US Hypocrisy: Urges Inclusive Debates Around The World But Not In US
Above Photo: From theintercept.com
U.S. government advises other countries to include minor parties in presidential debates
When it comes to presidential debates, the United States does not practice what it preaches: When advising debate organizers in foreign countries, government officials advise them to include minor party candidates.
USAID, the government agency charged with promoting foreign development, funded a guide for “organizers around the globe seeking to hold candidate debates for elected offices.” The guide, published in 2014, recommends that debates be as inclusive as possible.
“With an inclusive debate, the sponsor sends the message that all candidates have a right to be heard,” the guide, which appears in English and Arabic, notes. The guide claims that there are some instances in which voters are served by limiting participants in the debate. For example, “Limiting the number of candidates allows voters to hear in more depth about the policies of the front runners, who are more likely to actually gain office and govern.”
“However,” the guide notes that, “excluding a number of candidates can open up sponsors to public accusations of discrimination and political bias against the aspirants (or even legal action) from smaller parties that do not receive an invitation.” A possible “middle ground,” the guide advises, is to hold multiple debates, including a forum with second tier candidates, and other public events “to help all candidates get their message to the public.”
The American public will not see either of the third party candidates with a significant following during the first presidential debate tonight. Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein were disqualified from participating in the debate by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the private organization that organizing the event. There are no nationally televised debates scheduled this fall for the public to hear from Stein or Johnson.
The USAID guide also encourages moderators of debates to ask follow-up questions “to clarify a candidate’s answer or to probe his or her positions more deeply.” That’s also very different than our system. In 2012, a leaked “Memo of Understanding” between the Democratic and Republican candidates asserted that moderators could not ask follow-up questions, making it nearly impossible to fact-check the candidates.