Have you ever heard of the Libertarian Party? If not, you soon may, because of new media forms.
The mainstream media stations favor the two largest political parties in the country – it is rare that viewers get to hear about third party candidates or what they may bring to the table.
This sort of narrow focus has resulted in a stagnant, two-party system that is only now being challenged by the tea party movement. And the reason the third largest party in the country is now emerging onto the world stage has everything to do with technology.
Individuals no longer need to rely on CNN, NBC, Fox News or other FCC-regulated sources to learn about what is going on in the world – they can use the Internet and educate themselves on the issues.
And social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook are ideal for campaigning.
Nick Coons, the Libertarian candidate for Arizona's Fifth congressional district, has some loyal followers who make YouTube videos of themselves creating and posting signs endorsing his campaign. There are also several Youtube hosted submissions of Nick being interviewed on various political issues.
He is a prime example of how new media is altering the political landscape.
The following is the transcript of our interview:
Erin: What obstacles has the Libertarian Party faced in getting its messages out to the public?
Nick: While the general idea of freedom is a good one, the Libertarian Party is contradictory in its approach. The solution is not government, the solution is freedom. But the Libertarian Party's conclusion is that in order to be free, we must elect the right people to office. It's not about the right people, if there is such a thing. Human beings are human beings, and every human being will become corrupted when given power over others. It's about showing people that freedom of association is the underlying principle that must be used to solve their problems, and getting government out of the way.
Erin: In what ways have new methods in technology helped your party bypass business as usual – i.e. Facebook, Youtube, email campaigning, etc.
Nick: As these media outlets have expanded, and they're generally free, we've been able to spread the message much further and wider than before. Running a 30-second ad on television can cost thousands of dollars. Putting together a video and posting it to YouTube for thousands of people to see is free, and you can interact with your viewers to boot.
Erin: Have these methods resonated with voters?
Nick: Yes, that would seem to be the case. People have so much more access to information than they did just a decade ago, and I think they're happy about that.
Erin: I have seen some videos your supporters have uploaded on Youtube. Usually the videos involve sign making and sign posting. What do you think of that?
Nick: One of the challenges that smaller movements, like that of the libertarians, have is that no one wants to be first. When they see others involved, they're much more likely to jump on the bandwagon. I think this sort of thing helps to attract people to new ideas, because it allows them to join in to something that already exists that they may not have otherwise known about.
Erin: When I saw you tagged as a Libertarian candidate on a C-SPAN debate I figured you were too busy and important to respond to any Facebook prompts– but you did! Is accessibility to the public something your party intends to maintain? Would that be something accomplished through new media?
Nick: In my experience, there are few of us that have that kind of response time. Being a computer guy, having a computer in front of me at all times, and connecting my phone to my email, Facebook, YouTube, etc. is something that puts me in a unique position. I'd like to think that other party members would do the same thing, but it's not guaranteed.
Erin: The Libertarian Party is reportedly the third largest party in the country. Do you expect it will continue to grow to rival the Republican and Democratic parties?
Nick: No, I don't think so. Our voter registrations will increase to some degree as voters become more disenfranchised with the two major parties. But the Republican and Democratic parties are so large because of their relationships with special interests, who fund them in exchange for favors once they're elected. Libertarian candidates have nothing to offer but freedom for all. You'd think that would be sufficient motivation. But interest groups don't want to be on a level playing field, they want special treatment, so they'll spend a fortune to make sure they get it.