Before the faceoff between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, many were pleading that Lester Holt, the NBC anchor and moderator Monday night, be a "fact checker."
delusions in that regard should have been dashed right away as he
perpetrated a root falsehood at the very start of the event.
claimed that the event was "sponsored by the Commission on Presidential
Debates, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. The commission drafted tonight’s format, and the rules have been agreed to by the campaigns."
While the CPD certainly controls much of the event, it's not a "nonpartisan" organization at all. It's about as far
from nonpartisan as you can get. It's totally bipartisan. It's a
creation of the Democratic and Republican parties designed to solidify
their dominance over the public.
Its origins are in an agreement "Memorandum of Agreement on Presidential Candidate Joint Appearances
from 1985 signed by Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., then Chairman of the
Republican National Committee, and Paul G. Kirk Jr., then Chairman of
the Democratic National Committee. The two would go on to head the CPD.
original agreement didn't even have the word "debates" in it. This
Commission is the mechanism by which the Democratic and Republican
parties came together to push aside the League of Women Voters, which
had organized presidential debates before 1988. It was to make sure that
the campaigns, not some independent entity, would decide on moderators,
on formats -- and to critically exclude other participants unless both
sides agreed. They simply wanted to ensure "televised joint appearances"
-- which became emblematic of a pretense of democratic discourse.
Holt's fabrication -- he can't possibly be ignorant of this -- is
really a root problem of our politics. All the lies and spin from
Clinton and Trump largely manifest themselves because each side
excuses them because "the other" is worse. That is,
the very "bipartisan"
structure of our elections is in large part responsible for the
dynamics we're seeing.
Normally decent people ignore all of Clinton's deceptions because they loathe Trump and normally decent people excuse Trump's fabrications because they detest Clinton. That's why candidates with incredibly high unfavorability ratings -- as Clinton and Trump famously have-- may still have millions voting for them, like two crumbling buildings help up by each other.
the voters have "no where else to go" because they are in effect held
prisoners by fear. Millions of people who might agree with other
candidates -- Jill Stein of the Green Party or Libertarian candidate
Gary Johnson or the Constitution party or socialist parties -- do
not actually coalesce around those candidates because they fear helping
Trump or Clinton. This mindset probably prevents stronger challengers to
the duopoly from ever coming forward in the first place.
There are two ways out of this that I see:
Pollsters can find ways of finding out what the public actually wants.
That is, every tracking poll today has the same format -- some minor
variation of "if the next election for president were held today, with
Donald Trump as the Republican candidate, Hillary Clinton as the
Democratic candidate, Gary Johnson the Libertarian candidate, and Jill
Stein the Green Party candidate,
for whom would you vote?" (NBC / Wall
What pollsters are not doing is asking people who they actually want
to be president. That is, there are lots of people who want Johnson or
Stein, but feel like they have to vote for Clinton or Trump to stop the
other. So while media outlets claim that Gary Johnson is at 8 percent in
"the polls" and Jill Stein is at 3 percent in the "opinion polls" --
that's not accurate. They are not opinion polls. Polls are not gauging
the actual views and beliefs of the public. They are ostensibly
predicting a future event. But they are molding that reality as we go
along. Most brazenly because the CPD has set 15 percent in these polls
as the criteria for exclusion.
in a refreshing departure from usual polling, recently found that
76 percent of the public want Stein and Johnson in the debates
here's the kicker: When reformers suggested that someone should be
included in the debates if a majority wanted them in, the heads of the
Commission rejected the effort. Paul Kirk, now co-chairman emeritus of
the CPD, said: "It's a matter of entertainment vs. the serious question
of who would you prefer to be president of the United States." But
that's the problem: The polls the CPD is relying on don't actually ask
the public who they prefer
to be president. We could have a
"third party" candidate with plurality support and we wouldn't know it
because the question to gauge that isn't asked of the public.
recommendation: Pollsters should actually have an interest in the
opinions of the public and ask them who they prefer to be president.
* Voters Can Unite
The other way out of this seemingly perpetual duopoly bind is that
voters come together. That's what I outline at VotePact.org
: People who
feel compelled to vote for Clinton because they detest Trump can team
up with their opposite number. This requires real work. Instead of
stopping Trump by voting for Clinton, a progressive can stop Trump by
taking a vote away from him.
That is, instead of a
husband and wife who are actually unhappy with both Clinton and Trump
casting votes that in effect cancel out each other -- one voting for
Trump and the other for Clinton -- they can both vote for candidates
they actually prefer. Each would be free to vote their preference --
Johnson, Stein, whoever.
The progressive would
undermine Trump not by voting for a candidate they don't trust --
Clinton -- but more skillfully: By taking a vote away from Trump. The
conservative would not feel they have to suffer the indignity of voting
for a candidate that's distasteful -- Trump -- they would instead
succeed in depriving Clinton of a vote.
that kind of outside the box thinking that's going to get us out of the
binds that the ever duplicitous duopoly attempt to impose on the