Saturday, September 27, 2008
Your Soapbox — Announcing Freedom Writers
Were you disgusted by the sound bite debate you had to endure last night? Did you wish there was someone on stage who was actually addressing substantive issues instead of trading resumes and platitudes? Outraged by the fact that third parties are deliberately and systematically excluded from public discourse and that millions of Americans consequently don’t know that they can vote for real reform?
If you are, sign up to join Freedom Writers, the Nader campaign to end media bigotry by demanding that radio, television and newspaper stations cover third party candidates. We need you to help us break through the media blockade and bring real issues and solutions to the people!
The Nader Team
I write to you out of a deep sense of alarm about the declining state of our political dialogue and to remind you of the pivotal role that you, the media, can play in our democracy.
There are a variety of substantial candidates running for president this year, including two former members of Congress and consumer advocate Ralph Nader, yet their voices on vital issues of public interest have been silenced. How? They are being excluded from the presidential debates. Only two candidates—the Democratic and Republican nominees—have been invited to participate in the televised debates, which will reach 60 million or more Americans.
Recent polls show that many of the third-party and independent candidates have significant voter support, reflecting millions of citizens who are eager for choices beyond the two major party candidates. Too many Americans don’t know about these other candidates or wonder why they are rarely mentioned by the media. Moreover, most Americans don’t know the source of this discrimination: the debates’ sponsor, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a corporation created by the two major parties themselves.
Despite the CPD’s claim that its purpose is to “provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners,” its real purpose is to prevent other legitimate candidates from participating in the debates and presenting their case to the American people.
Walter Cronkite called the CPD debates an “unconscionable fraud.” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls them a “mockery.” The League of Women Voters called them “campaign-trail charades devoid of substance…” A genuinely nonpartisan, civic organization, the League previously sponsored the debates, but in 1988 quit in disgust, saying: “The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”
It is time for the media to report on this charade and call for authentic open debates that includes all legitimate candidates.
In a 2004 Zogby poll, 57 percent of Americans said that third parties should be included in the debates.
The Nader/Gonzalez campaign is on the ballot in 45 states, is polling at 6 percent nationally and at 6 to 8 percent in various states.
We are in an era of unprecedented national distress. An economic meltdown, massive home foreclosures, two wars, the loss of health care for millions of Americans, a deteriorating infrastructure, the crumbling of America’s standing in the world—these are all issues of profound concern to American voters. Why are only two candidates allowed to talk about them? Why are the candidates from the two parties that have governed us into this mess the only ones whose solutions we are allowed to hear?
The major parties make lots of arguments to justify excluding third-party and independent candidates. One of the most ridiculous is that more candidates crowd the field and confuse voters. This is an insult to the intelligence of American voters, and it stifles democracy. Few mentioned this during the primaries when 8 to 10 people shared the debate stage. The American people don’t need the CPD to decide for them who and what they will hear.
I urge you to challenge the CPD’s undemocratic debates.
I invite you to ask candidates Obama and McCain why they refused to participate in two exciting alternative debates, one organized by Google/YouTube and the City of New Orleans for Sept. 18,[ http://www.neworleansdebate.org/ and http://www.ballot-access.org/2008/07/05/new-orleansgoogleyoutube-presidential-debate/%5D another by the Military Spouses for Change for August 11, 2008 in Ft. Hood, Texas [http://www.militaryspousesforchange.com/].
I encourage you to ask the League of Women Voters[http://www.lwv.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Election_2008&template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=11965] if it is reconsidering its decision, made exactly 20 years ago this Oct. 3, and will once again sponsor open, nonpartisan debates.
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