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Amy Goodman
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Thursday 18 October 2012
Imagine if we had a functional electoral system, with genuine, vigorous, representative debates.

Binders Full of Women, and Two Women Bound

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You may have noticed that the Green Party presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, was absent from the “town hall” presidential debate at Hofstra University the other night. That’s because she was shackled to a chair in a nearby New York police facility, along with her running mate, Green Party vice president nominee Cheri Honkala. Their crime: attempting to get to the debate so Stein could participate in it. While Mitt Romney uttered the now-famous line that he was given “whole binders full of women” while seeking staff as newly-elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002, the real binders were handcuffs used to shackle these two women, who are mothers, activists and the Green Party’s presidential ticket for 2012.

I interviewed Stein the day after the debate, after their imprisonment (which ended, not surprisingly, not long after the debate ended). She told me: “We are on the ballot for 85 percent of voters. Americans deserve to know what their choices are. The police said they were only doing job. I said, ‘This is about everyone’s jobs, whether we can afford health care, whether students will be indentured.’ There are critical issues left out of the debate. Ninety million voters are predicted to stay home and vote with their feet that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney represent them. That’s twice as many voters than expected for either of them.”

Even if Stein and Honkala hadn’t been hauled off a public street and handcuffed to those chairs for eight hours, Stein’s exclusion from the debate was certain. The debates are very closely controlled by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which excludes third-party candidates, among other things. George Farah is the founder and executive director of Open Debates, and author of “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.” Farah told me on the morning of the Hofstra debate about how the CPD gained control over the debates from the nonpartisan League of Women Voters: “We have a private corporation that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties called the Commission on Presidential Debates. It seized control of the presidential debates precisely because the League was independent, precisely because this women’s organization had the guts to stand up to the candidates that the major parties had nominated.”

The League of Women Voters allowed third-party candidate John B. Anderson to participate in a presidential debate in 1980, and in the decade that followed, the two major parties, Republican and Democrat, sparred with the League. In 1988, the parties tried to force the League into a contract detailing how the debates would be run. Farah explained: “It talked about who could be in the audience and how the format would be structured, but the League found that kind of lack of transparency and that kind of candidate control to be fundamentally outrageous and antithetical to our democratic process. They released the contract and stated they refuse to be an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American people and refuse to implement it.”

Farah said that early contract was “tame” compared with the binding contract, leaked to Time magazine this week, that governed the so-called town hall, moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley. The 21-page “Memorandum of Understanding” includes a reference to their standards for candidate eligibility to participate. The CPD requires that a candidate have support from “at least 15 percent of the national electorate as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations.” This is a classic Catch-22. In order to debate, you must have broad support. In order to earn public support, candidates without huge campaign war chests need the access that the televised debates offer. So the Democrats and Republicans control the debates, and limit the public’s access to alternative views.

If the Green Party’s nominee, Jill Stein, had been allowed to debate, what might the public have heard? To find out, our “Democracy Now!” news hour went ahead and invited major third-party candidates to participate in the debate, virtually, the morning after. In addition to Stein, we had Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party and Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party (Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson declined).

Instead of the Obama/Romney debate, where each attempted to trumpet his superior commitment to fossil-fuel extraction, the public would have heard Jill Stein say, “We support a Green New Deal, which will put everyone back to work, at the same time that it puts a halt to climate change and it makes wars for oil obsolete.” Climate change is simply not discussed in these debates.

That’s just one example. Imagine if we had a functional electoral system, with genuine, vigorous, representative debates. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala are on the ballot in 38 states, and available as write-ins for the rest. Rocky Anderson, with his new Justice Party, is on in 15 states. Now that the candidates have been unshackled, it’s time to unshackle the debates.

© 2011 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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ABOUT Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of "Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

This seems to be the

This seems to be the rationale against third party voting......"It would be folly to cross the Delaware with General Washington when instead one should just march with the Redcoats." ........Give me an oar! The icy cold waters are a preferrable death.

I am truely sorry that we do

I am truely sorry that we do not have a STRONG third party in the United States of America and that far to many voters are to lazy to seek the truth.

The two things that I would love to see in a Binder are Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as they were shipped to the Cayman Islands. It would only be fitting that two men who are so much alike should be bound together Birds of a Feather flock together, Liars and Republicans are unseparable.

