Voters are professionally manipulated, not engaged. Instead of seeing clear-cut alternatives, they hear just the messages campaign operatives want.
It doesn't have to be that way. If the broadcast and cable networks would let the two most prominent minor parties, Libertarians and Greens, briefly address the nation immediately after Mitt Romney and President Obama deliver their acceptance addresses, the whole dynamic could change.
All voters would miss out on is the predictable chatter of talking-point-programmed pundits networks always put on right after the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates accept their parties' nomination at their respective conventions. Instead of post-speech analysis, citizens would hear important alternatives, from the libertarian-conservative, free-market promoter Gary Johnson, and Greens candidate Jill Stein, the progressive, pro-government advocate.
This isn't the ideal solution. Preferably, key third-party candidates, whom voters in many states will see on the ballots, would have a role in the debates that follow the conventions in the weeks leading up to the election, but the debate system was created to do the opposite. Formed in 1987 by Democrats and Republicans, the Commission on Presidential Debates was designed to restrict televised face-offs to their candidates. I know. I coordinated the Democratic press relations announcing the commission. I even drafted the news release as a young press secretary in 1987. I assisted DNC Chairman Paul Kirk, working with our Republican counterpart, RNC Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf, now co-chair with former press secretary Mike McCurry.
The debate commission's rules make participation all but impossible for participants other than Democrats and Republicans. Third parties can't qualify unless they poll at least 15%, and they can't get 15% if they don't receive news coverage — a Catch-22.
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