With the 2016 elections eight months away, it is far too early to categorically dismiss half the candidates in a race, particularly in local elections in which lack of polling and general apathy make determining the most likely winner a difficult task. Therefore, UC Berkeley professor Alan Ross’s decision to include only two of the four mayoral candidates to speak to his Political Science 179 class — excluding Guy “Mike” Lee and Naomi Pete — shows a remarkable lack of respect for the democratic process.
Third parties play an essential role in the American political system, bringing up issues that the established, binary system tends to ignore — and this is especially important when it comes to local elections. Ross claimed he chose to only invite City Council members Jesse Arreguin and Laurie Capitelli because they were the two “major” candidates. Yet, this early in the campaign, it is impossible to make that judgement by relying solely on prior experience and current status without looking at policy proposals and platforms. Just because Arreguin and Capitelli both work in city government, it doesn’t mean that they have a monopoly on compelling political ideas for the city.
It is precisely their lack of political experience that makes the other two candidates’ presence paramount. Members of City Council already have significant exposure and name recognition because of their positions. Ensuring that lesser-known candidates also have a platform to express their views on an equal footing is fundamental to democracy. Moreover, City Council members often hold onto their seats for many terms, blocking out new voices in Berkeley governance. Candidates such as Lee and Pete, neither of whom have experience on the council, bring exciting new ideas and perspectives that Berkeley residents and students deserve to hear.
At this forum, for example, both Capitelli and Arreguin spoke about Berkeley’s relationship with the homeless community and various policies pertaining to this issue. Lee, who is a member of the homeless community, could have been a critical voice in this discussion. Instead, the students in Political Science 179 were insulated from less mainstream thoughts such as his.
As members of the Berkeley community, we need to know all of our options when casting a ballot for mayor. It is not a campus professor’s job — nor is it anybody else’s — to decide who the most serious candidates are. That power belongs to the good people of Berkeley, who, as the election nears, will come out to events and debates, participate in campaigns and, eventually, cast votes. Informed decisions can only come from informed citizens, and we hope that all candidates are invited to participate in any similar events going forward.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.