I’m a fan of the two-party system.
But this year is different.
There is no evidence that venturing out into the world of many parties would improve our political process. If exemplary models may inform us here, look at the dysfunction and sometime-chaos of governments in Argentina, Italy, Israel: these are democracies where three, four, five, or more major parties split power in the legislature.
It’s an arrangement that necessitates alliances. And forming coalitions betwixt so many distinct factions creates hodge-podge ideologies, blubbery and slow moving. Like amoebas.
Claiming any kind of popular mandate becomes mostly impossible. And coalition government seems – at least in these examples – at least as inefficient, deadlocked, exasperating, etc. as our current D.C. standoff.
But this year, our two-party system has failed us.
On the one side is the business mogul-cum-reality star, Donald J. Trump, a man unprepared, ill-suited, and just… epically unqualified to be president. You shouldn’t need another rundown of all the reasons why, but if you do, check this out.
And on the other, there is Hillary Clinton. A woman who has experience, but little to show for it. Remember: As Secretary of State, Clinton encouraged the takeout of Gaddafi in Libya, which is now a failed state and terrorism hotbed. Also, the location of Benghazi. Remember too, the Obama administration’s ruinous policy in Syria, where 400,000 civilians are now dead, and millions of refugees have flooded into Europe.
(On a personal note… I think it would be really grand if our first female president didn’t have to first be married to a man president. I think about the implications of this precedent, sometimes).
The character issue with both Trump and Clinton is also deeply problematic. Trump has made a slew of offensive, mean, sometimes cruel, and often ludicrous remarks, insulting everyone from Gold Star parents to a disabled reporter to our military personnel.
Knowing this, it should shock and terrify (everyone) that a CNN poll of likely voters recently found Trump deemed trustworthy by 50% of voters, to Clinton’s paltry 35%. Setting up a private email server, deleting tens of thousands of said emails, “disappearing” electronic devices, refusing to hold a press conference for hundreds of days, and you know… accepting millions of dollars from corrupt foreign regimes for “no strings attached” well-building in Africa… Yeah, voters don’t buy all of that.
So it should surprise no one to learn that over 50% of voters have unfavorable views of BOTH Clinton and Trump. Amy Chozik and Megan Thee-Brenan at the New York Times wrote this back in July, “In a development not seen in any modern presidential contest, more than half of all voters hold unfavorable views of the two major party candidates and large majorities say neither is honest and trustworthy.”
It’s worth repeating here: “Large majorities say neither is honest and trustworthy.”
Hmmm… What’s a good response to that historic sort of dissatisfaction with the two primary candidates?
Well, if I were a member of The Commission on Presidential Debates, I would say that politely “inviting” networks to host and air an “Undercard” debate for the three viable third-party candidates would be a good start.
Oh, let me back up. Perhaps you didn’t know that three other candidates will likely be on your ballot this November: Gary Johnson on the Libertarian Party ticket, Jill Stein on the Green Party ticket, and Evan McMullin on his own Independent candidacy ticket.
Which means voters don’t have just two options. They will have at least four, and probably five.
But aren’t Clinton and Trump the only two “real” possibilities?
In any other year, yes. In any other year, I’d say third-party candidates just work as spoilers, diluting the message of voters. In any other year, I’d say forget those other guys, and make your vote count.
But this year is different.
And while the Commission set its rules for presidential debate inclusion to be restricted to candidates with at least 15% in an average of polls, the truth is that rule can stand.
I’m happy to see Clinton and Trump debate, just the two of them.
But Johnson, McMullin, and Stein should get a stage of their own, before or after. Voters deserve that. They deserve to see if one (or more) among those three are more worthy of the highest office our nation has, given the historic unpopularity and unfitness of the two major-party candidates.
Networks could also host their own “Undercard” debate, whenever they wanted. CNN seems to do a Town Hall every other day, so why not a debate? My guess is that Johnson, Stein, and McMullin would be thrilled at the chance to share their message, grateful the press threw them a proverbial bone.
Because honestly? The whole notion that your vote is wasted if it isn’t on Trump or Clinton, Clinton or Trump… that’s a lie.
American voters decide who wins the election. We do. And if the media would actually let us see what these other candidates had to offer, we might just choose to kick both these major party nominees back to civilian life.
So my hope is that NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, PBS, or hell, ESPN, E!, Bravo, OWN… someone would grab the ethical baton here, and run with it.
Trust me, your ratings are not gonna suffer. Remember: “large majorities say neither is honest or trustworthy.”
Come on now, media movers and shakers.
Photo: Flickr/ Gage Skidmore