HIGHTOWER: Stacking the Political Deck

Here we go again. The two-party duopoly of Republicans and Democrats are conspiring to control the market on political choice by keeping any third party voices out of this fall's presidential debates.Something called the Commission on Presidential Debates has issued a decree that, in effect, will assure that only the Democrat and Republican will be presented to the voting public -- no "outsider" ideas from the presidential nominees of the Green, Reform, Libertarian, Natural Law, Taxpayer's or other legitimate parties will be allowed to intrude into these nationally televised debates. Instead, voters will get the same old Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber from the two candidates of the status quo.The commission says that candidates will be allowed to debate only if polls show they have the support of 15 percent of voters. That might sound reasonable until you realize that underfunded third party candidates can only get high poll ratings if the public sees them in the kind of national forums that the debates offer. What if Coke and Pepsi said no other soft drink could get on the supermarket shelf unless it already had 15 percent of the market?Well, snaps the co-chair of the commission, "There have to be rules to the game." First of all, this is not a "game" -- it's the election of the President of the United States. The purpose of the debates is for voters to be able to see their full range of choices, then we have an election so the people themselves can decide who are the "worthy" candidates. Second, if we're going to have entry rules for the debates, the key question is: who makes the rules?Guess who co-chairs this Commission on Presidential Debates? Frank Fahrenkopf, the former head of the Republican Party, and Paul Kirk, former head of the Democratic Party. Its nine directors all are Democrats or Republicans -- no third parties have a voice.This is Jim Hightower saying ... you don't have to be in Who's Who to know What's What -- this is a stacked deck, stacked against real voter choice.

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