A nonprofit, Free and Equal, committed to promoting fairness in the US electoral process, hosted a debate last night, which included third party candidates running for president. The debate, held at the Hilton Hotel in Chicago, stood in stark contrast to the Obama-Romney debates put on by the anti-democratic and corrupt Commission on Presidential Debates.
I appeared on Al Jazeera English last night to share some thoughts on the presidential debate. (Video is at the top of the post.)
Former CNN host Larry King moderated the debate, which included Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, Justice Party presidential candidate Rocky Anderson, Constitution Party presidential candidate Virgil Goode and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. King told the audience at the beginning of the debate it had rules but there would be no rule against the audience reacting to the candidates. The audience cheered loudly after they were told they could clap for candidates, who said things they liked (something the CPD does not permit in their debates).
“Tonight, we are all taking part in something good and real and open without secret contracts and private interests controlling the questions we ask and the answers and the candidates deliver,” Christina Tobin, founder and chair of Free and Equal declared in the opening. She later added, “If we don’t pay attention, if we don’t vote, if we don’t protest or discuss important issues with friends, co-workers and classmates, then we get more of the same—the same corrupt dysfunctional system, no matter who’s in charge.”
After the first question in the debate, King said, “I think these people deserve a lot of credit for coming forward. It’s easy to sit back and watch. These people stand up. They may not be counted on November 6, but they’re counting today and they deserve to be heard.”
Candidates were allowed to bank time. If they did not want to give a rebuttal (because maybe there was nothing to rebut), they could use the time later for a longer answer to a question.
The questions ranged from discussion about legalizing drugs, repealing the PATRIOT Act, doing away with the executive power to indefinitely detain citizens, halting drone strikes, ending interventions or wars, cutting back America’s military presence in the world, providing free public education, etc. There was even a question about “top two” primaries, a measure being approved in an increasing number of states, and one about what constitutional amendments the candidates would like to see passed.
I said on AJE, “Every single candidate spoke out favorably for civil liberties. It’s a topic that [was] completely absent in the debates that were sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.”
The host in Doha followed-up, “Why don’t we see more public debates between all the candidates? Why not Gary Johnson against Obama and Romney?” To which I answered, “It’s because of the Commission on Presidential Debates.”
This part of the political process is controlled by individuals with ties to the Democratic and Republican Parties. The contracts are hashed out in secret. The agreements call for the rationing of debates and impose limits on political discussion. In fact, King played a role in transforming Ross Perot into a major independent presidential candidate. He announced his candidacy on “Larry King Live.”
To watch the full third party debate from last night, go here.