Friday, September 23, 2016

Boo - Commission on Presidential Debates

What do you know about the Commission on Presidential Debates? What do you think of the Commission on Presidential Debates? The Commission on Presidential Debates describes itself as nonpartisan and non-profit. On the other hand Wikipedia says the Commission is "a nonprofit corporation controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties," as well as that it is "headed by Frank Fahrenkopf, a former head of the Republican National Committee, and former [Democratic] White House press secretary Michael D. McCurry."[1] That doesn't sound at all "non-partisan" to me!

I've never paid too much attention to who set up and controlled the debates -- until this year, following some of the debate flap regarding Gary Johnson & William Weld. The Libertarian ticket has made it on the ballot IN ALL 50 states, and is polling fairly well (according to whom you ask).[2] Yet the Commission on Presidential Debates seemed determined to shut them out.[3] They say debate participants must be "Constitutionally eligible...must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College, and have a level of support of at least 15% of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations..." The Libertarian Party cleared the first two hurdles, but the last part is where the rub comes in. In the article Conflict of Interest: Debate Commission’s ‘Nonpartisan’ Poll Actually Run by Top Party Consultants, Rodolfo Cortes Barragan writes, "The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) claims that it uses “nonpartisan criteria” to select participants for the presidential debates. However, publicly available information shows that one of the polls used to determine participants, the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, is run by Democratic and Republican pollsters." He further claims, "Nonpartisan voters are systematically under-sampled. And, importantly, the documentation provided by NBC shows that Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies made no effort to use statistical means to correct for the under-representation of independents."

Possibly most people are satisfied with a Democratic/Republican two-party system that we have, but this year is a year of great discontent. It would be great to see that discontent played out in a three or four party struggle for the White House. And giving voice to these other two parties would allow American voters to see what their choices really are! We call on the Commission to fulfill their mission statement to "provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners."[4]

[1] While Wikipedia is not always considered the most reliable source, it is not the only source for this information -- just the simplest and easiest to find for my purposes.
[2] Also, the Green Party is on the ballots of 45 states and are qualified for write-in status in three other states. These two parties receiving this kind of ballot access surely must represent high disaffection of voters this year. When polled on just the fact of whether the Libertarian and Green parties should be allowed in the presidential debates, a high percentage of Democrats and Republicans, and the majority of Independents support Gary Johnson's and Jill Stein’s presence in the presidential debates.
[3] Every dog and pony show that gets on the ballot in a state or two doesn't need to be in the debates. But shutting parties out of the debates is an effective way of being sure they don't have a realistic chance of winning. I can well imagine why Trump and Clinton don't want Johnson or Jill Stein in the debates -- right now each has an ugly looking alternative. They wouldn't want folks to think there might be some other more pleasing alternative.
[4] In their mission statement, the Commission on Presidential Debates claims they were established in 1987 to ensure that debates...provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners."
[5] Totally unrelated, I saw a political cartoon that described our current choices as "the evil of two lessers."

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