Why Aren't Third Parties Allowed to Debate?

A friend told me about this great little restaurant where he’d had a delicious dinner, so I figured I’d check it out.

Soon after I’m seated, the waiter hands me a menu. Glancing at it, I say, “There are only two items on this menu: liver and tripe. I can’t stand either of those.”

“You must like one better than the other,” he says. “Why not try the one you find the least revolting?”

Astonished, I say, “But my friend told me he had the best filet mignon he’d ever had when he was here.”

The waiter leans over and whispers “Well, I’m not supposed to mention it, but yes, we do have filet mignon, and also lobster.”

“So why aren’t they on the menu?”

With a shrug of the shoulders, he says, “The management wants us to sell the liver and tripe. They have big investments in organ meats. If we let all our customers know we also offered filet mignon and lobster, they would never buy the liver and tripe.”

Would you eat at a restaurant that only offered two unpalatable menu options —especially when more tasty choices were available? Watching a presidential debate with only Clinton and Trump is like having to choose between liver and tripe. And why is this, especially when there are at least two other, more appealing, candidates to choose from?

Because the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a private corporation run by establishment Democrats and Republicans, doesn’t want you to know you might have better choices. It’s incredibly ironic that their website states they want to “provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.” That could not be further from the truth.

The CPD is like one of those exclusive clubs where you have to know somebody influential to get in. But this is America — the land where we were raised to believe anyone could become president. Unfortunately, this is no longer true. Because campaigns are not publicly financed, a candidate needs millions of dollars to buy advertising to build familiarity — or the media needs to be unbiased enough to give equal coverage to all the candidates, which it doesn’t.

Only 50% of Americans identify as being either Democrat or Republican, and only 9% of these voted in the primaries. A huge segment of the population does not identify with either party, so why can’t we hear about what third parties have to offer? Because the CPD wants you to vote for one of their pre-chosen candidates.

Beginning in 1987, this bipartisan duopoly essentially pushed aside the nonpartisan League of Women Voters (LWV) so they could control the political dialogue. The CPD wanted to ensure that tough questions were not asked of their establishment candidates. They imposed so many rules and restrictions on the debates that, after vetoing 80 of the LWV’s proposed moderators, the LWV decided they wanted out. LWV president at the time, Nancy Neuman, said they had “no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.” And ever since, hoodwinked is what we have been.

The CPD tries to make it appear that they are being fair when they set a minimum polling rate of 15% in an average of five national surveys for a candidate to appear on the debate stage. However, of the five surveys chosen — ABC-Washington Post, CBS-New York Times, CNN-Opinion Research Corporation, Fox News, and NBC-Wall Street Journal — the CBS-New York Times and Fox News polls have not even included Stein in the list of choices (though Fox said they will include her in future polls). All these corporate media outlets have shown a distinct bias for the establishment candidates, just as they did when they tried to shut out Bernie Sanders.

The problem is, it doesn’t seem to matter what a politician’s policies are. People tend to vote for people they are familiar with. That’s why Bernie Sanders was always playing catch-up to Hillary Clinton. People had not heard of him before the primaries. Once they began to learn about him and his message started to spread, he quickly gained a huge following, funded entirely by small donations.

People already know about Clinton and Trump. Both have a ton of money at their disposal, and they have received a lot of free exposure from the mainstream media, even before the primaries started. But just because someone is familiar doesn’t mean they have your best interests in mind. The two establishment candidates don’t want to include third party candidates in the debates because they know if they do, they might lose when you realize you have better choices.

The absurd circular logic is that people don’t vote third party because they don’t believe third parties can win; but third parties don’t win because nobody votes third party. If the media were doing their job, this would not be an issue. It’s time to break the vicious circle and vote for a third party candidate.

Both Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are on the ballot in the majority of states — enough states for them to win the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. That should be a sufficient criterion to entitle a candidate to be on the debate stage.

How can Americans be expected to make an informed decision as to who to vote for when they either know nothing about half the candidates, or what they do know has been distorted by corporate media? For example, Jill Stein is not anti-vaccination. When she had the opportunity to clarify her position on CNN, those watching learned that she just wanted to ensure the chemicals in the vaccines are safe. A Harvard-educated doctor, Stein is certainly not anti-science. But the corporate Democratic and Republican candidates want you to keep believing those lies. It’s hard to correct these misconceptions when the media refuse to provide coverage.

Back in 2012, when Jill Stein had the gall to want to join in the debate at Hofstra University because she was a presidential candidate (gasp!), she was actually arrested —hauled off to a secret location and handcuffed tightly to metal chairs for seven hours while surrounded by 16 government officials. Incredible as it sounds, this was in America, not Russia.

Speaking with Democracy Now before being arrested, Stein said, “We’re here to stand ground for the American people, who have been systematically locked out of these debates for decades by the Commission on Presidential Debates …. the American people actually deserve to hear choices which are not bought and paid for by multinational corporations and Wall Street.”

A number of petitions are circulating, including a petition by Jill Stein to Open the Debates, a petition by RootsAction.org that will be delivered to executives of the major TV networks, and one by FairDebates.com that will ask the CPD and Federal Elections Commission to open the debates to the candidates on the ballot in enough states to have a mathematical chance of winning — Stein and Johnson.

Consider signing these petitions and/or contacting your major news outlets to demand the CPD include Stein and Johnson so you can be informed as to what all your options are in November.

By now, just about everyone knows that Clinton is corrupt and Trump is an embarrassment to humanity. Let’s have a debate about the real issues and what other candidates can do to save America from the corporate oligarchy it has become. Besides, it will make the debates far more interesting to watch.

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