Friday, October 03, 2008

These Debates Are Debatible

For many years the national debates were run by the League of Women voters. Then, they were run in an impartial manner for the good of the American people. Twenty years ago, our two major political parties: Republicans and Democrats set up a Debate Commission run by two men Frank Fahrenkopf, head of the Republican Party; and Paul Kirk, of the Democratic Party. The funding came from corporate sponsors. Anheuser Busch has spent the most money, and is one reason why the debates frequently are held in St. Louis. Today, the same two guys are in charge --- only now Mr. Fahrenkopf is the nation's leading gambling lobbyist, and Mr. Kirk, an important lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry.

George Farah is the executive director and founder of Open Debates, and the author of a book on our national debate setup. He answers the rather obvious question: Why do these two political parties want to be in charge of the national debates through the Debate Commission that they control:

",,,you're not going to see any third party voices in tonight's debate. The Republican, Democratic parties, who exert near absolute control over these public forums, have determined and made sure that no third party voices are ever seen on the debate stage and can challenge their dominance of our political system."

In 1980, former Republican Congressman John Anderson ran as an independent for U.S. President. He had a reasonably large following and I was one. Jimmy Carter refused to appear on the stage if Anderson was there. The League of Women Voters said -- Ok. You don't have to be on the stage. The debate which would have been three-way -- became one between Reagan and Anderson! Wonderful!! I am a strong believer that our national rules should do everything to encourage the growth of third parties because in a democracy, citizens should have a chance to vote for representatives closer to their own views and values. Can you Ralph Nader as the third person on the presidential debate stage? His responses often would put to shame both Obama and McCain. He would show the American public what pablum and, even, empty cotton candy we are being fed by our two Parents: Papa Republican and Mama Democrat.

This was not the only time the League refused to bend to the Two Parties's wishes, and so through influence, power and money we have debates controlled by those debating!

And their control through the private corporation The Debate Commission gives the Donkeys and the Elephants the ability to tinker with the rules for each debate.

George Farah again commenting yesterday, the day of the Biden-Palin Debate:

"With respect to the new rules that we do know about, because the campaigns are terrified that both Biden and Paliin will make a major gaffe during tonight's performance, they have serverely restricted the response times, so each candidate only has ninety seconds to respond to a particular question, and then, only two minutes afterwards to have some sort of discussion."

Once more --- another example of how our democracy which may or may not be the most democratic in the world --- certainly is far from perfect. It's skewed at its very base.