Breaking the Duopoly: Open Debates Open Minds

Last week, I underscored recent incidents in which third party and independent candidates have been or may be excluded from debates and candidate forums either by event organizers or in accordance with the demands of participants representing the major parties. This week, for my column at CAIVN, I've taken a look at some of the earliest and most inclusive debates of the campaign season:
Jake Towne, an independent candidate for Congress in Pennslyvania's CD-15, announced late last week that he has been invited to participate in an October debate organized by the district's largest newspaper, The Morning Call. Towne had previously challenged both the Republican and Democratic candidates to public debates but received no response whatsoever. In an interview for Third Party and Independent Daily, I asked Towne how he broke through the usual Democrat-Republican filter that is so common in the political press. He responded with a description of his campaign's aggressive media strategy . . .

The effort clearly paid off. In other states, some organizations have already jump-started the campaign season by holding inclusive debates and candidate forums. In Rhode Island, the state's Latino Civic Fund sponsored a debate last week that included Democratic, Republican, Independent and Moderate Party gubernatorial candidates. Over the weekend, the North Carolina Bar Association hosted a forum for all of the state's candidates for US Senate, including Libertarian Michael Beitler. This was the first time a Libertarian Party candidate for US Senate in the state had ever debated both the Democratic and Republican nominees, though the party has had candidates on the ballot for every such election since 1992, according to Ballot Access News.

In Massachusetts, however, the first gubernatorial debate of the campaign season was a mixed bag. It included Democrat-turned-Independent Tim Cahill but excluded Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein. In a statement, Stein charged that the media outlet (WRKO radio) had done a disservice to voters:

As a result of my exclusion, WRKO listeners were left with the impression that there are very limited options for dealing with the major crises we face in terms of employment, funding services, and providing health care and education to our citizens.

The debate was hosted by Democrat Tom Finneran, the disgraced former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, who was barred from holding political office in 2007 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.

Obviously, for Democrats and Republicans, the question of including or excluding third party and independent candidates in such forums is, for the most part, not a matter of political principle but rather self-serving political calculation. When a given third party or independent candidate is perceived as potentially attracting voters who would otherwise vote Republican, Democrats will often favor inclusion and Republicans will favor exclusion; on the other hand, when a given third party or independent candidate is perceived as potentially attracting voters who would otherwise vote Democrat, Republicans will favor inclusion and Democrats will favor exclusion.
To bolster their arguments in favor of exclusion Democrats and Republicans will often assert that third party and independent candidates are somehow not "serious" or "legitimate." However, if such candidates have fought their way onto the ballot, clearing the often ridiculous hurdles erected by Democratic and Republican lawmakers themselves, they can only be considered both serious and legitimate. In truth, it is the exclusionary political tactics and the absurd arguments of Democrats and Republicans that are illegitimate and deeply unserious. Indeed, to many of these people, "politics" is admittedly little more than a game in which one seeks nothing more than to "score points" as measured by their stenographers, mouthpieces and cheerleaders in the corporate press and independent media. Opening up our debates to individuals who are not beholden to the ruling political establishment and the ideology of the two-party state can go a long way toward breaking the Democratic-Republican duopoly in the media and our politics.


DLW said...

Check out Strategic Election Reform

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DLW said...

I haven't seen "Strategic Election Reform" up on Libertarianviewpoint.