In addition to being entirely shut out of this year's presidential debates, Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, were arrested for "blocking traffic" as they attempted to enter the debate at Hofstra University. The women were detained despite the fact that, in the video of the arrests, the police are much more of an impediment on traffic than the two candidates.
Stein and Honkala have been shut out, despite the fact that the Green Party ticket will be on an estimated 85 percent of ballots this election. The Commission on Presidential Debates stipulates that a candidate must garner at least 15 percent in national polls in order to participate, but national television exposure is a key factor in generating that kind of broad support. Hence, shutting out third party candidates creates a cyclical suppression in which candidates can't reach the 15 percent mark precisely because they are denied access to a large audience.
Additionally, there are all kinds of hurdles placed in third party candidate's paths as they attempt to collect signatures and support. Ralph Nader was famously kicked off the Oregon ballot in 2004 by the state Supreme Court for "fraud" and "circulator irregularities," despite the fact that Nader submitted far more county-verified voter signatures than the 15,306 needed on sheets in full compliance will all statues and all written rules. And that's only one example of numerous cases of third party suppression.
Shutting out third party candidates from debates obviously inflicts damage on the democratic process, but it also waters down the debate. Stein would have been a valuable asset to the dialogue, particularly when 20-year-old Jeremy Epstein posed a question about the bleak future for soon-to-be-graduates.
Here is Stein talking to Forbes' Peter J. Reilly about her fears for a generation that is being crushed by overwhelming student debt, and how she would prefer we bail out students rather than banks.
Stein would have been the only candidate to propose holding the banks accountable for the systemic fraud that led to the 2008 subprime disaster. President Obama and Governor Romney, having embraced the "look forward, not backward" mantra, refer only to the "tough economic times" in passing, as though it was some terrible bygone era that will never be repeated. In reality, a disastrous bubble burst will definitely happen again without oversight, regulation, and prosecutions of guilty Wall Street firms, and Stein is the only somewhat prominent candidate proposing that.
Stein would have also been the only candidate to propose significantly scaling back on military and security spending, and drone strikes, which have made us less safe, according to the candidate.
Then there would have been the added perk of having a conversation about the environment involving a candidate who utters the phrase "climate change."
As for the dreaded "spoiler," accusation, Honkala says, "You can't really spoil something that's already rotten."
The folks that I've been traveling around with and talking to for 25 years are crying because they're visiting their loved ones in prison, are crying because they are losing their loved ones because they don't have health care.
Honkala would have been the only candidate to talk at length about poverty and poor people. While Obama, Romney, and the vice-presidential candidates debated about the status of the "middle class"—a vague term that has come to mean everyone who is not poor or our one percent overlords—and President Obama gave a lightning-quick shout-out to the poor, who he referred to as, "folks who are striving to get into the middle class," Honkala co-founded the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, and is a passionate advocate for families struggling to get by on a few hundred dollars a month.
"Those are people we need to start caring about and doing something about and not just putting out this rhetoric, like (Vice President Joe) Biden was yesterday, saying, 'We've got to begin caring about Main Street, not just Wall Street,'" she said.
Here is Honkala touring poverty-stricken areas of Kentucky in which she refers to the "undemocratic" process of the national debates.
"We intend to occupy the debates if they don't let us into the debates," said Honkola.