USA Today Col: "Give third parties a voice" By Giving Them Some Air Time

Reason contributor and Washington Center for Politics & Journalism head Terry Michael has an engaging column in USA Today. To create a more robust - and representative - political dialogue, he suggests television networks and cable news channels let Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate for president, and Jill Stein of the Green Party, "briefly address the nation immediately after Mitt Romney and President Obama deliver their acceptance addresses" at their national conventions.

All voters would miss out on is the predictable chatter of talking-point-programmed pundits networks always put on right after the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates accept their parties' nomination at their respective conventions. Instead of post-speech analysis, citizens would hear important alternatives, from the libertarian-conservative, free-market promoter Gary Johnson, and Greens candidate Jill Stein, the progressive, pro-government advocate.

Michael recognizes "this isn't the ideal solution" and he's not calling for a return to the old "equal time" provisions in the Fairness Doctrine that actually stymied political discussion. Rather, he's pointing out what everyone knows: The presidential debates have been rigged to keep out everyone but Republican and Democratic candidates. Michael, a former press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, was there at the start of the current system and his insider's account should be dispiriting to anyone who's interested in opening up political discourse.

Formed in 1987 by Democrats and Republicans, the Commission on Presidential Debateswas designed to restrict televised face-offs to their candidates. I know. I coordinated the Democratic press relations announcing the commission. I even drafted the news release as a young press secretary in 1987. I assisted DNC Chairman Paul Kirk, working with our Republican counterpart, RNC Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf, now co-chair with former press secretary Mike McCurry.

The debate commission's rules make participation all but impossible for participants other than Democrats and Republicans. Third parties can't qualify unless they poll at least 15%, and they can't get 15% if they don't receive news coverage — a Catch-22.

As a result, the debates avoid serious discussion of issues that the two-party partisans see as "third rails" or that both prefer to avoid.

Michael argues that allowing the two highest-profile minor-party candidates a few minutes to "address millions of voters , we may avoid the quadrennial fight over excluding those voices from the debates. That would be a win-win for voters, candidates, the debate commission and TV networks."

As a self-described libertarian Democrat (read his blog here), Michael is openly pulling for Johnson but his proposal goes far beyond any sort of special pleading. The two legacy parties have never been less popular and strictly from a ratings point of view, nobody's going to complain about having to wait five or 10 minutes before listening to Paul Begala or Karl Rove start spinning like a meth-happy pole dancer.

Bonus, barely related, must-watch vid: Here's a Today Show clip from 1976 in which Marshall McLuhan talks about the absolute failure (technical and ideological) of the first presidential debate between Jimmy Carter and Jerry Ford. "The glorious moment," said the communications theorist to Tom Brokaw and Edwin Newman, "was the rebellion of the medium against the bloody message." McLuhan was talking about the glitch that left the set and candidates silent for several minutes. It's great TV and a reminder that for as good as the new media world of today is with its infinite offerings, there was a time when great shit happened on the blandest of bland network shows.

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  • Almanian 1||

    Silly libertarian™! TV coverage is for TEAMS!

  • Whiterun Guard||

    Am I the only one that wants to sauerkraut Jill Stein up?

    Also, I don't see how Duff Lite can lose the Duff bowl this year. Too many good offseason moves, and their speed is just too much for Duff.

  • ||

    I have no idea what the phrase "sauerkraut up" means, but my initial assumption that it was synonymous with "have sex with" was ruled out* when I Googled her picture.

    *I hope. NTTAWWT.

  • fried wylie||

    Request for clarification 2nd'd.

    Shredding, bottling, and fermenting "progressive, pro-government advocate"s sounds pretty good on the surface...

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Check out yesterday's AM links. You have been warned.

  • Lord Humungus||

    that moment is forever burned into my psyche.

  • fried wylie||

    Ignorance is Bliss, Ignorance is Bliss, Ignorance is Bliss, Ignorance is Bliss, Ignorance is Bliss...

  • ||

    Oh good. At least my instincts for the perverse were not too far wrong. Sug has molded me well.

  • RBS||

    Speaking of yesterday's AM links, did Drax make it back from his trip to youporn?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Seen him around since that comment?

