The Big Debate

Tim Bean



We are now T minus 35 days and counting until Election Day on November 6th, and tomorrow we will be treated to the first Presidential debate between two of the four candidates who are on the ballot in enough states to conceivably win the presidency.  As a point of information, the other two candidates are Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and Libertarian Party candidate Gov. Gary Johnson, these two candidates are not invited to participate in this debate, and it is highly unlikely that either will be invited to any of the following debates; which does beg the perennial question that has helped advance humankind for millennia, “why?”

For starters the reason why neither Jill Stein, nor Gary Johnson will be invited has to do with the rules that are in place to determine who gets an invite to play in America’s political sandbox.

The first rule is that candidates must meet the constitutional requirements to be President – at least 35 years of age, a natural born citizen of the United States, and is otherwise eligible as stated in the Constitution.  Both Jill Stein and Gov. Gary Johnson meet these requirements.

The second rule for candidates to be invited is that they must appear on enough state ballots to have a mathematical possibility of securing enough votes to win the election.  Gov. Gary Johnson certainly meets these criteria, and upon a cursory look at how many states ballots Jill Stein’s name should appear on, it appears she meets those criteria as well.

The third rule, states that a candidate must, “…have a level of support of at least 15% (fifteen percent) of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results at the time of the determination.”  This is where things get tricky, because most, if not all of the five selected national polls referred to do not bother listing either Jill Stein’s or Gov. Gary Johnson’s name in their questionnaire, thus making it improbable, if not impossible for either of them to even approach that 15% thresh-hold requirement.  Then there is the fact that following the 1992 election year, which was the last time a third party candidate (Ross Perot) was invited to participate in the Presidential debates, the Commission on Presidential Debates raised the polling requirements from 8% to the current 15%.  Which again begs the question why?

Well, it all starts with whom and what is the Commission on Presidential Debates is/are.  The following video explains the founding of this commission:

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Upon watching the above video you can see that even though the Commission on Presidential Debates operates as a not for profit entity, and proclaims to be non-partisan, it is in fact a bi-partisan entity; replete with maintaining the status quo of Red or Blue politics; so there is some agreement between the two parties after all…

Now, let’s look at the following graphic from MSNBC which pulls in data from social networks to glean a picture of popular sentiment towards both the Democratic Party’s candidate, President Barack Obama, and Republican Party candidate Mitt Romney:

Look at the sentiment and opinion drivers section.  Neither candidate approaches what anyone could call a plurality in positive opinion, while both candidates seem to have the negative opinion locked up tight.  Knowing this decidedly underwhelming support for either of the two big tent candidates and the decidedly negative view of either too; don’t you think that the American public should deserve to see and hear another thought or view?

The counter argument is that America is and always has been a two party system in its politics.  Yes – yes it has.  However I would counter that the two parties have not always been the Democrat and Republican Parties.  There have been many political parties that have come and gone over our nation’s history.  The difference between then and now is that the two current parties are in collusion to ensure that they are, and forever will be, the only viable parties for all Americans to choose from, as is evidenced with their banding together in the formation of the Commission on Presidential Debates, and changing the rules as outside parties threaten the status quo.

Gov. Gary Johnson and his campaign has taken to filing an anti-trust suit against both the Commission, and the Republican and Democratic Parties and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.  There has been increased public pressure on the companies and organizations that sponsor the Presidential Debates too.  Thus far three of the ten sponsors have pulled out, those being the YWCA, BBH New York, and Philips Electronics.  In Philips Electronics’ statement, released by Philips’ Head of Corporate Communications, Mark A. Stephenson, regarding their decision said the following, “[Philips] has a long and proud heritage of being non-partisan in the many countries it serves around the world.  While the Commission on Presidential Debates is a non-partisan organization, their work may appear to support bi-partisan politics…We respect all points of view and, as a result, want to ensure that Philips doesn’t provide even the slightest appearance of supporting partisan politics.  As such, no company funds have been or will be used to support the Commission on Presidential Debates.”

There is a Chinese proverb that states, “May you live in interesting times,” and it does appear that the times we live in are, if nothing else, “interesting.”

It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.  (Joseph Joubert).

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