The League of Women Voters hosted presidential debates until 1987 when the Commission on Presidential Debates, dominated by the two principal parties, took control. The Commission has since attempted to exclude from debates those candidates from small but established "alternate" or "third" political parties. As anyone who has seen "An Unreasonable Man" knows, Ralph Nader, while presidential nominee for the Green Party, and despite having a ticket to attend a debate, was prevented by a henchman in a police uniform from even entering the site.
Cynthia McKinney, so admired within progressive and environmental communities, and for years a prime target for right wing attack, will most certainly be the Green Party nominee for president. That being so, it is appropriate that all democrats and all republicans running for the presidency should, simply and directly, answer the following:
Cynthia McKinney is to be the presidential nominee for the Green Party, a recognized political party in the United States. Would you support her inclusion in the presidential debates? If not, why not? If so, what would you do to see that she is not excluded?
It's not a trick question, but it's about more than McKinney and the Green Party, because it taps a candidate's sense of basic fairness, so that any answer at all would reveal much about the individual. And any such answer as "Well, I have nothing to do with that, because it's the business of the Presidential Commission on Debates" is simply avoidance of an uncomfortable but important issue -- the avoidance itself revealing.
The two principle parties have developed a lock on our system that has fostered a widely held assumption that the two-party system is part of our legal structure, but that is emphatically not so. The founding fathers for the most part were opposed to parties. The present two dominant parties resulted from a nineteenth century split into two opposing factions of what had been the "Democratic-Republican Party". Both resulting parties now depend so heavily on corporate support that they are seen to serve a single corporate interest -- so much so that many observers refer caustically to "The Republicrat Party".
Financially powerful interests that now control much of our information distribution have every reason to keep the United States hooked on this two-party assumption, because with its simple "either-or" format it is easy to control. In any given race, for example, it's no trick for a dominant corporate interest, itself wallowing in cash, to stuff the campaigns of both nominees with enough money to give it immediate "access" to whomever the winner might be.
Posing to major party candidates the question of "third party" inclusion in debates is important. Even if it were not to result in McKinney's being in the debates this year, it would serve to bring the issue of the two-party assumption into brighter light.