By Elona Trogub
“Candidates Gone Wild”, an event organized by the Bus Project, was not only an exercise in democracy, it was a blatant slap in democracy’s face–a reminder that our democracy only goes as far as the thickness of a candidate’s checkbook. Although poignant questions about racism and equity were raised–for example, why only 1/10th of 1% of city spending goes to minority-owned businesses–these meaty questions were eclipsed by the more potent riddle, “why were there only three mayoral candidates on stage?”
As hilarious as it was to hear a reading of voice mails left on the city hall line, the whole event felt incredibly wrong. When all 23 of the potential mayoral candidates stepped on stage to promenade their glittery banners, signs, and hopeful smiles, for a moment I was proud to be a Portlander, thinking there might be another media outlet besides beloved KBOO community radio that believes the richest three candidates are not the only candidates. However, that pride faded quickly as 20 of the 23 were excused from the stage, nary to be seen again, except for a talent show moment featuring a hokey disco duet by Eileen Brady and Cameron Whitten.
Even the lefty-papers of progressive Portland have whittled down the mayoral candidacy to three contenders, although the vote for the whittling hasn’t even happened. Please be under no delusion. We don’t live in a democracy. Instead, we’re spoon fed sugar-coated mock-democracy, told it’s all we get and if we don’t like it we can go live under a dictator in North Korea.
We really need to ask ourselves why we allow money to hold so much sway in the elections. Candidates certainly don’t enjoy spending every moment on the phones begging for contributions; in fact, This American Life did a great feature on just how much candidates hate the way campaigns function. We don’t enjoy electoral races that are all about “outspending the other candidates” and neither do the candidates. So why do we sit complacent?
Has the Arab Spring and American Autumn taught us nothing about what’s possible? We, the mighty masses need no longer stay silent as the current and future government leaders get chosen for us by bought and paid for “news outlets”. When it comes to elections, the only difference between commercials and the “news” is the length of the advertising. If we’ve learned one thing about taking back democracy, it’s a lesson in not letting money dictate our politics, especially not with a mayoral election in one of the most progressive cities in the country. Portland, we’re better than that.
If you want to hear the truth straight from all of the potential candidates’ mouths, come out on May Day, Tuesday, May 1, to the Q center. From Q Center’s website:
All official candidates will be invited to participate in the event.
The event will be held in a casual and intimate format with the theme of “Welcome to our Home”. Executive Director Barbara McCullough-Jones will serve as moderator. Each candidate will be given an opportunity to state their platform (timed) and then Barbara will ask questions that have been submitted by those in our community beforehand through our website. Questions can also be submitted at the start of the event. All candidates will have a chance to answer each question with a timed response. Q Center does not endorse the election of any candidate for political office. Our aim is to educate our community on the candidates so that they may make informed decisions.
To submit your questions for the candidates, simply post them in the comment field below or send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Candidate Forum”. We cannot guarantee that your question will be asked at the event, but we promise that all entries will be added to the pile.
If you are tired of local elections being dictated by money then come out and make this election different.
Q Center’s Advocacy Program Presents: “Meet the Candidates 2012 – The Search for Portland’s Next Mayor”
Date: Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Location: Q Center, 4115 N. Mississippi Ave, Portland
Cost: FREE (Donations gladly accepted)