Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Undemocratic Presidential Debates

The graphic above lists the dates, times, and subjects of the presidential (and vice-presidential) debates for this election year. I don't know whether debates actually change anyone's mind about who they will vote for, but it's possible it could help some undecideds make up their mind. Anyway, I think it's a good idea to let the citizens that are interested see the candidates on stage together, making it much easier to make a comparison.

But there is one thing about the debates that bothers me quite a bit. While there are four parties who nominated a presidential candidate, are on enough state ballots to mathematically have a chance to win 270 electoral votes, and qualified for federal matching funds, only two of those party's candidates will be allowed to participate in the debates. This seems wrong, and very undemocratic to me. Why are the debates restricted only to candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties? Why are the candidates of the Libertarian and Green parties not allowed to participate?

The media will tell us that it is because those two parties don't poll high enough to warrant inviting them. That is rather disingenuous, because the media itself has set up a "catch-22" situation designed to favor the two "major" parties. They say the Greens and Libertarians don't warrant media coverage because they aren't popular enough, but the only way to get popular enough is to have campaign coverage by the media. Maybe those two parties would be more popular if they received the same kind of media coverage as the Republicans and Democrats do, but we'll never know because the media totally ignores them.

Is this because the two major parties are afraid of the Green and Libertarian parties? I thin that has a lot to do with it. They are both afraid that people might find the stances on the issues taken by the Libertarian Party and the Green Party to be more attractive than the corporate-centered beliefs of both the Republican and Democratic parties. Democrats are afraid they will lose votes to the Green Party, and Republicans are afraid they will lose votes to the Libertarian Party.

And their fears might be justified, but that doesn't matter. A truly democratic republic would give coverage and opportunities to debate to all parties -- even minor parties. Other countries do this, and it works just fine for them. In fact, some of the stances of the minor parties are adopted by bigger parties because they received public exposure and the people liked those ideas. Imagine that -- a democratic nation where all political ideas are given a chance to be heard and judged by the public!

That's what America should be, but isn't. There should be at least four political parties invited to all of the presidential debates this year. If you agree with that, then I ask you to sign this online petition demanding it. I have. Here is what the petition says:

We, the undersigned, demand presidential debates that include the real choices before the voters this November. The debates must include every candidate who is on enough ballots to win the White House and who has demonstrated a minimal level of support -- meaning either 1% of the vote in a credible national poll, or qualification for federal matching funds, or both. In 2012, the Green and Libertarian party candidates both meet all of these criteria.
We call on the national news media, the League of Women Voters, and every other civic organization that speaks up for the rights of regular people to organize a 2012 presidential debate that includes all the qualified candidates.
We call on the Commission on Presidential Debates to change its arbitrary rules to include all the qualified contenders. And we urge our fellow Americans to rise up and demand democracy in our presidential elections, beginning today with the presidential debates. These debates belong to the people, not the politicians or Wall Street.

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