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pudge's Journal: Sunday Thoughts 29

Journal by pudge

There wasn't a lot to talk about in the news this week. It was mostly just more of the same on Iraq, duelling war records, and duelling Democratic candidates. And I am gay-marriaged-out for the time being. Thankfully, the departure of Dean last week (yay!) seemed to lead to Ralph Nader's announcement that he is, once again, running for President.

Ralph Nader

I don't even have a lot of thoughts about Nader in particular. I hate listening to him, and disagree with his politics (those are orthogonal for me). I don't anticipate he will get many votes, and if he does, more power to him; I don't care much about that, though of course I am glad he'll take more votes away from the Democratic candidate than the Republican.

I really don't think it will make a difference this time around, and I am unconvinced it made a difference last time around. People assumed the votes Nader got would have gone to Gore, though it's clear that some of the voters would have note voted, and others would have voted instead for other third-party candidates, and we have no idea where those numbers break down.

But I don't really care either way; it's how the system works, and I didn't cry about it when Bush lost "because of" Perot, and I didn't begrudge Perot when he "took votes from" Dole (though Dole wouldn't have won anyway, in my opinion).

So I don't have strong feelings about Nader being in the race; but with his entrance, my thoughts turn toward one of quadrennial annoyances: the undemocratic Commission on Presidential Debates. This nonprofit, "nonpartisan" (read: "bipartisan") organization has "sponsored" (read: "controlled") all general election debates since 1988.

It is co-chaired by a Republican and a Democrat (hence, "bipartisan"). It has no legal authority whatsoever to perform its powers, but the two major parties (again, "bipartisan") agree to only participate in debates they "sponsor," and they only "sponsor" debates where the candidates fit their rules (hence, "controlled").

There are three criteria they establish. The first is that the candidates meet the legal requirements for being the President. That's perfectly reasonable.

The second is that the candidate must be on enough state ballots to have a mathematical possibility of winning enough electoral votes to win the Presidency. While theoretically it is possible for someone to win the Presidency without meeting this criteria, I believe -- as most people would, I imagine -- that this, too, is reasonable.

The third is that the candidate must have at least 15% of the vote, as determined by the average of the most recently published results of five national polls. For those of you with your jaw hanging open right now: no, I am not kidding.

Here's the essential information you should allow to sink in:

The two major political parties are in collusion with each other to exclude third-party candidates from public exposure, and they use poll data -- which is unreliable and imperfect, not subject to any public scrutiny, and subject to change -- to determine which candidates the public will have access to in debates, a clearly important part of the democratic process.

The CPD kept Nader out of the debates the last time, and I, for one, would prefer that it didn't happen again. Since Nader is running as an independent, it's possible he won't even meet the second criteria anyway, let alone the third. But if he does, he should be allowed in the debates.

Now, some of you are probably thinking I just want Nader in the debates so he will pull votes away from Kerry (OK, "or Edwards"), to help the Republicans/hurt the Democrats. Nothing could be further from the truth: I blasted excluding third-party candidates from debates back in 1997 when Perot, who was poised to hurt Dole, was the one being excluded. This is not a partisan issue with me.

The issue for me is not that Nader might hurt the Democrats, but that the public is being denied access to information about candidates. In another piece I wrote back in 2000, I quoted the Democrat co-chair of the CPD, Paul Kirk, who admitted as much: "Our role is not to jump-start your campaign and all of a sudden make you competitive."

The arrogance behind Kirk's statement about jump-starting campaigns is astounding: if the people see Nader and like him enough to vote for him, how can this possibly be, in any way, a bad thing for democracy? That's the whole point of a general election debate.

The 2004 Iowa campaign becomes particularly instructive in this discussion: both John Edwards and John Kerry were at or below 15 percent in every poll I could find that was taken within a month before the first debate. And nationwide, they were even lower. It is most likely the case that one or both of them would have been excluded from the Iowa debates, if the CPD rules applied; instead, they finished the top two in that state, and one of them will win the party's nomination.

Yes, a primary race is different than the general election race, but the principle is the same: going in you don't know who you like best, and the debate gives everyone a chance to find out. By refusing access, you are refusing citizens the opportunity to make up their own minds.

You can make all the arguments you want about how you don't like third parties or our election process but none of that matters to this point: people are running for President under the law and the two major parties are colluding to prevent us from getting access to them.

Why am I bringing this up now, when the debates are so far away (they likely won't happen until September at the earliest)? Because if we don't talk about it until later, it will be too late. Maybe some intrepid reporter can ask Kerry and Edwards what they think about the CPD, and whether they plan to participate only in CPD-controlled debates.

Maybe they could even be asked if they see a conflict of interest in the fact that the two parties agree to be in only CPD-controlled debates, and yet the CPD is controlled by the two parties, or asked if they would have supported a system which would have excluded them in the Iowa debates.

I can dream.

This discussion was created by pudge (3605) for no Foes, but now has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Sunday Thoughts

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  • I can understand the need to have a requirement like 15% polling in order to keep the field from becoming too crowded. The debates would becoming useless if they included every person who met the other requirements.

