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The Nation

What a Difference Other Candidates Make

Haven’t read Lee Fang’s excellent expose on the lobbyists controlling the Presidential Debate Committee? You should. Then imagine what these debates would be like if things were very different. For one thing, there might be more parties’ candidates included.  

Thanks to Democracy Now, Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party have been able to take part in three virtually-expanded debates.  On no occasion was the contrast greater than in the foreign policy debate Tuesday night. While the word clouds over the Obama/Romney debate screamed “crippling, kill, world leader, Israel,” the debate over at Democracy Now kept coming back to international law, climate change, morality and human rights.

Take the first segment. To Bob Schieffer’s question about Libya, terrorism and US policy in the Middle East, Mitt Romney applauded the president: “We’re going to have to recognize that we have to do as the president has done." The president appreciated the recognition. “I’m glad that you agree that we have been successful in going after al-Qaeda.”

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, on the other hand, had this to say:

“It’s very clear that there is blowback going on now across the Middle East, not only the unrest directed at the Libyan embassy, likewise at the embassies really across the Middle East, including in Egypt. We are seeing in Afghanistan our soldiers are being shot at by the police forces that they are supposed to be training in Afghanistan. We’re seeing in Pakistan that 75 percent of Pakistanis actually identify the United States now as their enemy, not as their supporter or their ally. And, you know, in many ways, we’re seeing a very ill-conceived, irresponsible and immoral war policy come back to haunt us, where United States foreign policies have been based, unfortunately, on brute military force and wars for oil."

Rocky Anderson, presidential candidate of the Justice Party added this:

"We’re like the bully that never got counseling, and we keep wondering, why don’t they like us?  We invaded Iraq and occupied that country. It was completely illegal. Two United Nations secretaries-general declared that it was illegal. It was a war of aggression, and it was all done on a pack of lies. Now, we aggravate the situation by keeping bases in so many other nations, including Saudi Arabia, bolstering these tyrants and, at the same time, engaging in direct, unmanned drone strikes in at least four sovereign nations, killing, in the process, hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent men, women and children. That is the policy failure: our belligerence, our efforts to control, to dominate and to make certain that we will always have that control over the resources in these nations. That’s what this is all about…”

Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson declined to take part. 

For democracy to flourish, we need not only a corproate-free debate committee, we need a way to break through the monopoly of the two party system. That problem's only gotten harder as the wealth gap has grown and the cost of competing for office in this country has sky-rocketed. What's the number one security threat facing American democracy?  If last night's debate is anything to go by, it's the narrow range of policy alternatives on basic issues brought to us by big money in poliitcs. 

For more on why our election system needs radical change, check out these commentaries from pro-democracy activists James Rucker co-founder of Color of Change and the New Organizing Institute’s Ashindi Maxton. The Why We Care series continues this week with John Nichols & Robert McChesney and Bob Edgar of Common Cause.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders is the award-winning host and executive producer of The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally-syndicated TV and radio program that looks at real-life models of shifting power in the arts, economics and politics. Flanders founded the women’s desk at media watch group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and produced and hosted the radio program CounterSpin for a decade. She is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species. Flanders was named Most Valuable Multi-Media Maker of 2018 in The Nation’s Progressive Honor Roll, and was awarded the Izzy Award in 2019 for outstanding achievement in independent media.

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