A “Mockery of Democracy”: 3rd Party Candidates Arrested Outside of Presidential Debate
Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein, and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, were arrested by police this afternoon when attempting to gain entry to tonight’s presidential debate at Hofstra University. The Long Island Report, a Hofstra student news website, posted a video showing Stein and Honkala being removed by police.
According to the LI Report, Stein said, “If you have done the work to get on the ballot, if you are on the ballot and could actually win the electoral college by being on the ballot in enough states, then you deserve to be in the election and you deserve to be heard,” to a crowd outside the debate hall. “The American people deserve to hear choices which are not bought and paid for by multinational corporations and Wall Street. This is why we are not hearing the critical issues in this debate.”
Prior to her arrest, Stein called the presidential debates a “mockery of democracy.” Based on the release of a secret debate contract between the two major candidates, Stein’s comments aren’t that far off.
Yesterday afternoon Time‘s Mark Halperin published a secret 21-page memorandum of understanding between the Obama and Romney campaigns which lays out the presidential debate rules negotiated by the Commission on Presidential Debates, marking the fourth time the contract has ever been released in the 25 years.
The memo demonstrates how strictly the two parties regulate and monopolize the debates to ensure that topics or potential questions that fall outside the narrow confines of acceptable mainstream discourse are never raised.
For example, at tonight’s town-hall style debate audience members “must ask their question as originally submitted and selected by the moderator and make no other comments.” Furthermore, “The audience members shall not ask follow-up questions or otherwise participate in the extended discussion, and the audience member’s microphone shall be turned off after he or she completes asking the questions.” In case a questioner is inspired to go off script, “[T]he Commission shall take appropriate steps to cut-off the microphone of any…audience member who attempts to pose any question or statement different than that previously posed to the moderator for review.”
The memo even forbids the moderator from asking follow-up questions or commenting “on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate.” The candidates can’t ask each other questions either.
Furthermore, the agreement stipulates that neither candidate can “issue any challenges for additional debates”; “appear at any other debate or adversarial forums except as agreed to by the parties”; “accept any television or radio air time offers that involve a debate format or otherwise involve the simultaneous appearance of more than one candidate.”
Obama and Romney have basically freed themselves from ever having to answer inconvenient questions for which scripted talking points won’t work or that would elicit answers that make them look bad. In other words, the two major party candidates running for our nation’s highest office will never have to acknowledge Obama’s infamous kill list, the assassination of Americans abroad, our racist drug war, record deportations, single payer healthcare, the student debt bubble, worker’s rights, foreclosures or any other issues that the two parties are practically indistinguishable on.
Meanwhile, the views of third party candidates, like Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson, are silenced by the authoritarian debate protocols of the Democratic and Republican parties and relegated to the independent media airwaves where the majority of voters will never hear them. Any attempts by these candidates to even attend a presidential debate will be met with police force. Yet, we’re convinced we live in a democracy.