By Paul Rozycki
Can’t deal with Trump?
Not sure if you can trust Hillary?
Well, there are lots of other choices out there.
That was the point of the “Off the Beaten Path to the White House Presidential Candidate Forum” held at Mott Community College Sept. 15.
The event was sponsored by MCC’s political science department and broadcast as part of Tom Sumner’s radio program on WFOV 92.1 LPFM.
The forum grew out of Sumner’s “Off the Beaten Path” weekly radio interviews with independent and third party candidates over the last year. Associate producer Andrea Sutton led the effort to contact the candidates and arrange for their appearance on the program and the forum.
The event brought together a diverse field of eight independent and minor party candidates. Attending the forum were independent candidates John Fitzgerald Johnson from New York, Dr. Lynn Kahn from Maryland and New York, Lloyd Kelso from North Carolina, Scott Smith from Colorado and Terry Wheelock from Texas. They were joined by Robert Dionisio of the United Party USA (unitedpartyusa.org) from Washington, D.C., Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik of the Socialist Party USA from California, and Jerry White of the Socialist Equality Party from Michigan.
None of the candidates were paid for their appearance and all covered their own expenses, organizers stated.
The candidates discussed the difficulty of third-party and independent candidates getting on the ballot in most states as well as a wide variety of policy positions. Among those were plans for doing away with the income tax and replacing it with a ‘payment tax’ (Smith), an end to ‘American imperialism (Johnson), creation of an industrial policy (Dionisio), reforming most government departments (Kahn), establishing a flat tax (Kelso), an end to the capitalist system (White and Soltysik) and the abolition of the two-party system (Wheelock).
Perhaps nothing highlighted the candidates’ differences more than their answers to the question about whom they admired most as a political hero. The answers ranged from John Kennedy, to Black Panther Bobby Seal, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Jesus Christ, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, ‘the working class,’ and their mother.
The event was part of Mott Community College’s Constitution Day events organized by political science professor Christine Stoliecki. Planners estimated about four or five dozen people attended the forum.
“This is the perfect presidential campaign to point out that the Constitution didn’t establish a two-party system,” Sumner said. “For people who think they’re being forced to ‘pick between the lesser of two evils,’ this is a great way to explore more options and commemorate the wisdom and elegance of the American Constitution.”
Though third-party and independent candidates rarely win elective office, they have often had a major influence of the platforms and policies of the major parties. Much of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal of the 1930s had its origins in the socialist parties of the early 20th century and many of Ronald Reagan’s policies were first offered by the Libertarian Party in the 1970s.
On the panel asking the questions were Flint Journal Editor Bryn Mickle, Michigan Public Radio Lansing Bureau Chief Rick Pluta, and this writer, retired MCC political science professor Paul Rozycki.
EVM columnist and staff writer Paul Rozycki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.