Friday night Barack Obama and John McCain will meet in the first of a couple of joint televised media appearances that are still called in common paralance “debates”, although I can’t for the life me figure out why, because they stopped resembling actual debates long ago.
This event will do and be many things, but it won’t be part of a democratic process. Bob Barr won’t be there, Cynthia McKinney won’t be there and Ralph Nader won’t be there. It doesn’t matter what you think of their politics, or what you think of Obama’s or McCain’s politics, the fact remains that Barr, McKinney, and Nader the Libertaian, Green and Independent candidates for President, respectively, are each on enough state ballots to conceiveably collect enough electoral votes to win. That’s not a likely scenario for any of them, but it’s a possibility and as such, they should each be on the stage for all Presidential Joint Media Appearances or “Debates”.
But the process for these “debates” is anything but democratic. The “debates” are controlled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which sounds like a wonderful and dignified title for a commission, until you realize that the commission is solely comprised of members of the Democratic and Republic National Committees and the Commission has little interest in democracy and inclusion and a lot of interest in promoting only their own two political parties in a deal with devil “if I can’t win you win” bargin.
The real loser is the American people and our democratic process. The range of ideas discussed will be narrow without Barr, McKinney and Nader. The range of solutions to the problems facing us will be fewer. Worst of all perhaps is that the political game of spin and image will in some way continue to take precedance over issues and facts because with less chance to actually win, Barr, McKinney and Nader has less to lose in actually holding Obama and McCain to facts and ficgures and calling them on anything they might try to evade or dance around. It would be healthy for the entire process and our democracy to include all these candidates and for our entire political system to become a multi-party system. More voices equals more choices and that’s democracy. Democracy is not about stifling debate, but about opening debate and letting the best argument win.
Many countries in the world work just fine with a multiparty system and multiparty national elections debates, including Canada. I truly believe the American people deserve to hear all the voices in the national debate represented by these candidates in order to be able to make the most educated, informed choice possible. The Commission on Presidential Debates, obviously disagrees with me. I encourage you tell both me and the Commission on Presidential Debates how you feel about this. – Well, you can contact the Debate’s corporate sponsors and tell them how you feel because on the entire CPD website there is absolutely zero information on how to contact the commission – that’s not very democractic! Think for a minute about what it means to have presidential debates controlled by corporations instead of the public, the way it used to be.
Presidential Debates used to be run the League of Women Voters (Great Ghost of Susan B. Anthony, we need you now!). The Commission on Presidential Debates took control of the debates after the 1984 election and in time for the debates during the 1988 campaign:
The CPD takes complete control of the debates, after the League of Women Voters refuses to let the Republican and Democratic campaigns dictate terms of the 1988 events and ceases cooperating with the Commission: “The League of Women Voters is withdrawing its sponsorship of the presidential debates…because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.” (League news release, 10/3/88)
This post is not an endorsement of Barr, McKinney or Nader. It isn’t an endorsement of Obama or McCain. It is a cry in the wilderness for more real democracy in America. People can’t vote for the candidate of their choice if they don’t know what their choices really are. People can’t know what their choices are if three of the five candidates who qualify for an electoral majority are kept from the public debate. That’s not what democracy looks like.