Democracy Now!'s "extended second debate" (see video below), featuring third-party candidate responses to questions from last week's "official" Presidential Debate at Hofstra University side-by-side with the two main party candidates, illustrates the malaise of an American electorate which senses a fundamental disconnect between the promise of "change we can believe in" offered up by one of two corporate sponsored candidates, even as political and economic inequality, outsourcing and war have expanded over the past four years.
Yet, the only other voice generally offered to the American electorate is the 21st century equivalent to a snake-oil salesman, whose entire work in the private sector, along with a brief stint as a governor, have been devoted to outsourcing, predatory capitalism and greater inequality. He is a candidate who not only seeks to retain the deficit-exploding Bush tax cuts, but wants to pile on with a $5 trillion pig-in-a-poke tax cut for the billionaire class. That tax-cut, coupled with a massive give-away to the military-industrial complex would, of necessity, reduce government to the point that it would be incapable of performing its constitutionally recognized core function of promoting the general welfare.
The comments made by Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party Presidential candidate, at the time of her unsuccessful attempt to enter the second Presidential debate --- an attempt which resulted in her being arrested and cuffed to a chair for eight hours --- along with the substantive dialogue produced by Stein, Justice Party Presidential candidate Rocky Anderson, and Constitution Party Presidential candidate Virgil Goode, Jr., during Democracy Now's "extended second debate", underscore what Noam Chomsky referred to in Failed States as the "democracy deficit" --- the significant gap between the policy positions of the vast majority of American citizens and the political elites who supposedly represent them...
Stein challenges legitimacy of the Commission on Presidential Debates
At the time of her arrest outside the gates of the second Presidential Debate at Hofstra University, Stein, who has qualified to appear on 85% of the ballots where citizens will select the nation's next chief executive, slammed the undemocratic process by which an "illegitimate" Commission on Presidential debates has "systematically locked out" third party candidates.
"If democracy truly prevailed," Stein proclaimed, "there would be no such commission." She argued that debates should still be governed by the standards of the League of Women Voters who were formerly allowed to sponsor such debates, "which is that if you have done the work to get on [enough ballots that you] could actually win the Electoral College...you deserve to be heard; and the...American people actually deserve to hear choices which are not bought and paid for by multinational corporations and Wall Street."
Corporate media complicity
The one aspect that Stein left off is the role of the corporate owned media in constricting the range of democratic discourse.
Whether questions are posed directly by a corporate media employed moderator, as occurred in the first Presidential debate and the Vice Presidential debate, or directly from citizens at a town hall-style debate, only after they have been screened by a corporate media employed moderator, it is the corporate media who controls the scope of questioning.
Despite the fact that more than 80% of the electorate oppose the infamous Citizens United decision; despite the fact that multiple cities and a growing number of states* have called for a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Citizens United ruling, with Vermont calling for an elimination of "corporate personhood" and recognition that money is not free speech; despite the democracy-destroying flood of corporate dark money into the system; and despite the fact that the President tweeted that he would favor a constitutional amendment that would overturn this disastrous ruling, no one at any of the three "official" debates so much as mentioned Citizens United.
Whether or not this entails a deliberate evasion, one cannot escape the enormous conflict-of-interest which arises by having the debates run by a corporate-owned media which are the principle beneficiary of the flood of corporate dark money used to purchase deceptive, 30-second propaganda slots (aka political ads).
Both Stein and Anderson took aim at the massive and growing student debt. Stein lamented that the "Federal Reserve just announced its latest 'quantitative easing', where it will be spending $40 billion a month to bail out the banks for what’s effectively the fourth bailout…It’s time to bail out the students instead," she added, "so that way students can enter into their professional life, their careers, without the deep burden of debt that they currently now have."
Stein took aim at Pell Grants, which the President supports, noting these come "from banks as middlemen who are getting $60 billion." She called for a "quantitative ease of student debt, not bank debt."
'Free trade' as a primary source of outsourcing and inequality
While Romney rambled on at the debate about how the U.S. must make manufacturing 'competitive' in order to attract corporations to bring jobs home to the U.S., and where the President countered with proposals that would impose greater taxes upon the outsourcing companies and tax incentives to those corporations who manufacture within the U.S., neither corporate-sponsored Presidential candidate touched upon the core reason corporations have outsourced the U.S. manufacturing base over the past twenty (20) years --- the ability of the "one percent" to take advantage of a slave labor pool in Asia and elsewhere courtesy of NAFTA and the bevy of so-called "free trade" agreements.