PLEASE take the time to research Mitt Romney's record with Bain Capital [2 woman executives] and as the Governor of Mass. [ he did submitt to the demands of women groups in the state to appoint women to cabinet posts. Two years into his position he stopped and when he left it was at 25% the lowest in 12 years.] and you will find he doesn't like women in power. Might have something to do with his religious beliefs. Keep your woman at home Bare-Foot and Pregnant. His Budget doesn't meet the B.S. test.

Paul Ryan has Sponsored or Co-Sponsored every Bill that is part of the Republican Attack on women rights. His Budget doesn't meet the B.S. test.

I am voting for Jill Stein,

I am voting for Jill Stein, and have a jill Stein for President sign in front of my house. I wear the button proudly every day in my travels around the city.

Unfortunately, a vote for Dr.

Unfortunately, a vote for Dr. Stein WILL be a wasted much as I want to "vote my heart" this election, I will be voting for OBAMA. This election is going to decide the future of every environmental and social issue facing our country. With OBAMA we will still have the EPA, the Migratory Bird Act Treaty, the Endangered Species Act and an open discussion on destructive Tar Sands Oil Extraction methods, Climate Change ACTION, public education, medicare, social security, & a GREEN ENERGY FUTURE, etc. Not so with "Romney" and those other guys! PLEASE, don't waste your vote! Not in this's to important!

GREGGERRITT: Yeah, cast your


Yeah, cast your vote for Romney under the guise of Stein on the ballot. Then if Romney gets elected, thanks to people who vote from their gut instead of their heads, you can claim "I had nothing to do with it," and if you have a few more drinks, you might even believe that.

Sleep soundly if you help elect the rich-pampering party, Greg. Then you can tsk-tsk and wonder what the world's coming to.

Ron, your vote is the wasted

Ron, your vote is the wasted vote, not Greggerritts. We are supposed to vote FOR the people we believe will represent US in government. Did you even read the article? Do you know WHY 3rd party candidates are excluded from all things related to elections? Third (4th and 5th too) parties give people options. It also divides power into smaller chunks. These are two things the DNC and GOP do not want. Frankly, we need more people with the courage to vote FOR a candidate. We have had 30 years of 'hold your nose and vote for whoever because (s)he is the lessor of the two evil choices'. Yeah, that's really worked out for us now hasn't it.

So go ahead and vote for the lessor of two evils and you can wake up on 7 Nov and tsk-tsk-tsk and wonder how evil put our hand cart in the express lane to Hell. The US government was never intended to be restricted to two parties.

JELTEZ4: I would, if I could,


I would, if I could, change many things about our system of government. For one thing, I think the electoral college should be scrapped, and popular votes should dictate the outcomes.

Also, I think it's unfortunate that we have a "winner-take-all" system, and that third and fourth party representatives are not a force in our House of Representatives. Why ARE we effectively limited to two major parties? You think I like that? I've voted for 3rd-party candidates before, and it's possible I may do so in some future election, at least at the local level. But not THIS one.

For this is the REALITY: just voting for a third-party candidate for president is NOT going to put third-party members in the Senate or the House, and THAT is where the power resides.

I would seriously welcome third and fourth party members in our legislative bodies, but enabling an extremist Tea Party candidate (who's a moderate with the right audience) to take over the White House and push an agenda that the Tea Party House (and very possibly, Senate) will readily approve and sign into law, is not the way I want to go. I am a retired senior, and I do NOT want Social Security to be privatized or pared down; I do NOT want Medicare to be vouchered, no matter what name it goes under. And as a lifelong progressive, I do NOT want to see environmental laws weakened or overturned, or women denied contraceptives, or denied equal pay, among so many things, and a vote for Jill Stein, I know as well as you do, will just enable the party and the candidates that WANT to do these things.

And THAT is why I have already voted a Democratic ticket in my early voting by absentee ballot.

It grows tiresome to hear so many speak of their high-principled longing for "pure" politics when they do nothing to bring it about but look down their noses, with a patronizing frown, for those of us trying to work with what we have in the REAL world, not our dreams of Utopia. I know the many laws and societal changes I owe to the Democratic Party, and though it's lost much of its innocence and commitment to the things I cherish, I sure as hell am NOT going to do the slightest thing that will enable the Plutocratic party at this crucial time in our history.

I've been a lifelong progressive and environmentalist, and I don't care to be lectured by people living in a world of fantasy because of their disenchantment with the Democratic Party. I know WHICH party has done the most for average working Americans throughout my life, and though I've often been angry or frustrated with that party (as I was in the Vietnam era), I haven't found a practical, pragmatic, realistic, viable political party to take its place. Just making high-principled "statements" or "challenges" is not a realistic option for me in this election.

