Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein and her running mate Ajamu Baraka have written an open letter to the two major party nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The third-party ticket wants Clinton and Trump to leverage their positions as the “de facto leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties” to push for open debates throughout the rest of this election cycle. The open letter, published in full on TruthDig.com, argues that voters don’t benefit from the way debates are currently run.
The debates are managed by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which describes itself as a private, non-partisan organization, though Stein and Baraka say that it is really controlled by the two major parties. The organization’s co-Chairmen are Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, who once served as the director of communications for the Democratic National Committee, but is best known as the former press secretary for Bill Clinton’s administration.
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“In the spirit of democracy, we are writing to ask that you support open debates in 2016 that include all of the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates who are on enough ballots to win at least 270 electoral college votes,” Stein and Baraka write.
Both the Green Party and the Libertarian Party tickets appear on enough ballots to receive the electoral college votes necessary to win the election, but candidates are only allowed to appear at debates if they receive at least 15% support in a national poll acknowledged by the CPD. However, as the Green Party candidates point out, not all of the polls used by the CPD present the Green Party as an option.
Stein and Baraka argue that today’s debates are “choreographed” and “highly controlled,” and therefore don’t inform the public about their options as well as they could. The moderators are chosen by the two major party candidates and the questions are vetted beforehand. As a result, truly unscripted back-and-forth between Trump and Clinton will likely be kept to a minimum.
This subsequently limits the public dialogue and prevents voters from hearing “innovative solutions” from other candidates whose names they may see on the ballot in November. Even if the third-party candidates don’t have viable campaigns that can realistically make it to the White House, Stein and Baraka still believe that voters will benefit from hearing different viewpoints.
“A foundational principle of our nation has been that a marketplace of ideas, where all views are discussed and the best ideas win out, is essential to our democracy,” Stein and Baraka write. “The country is crying out for real leadership. By standing with the majority of Americans who want open debates, you will show you are a friend of the transformation our democracy needs.”
The Commission on Presidential Debates could not immediately be reached for comment.