John Nichols, in The Nation Magazine, Slams Commission on Presidential Debates

John Nichols has this piece in The Nation magazine of September 17, 2012, criticizing the general election presidential debates and the group that sponsors them.


  1. Larry Allred · · Reply

    The sphere of bipartisan consensus is the bubble that needs to be popped. It’s the core mission of the Comm on Pres Debates to not let that happen as one of the primary gatekeepers of the two party system. The Commission must be discredited as they’ll never yield to those outside the bubble; They will resist reform mightily.

  2. I think the Presidential debates should be tiered. The threshold to have candidates get in the debates is if they have ballot access in at least 20 states or are on enough ballots to hypothetically win an Electoral College majority.

    Say you have 5 candidates that reached the threshold to participate in the debates. You’d have the first debate with all 5, a second debate with the top 4, a third debate with the top 3 and a final debate with the top 2.

  3. Baronscarpia · · Reply

    1 –

    The bubble, while real, is a just symptom of another problem. If we don’t solve the problem of campaign finance reform, third parties have no chance of gaining traction. None. Zip. Nada. North of a billion dollars will be spent on the presidential campaign alone this year in support of either Obama or Romney. How much of that will be spent on the aggregate of ALL candidates from other parties? Without campaign finance reform, third parties will continue to be ignored because they can’t win. Money, or lack thereof, seals their fate.

  4. SEbastian · · Reply

    It’s a corporate power show!

  5. Darcy G Richardson · · Reply

    Baronscarpia, as always, is absolutely correct. For all intents and purposes, representative democracy in this country — to the extent that it actually existed — died on January 21, 2010.

    In the Citizens United era, life is only going to get harder for the country’s minor parties. Much harder.

    I realize that many Libertarians have high hopes that former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson might approach or possibly even shatter Ed Clark’s spectacular 921,000-vote showing (1.06% nationally) in 1980, but most of them are completing ignoring the cruel and devastating reality of unlimited campaign spending in the post-Citizens United period — namely, how opening the corporate and special interest floodgates has greatly enhanced the ability of the Democrats and Republicans to further dwarf their minor-party competition when it comes to the mother’s milk of American politics.

    For example, even if former Gov. Johnson raised an amount comparable to the $3.2 million raised by Clark in 1980 — let’s say $8.9 million in 2012 dollars, a figure he probably won’t come close to achieving — he would still be outspent by a lopsided margin of more than 112-1 by each of his major-party opponents, whereas Clark impressively spent 10.4% of the total expended by the Reagan and Carter campaigns, respectively, in 1980.

    Augmented by sickeningly superabundant outside spending, the Obama and Romney campaigns are currently on track to outspend the Libertarian candidate by as much as 400-1 and, as a consequence, Johnson could end up spending only a meager .25 percent of the totals expended by each of his major-party rivals — a far cry from the more than 10% averaged by Ed Clark in 1980.

    Quantitatively, it’s a pretty big difference yet only two third-party candidates — the Green Party’s Jill Stein and former Mayor Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party — have made Citizens United a centerpiece of their campaigns for the Oval Office.

    This a whole new world now and, as usual, it’ll take the third-party community a while to figure it out… If they thought the system was rigged before, they haven’t seen anything yet.

  6. Richard Winger · · Reply

    Ever since Buckley v Valeo, it has been legal in the United States for individuals to spend as much money as they wish on independent expenditures on behalf of, or against, a candidate for federal office. That decision came down in 1976, and Eugene McCarthy was one of the most important plaintiffs in that case. All Citizens United did is extend the same freedom to make independent expenditures to corporations and unions. 99% of the spending this year is from wealthy individuals, not from corporations. Sheldon Adelman would have been just as free to spend if Citizens United had never existed.

  7. I guess it’s hard to get rich people to contribute money to candidates who have no chance of winning. A big factor for Clark doing so well financially and electorally (comparatively speaking) was likely that the LP in 1980 was seen as a new party seemingly on the upswing. By now, we all know that it’s a dud.

    This is what plurality voting does to third parties:

    Realistic options: start small at the local and state level and aim for enacting PR with a low threshold like Israel or Netherlands. Or maybe STV if list PR seems too exotic, strange and alien for some reason.

  8. Baronscarpia · · Reply


    Your consistent, unflagging defense of Citizens v. United would be understandable if the subject of your blog was something like “Nifty ideas for killing democracy.”

  9. Richard Winger · · Reply

    The answer to imbalances in campaign resources for differing candidates is generous, non-discriminatory public funding for campaigns; and greater debate inclusion. Jesse Ventura was elected Reform Party Governor of Minnesota, even though he only spent one-tenth as much as either of his major party opponents. If a candidate has a winning message and is allowed into the debates, that candidate has a chance to win, whether an opponent outspends that candidate or not.

  10. Baronscarpia · · Reply

    9 –

    Richard, who’s your supplier? I’m in for an ounce, and I don’t care what the price is.

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