General Question

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

How do you feel about only the 2 major candidates being able to participate in the debate?

Asked by SquirrelEStuff (9116points) September 29th, 2008

I think having the other candidates would make it much more interesting. It would be nice to hear other candidates express their ideas against the status quo.

What do you think, collective?

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12 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

I think it’s appropriate. This is a national stage, and people want to focus on the candidates who will get 99% of the votes. The other candidates could not show themselves worthy of this in the marketplace of ideas.

By the way, I’d totally love to see Nader up there.

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SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Thats my point. Those candidates get 99% of the vote because no one knows about the other candidates. The media gives the other candidates no coverage, at least let people hear what they have to say.

Nader was on Real Time after the debate on Friday and it woulda been great to see him throw a monkey wrench in what seems to be a scripted debate.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t agree with that. I think they get plenty of attention during the early part of the campaign. Certainly, there was a lot of information about Ron Paul and Nader where I live.

Sure, to some degree, it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. But mostly it’s strategic reality. People want to have a hand in the selection of a winner. These other guys, even with all kinds of free media, wouldn’t have a chance. So people want their vote to count and they vote for the candidate closest to their point of view who also has the best chance to win.

Most people engage in this kind of strategic voting. Relatively few engage in protest voting or ideological voting. The last time Nader ran, what did he get? One percent? Two? Anyway, if past performance indicates the future, he’ll get less this time. Much less. That’s what happened to Ross Perot, George Wallace and other third party candidates who made some noise one election. When they ran the next time, they did much worse.

In my opinion, what these candidates need is a good ground game. You can’t compete on dollars, so you need to build a good organization that can go door to door to gain support. That’s the only way to fight big money, if you don’t have money of your own.

hoosier_banana's avatar

Absolutely more interesting, remember Ron Paul and Mike Gravel in the primaries, the little time they had to talk was very interesting. I want Nader, he would never try to throw it for McCain. Bring back Ron Paul too, he would never throw it for McCain either.

Malakai's avatar

I think the format is a response to the general idea that this country functions best (or must function) in a two party system.

Which is of course ludicrous. And obviously quite advantageous to our society’s power elite.

It’s a restatement of the false left/right paradigm we are all supposed to accept as gospel.

Many of the most divisive issues (abortion, gay marriage, prayer in schools, etc.) have very little practical political import. They do, however, do a fine job of polarizing the masses and implying that there are only two available schools of political thought.

In reality both parties are two sides of the same coin.

Go ahead and flip it America. You lose either way.

wundayatta's avatar

@Malakai, there are very good systemic reasons why a mature democracy ends up as a two party system with little to distinguish them. If you think about the strategy for getting elected, and what maximizes your chances of getting elected, you could probably figure it out yourself.

In the beginning of a democracy (like many in eastern Europe now), there are lots of parties. Fairly rapidly, parties like one another combine, in order to get a larger share of the vote. Generally, this continues over the years with combination after combination, until we’re down to two parties.

Now each party tries to put itself as close to the center as it can. What it wants is a majority, and so you take up your half (right or left of center) and then you try to be moderate enough to snag more of the center undecideds than the opposition. This can be hard to do, because the electorate can throw a monkey wrench into the works. Party zealots might select a candidate that is too far from center.

The Republicans did a great job of it this year. McCain is the closest to a moderate they had, and he was selected. I was really hoping he wouldn’t get elected, and that someone far more right wing would have won.

However the Democrats, as they often do, made a mistake. They selected, in my opinion, the more liberal of the two candidates. Thus making for a more difficult battle.

So this is no conspiracy. This is a natural, human process. The parties inevitably end up close together, but not so close as it doesn’t make a huge difference. Clinton did a lot of good for the country using executive power. Bush learned, and used executive power to nearly destroy the country. Who know what the electorate, in its wisdom will decide this time.

robmandu's avatar

Hey, if a candidates is are able to get his their names on the national ballots, then I think that’s qualification enough to have him them participate in any national-level debate.

Thing is though, if either of the two parties that 99% of people combined want to see don’t want to lend prestige to a trailing 3rd party candidate by appearing on the same stage, then they won’t send in their candidate. Instead of risking all that negotiation then, the debate organizers then just go for the big two. Hell, it’s hard enough to get those two to show up in the same room.

As long as debates are privately organized, this will continue (with occasional exception, like Ross Perot).

I might be interested in seeing a government-sponsored debate that requires all candidates on the national ballot to appear. But I don’t know how work out some key logistics like topics, moderators, and any of the other various minutiae that requires agreement from the candidates to put one on.

tWrex's avatar

I think that part of the problem of our voting system is due to this two party system. If we truly believe that we have a choice in this country then we need to allow everyone that is running for President to be heard. Two people from two parties really doesn’t give you much choice. More often than not, it’s choosing the lesser of two evils. If you added in a third or fourth candidate that was on the Libertarian or Other ticket you may see that someone has a better idea than the donkey or elephant. Plus, Ron Paul would destroy McBama in any arena on any topic.

marinelife's avatar

I think the exposure of other ideas might change the choreographed set piece that the race has become.

I was surprised when I took a positions on issues quiz that Dennis Kucinich was my guy even though that was not my impression from seeing him and hearing him.

Maybe we see and hear all of them too much.

Malakai's avatar

@ daloon- I think that is an interesting analysis, but it is almost entirely based upon a left/right, conservative/liberal paradigm that I find to be largely contrived.

But hey it’s just my little opinion, and it’s far from one of the most commonly accepted ones.

“The illusion that the people rule rests on the regular opportunity to choose between two political organizations dominated by similar interests and restricted to the narrow range of doctrine that receives expression in the corporate media and, with rare exceptions, the educational institutions of American society.”
~NC

wundayatta's avatar

@malakai: this analysis does not depend on labels applied to the views of candidates. It just says that there will be a kind of “regression to the mean” in politics. Where is the ideological center of the US?

It’s impossible to pinpoint, because there are so many dimensions to measure ideology on. Every politician is faced with this problem of trying to find a center to be close to. Polling helps, but in the end there’s an intangible aspect to it.

You’re absolutely right that any label for an ideology is contrived. It leaves out so much. It doesn’t really describe much of anything. However, it is better than nothing. In politics, people have the attention span of a fly. So they use one-word labels that they think will help them the most. If people engaged and studied things in depth, the labels woudn’t be needed.

This instant labeling thing is built into us. In other arenas, we call it prejudice. You look at another person, and based on how they look, you make a lot of guesses about what they are like. It has been and continues to be a survival mechanism that works. However, a lot times it comes up with false positives; that is, you identify a threat where none exists.

So, complain all you want about labels and contrived paradigms; they aren’t going away. Not until the architecture of human brains is substantially different.

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