Down the Ballot

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

First Debate: A Week Away

The first of three Presidential debates will be held just one week from today on October 3rd. Romney and Obama are most likely going to be the only participants. Which is great for the campaigns, but probably not so great for a healthy discussion of public policy. I like President Obama and I'm sure Mitt Romney is ok fella, but debates are about ideas and I suspect we are more likely to see the stage used at the debate for dueling campaign commercials.

I think most Americans would welcome changes, though the problem doesn't seem to be all that pressing to them. Candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein who have qualified to be on the ballot in enough states to win the election, deserve a national audience along with Obama and Romney. I'm a Democrat and I think our current system is very undemocratic.



Polling is a bad qualification period. I don't care what percentage you use to determine who gets to share the stage. If polling firms are not asking about third party candidates or including third party candidates then there is never going to be enough polls to determine if they qualify. Right now five national polls need to have your candidacy at 15% or higher to qualify for the debates. If Gallup, PPP, or whatever company is doing polling doesn't ask the question: "If the election were held today would you vote for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, Libertarian Gary Johnson, Democrat Barack Obama or Green Jill Stien?"  If all your company is asking is, "Would you vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama?" than of course no one else is going to get 1%, 5%, or let alone 15%.

The polling could be done by the Commission itself and they could ask a simple question to determine who gets into the debates: "Who would you like to see in the presidential debates?" Why should the organization that hosts the debate care about who Americans are going to vote for? In 1996, 76% of those polled showed they would like to see Perot in the debates. Simply change the question. Why should an organization that plans and produces debates for the benefit of the American people care about who Americans are going to vote for? Why are they trying to predict who will not win? How can John Q. Public learn about the candidates if they are excluded from the most viewed debates in the country? I don't vote, and then go watch the debates to learn about the candidates. I watch the debates to learn about who I might want to vote for.

Some have suggested that it is too late in the process to allow individuals with no chance of winning to be included in these events. If it is too late, than why even bother with debates? Right now Polls have Obama winning re-election. So why have a debate with Mitt Romney, if it is probably too late for Romney to win? The truth of it is, it is never too late in American politics. The dynamics of a race can change in an instant.

 In a 2004 debate between Howard Dean and Ralph Nader, Governor Dean said the following, "The bottom line is: I agree that the debates ought to include everybody." So do I; and hopefully so do you. 
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