Saturday, September 24, 2016

It's time to end the monopoly on debates and the duopoly of political power

I've been watching the debate on the debates, in the news, the opinion pages, and social media. People who want to open the debates want to let Gary Johnson and Jill Stein into the debates. People who want to keep them closed say that they haven't demonstrated enough support to be entitled to the debates.

One of the first justifications for shutting Johnson and Stein out of the debates that I saw in the opinion column and social media is this: they don't attract enough coverage to warrant an invitation to the debates. Why should they be able to use the debates to get free exposure that a national debate would provide?

Oh, I don't know. How about this? The press has a legitimate public duty to inform the public of who is running and what their policy positions are. More to the point, for decades, the press, aka "mainstream media", have been serving the two major parties, almost exclusively. There have been debates for third party candidates without the two main party candidates for years. Who knew? The press doesn't want you to know. God knows they don't want to put third party candidates on the same stage with their two darling candidates, Clinton and Trump, on national TV. Why not?

Because third party candidates owe nothing to the status quo. They seek real, substantive change, not incremental change that is promoted by the establishment candidates. Bernie Sanders is an independent and he was and still is promoting real substantive change. He ran for president as a Democrat because he knew that the press would ignore him as an independent. But even while running as a Democrat, the press did everything they could to make sure he had no chance of success.

The same treatment is being deployed against Stein and Johnson. Both are seeking substantive change. Both are seen as a threat to the status quo. So both get very little coverage in the press. Whatever Clinton wants to put out there, it gets covered. If Donald Trump burps without saying "excuse me", you know it will be in the Washington Post the next day.

The press is serving up distractions and justifications daily to avoid talking about third party candidates. From yet another drone strike in a foreign country to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's divorce, the press is working very hard to distract us from any possible alternatives to the two party system we have now.

Some of you may recall that hopeful moment before the conclusion of the primaries, when it looked like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were actually going to debate together, without Clinton. It looked pretty serious and then Trump changed his mind and backed out. He said it would be "inappropriate" to debate Sanders at that time. I'd say that he was worried that Bernie would get more exposure than Trump (and Clinton) thought he deserved. Sanders was being treated as a third party candidate.

Same goes for Clinton. She passed on the final debate with Sanders before the last primaries including California and the press gave her a pass. That was an enormous insult to all Bernie Sanders supporters that should not soon be forgotten. Fearful of allowing Sanders to get additional exposure, she backed out just before the biggest primary. No apologies, no regrets. And now she's expecting that all Sanders supporters will just fall right in line to support her.

Sorry, Lady Krakatoa. No amount of your legendary rage will ever convince the millions of people going Green or waiting for Sanders to return to the race if you should drop out, to vote for you.

Despite the historic unpopularity of both nominees, the Commission on the Presidential Debates (CPD) maintains that their rules are fair. Check out this article on Politico, one of many, that toe the establishment line that the rules are fair. But they never mention that the press has been diligent in blocking third party coverage for decades. They never mention that "the press", "the mainstream media", or whatever you want to call it, is owned by 6 parent corporations who give large sums of money gleefully to support Republicans and Democrats while shutting everyone else out.

They do note that the CPD is a private organization that is unaccountable to the public. What? No Congressional oversight? No oversight whatsoever? Not as far as I can tell. The 15% polling average over 5 polls before the first debate is entirely arbitrary. The CPD gets to pick and choose which polls to use. Of course, they're only going to use polls by the largest media outlets, still owned by those 6 parent corporations. Can you see how ridiculous the lock-in is? This is what we are fighting if we want substantive change for the better.

This kind of behavior is systemic. It is evidence that the old guard is supremely reluctant to accept change for as long as they have the power to keep things as they are. But there is hope. It's not evident now, mostly because the press has been really quiet about it. Remember, the establishment press corp is made up of salt and pepper haired men and women who color their hair to look young on camera. They are wealthy, they have kids in college or are just starting their careers. They don't to upend the cart for their kids. They don't really care about other, middle class or poor kids.

But those other kids are growing up. They're starting to notice that their prospects are bleak. They voted for Bernie Sanders in droves. They gave landslide support to Sanders over Clinton. They hate Trump and Clinton. And now they're looking at Stein as a much preferred alternative to Clinton with nary a thought for Trump. But they're not represented in the polls. Here's some useful evidence of that lack of respect for the millennials:

See the column, 18-34? See how they're N/A? Seriously? That is from a CNN poll. CNN is part of that vast media network owned by 6 parent corporations. CNN would just love to see Clinton elected. They would rather show an empty podium at a Trump rally than cut over to coverage of Bernie Sanders at one of his massive rallies. Sure, they gave a town hall event for Jill Stein a few weeks ago. Crumbs for her and for the millennials who support her now that Sanders has dropped out.

Those millennials may have been ignored this time, but in 2020, they're going to have something to say about what happened this year. They're 80+ million strong and they're the largest voting demographic.

Here's a video of a woman who left the Democratic Party after 17 years. In simple terms, she betrays the lie that has been doffed on us by the Democrats and Republicans. She shows that the 2 party system we have now is designed to give us no other place to go. That's what the current presidential election feels like to me. I feel like I'm supposed to be cornered into voting for Clinton. But I'm not. I do have a choice and I don't have to vote for Trump or Clinton. That's because I'm informed of my choices.

She also points out that voting Democrat or Republican will always lead us back to the same place we are now. She says that even if Sanders had won, in 4-8 years, we'd be back to where we are now with no alternative in sight. Finally, she nails the point that has been missing from the debate over the political duocracy for a long, long time: breaking the two party system will not only expand our choices, but it will help to keep the dominant parties in check and accountable.

With just two parties, its easy for both parties to collude to keep the status quo, to keep anyone not approved by the oligarchy out. If you don't think that Democrats and Republicans ever collude, check out this video of Bill Clinton and Paul Ryan. Here we see them chatting at a conservative venue about the budget and that they will work together to get the cuts that conservatives want. As you can see from the video, Clinton and Ryan are not thinking about anyone but the 1%.

This is why we need to end the monopoly on debates. This is why we need to break the two party system. The two party system offers no real choice for independents who are not registered with either dominant party. That's 43% of American voters. Even long time supporters of either party are unhappy with the choices this year. The two party system has given us two of the most unpopular candidates in history because they truly believe that we have no other place to go.

The best way to answer that kind of attitude is to vote for someone else. I'm voting for Jill Stein and every other Green Party and/or Berniecrat that I can vote for. That is my response to an attempt to corner me into voting for Clinton.
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