Last year, West Virginia’s Mountain Party candidate for Governor, Jesse Johnson, won with 4.5 percent of the vote. How’s that possible? Well, you have to figure out what victory for the Mountain Party means. Jesse Johnson never entered the race reasonably expecting to actually win office (although he might say otherwise in public). Running for Governor in West Virginia has special meaning for political parties in West Virginia: if your party’s gubernatorial candidate can grab 1% of the vote, then your party has achieved status as an “official political party” and can automatically place candidates for office on the ballot for various offices in the next election. Jesse Johnson’s work has ensured that until the next gubernatorial election in 2012, Mountain Party candidates for office will have a platform not only from which they can try to win office but also from which they can articulate an alternative vision for policy in West Virginia.
And hoo boy, does West Virginia need an alternative vision. Its national politicians are old, entrenched, and suspected of corruption. Its economy is based in no small part on the destruction of its mountains for temporary economic gain, at the cost of long-term toxicity. Its people are plagued by low education and high poverty.
So thank you, Jesse Johnson, for securing the Mountain Party a statewide platform from which candidates can articulate an alternative to the public: an alternative platform opposed to mountaintop mining, in favor of election reform to dislodge career politicians, against the continuation of corporate personhood, working toward the establishment of reformed politics in West Virginia that acts “as if people mattered.”
Now what will the Mountain Party do with its public platform? That’s an open question. No press releases since the month before the election, no press coverage since the election and no newsletter to members for a year. In the meantime, 10 Democrats and 5 Republicans are already registered with the FEC as candidates in West Virginia for the 2009-2010 election season.
What happens next, Mountain Party?