From Underground Documentaries, Who’s Afraid of an Open Debate? The Truth About the Commission on Presidential Debates is just a bit over 26 minutes long. It provides an overview of the history of televised U.S. presidential debates.
Among descriptions of the debates provided by some of those included in the video are “glorified press conference” and “corporate carnival,” and there’s this question: “Are we seriously going to be satisfied with the lesser of two evils?”
The Commission on Presidential Debates is a private corporation headed by the former chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties. The CPD is a duopoly which allows the major party candidates to draft secret agreements about debate arrangements including moderators, debate format and even participants. The result is a travesty riddled with sterile, non-contentious arguments which consistently exclude alternative voices that Americans want to hear.
Last week I wrote Stein Campaign Pushes for Place at the Debates: Occupy the CPD. You can read details there about the “Occupy the Commission on Presidential Debates” actions there. Or, go to We Demand Real Debates, Occupy the CPD.
As the first of the three presidential, and one vice presidential, debates draws near (October 3), attention is beginning to increase to this next “significant” step, the one coming after conventions, and whatever gaffes and zingers occupy the time between those carefully scripted entertainment shows, and the “debate” productions.
Not everyone is pleased with this entertainment schedule, however. From 2012 Presidential Election News:
Time to open the Presidential Debates to third-parties?
In modern politics, the question of whether lesser-known third-party candidates should be invited to the Presidential Debates is a hotly debated topic in and of itself. In 2012, Gary Johnson is seeking the Presidency running under the Libertarian banner while Jill Stein is running under the Green Party banner. Along with President Obama and Mitt Romney, both Johnson and Stein will be on enough state ballots to theoretically win the 270 electoral votes needed to become President. …
A poll released by Gallup on Sept. 12 asked, ‘Do the Republican and Democratic parties do an adequate job of representing the American people, or do they do such a poor job that a major third party is needed?’ The results showed that 46 percent of Americans believe a third party is needed. …
The CPD, run by the Duopoly, doesn’t want to hear about such things. They have things neatly arranged between them to be sure no “third party” candidates will be included.
… the reason for which most third-party candidates are not invited has to do with the 15% rule. Unless a candidate can show 15% in a series of national polls, they are instantly disqualified from receiving a debate invitation. This discussion can be argued both ways. It is somewhat reasonable to say that the likely winner of the election will either be President Obama or Mitt Romney, neither Johnson or Stein truly have a chance. However, in the same breath, it is arguable that the reason Stein and Johnson do not have as much of a chance has to do with the reasons outlined about which don’t give them as much free press exposure.
In response, and challenge, to such restrictions, we see things like the documentary above, and efforts of Occupy the Debates. From October 2011:
Occupy the Debates, the People’s Dialogue, seeks to demonstrate the disconnect between the presidential candidates of the two corporate parties and the people of the United States whom they are supposed to represent.
From Paul Stoller at HuffPo:
Politicians of all persuasions … usually take the expedient path. In their presentations and platforms, they omit, misdirect, and even lie–all to stay on message. Staying on message, they think, will garner the votes that will lead them to an all-important victory.
Nothing is more “expedient” than a “debate” in which, for example, questions are pre-approved and “answers” are memorized campaign trail bullet points, carefully constructed to fit within the allowed time frame (and leave time for a zinger or two).
Another basic point regarding the “debates” is considered at Colorado’s The Canon City Daily Record, in “Impact of presidential debates on election questionable.”
… history shows that candidates prepare so much that they rarely make mistakes, said John Sides, a political science professor at George Washington University.
Which is critical because it is the gaffes that tend to be remembered.
Which, of course, is one big reason for the very scripted nature of what we still euphemistically call “debates,” as produced by the CPD. A gaffe probably outweighs a zinger, but those are about the only things anyone will remember about the Duopoly’s latest candidates’ debate performance.
By the way, there is one other debate related event you can watch, if you pay for it. From Vanity Fair:
Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly to Break Up Presidential-Debate Schedule with Pay-Per-View Argument
Exciting news for people already bored by the 2012 presidential-debate schedule: Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly have announced that they will break up said lineup with their own debate, a pay-per-view event currently being billed as ‘The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium.’ The 90-minute exchange will have the format of a presidential debate, with each television personality placed behind a podium, answering questions asked by a moderator–in this case, CNN anchor E. D. Hill.
The Rumble will take place on Saturday, October 6 … and cost viewers $4.95 to live-stream it on the Internet.
Find the CPD debates schedule and details at CPD.
Back to the video, “Who’s Afraid of an Open Debate?” I’d just add another question: Who serves to benefit from carefully controlled, restricted and scripted “debates”?