The League of Women Voters is withdrawing 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 of Women Voter’s public statement following the League’s 1988 withdrawal as presidential debate moderator.
Earlier this year a debate was sponsored in the City of Buffalo that focused on Republican candidates running in select primaries. Unfortunately the event was not initially promoted in those terms.
As a candidate involved in a primary, I realized that the debate was qualified and I directly chided debate organizers for not clearly defining their event. My purpose was not to be included in the debate, but rather to point out that the organizers were misleading the voting public about the true nature of their event.
While I have no desire to beat a dead horse, so to speak, the recent arrest of Green Party Presidential Candidate, Jill Stein, as she and her vice presidential running mate attempted to attend the recent presidential debates ( http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2012/10/16/green-party-candidates-arrested-at-debate-site/ helped me to fully realize why my stand on the Buffalo debate was so important. And my realization is based on the history of the current presidential debates.
For the benefit of those who may not know….here is the rest of the story……
Beginning in 1976, presidential debates were organized and moderated by the non-partisan League of Women Voters (LWV). They were nationally televised events that included only the Democratic and Republican candidates running for the office, However, in 1988, the Bush and Dukakis campaigns secretly agreed to a “memorandum of understanding” that would decide which candidates could participate in the debates, which individuals would be panelists (and therefore able to ask questions), and the height of the podiums. It was at this time that the LWV pulled out as moderators and the officially titled, Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was formed.
For those unaware, CPD is comprised solely of Democratic and Republican officials who, in 2000, established a rule that for any party to be included in the national debates it must garner at least 15% support across five national polls. That percentage pretty much denies access to third party candidates (Ross Perot being the exception in 1992 and 1996) and essentially leaves Americans tuning in to presidential debates that present only the opinions of the two main party candidates—rather than all who have been willing to tackle the task of running for the presidency.
I wonder how many Americans know that there are other candidates other than Barack Obama and Mitt Romney running for the presidency this year ? I wonder how many Americans would be interested in hearing what those candidates have to say? Based on the most current poll numbers that show Obama and Romney in a dead heat, I would hazard a guess that quite a few would at least be interested in a third party debate.
But most essentially, I wonder how many Americans are completely in the dark about the debates that they are viewing, thinking that they are a true representation of our democratic electoral process? I wonder what they would think if they realized that these debates are, in fact, exclusionary and controlled? (http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/10/15/leaked-2012-presidential-debates-contract-few-critical-points-worth-raising/)
As voters in any election, we deserve to know the terms of the information that is being presented to us. That is why I took a such a public stand on the Buffalo Debate last summer and why my efforts were not about being included, but about making sure that the electorate…we the people….were fairly informed.