by Jed Ziggler
Presidential debates in the United States are kind of a joke. No matter how many candidates are on the ballot in your state, or on the ballot in enough states to have even the most remote chance of being elected president, there’s pretty much always just two candidates. Oh sure, there was that one year where the billionaire with the big ears was allowed to participate. He even did pretty well up against a Bush and a Clinton (his running mate didn’t do so well). But Perot was the exception to the rule, the Commission on Presidential Debates does their darnedest to make sure only two voices are heard by the nation in the presidential and vice presidential debates, even going so far as to change their own rules to prevent Ralph Nader from participating in 2000, and simply ignoring the rules in 2012, when Gary Johnson met their qualifications.
Well Gov. Johnson isn’t taking it lying down. The Libertarian ex-executive and his group Our America Initiative are suing to change the way debates are run. Joining them in the lawsuit is 2012 Green Party candidate Jill Stein, who made headlines when she merely announced she was thinking about running again in 2016. Johnson, for his part, says he “wants to run”.
Their legal team includes another 2012 prez candidate, Justice Party founder & nominee Rocky Anderson. The former mayor of Salt Lake City, UT, Anderson has already said he’s not running again in 2016.
So will this third party dream team really be able to change the system, and debate an entirely different Bush and an entirely different Clinton? Time will tell, but personally my gut says no. Johnson was unable to sue his way into the 2012 debates, and I don’t see courts interfering this time around either.
But don’t give up hope! More and more petitions are being circulated encouraging the CPD to change its attitude, and there’s good reason to be optimistic. While some might decry the debates in Britain for including some regional parties but not others, the fact is that they are more inclusive. It’s not that far-fetched to think that such a situation could also arise in America. Maybe not in 2016, but eventually.
After all, just look at what citizen action can do; in 2013 America was ready to go to war against Syria! Well, the government was. American citizens weren’t, and they let their government hear about it. Reports of calls to congress being 499 to 1 against war that September woke the bastards up and shut the war machine down! Public opinion has completely changed the debate on issues like same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization. Your voice matters, your calls to congressmen & senators that seem to be ignored can make a difference.
If supporters of open debates keep up the pressure, then it might not even matter whether the OAI lawsuit succeeds or fails.
To paraphrase Nicholas Klein (not Gandhi), alternative candidates have been ignored, laughed at, and fought for so long, they’re due for a win.