Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Presidential Duh-bates

America, we can do better. We deserve better. Tonight marks the first of three Presidential debates, but we’ve lost before we’ve even begun. What do I mean?

These debates are pabulum. Look, I’m not saying that Obama and Romney aren’t viable candidates. But without any of the qualified—and I get to that below—third party candidates, we’re not really going to get anything more than pre-scripted talking points. We deserve answers and solutions instead of an extended “he said, she said” production about taxes, the economy, pseudo-morality, blah, blah, blah.

The problem is that the debates aren’t constitutionally mandated and the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is a non-non-partisan organization. Yes, I made that a double negative (in more ways than one).

Here is an excerpt from their site:

“The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.”

Ah, but there’s the rub: “… provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners”. Apart from being subjective, can you really have the “best possible” with only two marginally opposed candidates? Shouldn’t you have vastly divergent viewpoints in order to test what’s “best” and what’s “worst”?

My opinion aside, the CPD does outline their selection process:

“The mission of the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates (the "CPD") is to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates are held every four years between the leading candidates for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States.”

First, they make sure everyone is constitutionally eligible (age, nationality, etc.). Makes sense.

Second, and I agree with this, the candidates need to prove they have enough support to win—in this case, they need to be on enough ballots in enough states to mathematically have the chance to win the requisite 270 electoral votes.

Third is where I, and a lot of people, have an issue.

“The CPD's third criterion requires that the candidate 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.”

I’m sorry, but “five selected national public opinion polling organizations”? Selected by whom? Is College Football’s BCS commission running this? This sounds as messed up as the “computer rankings” that kept Boise State out of National Championship-eligible games for years. Except the stakes are much higher. Why add this provision? Because the CPD isn’t a non-partisan organization and it knows that when campaigns cost 100 Bazillion dollars, it’s practically impossible to get 15% support if no one hears about you. A non-partisan organization is the League of Women Voters. But they stopped hosting the debates back in the 1980s.

“The League of Women Voters is withdrawing sponsorship of the presidential debates...because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

Right now, at least one third party candidate, Gary Johnson, satisfies the first two requirements. In my opinion, he should be allowed to debate the other candidates. He may not win, and I don’t even know that I would vote for him, but it’d be valuable to hear what he has to say.

So if you agree and want to affect real change, forget your representative in Congress. I would voice your displeasure starting with these organizations right here: