Open the Debates. There Should Be No Debate on This.
A petition now approaching 20,000 signatures (add yours!) has been delivered to executives at ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox Broadcasting, PBS, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Univision, and Telemundo. It reads:
To Network TV Executives:
Tell the Commission on Presidential Debates and major-party campaigns that they no longer control the debate process and that you intend to present debates – controlled by journalists – that include four candidates: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson (Libertarian) and Jill Stein (Green Party). If Trump or Clinton balk, let them know you’re happy to leave their podium empty.
We urge you to follow a recommendation made by a citizens' task force connected to American University's law school: Include presidential candidates who are on enough state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning, if they either register at 5 percent in national public opinion polls OR register a majority in national polls asking eligible voters which candidates they would like to see included in the debates.
Jeff Cohen, a cofounder of RootsAction.org which hosts the petition, said "It is stunning that -- in this year when the two major-party candidates for president are breaking records for unpopularity and unfavorability -- the TV networks are collaborating with the unofficial, two-party controlled Commission on Presidential Debates in excluding Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. Polls show that most of the public want to see a 4-person debate, but the TV networks seem too cozy with elite political power to serve the public interest. Let's hope pro-democracy demonstrators gather at Hofstra University to protest the first exclusionary debate on Sept 26."
I understand they are planning to do just that. There seems to be a good deal of passion around this issue. Over 5,000 signers of the petition have added comments. Here are a few:
"All Americans deserve to hear multiple opinions on the issues. Johnson and Stein are legitimate candidates. Let's hear what they've got say. If HRC and DT are so great that will come through in a 4-way debate. What are they scared of. As far as the networks go, I'd think a 4-way debate would be more entertaining than a 2-way debate." -- Karl Jahnke from PA.
"Of ALL the presidential election years I can remember, THIS one fairly DEMANDS the inclusion of 2 other candidates - as the 2 primary options are utterly DESPISED by close to 30% of the electorate." -- James Cayon from MA.
"2 crooks, what a choice. How did we get here?" -- Kincy Harris from NV.
"42% of American citizens 30 or younger support third party candidates. Let us hear all 4 presidential candidates in the 2016 presidential debates that begin in September 2016. That's democracy!" -- D Hale from TX.
"'Closed -Debate' is truly NO-"DEBATE" @ all! - ...This Nation REALLY NEEDS more than ONE political Party!!! - :(" -- Scott Yoos from WA.
"2 parties collude to exclude other parties is just undemocratic. It must end once and for all." -- Margaret Lane from MN.
"4 way debates please. Not a fan of dems and repubs and if they do win, want them to step up their game through addressing issues others will bring up." -- M F from CA.
"A 'debate' consisting of only Donald Trump and Hillary C. does not equal a debate. If there are fewer than three debaters I will not waste my time tuning in or reading the news coverage." -- Robert West from WA.
"A debate between only Trump and Hillary would be absurd. I would NOT even watch!" -- Joel Antley from AZ.
"STOP short changing the American public by denying access to the airwaves of alternative presidential candidates. We have heard enough from the two you have too prominently featured until now." -- Jay Levy from MD.
"A 4-way debate is the only way we'll hear all the important issues debated. I won't vote for Trump and not a big Hillary fan so need to hear what Gary Johnson and Jill Stein have to say. Excluding them from the debates is irresponsible." -- James Corbett from MI.
"A country as advanced and diverse as the United States of America deserves to have more than two political parties to represent it. United States currently only ranks 11th in both the Best Governance list and the Best Countries to Live In list. How embarrassing! Come on, let's show some innovation!" -- Mara Carberry from IA.
"A majority of voters disapprove the candidates offered by both monopoly parties. If the two parties are allowed, as usual, to monopolize the coming debates, the majority of voters will have no one to speak for them. All legitimate Presidential candidates need to participate." -- George DeVos from CA.
"A truly open debate between all 4 candidates, would not only bring in higher ratings, but would go a long way toward demonstrating more ethical reporting and a fair presentation of information necessary to voters." -- Annemarie Martine from FL.
"Everyone deserves to be heard. Only the establishment Democrats and Republicans are happy with the duopoly system. America want real choices. Please do the right thing, as good journalists are wont to do, and ensure that 3rd party candidates are part of the debates." -- Nichole Overstake from AZ.
"Let's at least try to have some semblance of a democratic process. And please, - REAL journalists, not corporate minions. With this corrupt electoral process, and collusive media machine, this seems much to ask. However, a fuller debate process with real coverage and real questions is basic to and should be demanded by the public of a 'democratic' society." -- Dana Gae Hanchard from NY.
"The commission on Presidential Debates is illegitimate. The two major candidates are abysmal. They speak of nothing of importance. You owe it to the people to broaden the debate; otherwise you are complicit in this sour rigged affair. Add Stein and Johnson or your debate is garbage." -- Stan Quast from WA.
"Media companies have somehow been entrusted with a major responsibility to serve democracy. Presidential debates limited to (very unpopular) candidates from only two political parties do not satisfy the requirements of democracy; certainly not when countervailing voices are present." -- Dave Wheelock from NM.
"A bipolar democracy is no good." -- Joshua Morris from TX
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 and 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.