Tags: Nader | Buchanan | Demand | Debate | Reform

Nader, Buchanan Demand Debate Reform

Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM

Green Party nominee Ralph Nader and Reform Party nominee Pat Buchanan, both of whom were on the 2000 presidential ballot, believe they and their parties were excluded from the debates prior to last year's election because of a two-party monopoly.

Nader told reporters Monday that the Commission on Presidential Debates "masquerades as a neutral government body, when it is in fact a bipartisan corporation designed to exclude all third party challengers to the Republican and Democratic parties."

"It is high time to create a non-partisan peoples presidential debate commission, sponsored by a cross section of civic groups and foundations, which will set fair criteria for the inclusion for legitimate third party candidates," he said.

Buchanan took issue with the make-up of the current presidential debate commission, saying, "Every single member ... is a Republican or a Democrat. Not one member is a member of the Libertarian Party or the Reform Party or Green Party or the Constitution Party.

"The purpose of this debate commission," he claimed, "is to shut off real debate, to squelch true dissent, to segregate third parties to where they cannot compete and to control the White House in perpetuity for the two national existing parties."

Nader likened the restricted access to presidential debates as rationing, and said it should stop.

"The debate function is an event that has drawn anywhere from 35 to 90 million people. But what is happening in recent cycles in presidential election years is that the number of people watching has been dropping after the peak audience of 90 million watched the Perot-Clinton-George Bush debates in 1992," he said.

"Replacing the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates with a non-partisan People's Debate Commission is a precondition to the establishment of legitimate American political debate dialogue and voter engagement," said Nader.

Ron Crickenberger, political director of the Libertarian Party, agreed with Nader, saying, "The Debates Commission should offer voters a broad spectrum of legitimate candidates, instead of acting as kingmaker among a handful of establishment candidates.

"The lesson is clear: If we want more voters to participate in the political process, we have to open up the system and the debates to a wider array of legitimate candidates," said Crickenberger. "The future success of American democracy demands it."

The fight to abolish the Debate Commission won't be easy, said Nader, who outlined a strategy for taking on the system.

"One is to document in a major report the exclusionary tactics and misdeeds of the Debate Commission," he said. "The second step will be to contact a variety of groups of all political persuasions and some foundations to establish a non-partisan, broadly-based people's presidential debate commission."

Another aspect would involve pressuring the news media and arguing "that they really are not serving the American public if they, by default, continue to give this Democratic-Republican dominated Debate Commission a monopoly of access to tens of millions of voters," said Nader.

The non-profit Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 to ensure that debates are a permanent part of every general election.

Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the leading United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and education activities relating to the debates. The CPD sponsored all the debates in 1988, 1992, and 1996.

The CPD, according to its Internet website, used "non-partisan" criteria in setting up the 2000 presidential debates.

In the last presidential election, the CPD required that "the candidate qualify to have his/her name appear on enough state ballots to have at least a mathematical chance of securing an Electoral College majority in the 2000 election."

The CPD's other criterion required "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."

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Green Party nominee Ralph Nader and Reform Party nominee Pat Buchanan, both of whom were on the 2000 presidential ballot, believe they and their parties were excluded from the debates prior to last year's election because of a two-party monopoly. Nader told reporters...
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2002-00-18
Monday, 18 February 2002 12:00 AM
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