Notwithstanding my loss four years ago by 400,000 votes to the incumbent Connecticut attorney general George Jepsen, I’m on the ballot again this year as the Green Party candidate. I’d promised my Green friends that I’d run if a younger, better nominee couldn’t be recruited. There wasn’t anybody else.
I start by conceding that Jepsen is a good attorney general. He’s kept a lower profile than his precedessors, and if he’s running for higher office, it’s not evident. Plus, he’s popular with his subordinates, and, on the routine matters that occupy the attorney general most of the time, he’s worthy of my party’s endorsement. Even so, I’ll probably vote for myself, mostly out of loyalty to my party.
In the highly unlikely event that I get elected, as top priority, I’ll target corrupt authority, especially as it infects Washington, DC. I believe this distinguishes me from the major-party candidates. On the downside, citizens would have to do some work to get me elected. I tend to say what I think, and this is not a way to ingratiate yourself with voters. “Don’t be an idiot!” has serious flaws as a campaign slogan.
And I’m not accepting any money. I’m spurning the elections industry, where all that advertising comes from. I don’t much want the votes of people who respond to glossy cards that come in the mail and slow-motion images of venal politicians on TV, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get many of those votes in any case.
Of course, a candidate doesn’t receive much attention from media or political organizations when he refuses to raise money and advertise, but I have a web page anybody can examine. People who want to make an informed choice when they vote can find out all about me and get an idea of what I would do as attorney general. All they have to do is the basic work of citizenship.
The main reason you don’t hear much from or about minor-party candidates is that it’s generally acknowledged that they can’t win. The whole point of an election, most people think, is to populate elective offices. Candidates who can’t get elected don’t count, and, sometimes, neither do their votes.
Minor-party voters think an election should do more than just declare a winner. They see it as a contest of ideas as much as a contest of personalities, and they measure the popularity of their ideas by the number of votes their candidates get. If reporters of events shared these voters’ view of democratic government, minor-party candidates might get more attention in the newspapers and on TV. And we might all have a stronger republic.
If I get one percent of the votes cast, my party will retain its ballot line, making way for a third choice four years from now in the event that the major-party candidates are both crooks and the Greens find somebody really good. If I get fifty percent, I’ll become attorney general. Don’t hold your breath.