For some time now, the Commission on Presidential Debates has coordinated the debates between the candidates of the two main parties. From the time it was formed right up until today, it has never, on its own, invited a third party candidate to join the group. The only exception was to invite Ross Perot to debate against George Bush and Bill Clinton. And this was only because the two main contenders insisted he be invited. This, of course, was not due to any altruistic reasons held by Bush and Clinton. At the time, Perot was so popular, they had to invite him or they would have been seen as trying to censor another semi-major candidate. This wouldn't have went over to well with the voters.
The time has come to open up the debates to more candidates. The major parties say this wouldn't be a good idea because it would confuse the voters. That's nonsense, of course. The real reason is that they don't want the competition who may take votes away from them. The truth is, we need more people debating. If you remember, Ross Perot was bringing up topics that the two major candidates would rather have swept under the rug and not address. Perot wouldn't let them and letting him in the debate forced Bush and Clinton to confront those issues. We need this same thing to happen today.
Now, it's obviously impossible to let every candidate who is running for President in the debate. After all, there are many candidates who are on in just one state, so they have no realistic chance of winning. But you could include, at least in the first debate, all of those candidates who are on the ballot in enough states, so that it is theoretically possible for them to get the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. If you go back over the last few elections, you would find that that number ranges from four to seven candidates. In this year's election, it would be five contenders. If Nader makes it, it would be six candidates at the most. Now, the major parties will tell you that that would be too many people. But what they don't tell you is that the number of people who enter their primary debates, in years in which they are trying to oust the other party from power, often far exceeds this number. Yet, their debates seem to run smoothly. What's the difference?
It's time the American public demands that these third party candidates be allowed to participate in the debates. Only then can we be assured that we are getting a solid view of who stands where on the issues, and that no topics are avoided and swept under the rug. Only then can we make an informed decision at the voting booth.
It's also time for the media to open up their coverage of all elections by covering the campaigns of the third party candidates equally and fairly. Their excuse that these candidates have no chance of winning actually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The truth is, coverage breeds name recognition, name recognition breeds familiarity and familiarity breeds votes. By withholding coverage, their prediction of the third party candidate losing is self-fulfilled. The media will tell you that it isn't their duty to provide free publicity. Maybe not. But it is their duty to inform their viewers, readers and listeners what all of the candidates stand for and their position on the issues. That's the whole purpose of a news organization. The American public should start demanding total coverage, not selective coverage, from their news organizations. More and more people are dropping out of the voting system because of their unhappiness with the two party system. If we don't start including more of the candidates in the system, and giving them fair coverage, we'll continue to lose more of the population as they tune out and turn off.