And you sleep soundly knowing

And you sleep soundly knowing you're a "serial enabler"...already fully aware of what the world's coming to. Tyranny always depends on its reliable "foot soldiers." It has since man first discovered he could achieve power and ride roughshod over his fellow human beings. In every revolution, one man (or woman) has a vision. Sorry we won't be able to count you in. Keep wearing the blinders. The entrenched powers are always on the lookout for those wearing political (and cognitive) Ray-Bans.
Just for the record; I've been a Democrat for 40 years. Noam Chomsky now calls Richard Nixon "the last Liberal President." Obama would be a moderate Republican as little as 15 years ago. Perhaps a good dose of "real" Republicanism, and not the "half-ass" variety we've got from Obama (who I admit to having supported and voting for) would finally awaken the astonishingly "simple" voting electorate in this country.

Quoting Aristotle,

Quoting Aristotle, "Despotism, although rule according to law, is not rule in the common interest. All constitutions that aim at the rulers advantage have an element of despotism, whereas a 'polis' is a partnership of free men held together by the ties of friendship and justice. But these cannot exist when there is nothing in common between the ruler and the ruled, as is the case under both tyranny and despotism, where the relationship is equivalent to that 'between a craftsman and his tool, or between the soul and the body, (or between master and slave)." Other than the obvious and glaring omission of women, I believe this sums up our current two-party ruling oligarchy quite well. A vote for one of the other candidates on the ballot, (I'll be voting for Stein) not only does not fit the label of "wasted vote," it indeed is an act of challenging the perfidious status quo that has thrown the concept of democracy in the waste bin of history.

WOETOPOE: If you've been a


If you've been a Democrat for 40 years, then you prove my often-stated point that Jill Stein will be pulling Democratic votes to her column and thus help Romney/Ryan to get elected.

You say that a vote for someone other than the Democratic candidate will NOT be a wasted vote, but an "act of challenge." In short, a statement. Well, come down to earth and realize that your "challenge" will probably bring a smile to Romney's face as he contemplates the many "challenges" of voters like you...on his way to his inauguration.

So, how do these "challenges" translate into real consequences in the real world? Two years after the conservative Supreme Court opened the door to unlimited anonymous donations from corporations, you'll be giving the green light to the extremist take-over of our entire government.

Ah, but you make an ineffectual challenge that just brings a chuckle to Republican strategists.

Do you think Romney is going to invest in green energy? Protect Social Security and Medicare? Betray his sponsors in Big Oil and Big Coal by demanding a stringent reduction in carbon emissions? End the war in Afghanistan by 2014? Try every peaceful measure to resolve the difficulties with Iran? NOT appoint more conservative judges to the Supreme Court? Create "12 million new jobs" in America, not China?

Actions have consequences. You can't vote for Jill Stein in a vacuum. You can't give Americans universal health care or resolve the crisis of Climate Change by voting for a weak third-party candidate that will just decrease Democratic hopes of stopping Romney in his relentless drive to be president.

Weakened and corrupted some Democrats may be, but that former workers' party has the best chance of giving us the things that Stein says she believes in. I believe there are many more "greens" - people who are worried about our planet's future - in the Democratic party than in the Republican and Green party combined, yet you advocate joining hands with the party of the Plutocrats by defeating the sitting President.

And that, no matter how you spin it, is the practical consequence of a lot of disaffected Democrats voting for Stein. We all know she hasn't a prayer of being elected our Chief Executive, and if she even did, how is she qualified for it?

I could make up a thick catalog of my frustrations with the Democratic Party over the years I've been voting, but even when I was a toddler, the Republican Party was known as the "party of the Rich and Big Business," but at least during the Eisenhower administration compromise was possible with reasonable Republicans. Now you have a House dominated by Tea Party extremists who simply oppose anything that Democrats suggest, so there's nothing but high-salaried hand-sitting and political theater in our legislative body.

But a vote for Jill will change none of that, and you know it as well as I do. As I said, the Republicans will just smirk and giggle about your high-standing "challenges" that enable them.

As I've said before, I've voted for third-party candidates, including Greens, but I knew I was just making a statement and the elections were not all that critical. This election is the most crucial one I've seen in my entire voting life, so I'm not going put my nose in the air and just make a highfaluting statement when there is so much at risk.

Ron i registeredon this site

Ron i registeredon this site just to let you know you really struck a nerve with me; i had planning on voting third party initially but your points were well reasoned and solid, i will be casting a vote for obama come november.

