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Open debates to other candidates
The Daily Oklahoman
October 18, 2000
by R.C. Sevier White

HARRY Browne, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate, is on the ballot in all 50 states, yet he was not allowed into any of the debates. A bipartisan (Democrats and Republicans only, thank you) "Commission on Debates" is America's new ruler on how democracy is brokered. The commission had decreed that a candidate must poll at least 15 percent in the polls to be included. How kind of them!

Four years ago they required 10 percent. Why the increase? Because the underestimated Jesse Ventura was allowed in the Minnesota governor's race debate, immediately jumped to a 10 percent rating and ultimately went on to victory. The commission has decided that the third parties can be silenced with a 33 percent jump in requirements.

Where is it written in the Constitution that a handful of people can dictate to the media who can and who can't be included in the debates using an arbitrary percentage of popularity as a guide rule? Never mind that Browne earned a place on the ballot in all 50 states. It's a rigged game!

Third parties and independents must spend a great deal of time, money and energy in order to overcome restrictive ballot access laws put in place by the ruling parties. But these laws don't apply to the major parties. In Massachusetts, the Republicans failed to qualify for ballot access in the senatorial race. Were they held to the same strict standards set for outsiders? Indeed not. A kindly judge made an exception to the law; the status quo was preserved.

Ralph Nader's petitioners discovered the harsh realities involved in petitioning in Oklahoma, widely regarded as having one of the most difficult ballot access laws in the nation. These laws come to us compliments of the ruling parties. A fair fight is one thing; it's another when the power of the law is used to shut down the competition.

Just to make sure the power is reserved for them, the ruling elites have established a Commission on Debates made up of powerful people in those same two parties to control the debate process. And they have the gall to declare themselves impartial.

How is a democracy supposed to flourish when access to information and ideas are suppressed? When Al Gore and George W. Bush are the only two "debating," most people yawn and turn the channel.

White is the Libertarian Party candidate for the 3rd Congressional District seat. He faces incumbent Wes Watkins, a Republican, and Argus W. Yandell Jr., an independent candidate. White lives in Norman, which is not in the 3rd District.

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