    However, 15% is an extraordinarily high threshold to have to reach. I think they could keep the field limited to "serious" candidates if it was at 2-3%. I realize using polls, which are not necessarily reliable isn't the best option, but I personally don't want to watch a Presidential deb

    • Gotta disagree with you Hampster. The 2nd criteria pretty much eliminates the majority of non-serious candidates. Most of the minor parties only appear on the ballots of a small portion of the states(IE: the prohibition party).

      Poll-data is too unreliable, perhaps base it on achieving at least 2 percent of the total popular vote in the previous election? That would be better, but still not ideal.

      As too it getting to crowded, so what? I mean really, what do debates really accomplish these days?

      [robot]"
      • In order for a candidate to participate in a debate, at least one elector pledged to that candidate must be in a winning position using the most generous margin of error in a major poll.

        For instance, the candidate for the "We're Completely Krazy" Party (henceforth WACK) in Idaho trails the leader by 9.9 percentage points. The poll has a 5 point margin of error. The WACK slate of electors might win in Idaho. Once the WACKos have delegates to the electoral college, they might be able to tip an election b

        • This does not diminsh any of my complaints about using poll data. It does diminish the effects, but doesn't speak directly to the complaints, such as that polls are not subject to public scrutiny, that "the only poll that matters is on election day," etc.

          Until the WACKos can actually exercise that kind of influence, however, all they do is add noise to the already content free debates.

          You do not know they can't win the election if they are given more exposure. That is opinion -- not fact -- based prim
      • by Otter (3800)
        Gotta disagree with you Hampster. The 2nd criteria pretty much eliminates the majority of non-serious candidates. Most of the minor parties only appear on the ballots of a small portion of the states(IE: the prohibition party).

        C-SPAN has held debates among the major minor candidates, all of whom (I believe) would meet the second criterion. They're definitely serious (you don't get on all those ballots without being dead serious) but we're still talking about 5-7 unelectable, monomaniacal nuts. I could do w

        • The following parties have enough popular support that they should be included:
          Libertarian Party, and the Green Party

          I'd really like to see a Republican claim to be a conservative up against the Libs and a Dem claim to be a liberal up against the Greens.

          Also, the NLP has endorsed Kuchinich. Wierdly.

          Most of those smaller parties will not appear on the ballots of enough states to stand even a miniscule chance of winning.

          Here's a list:
          American Party - Did not appear on any ballots in 2000, and probably wo
        • by pudge (3605) *
          I agree, though, that 15% is too high. I'd go with 5%.

          So you think that using poll data to control the democratic process is a good idea.

          Well, I know who to not invite to the next Constitutional convention.

          All of you who believe polls should be involved in the process *at all* have not addressed any of the reasons why they should not be. How do you know the results aren't being forged or manipulated when it is not available to the public? How do you know the methodology is sound (sometimes it is made
          • So you think that using poll data to control the democratic process is a good idea.

            You speak as if A) Debates are some enshrined right in the Consitution and B) Debates control the election.

            Anyone who cares enough about politics to both vote and watch a debate should have enough ability to find out where each of the candidates stand on issues. Debates are secondary to the type of research that is possible now by our citizenry especially with the internet.

            I think you are way overblowing the signifi

            • by pudge (3605) *
              You speak as if A) Debates are some enshrined right in the Consitution

              No, I don't. However, many of our campaign laws are designed to protect the democratic process as described in the Constitution, such as the equal time laws for broadcast media. Those laws have been weakened and removed not because they were unconstitutional, but because they were deemed no longer necessary. I think that was wrong-headed, as their logic was only regarding equal time and fairness for the two major parties (but what a
              • What I disagree with is your assertion that the debates are a part of the democratic process (your words). I don't think how the debates are setup is to be defined as "part of the democratic process". Putting forward your opinions in whatever manner you wish, or responding to other's opinions in whatever way you wish is part of the democratic process. Doing it in a nationally televised debate setup the way they are is not, in my opinion, a part of the democratic process.

                No, but they are certainly a d

                • by pudge (3605) *
                  What I disagree with is your assertion that the debates are a part of the democratic process (your words).

                  Uh, and I disagree that 2 + 2 = 4.

                  Putting forward your opinions in whatever manner you wish, or responding to other's opinions in whatever way you wish is part of the democratic process. Doing it in a nationally televised debate setup the way they are is not, in my opinion, a part of the democratic process.

                  Putting food in your mouth and chewing and swallowing is eating. But doing so with a fork i
                  • Hmm, I think this has gotten a bit out of control.

                    Let me say that I do agree with you that we should do what we can to raise the level of education and awareness among voters. I also completely agree that the current system is designed to keep out third-party or independent candidates, and that it is unfair. My concern in my original post was seeing candidate from the Furries Of America (FOA) Party joining the debate. Or 25 people on stage trying to debate for an hour. That was why I thought a compro

                    • by pudge (3605) *
                      My concern in my original post was seeing candidate from the Furries Of America (FOA) Party joining the debate. Or 25 people on stage trying to debate for an hour.

                      But the only way the FOA candidate could get in the debate is if the party were on the ballot in enough states to get 270 electoral votes. You act like it will be opened up to anyone. That there's only a small handful -- maybe a half dozen? -- of parties who meet that criteria should be instructive to you.

