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Ron Martz: A rigged debate farce
Parties not only chose unpopular candidates, they conspire to keep third-party hopefuls off the stag
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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton face off in the first presidential debate Sept. 26 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. They meet again Sunday night, but is the format the best forum for discussion of issues without other candidates invited to take part? - photo by Mary Altaffer

The second presidential debate is scheduled for tonight and I am going to enjoy missing it just as much as I enjoyed missing the first one, and will undoubtedly enjoy missing the third one Oct. 19.

It’s not that I don’t care about the presidential race or politics or the future of this country. It’s that I care too much to subject myself to the farcical theater this campaign has become.

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will continue to stress their campaign themes in the upcoming debates. For Clinton it’s “I’m not Trump and that’s the only reason you need to vote for me.” For Trump it’s “I’m great and you’re stupid if you don’t recognize it.”

But other than that there are two overriding reasons I am boycotting these debates.

First, but not necessarily foremost, is the fact that both Clinton and Trump have demonstrated repeatedly that they are pathological liars. The problem with pathological liars is that you never know if they are lying or telling the truth so it’s always better to assume they are lying until you can prove otherwise.

Clinton is absolutely Nixonesque in her paranoia, lack of transparency and unfamiliarity with anything that resembles the truth.

For Trump, the truth is what he wants it to be at any particular moment, regardless of the facts.

At the rate these two prevaricate I would have to spend the rest of my life trying to sort out fact from their fictions.

But the bigger issue I have with these debates is that they are designed not for the good of the country or the American people, but for the self-enrichment of both parties, Democrats and Republicans.

I find the manner in which the Republicans and Democrats have conspired to limit the access of other candidates to these debates to be undemocratic, un-American and unfair to the American people, many of whom have made it clear that they want a wider choice of candidates from which to choose the person who will lead this country for the next four or — Lord have mercy on us — eight years.

By setting an arbitrary polling threshold of 15 percent, the Commission on Presidential Debates (which is run by party hacks) will allow neither Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, nor Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, the opportunity to have their voices heard at the same time as Clinton and Trump and debate real issues with them.

It’s not that Johnson and Stein are particularly strong candidates. Johnson is polling just under 10 percent, Stein under 5 percent. But if we are a representative democracy, where the free flow of ideas is championed and the education of the American people through open and vigorous political discourse is important, why in the name of God’s holy trousers do we not let Johnson and Stein share the stage with Clinton and Trump?

The reason is simple: It would mean the Democrats and Republics would have to cede power to minority candidates and they are unwilling to do that, even if it is in the best interests of the country and the American people.

In a New York Times op-ed piece after the first debate, Johnson wrote “the America I know wasn’t on the television screen on Monday night.”

An August lawsuit filed by Johnson and Stein in an effort to be included in the debates said that “To be excluded from the debates is an ‘electoral death sentence.’”

Third parties have not fared well in this country, due in no small part to the fact that Republicans and Democrats have worked assiduously to marginalize them and keep the people from hearing their voices and their ideas.

One of the more recent exceptions was 1992, when Texas businessman Ross Perot, running as an independent, received 19 percent of the popular vote but no electoral votes.

In 2000, Ralph Nader ran on the Green Party ticket and received only 3 percent of the vote, although some political analysts believe it may have been just enough to swing the election in George W. Bush’s favor.

But in neither the 1992 nor the 2000 elections were any of the candidates perceived so unfavorably by so many voters as are Clinton and Trump. As of Oct. 3 Trump’s unfavorable rating on the Real Clear Politics average of major polls was 57.7 percent. Clinton’s unfavorable rating was at 53.4 percent.

What’s worse is that Clinton’s favorable rating was just 42.9 percent. Trump was worse with 37.9 percent.

Those numbers are clear evidence the parties have failed the American people by offering up the two most disliked candidates for the presidency since we started measuring such things.

It’s not that I’m a big fan of either Johnson or Stein, but I find both of them to be far less repugnant than either Clinton or Trump. To paraphrase what former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said about Guantanamo Bay, Johnson and Stein are the “least worst” candidates in this election.

So while some will decry my vote for someone other than Clinton or Trump as throwing away my vote or giving the election to either highly disliked candidate, it’s my form of nonviolent political protest. Instead of parading around with a sign, I’ll do my protesting at the ballot box.

As for whom I will actually vote, I’m still trying to make up my mind.

I may just write in Deez Nuts, the Iowa teen running as an independent who did well in primary polling last year in North Carolina and is among the 1,897 people registered with the Federal Elections Commission as presidential candidates.

Of course, Mr. Nuts is not to be confused with Deez W. Nutz, who has no party affiliation and is from New York, or with any of the other Nuts listed as candidates.

Other possibilities for my vote include Buddy the Cat (running as a Democrat), Very Odd Dog (Natural Law Party), Blue Hair Guy (independent) or my favorite, Sydneys Voluptuous Buttocks (independent).

A debate with all those folks on stage would certainly demonstrate clearly and unequivocally to the American people what Clinton and Trump have tried to show us without a lot of success: that this campaign has become a joke without any punch lines.

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Ron Martz is Marine Corps veteran (1965-68), journalist and former educator whose commentaries appear each month. He lives in Northeast Georgia.

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