SC Dems Bar Colbert

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The South Carolina Democratic party voted today to keep comedian Stephen Colbert off the state primary ballot, saying they considered him an insufficiently serious candidate. I guess he wasn’t such welcome competition after all.

Putting aside the issue of whether or not Colbert makes the grade (though I don’t see anyone else asking supporters to donate $100,000 to schools), what does it take to be considered a “serious” candidate? Do you need supporters? Do you have to want the job? The designation of “seriousness”—and, by extension, viability—tends to reflect the conventional wisdom of the media echo chamber far more than the candidate’s actual merit. Call it the spoiler effect, wherein third parties and so-called “fringe candidates” are deleted from polls, kept off ballots, and literally forbidden to debate their better-heeled challengers. With such sparse options, it’s no wonder that pundits and voters alike spend hours parsing the lead candidates’ general statements for nuance and difference.

Bottom line, this country should welcome candidates who stray from the center and take principled, controversial positions, even if they lose in the end. If we broaden our definition of productive debate, we’ll broaden our choices too, and maybe alleviate some of our cynicism. You want to be considered a serious candidate? Earn it.

—Casey Miner

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We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

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