                      Reading some of the other posts, ju
  • by bsharitt (580506) *
    Go Nader!
    Bush in 2004!

  • I agree with most of what you said - the two parties definitely work together to exclude third party candidates. It's dirty and definitely rubs me the wrong way.

    I really don't think it will make a difference this time around, and I am unconvinced it made a difference last time around. People assumed the votes Nader got would have gone to Gore, though it's clear that some of the voters would have note voted, and others would have voted instead for other third-party candidates, and we have no idea where th
    • I'd say it's a safe bet that 500+ of the 98,000 Nader voters in Florida in 2000 would have voted for Gore

      I am unconvinced. Nader voters are crazy: who's to say many of them wouldn't have voted for Bush?
      • Re:you're right (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by ceejayoz (567949)
        That'd be like Gandhi voters switching to Hitler...
        • This silly comparison of Bush to Hitler needs to stop. It's whacked out.

          I voted for Nader in 2000. Had I not voted for Nader, I'm pretty damn sure I would have voted for Bush as Gore wan't an option for me.

          The reasons I voted for Nader deal mostly with trying to reach the 5% threshold so that the Green party would receive matching federal campaign funds as they have SOME issues I would like to see debated. Had I had a reasonable expectation that Nader would win, I would not have voted for him. That ma
          • I think what he was trying to say was that the difference between Nader and Bush is about as big as the difference between Ghandi and Hitler.

            Oh and you're absolutely right, Bush doesn't have a mustache, and Nader is farrr to heavy. Oh, you meant politically, not physically didn't you?

            Cheers.
            • This hyperbol is silly, wacked, dishonors and does a complete disservice to both Gandhi and those who suffered at Hitler's hands.

              You may think it's cute, but it's not.
              • Well, I didn't think the comparison was viable, but you evidentally do if you're going to get all bent out of shape over it.

                I corrected your off the wall assertion that what the grandparent was saying in anyway implied that Bush was Hitler or Nader was Ghandi. It didn't, and only a complete nut-job would read that into it, or phrase it into an attack. You drew the comparison into that realm, not the grandparent.

                Now, granted my reply was a bit flamey, and I did bait you a bit, but still. Who are you any
                • I corrected your off the wall assertion that what the grandparent was saying in anyway implied that Bush was Hitler or Nader was Ghandi. It didn't, and only a complete nut-job would read that into it, or phrase it into an attack. You drew the comparison into that realm, not the grandparent.

                  It was hardly an "off the wall assertion". The grandparent made the claim that a Nader voter switching to Bush would be like a Gandhi voter switching to Hitler. If that's not a suggesting that (A) Nader equates to Gan

          • Re:you're right (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ceejayoz (567949)
            Apparently, you missed the point of the analogy.

            The vast majority of Nader voters are on the far-liberal end of the political spectrum. So, it's very unlikely for any significant number of them to vote for Bush. Sure, there's a couple people like you, but to continue the analogy, there were a couple Jews who supported Hitler. A few examples does not make a trend. :-p

            I was no more comparing Bush to Hitler than I was Nader to Gandhi. Your selective reading of the analogy... persecution complex, much?
            • I think you missed the point I was making -- disregarding the hyperbolic hitler/gandhi remarks, while most Nader voters are far left there is no garentee that any number of them would have voted democratic had Nader not run. The reason Nader got the votes he got was due to voters who felt disenfranchised and who in all likelyhood would have either declined to vote or would have voted for someone other than a "D" or an "R". I *AM* an exception and I provided that as futher illustration that what you sugges
  • That the Democrats & Republicans are a different party? They say they are different but they're not. Gasp! They are conspiring against opposition? Please.
  • ... and I wouldn't have voted for Gore or Bush. If Edwards isn't the nominee I'll vote for Nader again. Of course I was voting in Utah where Perot came in second to beat Clinton twice, so it isn't like my vote would have had any influence in any situation. This time I am voting in MA, where I am unlikely to have influence for an equal but opposite reason.

    Nader should keep running until he gets a chance to run AND participate in the debates. Nothing points out the sameness of the two parties more than

  • I know I am wildly offtopic here, but I need some forum of US-inhabitants to answer, and this is the best I found after a little looking in slashdot's journals...:

    What is the US perception of politics in Spain [wikipedia.org]? Here we have got Aznar [wikipedia.org] as president, and everybody talks about how shamefully he is following Bush, how he (Aznar) got us (Spain) in his (Bush's) war... We even copied your bushin30seconds [bushin30seconds.org] with an aznaren30segundos [aznaren30segundos.org]

    Do you americans even hear about Aznar and Spain, and spanish politics? I couldn't h

    • I have heard practically nothing about Spain's internal politics, just internationally (particularly in regard to Spain's dealings with NATO, the UN, and the coalition). I would have guessed many people in Spain would be angered by Aznar's working with the US on the Iraq war, but I have no impression for how it breaks down in raw numbers or demographically, let alone in Spain's own government.

      As for us "hawks" in the US, we are grateful that your leaders stood by us. Most of the "doves" I know, who have

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