Green Party’s Jill Stein Crashes Debate, Gets ArrestedOctober 17th, 2012
Rebel of the Week
At last night’s presidential debate, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney interrupted one another repeatedly despite having nearly identical views on the major issues of the day. The same vague topics were recycled from previous election years, with little attention being paid to pressing issues like the pending debt crisis. Long gone are the days when the League of Women Voters put on the debates. In an effort to limit competition, the federally-financed Democratic and Republican parties conspired to create the Commission on Presidential Debates, a 501(c)(3) purposed (apparently) with preventing third party candidates from participating in presidential debates and limiting the topics of discussion to bland and recurring wedge issues.
Before the debate started, Green Party candidate Jill Stein put her own freedom at risk by attempting to enter the event despite not being invited, intending to join the other candidates in a discussion of the issues. The fact that she might challenge US foreign policy or question the War on Drugs apparently made her such a threat to the agenda of the CPD that she was arrested on the spot.
Jill Stein’s Arrest Draws Attention to the Flawed Commission on Presidential Debates
The Commission on Presidential Debates, created by the two major, government-funded political parties, set unfair criteria for debate participation. The easy way to decide who should be in the debate would be to determine which candidates are on the ballot in enough states to win. It is extremely difficult to get a candidate on the ballot in a large number of US states, requiring activists to collect thousands upon thousands of signatures in some cases.
If that were the criteria, this year, only Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson would meet the threshold. If all 4 candidates were allowed to debate, Americans would hear the policy viewpoints from independents across the spectrum. Issues like the War on Drugs, US military interventionism, the Federal Reserve, and bailouts would be back on the table.
Instead, the Commission on Presidential Debates relies on polling data to choose candidates, requiring a 15% result in order to qualify. Meanwhile, few polling outfits include third party candidates in polls, making it virtually impossible for them to be included. Since the purpose of presidential debates is to allow voters to find out more info about candidates, the popularity measurement should not be a disqualifying factor. Some voters might choose to support a candidate after finding out about him or her during the debate. For pragmatic reasons, the cutoff should clearly be ballot access. That’s difficult enough to achieve anyway.
Following in the Footsteps of Michael Badnarik and David Cobb
In 2004, Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik and Green Party hopeful David Cobb were also arrested outside the presidential debates while protesting their exclusion. The Commission on Presidential Debates, rather than answering the criticisms of independent voters, has ordered police to ban independent candidates from the building, resulting in the arrest of 3 presidential candidates to date. In the below video, you can see Jill Stein’s arrest unfold, as she and her VP candidate Cheri Honkala refused to leave.
Recently, supporters of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson also helped this cause by demanding advertisers pull funding from the Commission on Presidential Debates. So far, Phillips Electronics, BBH New York, and the YWCA have responded by canceling their sponsorship of the rigged process. Hitting an organization where it hurts, right smack in the bank account, can often encourage it to change course.
While it should be noted that this is by no means an endorsement of her candidacy, Jill Stein’s protest of the debates helped further the discussion on how independent viewpoints are purposefully excluded from the political process and, specifically, how the Commission on Presidential Debates is to blame. For risking her freedom to draw attention to the disenfranchisement of independents in the American political process and for her willingness to suffer the legal consequences of that risk, Jill Stein has earned this week’s Rebel of the Week award.
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