On Tuesday evening the Vice Presidential candidates in the US election, Senator Tim Kaine (D) and Governor Mike Pence (R) squared off in a debate at Longwood University in Virginia, which is curiously Kaine’s home state.
There are two other candidates running for President who are on the ballot in enough states to have a “realistic” chance of winning the election outright – Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertaians, but their VP choices were excluded from the debate.
For three election cycles up until 1984, the series of debates was organised by the totally non-partisan League of Women Voters but when they started to insist on “third-party candidates” being included in the process, the duopoly of Republicans and Democrats came together and forced them out, setting up instead their own organisation called the Commission for Presidential Debates that has rules which virtually guarantee just the two participants in each debate.
One of our top sources for “non-mainstream” media coverage of US affairs is Democracy Now!, hosted by Amy Goodman which has been running for around 20 years. As the two VP candidates slugged it out during the debate, Goodman had Green Party VP nominee Ajamu Baraka in studio to offer real time responses to the questions as though he were in fact part of the debate. Libertarian nominee William Weld was also invited but apparently they offered no response.
The show recently did something similar for the first Presidential debate between Donald Trump and Secretary Hillary Clinton, with the Green Party’s Jill Stein giving her responses, also in “real time” as the feed from the main debate was paused.
What Baraka proceeds to do is highlight the similarities between the two on-stage combatants, like on the subject of war where both Republicans and Democrats come from a position of war as an inevitable option – he presents the Greens as the party of peace. Whether or not you agree with this stance, true believers in democracy have to appreciate the opportunity to know the option is there on their ballot paper.
Here at FPP we would love to see this method employed during the course of an Irish election campaign given our ever-expanding selection of parties and platforms. We too have a duopoly that very much needs breaking…only in our case they are pretty much indistinguishable from each other in terms of political outlook.