The fiction of honest debate during the U.S. election season
The idea that democracy exists in the United States is a myth. From the players to the rules to the venues to the fans: the whole game is utterly and completely rigged.
There are so many angles at which to look at this issue, but let's focus on a very simple one today: the fiction of honest debate.
This week, a 21-page memo of understanding between the GOP and the Democrats was leaked, revealing a deep collusion between the two parties to limit the scope of the four candidate debates (three presidential, one vice-presidential) in October.
Candidates are not permitted to "ask each other direct questions". Moderators—who have to be agreed upon by both parties to ensure maximum compliance and blandness—are reduced to the role of timekeepers. For the town hall-style debate on October 16, audience questions were submitted in writing and pre-screened prior to the debate and the questioners had their mics cut off as soon as they had spoken. Presumably this is to prevent the two dudes yapping on stage from getting blindsided by real questions, like:
"How can you justify your wealth when 46.2 million Americans live below the poverty line, Governor Romney?"
"How come you're locking up whistleblowers at an unprecidented rate, Mr. President?"
"Why should anyone support you, Governor Romney, when you have clearly expressed contempt for at least 47 percent of the population?"
"Mr. President, why are you allowing your government to spy on its own citizens without warrants?"
"Governor Romney, would you repeal the National Defense Authorization Act, which President Obama promised not to sign into law and then did so anyway?"
"What would you do if your daughter needed an abortion? Both candidates please."
The body that currently holds debates in the U.S.—the Commission on Presidential Debates—is run by lobbists, funded by corporations, and co-chaired by former Republican chairman Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and former Clinton spokesman Michael D. McCurry.
And that's not even getting into the corporate sponsors, which include Anheuser-Busch Companies; Phillip Morris (which is sometimes aided and abetted by Romney's Bain Capital in its work) paid $250,000 to have its banner prominently posted in the post-debate spin room.
That's right: your presidential debates are proudly brought to you by shitty liquor and cancer-causing death sticks. Democracy.
In 1976, 1980 and 1984, the debates were sponsored by the League of Women Voters, an independent, non-partisan organization.
However, the group announced it would end its sponsorship of the U.S. presidential debates in 1988, after receiving a 16-page document secretly negotiated by the Republicans and Democrats outlining debate procedures. The League's response? "[T]he demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter. It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and answers to tough questions. The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public."
And let's not forget that there are actually many of individuals running for the presidency of the United States, including former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnston (Libertarian Party; ballot-qualified in 48 states), former Virginia congressman Virgil Goode (Constitution Party; ballot-qualified in 21 states), and Dr. Jill Stein (Green Party; ballot-qualified in 37 states). However, these voices are completely silenced by the two main parties; the third-party system is rarely, if ever even mentioned by the mainstream media, except as perhaps a sideshow oddity.
In fact, when Jill Stein and Green Pary vice-presidential candidate Cheri Honkala attempted to join the "official" presidential candidate debate on Tuesday, they were promptly arrested and detained for eight hours while shackled to chairs.
It's a charade, folks. A vitriolic and abusive charade that is perpetuated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by an unyielding news cycle, which is more concerned with Big Bird and binders full of women than they are with child poverty and climate change.
That's not to say I won't be watching the debate. Of course I will. But I also recognize that it is a complete farce—a sometimes entertaining one, but one that is no less manufactured than any other reality TV programming out there.
Follow frustrated political junkie Miranda Nelson on Twitter at @charenton_.