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General News    H1'ed 8/28/16

Presidential Debates: A Fraud on the American Voter?

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PT: Yes and no.

As you noted, both Sanders and Trump ran as outsiders, and their candidacies highlight the importance of debates, in this case the primary debates.

On the Republican side, the primary debates were more numerous, giving an outsider like Trump a platform. (Trump also got a big boost from overly generous media coverage right from the outset of his campaign, particularly from CNN.)

On the Democratic side, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz ensured outsiders like Sanders wouldn't have much of a chance. Wasserman-Schultz, who served as Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign co-chair, reduced the number of debates from 25 (in 2008) to just six in 2016 (three more were later added), with three of those on weekends when viewership is lower. Then-presidential candidate Martin O'Malley called the debate schedule "rigged."

Had the 2016 Democratic debates been as numerous as in 2008, Sanders may well have captured the Democratic nomination. (Conversely, if the 2008 Democratic debates had been as sparse as 2016, it's less likely an outsider like Obama could have defeated Clinton.)

This highlights the central role debates play in our democratic process. But rather than being run by nonpartisan groups, it's the Democrats and Republicans in control, and they're not about to roll out the red carpet for third parties.

You asked if the Sanders and Trump candidacies "change the equation at all"? For the folks running the debates, not really, since their primary mission is to maintain control.

But outside this power bubble, something is stirring. This pressure from below may well force a change in the present arrangement, whether in this election or an upcoming one.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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