What do you get when you cross a gambling industry lobbyist with a political strategy lobbyist who served as Bill Clinton’s press secretary for three years and worked for U.S. Department of State for the two preceding years?
Well, there are two good answers to that riddle. The first is this: You get the two guys who co-founded the Commission on Presidential Debates, the non-profit organization that emerged as a joint venture of the two major parties to displace the League of Woman Voters role as impartial debate moderator. The second is this: The guys who will control all aspects of the national debate for Trump and Clinton, from the venue, the questions, who sits in the audience and who has access to the venue, to whom they decide to exclude from the national dialogue.
I suppose it works out nicely. Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr., former chief executive of American Gaming Association, a gaming industry lobby, probably never crossed paths with Donald J. Trump, a casino owner. And the other guy, Michael D. McCurry, probably enjoys sharing a laugh with his former boss’s wife as they plot to dupe the public.
Gone are the days when people who made it on the ballot were allowed to make it on the debate stage. Instead, an arbitrary set of rules concocted by an organization created by the Republicans and Democrats in 1987 tends to silence the voices of third party candidates and anyone they do not prefer. That seems to fly in the face of this non-profit’s “ongoing goal of educating voters”. Let me pause so you can digest that thought. They are going to limit your access to the full range of balloted candidates in order to “educate” you. That sounds very similar to brainwashing by controlling input.
The League of Woman Voters served as harbinger of this foul play. They withdrew from the business of running debates in 1988 when the parties sought to control so many aspects of the national dialogue that honest, candid debate became impossible. I lay this at the feet of the Democrats and Republicans who seem intent on defrauding and manipulating the American voter. (Don’t even get me started on the fact that we have a foreign company counting our votes in the general election. Stalin’s advice about who counts the votes versus who cast the votes comes to mind every time I think about that.)
To be fair, though, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is not the only non-profit whose mission statement rings hollow with its practices. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the private corporation that receives tons of our tax money each year ($445.5 Million annual funding to be exact) and has as its mission “to ensure universal access, over-the-air and online, to high-quality content and telecommunications services that are commercial free and free of charge.”
So that begs the question. If the American public is funding CPB to the tune of nearly half a billion dollars a year, and they seek to deliver content universally, why wouldn’t the American public use this paid-for, universally accessible platform for a national exchange of ideas among all the balloted Presidential candidates?
Is there a better example of how the CPB, who created NPR radio and PBS, could fulfill their stated mission than by providing the platform for Presidential debates?
If not, why are we funding this private organization?
I’ll propose one more idea. Cut $50M from CPB’s budget this year (to start) and divert it to server upgrades for the League of Woman Voters so they may host a webinar formatted debate for the candidates. If webinars are good enough for corporate America, they are good enough for the candidates. The candidates may hire their own hair and make-up person (or two, as the need may dictate). If a candidate is on ballots in a sufficient number to states to enable the possibility of them receiving 270 Electoral College votes, then they qualify for the debate. Period.
The League could broadcast on the web and then make available the same broadcast via podcast. You could get the American VFW to solicit and submit questions for the debate. Each candidate would have a set amount of time to answer while all others are muted. The first half would be for presenting their positions, the second half would feature actual debate.
The CPD could still have their debates, but the League’s debates would take advantage of social media and the internet to give broader access to not only the voter but the candidates who are typically excluded from the Democrat/Republican-controlled CPD debates.
It’s time to reclaim the free exchange of ideas that happens in a genuine debate. Our nation certainly deserves a break from elitist control and the opportunity for new ideas to emerge in our national dialogue.