Yet another way the U.S. political system is rigged

In January 2006, I urged Ned Lamont to run against incumbent “Democratic” Senator Joe Lieberman. I then worked on Ned’s research and advisory team to defeat Lieberman in the Democratic Primary. So it goes without saying how disgusted I feel Lieberman won on the “Connecticut for Lieberman” ticket — how aptly arrogant of that man not to name his party “Lieberman for Connecticut” — and has continued destroying America ever since.

This spring, I contacted the local Green Party to urge them to run someone against incumbent Sen. Dodd, for three reasons:

  1. Practical reasons: Dodd is widely viewed in Connecticut as a hopeless pro-corporate insider, at best, and corrupt, at worst;
  2. Policy/moral reasons: Dodd’s inexcusably central role in deregulating Wall Street — which led directly to a near-depression and tens of trillions in bailouts — and his equally inexcusable role in subverting democracy itself by authoring the HAVA law that forced states to adopt unaudibable electronic voting machines that I believe allowed — among other election thefts — George W. Bush to steal the 2004 election; and,
  3. Strategic reasons: America needs a viable 3rd party because the existing duopoly serves not the U.S. people but the most powerful transnational mega-corporations. Democratic and Republican Party leaders work hard to help “moderate” (i.e., pro-corporate) candidates and shut out independent-minded (esp. “liberal/progressive”) candidates. (I know because I personally witnessed a full-court press to shut down Ned in January 2006 that included calls from Democratic Congressional leaders.)

I want to highlight #3 in light of an article I just read — thanks to Project Censored’s wonderful annual list of 25 stories censored by corporate-controlled TV.

Most Americans probably assume that “The Commission on Presidential Debates” is run by the government, a media collaboration, or a non-partisan, non-governmental organization. In fact, our presidential debates are actually run by the Democratic and Republican Parties themselves. They seized control from the League of Women Voters:

Since 1987, a private corporation created by and for the Republican and Democratic parties called the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has sponsored the US Presidential debates and implemented debate contracts. In order to shield the major party candidates from criticism, CPD has refused to release debate contract information to the public.

In 1986, the Republican and Democratic National Committees ratified an agreement “to take over the presidential debates” from the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. Fifteen months later, then-Republican Party chair Frank Fahrenkopf and then-Democratic Party chair Paul Kirk incorporated the Commission on Presidential Debates. Fahrenkopf and Kirk still co-chair the Commission on Presidential Debates, and every four years it implements and conceals contracts jointly drafted by the Republican and Democratic nominees.

Before the CPD’s formation, the League of Women Voters served as a genuinely nonpartisan presidential debate sponsor from 1976 until 1984, ensuring the inclusion of popular independent candidates and prohibiting major party campaigns from manipulating debate formats.

Why did Democratic and Republican king-makers kneecap the League of Women Voters? Because the League had — to its great credit — refused to allow the two dominant parties to dictate debate terms. The Democrats and Republicans took over to strengthen their political duopoly. How? By excluding 3rd party candidates from debates, choosing “debate” formats that let the major party candidates look good, etc.:

In 1980, the League invited independent candidate John B. Anderson to participate in a presidential debate, even though President Jimmy Carter adamantly refused to debate him. Four years later, when the Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale campaigns vetoed sixty-eight proposed panelists in order to eliminate difficult questions, the League publicly lambasted the candidates for “totally abusing the process.” The ensuing public outcry persuaded the candidates to accept the League’s panelists for the next debate.

 And in 1988, when the George Bush and Michael Dukakis campaigns drafted the first secret debate contract—a “Memorandum of Understanding” that dictated who got to participate, who would ask the questions, even the heights of the podiums—the League declined to implement it. Instead, the League issued a blistering press release claiming, “the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter.”

Posted by James on Sunday, December 20, 2009