Third-party presidential debate gives a voice to long-shot candidates
Four third-party candidates below President Obama and Mitt Romney on the presidential ballot made their case to a televised audience, taking on issues not included in the mainstream debates: the drug war, bailout for student loans, and corporate influence in politics.
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Stein said that even with term limits, “corporations and big money can still buy what they want.” Hence, her preferred amendment would upend the US Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling authorizing limitless campaign spending by corporations and individuals.Skip to next paragraph
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Other notable offerings unmentioned by the two major-party candidates included:
- Stein, a physician, promised a “New Green Deal” of 25 million jobs in fields like sustainable energy and mass transit and bailing out American student loan debt.
- Anderson, a former two-time Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, said the major candidates had all but ignored two significant issues: America’s poor, with poverty at its highest level since 1965, and climate change.
- Goode, a former six-term congressman from Virginia, argued for a “near-complete moratorium” on new immigration to the US until unemployment fell under 5 percent.
- Johnson, a former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, vowed to not bomb Iran and to repeal the Patriot Act.
Johnson – whose flip observation during his only GOP primary debate that his neighbor’s dog had produced more “shovel ready jobs” than Obama’s stimulus plan – was the source of much of the night’s levity.
In a debate peppered with complaints about how big money had infected the two major political parties and America’s democratic system, none drove the point home so squarely as when Johnson argued that candidates should, during debates, have to wear NASCAR-esque jackets sewn with the logos of their biggest donors.
Later, after Goode offered a simple, one-sentence answer to a question and King wondered why all candidates could not be so succinct, Johnson shot back: “This is like shamelessly pitching oneself,” he said with a grin, “so I’m going to take advantage of shamelessly pitching myself here.”
The debate did have its share of unwieldy moments.
First, King false-started, welcoming viewers to the debate several minutes before it was ready to go – and then had an on-air discussion of where, exactly, he was supposed to peer into the cameras.
Then, the candidates were nearly through discussing the first question on how general election candidates are selected before Johnson interjected, pointing out that candidates had skipped opening statements.
The candidates then gave their two-minute opening monologues some 15 minutes into the actual debate.
Several times a wide-angle shot of the debate hall showed more than a few empty seats, combining with the rather informal setting for the moderators (King, in a deep blue shirt, red suspenders, and no jacket, sat with two coffee cups before him on a simple table) to make the debate look more like a televised (and mandatory) college seminar than a presidential smackdown.
And after all four candidates announced their displeasure at election rules that limit candidate choice, Tobin announced that the group would be holding a subsequent debate on Tuesday, Oct. 30 – but that viewers would have to pick which two candidates would be invited by voting in an “instant run-off” poll on the Free and Equal website.
But the night’s point was to offer, however fleeting, a time for long-shot candidates to have their say.
As King said in conclusion, “the windmills have a way of stopping – and we have a way of saluting you, just for getting into the fray.”