Third party candidates met with exclusion from debates, media
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 21:10
Last Tuesday at the Delaware debates for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, a group of demonstrators protested the exclusion of third-party and independent candidates. Alex Pires, the one third-party candidate who participated in the debates, is running for Senate. According to university students, a similar problem exists on a national level with the Commission on Presidential Debates.
The CPD, which was founded as a nonprofit and nonpartisan corporation in 1987, has sponsored all presidential debates since its creation. In order to be eligible to participate in the debate, a candidate has to demonstrate at least 15 percent public support across five national polls. According to a Gallup Poll conducted between Sept. 6 and Sept. 9, the strongest supported third-party candidates are Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode, polling at approximately one percent each.
Since its creation, the CPD has hosted three debates with two third-party nominees who met the 15 percent rule—John Anderson in 1980 and Ross Perot in both 1992 and 1996.
Junior Ethan Toro says he believes the 15 percent minimum set by the Commission on Presidential Debates is a good choice, but not perfect.
“Now, if you have a candidate with, for example, 3 percent electoral support, relatively speaking no one is really going to know about them,” Toro says. “There is the side of the argument that actually going on national television to debate would give that candidate more coverage and more support, but the reality is that there needs to be some kind of standard to actually get on television in the first place.”
Sophomore Dylan Gallimore says he agrees that there has to be a standard. Gallimore is the president of College Independents Club, a registered student organization created to foster nonpartisan political discussion for students.
“Structurally, there are so many barriers for entry for third-party candidates,” Gallimore says. “A candidate must have some degree of support to enter a debate, that makes sense, but they can’t garner any support if they’re not given any coverage in the media.”
The Free and Equal Elections Foundation will be hosting a presidential debate in Chicago today at 9:00 p.m. FEE is a non-partisan organization that aims to reform the electoral system and bring more attention to third-party and independent candidates. The debate will be moderated by Larry King and will feature Johnson, Stein, Goode and Rocky Anderson, the nominee from the Justice Party, as the debaters. According to CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, none of the three major cable news networks will broadcast the debate.
Ralph Begleiter, director of the Center for Political Communication, says news coverage is helpful to gaining recognition, but the news media cannot be responsible for bringing attention to specific individuals.
“We have a system that mitigates against or works against the success of third parties,” Begleiter says. “But I personally do not think the answer is for the news media or for the debate organizers to interject themselves into the political system.”
Gallimore says that the best chance third-party candidates have of gaining the public’s attention is either by being independently wealthy, such as Perot, or by working actively to publically demonstrate they have valid ideas. Their views should not be dismissed simply because they are not Republican or Democrat, Gallimore says.
“Any press is good press at this point,” Gallimore says.
Green Party presidential nominee Stein and her vice-presidential pick Honkala were arrested outside Hofstra University last Tuesay for blocking traffic while attempting to enter the site of the presidential debates. In a statement posted on Stein’s website, she says the Commission on Presidential Debates is hindering democracy by excluding her and fellow third-party presidential candidates from participating in the debates.
Demonstrations, such as the one performed by Stein and running mate Cheri Honkala last Tuesday, have brought more attention to the subject.
“It was painful but symbolic to be handcuffed for all those hours, because that what the Commission on Presidential Debates has essentially done to American democracy,” Stein says on her website.
Ben Manski, the campaign manager forl Stein, says she has received more media coverage in terms of pure numbers than previous Green Party nominees in the past. However, he says that media in general has expanded, which keeps the actual percentage of Green Party coverage relatively small in comparison to the whole. This presents a challenge in keeping Stein’s campaign up with the overall election coverage.
“The media coverage to vote ratio ends up being disproportionate,” Manski says. “What this means for the campaign is that we must create our own media, such as social media, in order to capture the attention of the voters.”