RON IN NM, Thanks for the

RON IN NM, Thanks for the response. We both are cognizant of the definition of insanity so I won't repeat it. Yet, that is what many of us have been doing for decades now. You mention big oil, coal, reductions in carbon emissions, ending the war in Afghanistan, peaceful resolutions with Iran, no more conservative judges, 12 million new jobs NOT in China. Both big oil and big coal have Obama firmly in their pockets. Which implies that reductions in carbon emissions are just chimerical in thought. Obama has already signed an agreement to keep U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan until 2024. If that's ending the "war" I'm not buying it. Well, actually we all are if we pay taxes. Obama has also signed a free trade agreement with Panama, Columbia, and I'm forgetting the third nation, that will hemorrhage jobs...not produce them here. Iran having a nuclear bomb will simply reign in renegade and rogue Israel. The Ayatollah is NOT suicidal.

Living in California I can vote for Stein and be reasonably assured Obama will win here. What my vote "does" do, particularly in large enough numbers, is throw a scare into the absolutely corrupt two-party, neo-liberalist faction that now dictates policy in America. It's Democratic Party abdication of principles that have allowed the yachting class, champions of the wealthy Republicans to ascend to the heights they now occupy. If you send money to the Democrats how do you "know" that a portion of it doesn't go to "blue dogs" like Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Max Baucus of Montana, Dianne Feinstein of California, Kent Conrad of N.Dakota, etc. And that's just the Senate. It's my opinion as an historian that wholesale change will not occur until this nation hits rock bottom. Romney/Ryan would accomplish that along with a strong showing by a third party candidate such as Eugene Debs was as a Socialist in 1912.

I understand your concerns and share them. I believe we just have differing philosophies about how to ultimately defeat the enemy. Finally, I'm certainly not convinced that Obama won't do major damage to both Medicare and Social Security. In "every" coming election there will be "a lot at risk." If we're ever going to change a truly perfidious and 99% dysfunctional government we'll have to start somewhere. If history and Obama's actions as President are any barometer (and they are) we're in deep trouble no matter who wins. Take care Ron.

WOETOPOE: I saw your response


I saw your response belatedly, so my reply is only now. At least we can disagree without being disagreeable.

I don't idolize Obama, nor do I regard him as a "Satan," as most Republicans and Greens seem to do. You make a lot of charges against him, but offer no proof of it.

What's most troublesome to me is the belief among Green supporters that if Romney/Ryan get elected, it will bring on some kind of crisis EARLIER so that the Greens can move in and clear up things with their political agenda.

And I think that's an irresponsible attitude. Vote for Romney (or Jill Stein, which might amount to the same thing) because it will cause a crash or disaster SOONER and then the Greens can make everything right? I might agree with such a strategy if we had endless time to reform our money-dominated political system. But do we have decades to face the problems confronting us in the future? The end of Cheap Oil? Accelerating Climate Change? The growing fanaticism and instability in so many Muslim societies that view the West as the Big Satan? The proliferation of WMDs? Can we take the long view about politics in America and hope that a Romney presidency WILL bring about a crisis so that somehow good people can pick up the pieces?

I don't like compromise in politics, but in reality it is often necessary if you're going to move from Square One. You say that Obama is in the pocket of Big Oil and Big Coal. I don't happen to believe that, but you offer no evidence. Do you expect any sitting president to try to destroy or cripple these industries right away, with no transition? The fact is that we need Big Oil and Big Coal WHILE we're attempting to wean ourselves from our dependence on them. Obama is trying to encourage the growth of alternate sources of energy. It takes time and investment, but at least he's trying, which is more than I believe Romney would ever do.

Or, speaking of compromise, I was disappointed with Obama that the public option was not included in his health care package. But then I saw the PBS Frontline documentary called "Obama's Deal," and I realized that he wasn't satisfied with what he got, but considering the obstacles that confronted him, he had to be happy with the compromises he had to make to get SOMETHING out of the whole wrangle.

The Greens don't seem to understand these things. Making progress a step at a time is not enough. They want revolution NOW, with no compromises. Well, that's a nice thought, but it just won't work in the real world we live in. With Washington the way it is today, even if Jill Stein were impossibly elected as president, she would find, in her first year in office, that she would have to compromise right and left, or she would get ZERO accomplished.

