Does Independent Ed Rabel Embody Howard Beale from 'Network'?
Charleston-area native Ed Rabel spent more than three decades as a television news reporter, working for CBS and NBC. During his time at the networks, Rabel reported from around the world--stopping in locations like Cuba, Laos and Cambodia.
But in life after journalism and as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in West Virginia's 2nd Congressional District, Rabel seems to embody fictional television news anchor Howard Beale, portrayed by Peter Finch in the 1976 film Network.
Although Rabel never delivered a speech on-air like the one in Network, his political aspirations and the sentiments that led him to run for office seem to parallel the fictional anchor’s passion.
With a general distaste for the way things are, it's no stretch to say Rabel is "mad" about the situation in West Virginia.
Over the course of his years away from his home state, Rabel says he observed a struggling economy that's left "the state's best and brightest" with few options for work and has resulted in a "brain drain." Rabel says this exodus of young people was his main motivation for running for Congress.
Yet it was January's Elk River chemical spill by Freedom Industries that particularly upset him and furthered his interest in a bid for the 2nd Congressional District.
“It offended me to see that this had happened, that 300,000 people had been poisoned—their water had been poisoned," said Rabel, "and I wanted to do something about it."
"I wanted to change those events where West Virginians are put upon, are beaten down so much that they don’t know which way is up. I want to try to help them have a voice so that, in the future, these industries won’t get away with poisoning the water and the air.”
There was also, of course, Rabel's scathing criticism of local TV news (that would assuredly be approved by Beale) in an editorial he penned for The Charleston Gazette in March 2013, which states:
Instead of focusing on original reporting, the local stations are focused on cosmetics. Not a country for old men and women, the local television "news" landscape is populated by bubble-heads and glib, young, sometimes pretty know-nothings. The truth is, they wouldn't know a news story if it slapped them in the face. When was the last time you saw an investigative piece about, let's see, the Massey Mine disaster? Or, how about, God forbid, an exclusive story that penetrated the precincts where politicians hide their secrets from the public?
Rabel's distaste for local TV news outlets was highlighted again when he accused WCHS-TV (for whom he worked early on in his career) of ignoring his campaign.
Journalism, the Political Process, and Running as an Independent
Rabel’s bid for the Second Congressional District seat is his first foray into politics. He’s opted to pass on a chance at a lower office in hopes of going straight to what he calls one of the country’s most influential “power centers.” Rabel says his experience reporting on American politics gives him an edge in understanding elections and the political process.
“I also got an understanding—honestly, to be quite brutal and frank about it—about how politicians are reluctant to tell the truth,” he said. “I was able on some occasions to penetrate the precincts of power where they kept their dirty little secrets and I exposed those things.”
While Rabel says he always tried to be as objective and fair in his own reporting, his experiences covering American politics revealed a "gridlock" in Washington and, thus, proved the need for a third party.
Can An Independent Win the 2nd Congressional District?
Rabel points to an October 2013 Gallup poll showing that two-thirds of Americans see a need for a third party---with less than a third saying they feel Republicans and Democrats do an adequate job representing the American public. He also mentions the 2,269 signatures he collected to make his way onto the ballot as an independent.
“I get the sense—I get the feeling—that people do want a choice now, that they really are becoming fed up. I don’t know whether we are at a tipping point yet," Rabel said, "but, I did get the feeling being out there gathering those signatures and talking with voters that they really did want a choice."
Now, he just needs to galvanize voters who will make their way to the polls come Election Day.