Guest Commentary

Independent candidates deserve a place at the debate podium

Craig O’Dear
Craig O’Dear

We are entering debate season in the United States Senate race. I am the independent candidate for Missouri in that race, representing a national movement to bring independent leadership to the Senate. We independents urge all citizens — and all journalists — to insist on our inclusion in all debates. Here’s why:

▪ Our current system isn’t working. Ten years of partisan bickering about health insurance produced no solution. Three decades have passed since significant immigration legislation was passed. The leaders of the two parties use these unresolved issues to fuel partisan warfare, divide the country and drive the next round of fundraising emails. The debt expands and our crumbling infrastructure remains ignored. Recently, Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Lousiana summed up the Senate’s performance: “I think it sucks.”

▪ Independents are not represented in our political system or government, even though 43 percent of Americans identify that way. Independents deserve representation.

▪ Complex issues cannot be reduced to two simplified points of view that offer only a false binary choice. The two parties offer nothing else. They are intellectually exhausted, out of ideas.

▪ When you recruit people to run difficult races, to do what has not been done before, you get a different type of person. We need candidates who will lead real change, for the right reasons — people drawn to a cause larger than themselves.

▪ Independents govern differently. They put country first. They are more pragmatic and less ideological. We can have a government run by the leaders of tribal politics, or we can have an effective government that competently serves the people. We cannot have both.

▪ The independent movement is the only group in America today with a proposal to fix our broken Senate. If we don’t succeed, it will not get done. Voting for another Democrat or Republican is a wasted vote. It will change nothing. The two parties will never change a system they designed to ensure one of them will always be in power.

Our campaign is different. We have actually considered how we can fix this. We’ve thought about how to get our political system, and our Senate, back on track. The strategy is to elect a small number of independent leaders who refuse to join either of the dysfunctional party caucuses, and to persuade other sitting senators to join us.

The voice explaining this idea to Missouri voters should be included in all debates. Without it, the debates will likely do little more than further stoke the cultural warfare dividing our country and distracting us from our real problems.

An editorial earlier this month in The Star spoke glowingly of the imagined ability of the two major party candidates to be “skilled and compelling debaters.” There is no factual basis for this notion. The talking points of Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill and Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley are confined to the scripts written by their respective parties. We already know their positions. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to hear a new voice, with a new approach?

This is a clarion call to all print, TV and online journalists in the state. Missourians need you to decide that our government should not exclusively belong to the broken two-party system, and that the candidates in this race should respond to the unique vision and ideas of our campaign. Study these two campaigns that bicker back and forth, and ask yourselves, “to what end?” Then study my campaign messaging and the social media platforms on which I have been facilitating respectful political discussions for two years.

I am not running against anyone; I am running for something that is desperately missing in our politics and our government today. On the rare occasion when we have a candidate of demonstrated accomplishment who is running such a campaign, it would be a travesty to exclude that voice from the public debates.

Craig O’Dear is an independent Missouri candidate for U.S. Senate.