to enter the political process. I'm glad SN&R put away the pins and voodoo dolls, at least until the next election.