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Monday, July 26, 2010

Mitchell Media Muzzle Marking

I offer my sympathy this morning to independent underdog B. Thomas Marking. The U.S. House candidate was told by Mitchell Daily Republic publisher Korrie Wenzel that he will not be allowed to participate in the big Corn Palace Festival Debate with his big-party opponents Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Kristi Noem on August 28. Marking says he'll still come to Mitchell that day (and hey, who won't? It's the Corn Palace Festival!!!) to visit with voters. Marking appears to accept the Mitchell mainstream media's exclusion of outsider voices with a sigh and a shrug, as well as optimism that he'll still get to debate the big dogs in October on SDPB and at other events.

Wenzel defends his exclusion of Marking by citing the independent's low marks in the polls. Of course, the only such data available comes from the Republican-run Rasmussen polls... and Republicans have a keen interest in seeing anti-incumbent sentiment focused on their novice GOP darling rather than dividing voters' attention with a real outsider.

Attend to Wenzel's circular reasoning:

I understand if he’s disappointed, but we have to remember that we only get an hour per debate and I think the audience will be better served by hearing what the top candidates — candidates who appear to have an overwhelming lead in the polls over Marking — have to say [Korrie Wenzel, quoted in Tom Lawrence, "Excluded from Debate, Marking Plans Separate Event in Mitchell," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2010.07.23].

Hmmm... could it be that the two "top candidates" are on top mostly because people have already heard a lot from them? Are people really "better served" by hearing from the people they already know? Might they not gain even more benefit by hearing a new voice who doesn't usually get much attention from the media information gatekeepers? Maybe the Corn Palace Festival would do the voters a favor by excluding Herseth Sandlin and Noem and giving Independent Marking a chance to catch up with the "top candidates" who have lots of money to spend on ads in Wenzel's newspaper?

(Oh, oops, sorry—there I go again, slipping into advocacy for affirmative action.)

I'll admit, I'm not wholly convinced Marking deserves a seat at the debate. After all, I've criticized the Constitution Party for whining about having to round up a certain threshold of popular support before being allowed into the statewide political arena. Allowing every fringe candidate a seat at the debate table can make for a messy forum.

But as Marking notes, he did get enough signatures to make the ballot, and as an Independent, he had to get as many signatures as Herseth Sandlin and Noem combined. Marking has already made it through the gate of statute and popular support to make the ballot: should media executives be allowed to erect another gate to keep challengers out?

In the meantime, B. Thomas, add more meat to that Facebook page, fire up a blog, and crank out some more videos!

(And I wonder what other wacky tea-flavored independent candidates the Mitchell Daily Republic might muzzle....)

Bonus Baseball: I notice that on July 14, the Marking for House Facebook page got updated with three photos from a Citizens for Liberty event. One photo features Marking in front of a "Curd for Congress" poster; the other two show R. Blake himself in the frame with B. Thomas. Is this a clever ploy for Curdistas disappointed that Noem stole their thunder? Or is B. Tom just solidifying his support among the ever-important first-initial-only crowd?

Update 13:55 CDT: I still sympathize with Marking, even though he makes the patently absurd claim that Stephanie Herseth represents the far left. B. Tom, I know the far left. I am the far left in South Dakota (which isn't saying much). Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is no far leftist.


  1. I agree. B.T. has more than earned his sea at the table. Come on, Mitchell. What gives?

  2. Cory,

    I disagree that Marking helps Noem but instead believe he helps Herseth.

    Democrats are in three groups:

    1D) Solid behind Herseth. This is the vast majority of Democrats.

    2D) Disenfranchised with Herseth but would prefer a non-Republican to vote for. Small group but larger than the next group.

    3D) Like Noem. Smallest group.

    Republicans are divided in three groups.

    1R) Solid behind Noem. Again the largest group.

    2R) Like Herseth. Because they have voted for her in the past, this is probably larger than the Democrats that like Noem.

    3R) Disenfranchised by Noem but don't want to vote for Herseth. I doubt this is a very large group.

    Independents are divided in three groups.

    1I) Like Herseth. Used to be a large group but the anti-incumbent mood probably drops this below 30%.

    2I) Like Noem. Because of the anti-incumbent mood, this is sizeable but may not be as large as the next group.

    3I) Disenfrancised with both parties (why they are independent) and glad to have a choice other than Herseth or Noem. Might be slightly larger than 2I).

    Now ask yourself, without Marking:

    2D) I think they would be more likely to vote for Noem.

    3R) They probably would split. No net affect on race.

    3I) They would probably be more likely to vote against the incumbent and for Noem.

    In the end, I think Herseth's vote total at 45% is reasonably solid because of 1D, 2R, and 1I). Without Marking, Noem would win by 8-10%. If Marking can draw around 15-20%, Herseth has a chance. Under 15% and Noem wins. Over 20% and Herseth wins.

    Bottom line: While Marking will depress Herseth's vote total, he depresses Noem's more. Something in my gut says you and Bill understand this too. :)

  3. Troy, your math isn't too shabby. It supports my thesis above that the GOP (along with its facilitators in South Dakota's conservative media?) has an interest in keeping Marking off the stage so as not to confuse or peel away members of 2D, 3D, 2R, 1I, or 2I. That Mitchell paper has some awfully Republican tendencies, doesn't it?

    I really am chewing over this question of the hoops one needs to jump through to get media coverage. Does getting enough signatures to make the ballot entitle a candidate to equal media coverage and a seat at the debates?

  4. I am not one to often defend the media (as the 4th estate they are parties to the process and need thick skins) but I don't see a conspiracy here.

    I've observed this particalar component over 30+ years and I think they are reasonably consistent. Independent candidates who don't have a natural constituency or base get no coverage (Marking fits this bill) and they generally ignore them. Only candidates who get critical mass (ala Ross Perot or Jesse Ventura) or one's with a natural base (Gene McCarthy or John Anderson) get a seat at the table.

    Because getting on the ballot is relatively easy in SDakota, this in and of itself entitles one to nothing. Marking has done little to earn anything, Bill's comment notwithstanding.

  5. If Marking and Noem really go at it, Steph could probably slide past them as the most moderate/least extreme of the bunch.

    I kind of like BT's direct democracy ideas — at least as they pertain to the House of Representatives. In a way, I think that's what the House supposed to be all about.

  6. Bill, if B. Tom is hanging out with Citizens of Liberty, then SHS would definitely be the moderate in the room.

    Much as I should be all about the idea of Internet-enhanced direct democracy, I remain uneasy with BTom's polling proposal. On the one hand, I want to believe that we common folk are capable of thinking through the big issues and voting informedly on health care, the financial system, military policy, and all those other meaty issues (your and Troy's mostly reasonable discourse suggests we are at least as equipped to do so as anyone on the ballot). But given the number and complexity of issues handled by Congress, do we need to elect representatives who can make it their full-time job to study these issues and make the hard, intelligent votes when msot of us are too busy watching football (or blogging)? Or might our elected officials be so distracted raising money that putting those big Congressional votes in the hands of ordinary citizens casting online votes during their coffee break wouldn't represent that much of a decline in the attention given to the issues?

    This is why I'd like to have B. Tom in the debates. Even if I don't agree with him, his candidacy brings up all of these really interesting questions about how we ought to govern ourselves, questions that will be much more interesting than the talking points I can already predict Noem and SHS will deploy.

  7. Yeah, what the hey?

    Having a third way on the stage might nudge one of the other candidates off her talking points. Candor is often a double-edged sword and since Mr. Marking certainly has nothing to lose, the spectacle alone might be worth the price of admission.

    Cancel your subscription to that paper.


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