A new perspective
Last summer, Michael White started showing up early to parades.
Without the support of a political party, the independent candidate for governor of Illinois needed to grab every opportunity he could to connect with voters and spread his message. So he scoured newspapers and the Internet to find parades throughout the state. White would then go out and walk the route before the procession began, handing out pamphlets and talking about his message.
People were so engaged and interested, White said, that he would run out of campaign literature long before he reached the end of the route.
But the parade-goers didn’t just listen to White’s platform and shake his hand—they talked.
“People were so interested and engaged that there was someone else out there, I couldn’t even hand out enough literature or make it through the crowd because people wanted to talk about their frustrations,” White said.
Eight years of political corruption in Springfield convinced White to run for governor of Illinois as an independent in the 2010 election.
“For me, as just a plain Illinoisan, I got tired of the whole system of politics as usual,” White said. “I’ve been a good voter and always voted and tried to do my best and realized that it was now my responsibility to do something.”
According to White, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and the Illinois National Guard for more than 20 years, voters are eager for a candidate who is not affiliated with the two major parties, Republicans and Democrats.
Libertarian candidate for governor of Illinois, Lex Green, said he has seen the same interest from voters.
“I’m seeing a growing number of people who have become energized,” Green said. “It seems to be a very positive experience for me.”
White said he believes the “majority of Illinois voters consider themselves Independent.” He also said the voters he spoke to opened up to him when they found out he was not affiliated with either major party.
But whatever popular support third-party and Independent candidates may have, critics say Illinois campaign laws are set up to discourage political involvement from those outside of the two-party system.
“Our ballot laws are pretty strict; it’s actually harder in Illinois to get a third-party candidate on the ballot than it is in some other states,” said David Morrison, deputy director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “The laws are so strict in terms of how many signatures you need … the process is not clear or simple by any stretch.”
To Green, the reason Illinois laws discourage third-party candidates is simple.
“It’s obviously a matter of exclusion,” he said. “The Republicans and Democrats have made a nice little power base for themselves, and they don’t want anybody else to play.”
According to Morrison, the corruption that inspired Green and White to run for governor is encouraged by the hegemony of the two major parties.
“The two parties do have a very strong hold on state government, Morrison said. “Part of why I think Rod Blagojevich’s problems were as far-reaching as they were is because he never felt threatened by the Republican Party or by anyone else.”
In addition to Green and White, there are two other third-party candidates. Randy Stufflebeam is the candidate for the Constitution Party, and Rich Whitney is running as the Green Party Candidate. The Green Party will be on the ballot as an official third party in 2010, because the party received 11 percent of the vote in 2006; a rarity according to Morrison. The last time Illinois had an official third party on the ballot was 1986.
As a Libertarian, Green believes in limited government and individual freedom. He believes that the constitution gives us a “very small mandate for government,” and that our political system has grown too large.
“I am totally against tax increases, and I’d like to eliminate as many taxes as I can get away with,” Green said. “From a philosophical standpoint, I would like to go in and whack programs right and left.”
Green and White both believe that lowering taxes would allow business owners to use their money to invest in hiring more employees. Philosophically, the Libertarian Party believes that taxation beyond the minimum necessary for the government to function is wrong and infringes on economic liberty.
Green said he has a more moderate plan for his first year as governor that involves cutting spending back to 2007-levels, which he said would solve Illinois’ budget crisis.
White said he also believes that the government has gotten too big, and that citizens have come to rely too much on the government. In addition to his 20-plus years in the military, White has years of experience as a small-business owner and entrepreneur. His platform is based on making Illinois more inviting to businesses, by lowering taxes and eliminating corruption.
Green works full time at the Mitsubishi Motors Factory in Normal, a town that neighbors his hometown of Bloomington.
“I am not a politician or a millionaire, I’m a regular citizen,” Green said. “What I’m bringing is that fresh look. I bring common sense, and I hope to think I bring intelligence and compassion.”
Both Green and White pride themselves on their political outsider status, and both stress the importance of personal freedom and responsibility. Green said that Illinois needs an outsider to correct the corruption in Springfield.
“Am I an insider? Am I someone who has a lot of experience playing the political games? No I am not, but I don’t think that has been working for us,” Green said. “Illinois is the prime example of insider politics, it is an example of what I would call ‘soft corruption,’ they made it legal, but everybody knows it’s not right.”