Today is Election Day. While folks are out casting their ballots and waiting nervously for results to trickle in, the nation should also take some time to reflect on the impact of the third party debates. On Monday night, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein participated in the final presidential debate. Not only is the lack of public knowledge about and access to these candidates disappointing, but it does a major disservice to the entire democratic process. Even if a third party candidate never gets enough votes to secure the presidency, their ideas should be a part of the nation’s political discourse. In Monday night's debate, the need for the full inclusion of third party candidates in the electoral process was evident.
Jill Stein and Gary Johnson covered a significant number of topics that were ignored or glossed over during the major party debates. Highlights include discussions of drones, climate change, and genetically modified foods. The fact that these topics were even mentioned was sufficient to quell disappointment in the major party debates, where climate change was absent and the drones’ topic was passed extremely quickly.
While Jill Stein took a big-picture approach by discussing her ideology and the reason the nation needs to vote Green, Gary Johnson’s open statement was a rundown of his platform. Ultimately, Stein’s opening statement and presence during the entire debate was incredibly effective. She appeared reasonable and level-headed, staying passionate without going overboard.
Johnson, on the other hand, came across as overly passionate and dismissive, laughing at Stein’s response and even interrupting her. (Although he did apologize for the interruption.) Johnson’s passion manifested itself through yelling. Hopefully, his team will remind him that content is not enough, and that when it comes to politics, content needs to come in a spectacular package.
Looking past a few presentation issues, the best part of third party debates are the issues discussed. The candidates tackled the problems with foreign aid. Johnson’s plan would be to end foreign aid, while Stein says that her policy is to end the often disastrous military aid.
After discussing foreign aid, the candidates moved on to a discussion of government transparency and Wikileaks. This was the only part of the discussion that seemed to be lacking substance. Both argued that Wikileaks was not currently a threat to national security and that they value transparency. Stein even thanked Wikileaks for releasing some documents that caused changes on the ground in Iraq. There is, however, a huge difference in having a transparent government and having an outside group release documents randomly without government knowledge or consent. It would have been better if they couched the Wikileaks discussion in an explanation of how they would create a transparent government and where they would draw the line on State secrets.
The debate last night was a success. Until third party candidates are included in the major party debates, debates like these need to be continued and broadcast nationwide. Not only does the electoral process need to revamped so as to provide more access for third party candidates, but the nature of presidential debates themselves need to change. The structure of third party debates coupled with the use of social media create a forum in which the people can hear candidates discussing issues that matter most to them, preventing the depressing sound bites that were so prevalent in the major party debates.
Irrespective of personal political leanings, the presence of new ideas, new candidates, creates a better and more inclusive democratic process. That is something everyone can support.