While all three third-party candidates at the debate concurred, Anderson, the former Democratic Mayor of Salt Lake City, articulated it best, noting that, rather than press for fair trade, Obama has expanded free trade agreements that have allowed people like Romney and Bain Capital to profit from that pool of slave wages --- a point we underscored last year in our article, "Next 'Giant Sucking Sound': U.S. Senate Leaders Reach Accord on Three New 'Free Trade' Agreements"
While he opposes so-called "free trade agreements," a number of issues --- "pro-life, pro-traditional marriage" and repeated efforts to place blame for the financial crisis on "illegal immigrants" --- placed Goode, a former Republican Congressman turned Constitution Party candidate, on the extreme Right. He described the draconian Arizona "show me your papers law" as model legislation. He even went so far as to propose a moratorium on the issuance of Green Cards.
Stein countered that "our jobs took a nosedive because Wall Street crashed the economy, and because of Wall Street waste, fraud and abuse. And our jobs went overseas due to NAFTA and other free trade agreements, which Barack Obama has expanded."
As previously covered by The BRAD BLOG, Stein pointed to the extent to which NAFTA permitted U.S. agricultural conglomerates to flood Mexico with U.S.-subsidized corn, destroying the market for locally grown corn and driving Mexican farmers from their lands. This, as we previously reported, also entailed active recruitment of undocumented workers in Mexico by the U.S. meat packing industry --- a point Anderson touched upon as he accused the federal government and large corporations of collaborating to bring in undocumented workers to further undercut U.S. labor.
Anderson called for "a compassionate approach" to immigration that would provide "a pathway toward permanent residency, and, ultimately, citizenship." Stein concurred.
Full employment; living wages
As they did during the first debate, both Anderson and Stein called for direct public works projects modeled after the New Deal. Stein referred to her program as a "Green New Deal" that she claimed would "put an end to unemployment and...jump-start a green economy":
Anderson added the need to increase the minimum wage, which would require an increase to $10.55/hour just to "get back to 1968 minimum wage levels" (after factoring in inflation since then.) He saw the "austerity programs" offered by both major parties as a step in the wrong direction.
Gun violence and the 'war on drugs'
While others focused on whether to ban assault weapons, and the undue influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), Stein, who noted that there "are some 260 people every day who are injured or killed by gun violence," felt it crucial that we not only ban assault weapons but that we need to "end the gun show loopholes" and "end the culture of drug violence, which also is a major driver of gun violence."
Stein also pointed to the need for a single-payer Medicare-for-All national healthcare system not only as essential to economic survival but pointed out that lack of access to mental health services fuels community violence. She called for the "legalization of marijuana, because it is a substance which is dangerous because it is illegal."
As reflected by our three part special series earlier this year, the folly of drug prohibition (aka 'the War on Drugs') is a topic that should be at the center of our nation's discourse.
In PART 1 of that series, we examined the question of whether the U.S. Government's effort to challenge legalization of marijuana in California and elsewhere was akin to "shutting down the competition", given the CIA's long-documented history of profiting from the world-wide drug trade. In PART 2 we posited that an end to the 'War on Drugs' could deliver a devastating blow to the bottom line of American corporations who have come to depend upon the Prison Industrial Complex in the U.S. and its huge pool of slave laborers --- most, non-violent drug offenders. In PART 3 we not only addressed the Frankenstein's monster we created, pointing to how the carnage wrought by organized crime south of the border was spilling into the U.S., but the extent to which the Drug War facilitates the domination of the 99% by the "one percent".
This is the type of serious issue that a truly democratic society debates. Yet, even Stein only obliquely touched upon it.
Global climate change
It is nothing less than shocking that the issue of drilling, energy, and the Keystone XL Pipeline could beraised by Romney during the second Presidential debate --- a pipeline which, according to climate scientist James Hansen, could be "game over" for a stable climate --- yet neither he, the President nor the moderator mentioned climate change during the entire debate.
The unfortunate aspect of Democracy Now's coverage of the second expanded debate is that it did not include the gas prices question posed to the President and Romney's reference to Keystone or what responses, if any, were provided by the three third party Presidential candidates on this issue. It is unclear whether that was the product of editing of what was set to have been a far more lengthy live broadcast on debate night.
However, as can be expected, in her earlier remarks, Dr. Stein, the Green Party candidate, referred to a "climate emergency, which...needs really dramatic, prompt solutions." Stein also stressed the need for our policies to include a "sustainable" environment, as well sustainable economic and social policies as part of her Green New Deal.
On Tuesday, one day after the third Romney/Obama debate, Larry King will host a debate in Chicago. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party Presidential candidate, will join Stein, Anderson and Goode in the debate.
We have "a two-party system," King recently observed, "but not a two-party system by law."
Democracy Now's 10/17/12 segment of the second "extended debate" featuring President Barack Obama (D) and Gov. Mitt Romney (R), as well as Dr. Jill Stein (G), Virgil Goode, Jr. (Constitution) and Mayor Rocky Anderson (Justice) follows below...