Friday, July 29, 2016

Clinton and Trump: Does Anyone Else Deserve To Be Heard?

So, here we are.

The Democratic and Republican parties have both endured primary election cycles that have left many of their members disaffected, from supporters of Bernie Sanders who feel betrayed by his endorsement of Hillary Clinton to Republicans who refuse to endorse Donald Trump (including primary opponent Ted Cruz, who told party members at the Republican National Convention to "vote your conscience."). Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center reports that in 2014, 32 percent of Americans identified as Democrat, 23 percent as Republican - and 39 percent as "Independent."

Now that the primaries, conventions and nominations are done, the distress within both parties seems to be forcing mainstream media to pay at least a little more attention to third-party candidates. But most Americans will remain unaware of those candidates unless they appear in the presidential debates.

Unfortunately, the very structure of presidential debates has excluded third-party candidates from them for more than 20 years - the last candidate to join the Democratic and Republican nominees in a debate was Ross Perot, in 1992. The agency doing the excluding is the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit formed by the Democratic and Republican parties.

In June, 2015, the two most well-known third parties, Green and Libertarian, joined to sue the Federal Election Commission, contending that the FEC had failed by not compelling the CPD to open up the debates: "...a debate staging organization cannot use a criterion that only the Democratic and Republican candidates can realistically satisfy. But that is precisely what the CPD has done."

In September, they joined forces again to sue the Commission on Presidential Debates (along with the Republican and Democratic National Committees) in an attempt to get their candidates into the debates.

A favorable resolution of either case could result in Libertarian Gary Johnson and/or Green Dr. Jill Stein appearing onstage alongside Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  .

Meanwhile, here are three blog posts that I wrote in October 2012, about how third-party exclusion, which I consider one of the biggest defects in our current system, came to be, and the results that it produces. I hope you find them helpful.

An October glimpse of an American spring? (October 6, 2012)
An October glimpse of an American spring? - Part II (October 16, 2012)
An October glimpse of an American spring? - Postscript (October 25, 2012)
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