I have been told by Greens that I have no vision, with the implication that I have no ideals. Well, I disagree. I'd love to see more political parties in our mix, I think it would be healthy for our political system, though probably not easier. I wish we had Universal Health Care, and our health insurance was NON-PROFIT. I wish every American would have FREE access to higher education, with the only requirement being that they can do the work, and are serious about it.

But how to get these things in the society that America has? That's the kicker. The devil's in the details. I just don't think voting for the idealistic Jill Stein for president is going to do ANYTHING but make it easier for Romney/Ryan to get elected, and I dread that a lot more than trying to make the Democrats be more responsive to progressives.

And that's why I voted for Obama already. But if California is really a Blue state, and your single vote won't make any difference, then vote for Jill to make a statement. But what if there are thousands of Greens in California who feel the same way? Would that not have consequences for the contest?

If you REALLY want to change

If you REALLY want to change the system, focus on these things: Turning back Citizens United, instituting control over lobbyists, empowering unions to once again represent workers, and election protection to empower all voters and ensure all votes get accurately counted and reported.

Sorry, Amy, I fully support

Sorry, Amy, I fully support you. But Jill Stein and her Green Party run for the Presidency is a stealth promotion of the now openly fascist Republican Party. If she really was serious about moving the green agenda, she'd be working to elect House and Senate members that are open advocates or at least are going to vote to support those goals. There are far more REAL greens in the Democratic Party than in the Green Party, and NONE in the Republican Party. It's not all about the presidency and all these serial presidential runs by the Greens do nothing but empower corporate control. They complain the system is broken, but do NOTHING to change it again and again so every 4 years they can run some ego-bound candidates to rail against the system once again. It's political malpractice. Fortunately enough of the American people see this so that they don't garner sufficient support to get into the final debate series. Her forcing herself on that process was nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Perhaps every ballot should

Perhaps every ballot should have a "none of the above" option for people to select! If "none of the above" receives more votes than the candidates, go back and try again with NEW candidates. Yes, it would protract an already ridiculously long campaign period, but a "none of the above" choice throughout the process could at least insure that the steady stream of knuckleheads and bobbleheads who continue to get elected as a choice between bad, really bad, and forget it, from being voted into positions of influence!

First, Ms. Goodman, thank you

First, Ms. Goodman, thank you for hosting the "Expanded Debate." It was a real eye-opener. I've heard that Florida's ballot has 12 POTUS candidates, but that's not what I'm concerned about. My concern is that law enforcement agencies throughout the land appear to have become local militias. Armed to the teeth with technology, weapons and personnel that have become completely desensitized about protecting us, instead, they seem to be protecting special interests from us! We are faced with enormous changes now and in the future. There is rapid expansion of malnutrition and poverty and it is growing. I'm a senior living on social security only, having prospered for many years. I pretty much lost it all because of the economic crash and the poor choice I made to try to keep my business afloat in hopes that the economy would turn itself around. My new peers are in similar situations and to paraphrase Jon Stewart, in an interview with J.K. Rowling, in the U.S. (and certainly many other countries) the attitude is to make the indigents feel as bad as they can. There really is no "safety net." The two-party system seems to bear this out. Intuition tells me that there might one day be large demonstrations over these egregious conditions and we, the people, will be the enemies in the eyes of law enforcement.

I love the "none of the

I love the "none of the above" option! The other idea I had is that every incumbent has to stand to a "no confidence" vote singly before s/he is allowed to run in a primary or general election. If a majority says that they don't support the person, they don't get to run again. This would reduce the "lesser of two evils" problem that we now face. But I think the real answer is to remove corporate funding (including unions and "nonprofits") and encourage third parties by opening debates and requiring "equal time" for purchased TV advertising. We're a long way from an informed electorate!

"...there might one day be

"...there might one day be large demonstrations over these egregious conditions and we, the people, will be the enemies in the eyes of law enforcement."

That's the reason for the NDAA (which allows the military to arrest U. S. citizens without charges, and hold them indefinitely) and the rest of the police-state laws like the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

These police-state laws have huge bipartisan support.

Yet another reason I vote Green Party.

When the Green Party's

When the Green Party's candidates Stein and Honkala were arrested at Hofstra, they were told that their arrest was necessary to ensure the "debate" event would be "safe"... yes, safe from any mention of climate change.

What do dictatorships do with political alternatives.

First they ignore them,
then they ridicule them,
then they arrest them.

The "progressives" are the liberals who keep voting for the corporate party's Democrats so they can keep protesting against what they keep voting for.

Protest votes are the only votes that are **NOT** wasted.

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