  • fried wylie||

    Never underestimate Fudd.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    I always get a good laugh out of one of the favorite responses of the "major parties" and the media: that only "serious" candidates should get air time. You know, like Todd "legitimate rape" Akins. You know, people who stick to the important issues, like Romney's Swiss bank accounts.

    Discussing anything else--wars, civil liberties, national bankrupty--is just crazy.

  • Caleb Turberville||

    It would be nice to have a candidate in the debates who is against the war on drugs, imperialism, and deficit spending.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    All voters would miss out on is the predictable chatter of talking-point-programmed pundits networks always put on right after the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates accept their parties' nomination at their respective conventions.

    Good luck with convincing them to shut up for a minute.

  • ||

    Michael, a former press secretary for the Democratic National Committee nutjob AIDS denialist.

  • ||

    Careful. He'll send you nasty emails, and then you'll be sorry.

  • ||

    Did you rue the day you dared mock his nuttiness? You gotta figure the intent of the nastygram is to induce rue-ing in the reader.

  • ||

    None of us will ever dare mock him again, lest we rue once more.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    McLuhan sets a new standard for over-analysis in that video. He starts off well, but then he gets into who looks better in color versus b+w, who's got a better speech pattern (Corporate vs individualist?), etc...

  • Rich||

    "You know nothing of my work. How you ever got to teach a course on anything is totally amazing."

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I looked that quote up and found lots of others from him. The man was a master of bullshit.

    The criminal, like the artist, is a social explorer.

    Percepts of existence always lie behind concepts of nature.

  • Paul.||

    He lost me at "Carter's accent is corporate, Ford's is an individual one..."

  • Lord Humungus||

    During the debates, candidates should be put in stocks and pelted with filth. We need to return to the days (?) when a voter would rather step in dog shit than shake a hand of a politician.

  • fried wylie||

    Any candidate who can't answer serious questions while being pelted with filth is obviously unfit for office.

  • Rich||

    If you can't stand the stench get out of the stocks.

  • Paul.||

    when a voter would rather step in dog shit than shake a hand of a politician.

    Present!

  • mr simple||

    has an engaging column in USA Today.

    Does not compute.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    He uses lots of pie charts

  • sarcasmic||

    "Let me finish! Let me finish! Letmefinish! Letmefinishletmefinish! Let! Me! Finish!"

  • Rich||

    allowing the two highest-profile minor-party candidates a few minutes to "address millions of voters , we may avoid the quadrennial fight over excluding those voices from the debates."

    I propose "allowing" *anybody* who wants to be a candidate a few minutes to address millions of voters. Then, *everybody* STFU except for what's on your website.

  • Randian||

    I do like Michael's suggestion, because it is the thin edge of the wedge.

  • Lord Peter Wimsey||

    "The politics of failure have failed. We can make them work again."
    "Abortions for some; tiny American flags for others."

    Why can't we hear lines like this in our presidential debates?

  • Chuck Long||

    The networks have shown that they will give viable third party candidates airtime (Ross Perot), but any candidate polling under 5% is simply not going to get any run. And who can blame them? Campaign coverage costs the networks money, so why should they simply hand out air time for free to fringe candidates? There is nothing stopping the LP from purchasing airtime to get their message out.

  • Brandybuck||

    15%, not 5%.

  • Dan Clore||

    "Instead of post-speech analysis, citizens would hear important alternatives, from the libertarian-conservative, free-market promoter Gary Johnson, and Greens candidate Jill Stein, the progressive, pro-government advocate."

    Note however that The Political Compass actually rates Jill Stein as more libertarian than Gary Johnson:

    http://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2012

  • Brandybuck||

    I don't know how that chart works, but Jill Stein is very anti-market. No matter how good she is on personal lifestyle choices, she still wants the mega-state to crack down on eebil profits and forcibly redistribute from some to give to others. That is not libertarian.

  • marlaspuds||

    Not just some time, but full inclusion in the debates! Gary Johnson is a clear departure from Republicans and Democrats, running on the Libertarian platform offering common sense solutions and no BS. Gary Johnson must be included in the national debates for the political health of our nation.

  • Richard Altman||

    Idiots. I'll take the bland over skullwater no minds using the parlance of our times, on here or tv anyday. At least with repeated viewing of the today clip you get more ideas, with repeated viewings of the other clips its just autopilot shit, with no clue of a collective or subjective destination.

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