Local View: Candidate advocacy is integral to political discussion
As one who decries the loss of civility in political discourse and as one who has seen firsthand the consequences of living under the control of a dictatorship, I write against a policy being instituted by newspapers around the country, including...
As one who decries the loss of civility in political discourse and as one who has seen firsthand the consequences of living under the control of a dictatorship, I write against a policy being instituted by newspapers around the country, including in Minnesota and now at the Duluth News-Tribune, wherein letters to the editor speaking on behalf of or against specific candidates are published only if the writer pays - as if they were ads (Editor's Note: "Political plugs to be handled for what they are: paid content," May 31).
Newspapers long have provided an opportunity for people from all sides of the political and economic spectrum to provide information and to voice opinions and rationale about candidates. Such opportunity was not available elsewhere, and this represented a major service to the community by the free press.
This new policy, in combination with its consequences, subverts the political process. It favors monetary greed over public discourse, and it contributes to the problems created by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United: Those with money left over after paying the bills have the ability to participate more fully in the so-called public dialogue by writing about specific candidates. Without the same ability to submit letters about candidates, citizens of lesser means have less chance to counter newspapers that may favor certain candidates by controlling news stories and headlines throughout the campaign season, thereby forgoing the traditional neutrality expected of first-rate journalism.
The policy, by restricting the discussion of candidates, makes newspapers less relevant. They fail to fully inform voters trying to ascertain which candidates are best suited to serving the public good and fulfilling the duties of the office they seek.
There are serious questions voters need to consider when making informed decisions at the election booth.
The Holocaust survivor in Chicago would certainly want to know that the Republican running for the U.S. House seat in her district is a Holocaust-denier (National View: "A Holocaust denier is running for Congress; one of his constituents would be Auschwitz prisoner No. 27,276," Aug. 19).
Closer to home, Duluth and area voters should know that one of the candidates this year was a Tea Party activist and organizer in Duluth (apparently I can name him here: Pete Stauber, running as a Republican for the U.S. House in the 8th Congressional District).
Duluth and area voters should know which candidates and political parties support affordable and accessible health care for all and which are working to decrease access and affordability.
Duluth and area voters should know which candidates reject a policy that puts children in cages and who supports the current administration of President Donald Trump, who denigrates people with dehumanizing generalizations and seeks power by fostering fear of "the other."
Duluthians certainly should know who will vote in the Minnesota Legislature to allow a taxation policy for fixing our roads, a measure approved overwhelmingly by Duluth voters.
Candidate forums, while valuable as an introduction to those running, are insufficient for informing voters on these and other important issues facing us. The forums are limited in number and are limiting in their format. Issues are complex; a knowledgeable candidate will need more than one or two minutes or a yes or no answer to explain a policy and its rationale. Letters to the editor in support of or in criticism of candidates traditionally have helped to fill the gap.
By instituting this new policy, newspapers have limited public information crucial to voters attempting to cast an informed vote.
Eileen Zeitz Hudelson is a former Duluth School Board member and a member of the DFL Senior Caucus.