When we think of debates, we think of people being asked difficult questions that force them to put forward ideas backed up by facts to prove their point. However, when we think of presidential debates, we think of people regurgitating talking points that have nothing to do with the questions asked. That is until you see the "other" presidential debates that include the presidential candidates for the other four major US parties (Green, Libertarian, Constitution, and Justice). One of the debates was held by Free and Equal right here in Chicago on Oct. 23 at the Hilton and was moderated by Larry King.
The format for the debate was: opening statements followed by six questions to which each candidate got a two minute response and a one minute rebuttal, and closing statements. Closing and opening statements were each two minutes. Here are summaries and key points of the candidates responses to each of the six questions.
The first question dealt with the candidates' positions on the "top two primary system."
Jill Stein (Green Party) - She stated that she doesn't believe the top two primary system (TTPS) enlarges the democratic process continuing on to say that it leads to arbitrary party attribution. She also mentioned that TTPS would lead to even more private interests in politics. She believes in the public financing of elections.
Rocky Anderson (Justice Party) - He said that TTPS would further the Democratic and Republican duopoly and would leave no other choices for voters. He also mentioned that TTPS would limit the topics of debate even more.
Virgil Goode (Constitution Party) - He also agreed that TTPS is bad and would continue the two party system and the power of private interests in politics. He believes that money does not equal speech, but is not for public financing of elections.
Gary Johnson (Libertarian) - He didn't really answer the question since the moderators skipped opening statements. He instead said his opening statement that talked about him being pro-choice for everything. he believes in state and local government. He also stated that drones should not be used because they kill innocent civilians.
The second question dealt with the candidates position on the "War on Drugs" and its effects.
Stein (Green) - She based her answer off of her medical background and said that marijuana is dangerous not of its own right, but because it is illegal. She continued to add that the health problems associated with the illegal drug trade are what make marijuana dangerous, and that if she were President she would go to the DEA and figure out which substances should be legal and safe.
Anderson (Justice) - He said that the "War on Drugs (WOD)" is a tragedy. He gave specific examples of people he has come into contact with who got severe sentencing for possessing marijuana. He also mentioned that he believed that there should be an end to drug prohibition and that drug problems should be treated medically and educationally.
Goode (Constitution) - He likes WOD on a federal level, but believes that drugs are really a states' rights issue. He would, however, cut the part of federal budget dedicated to the WOD and Planned Parenthood.
Johnson (Libertarian) - He said he would legalize marijuana and said that from personal and research experience that he does not find marijuana more dangerous than alcohol. He continued to talk about how drug problems are a family issue not an issue for our criminal justice system.
The third question covered the topic of the US's military budget and the role of the US in the world.
Stein (Green) - She talked about how wars make Americans less secure. She said that American foreign policy should be based on international human rights, and that the only war we should be fighting is the climate war. She also said we should bring our troops home and ban drones.
Anderson (Justice) - He mentioned many of the topics that Stein touched upon including banning drones and fighting climate change.
Goode (Constitution) - He promised he would cut the military budget in half and believes that the US should not be the policeman of the world.
Johnson (Libertarian) - He promised to also cut the military budget by 43 percent, which would bring it down to 2003 levels. He also said he would stop the US military's worldwide footprint. He continued to say he would ban drones since they create enemies within US borders.
The fourth question was about the rising cost of college tuition and what, if anything, would the candidates do to make it affordable and worth the investment.
Stein (Green) - She called for free higher education to be funded similar to the GI Bill. She said that a college education was needed for economic success. She continued to add that we should not be bailing out Wall Street, and we should bailout the students in debt.
Anderson (Justice) - He believes in equal opportunity and that a college education should be free and equal. He added that free education allows for better economic growth for the country. He continued to say that he would change the law that makes student loan debt ineligible for discharge during bankruptcy. "Prosperity not austerity."
Goode (Constitution) - He spoke of completely cutting out the federal loan and pell grant programs, because that would allow him to balance the budget.
Johnson (Libertarian) - He mentioned the lottery scholarships he put in place during his time as governor of New Mexico as a possible way for states to deal with the rising costs of tuition. He blamed the skyrocketing costs of college on guaranteed government loans. He continued to add that if kids stop going to college that the costs will go down and that we should stop the notion of "free" in this country.
The fifth question dealt with civil rights specifically NDAA 10.21 that allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens without charge.
Stein (Green) - She said that NDAA 10.21 was an example of the dictatorial rights that President Obama has acquired during his first term. She added that NDAA 10.21 is against the American foundation of liberty. She said that she would also repeal the Patriot Act and stop wiretapping. She also advocated stopping the persecution of whistleblowers.
Anderson (Justice) - He spoke of his past and how his desire to study law stemmed from his love of justice. He said that Obama expanded Bush presidential powers and that the country was on the road to totalitarianism.
Goode (Constitution) - He said he would veto NDAA.
Johnson (Libertarian) - He also wants to veto NDAA, and mentioned that the ACLU gave his presidential candidacy 21 out of 24 liberty torches. More than Romney and Obama combined.
The last question was personal and asked the candidates if they could write one constitutional amendment that they knew would get passed, what would it be.
Stein (Green) - She said she would pass an amendment that would stop equating money with speech and redefine corporations as corporations not people. She continued to say that even with term limits, candidates can still be bought.
Anderson (Justice) - He spoke of wanting to pass a new equal rights amendment that would guarantee rights for women and the LGBT community. He said that the people are the leaders and that good policies start off as grassroots movements.
Goode (Constitution) - He would write an amendment setting term limits for representatives and senators capping them off somewhere between six and twelve years. He mentioned that lack of term limits allow for a constant focus on elections and fundraising, which allows superPACs to come in and soil the system.
Johnson (Libertarian) - He also proposed an amendment on term limits equating term limits to being the silver bullet that stops corruption. He said that term limits force politicians to do the right thing instead of what will get them reelected.
For someone like me, who has grown quite embittered by our 'democratic' process, it was great to hear 1. candidates answer the questions and 2. other solutions to our problems. The questions also came from regular people, and the audience was allowed to cheer whenever they heard anything they liked. You know like in a democracy.
The debate did have its stumbling points though. Larry King forgot to do opening statements, which stopped the Libertarian candidate from answering the first question thoroughly. There was also not enough questions. I could have sat there for hours on end waiting to hear all the other important issues get discussed in enlightening ways. Overall, I came out hopeful that there are alternatives to our mainstream politics, and they need our support.
The co-moderator Christina Tobin said this debate was the 'real' debate that was free from corporate interests. She called for free, open, and fair elections, and that is something we should ALL be behind.
I'll leave with two points from the closing statements that really stuck with me about our voting system. Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, mentioned that there will be more people not voting than people voting for Romney or Obama, and Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party candidate, said, "A vote isn't wasted unless you are voting for someone you don't believe in." So, get out and vote your conscious, that will be the only way to effectively change the system.
My views on the other presidential debates:
Filed under: Politics