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Hofstra Presidential Debate Excludes 3rd Party Candidates: What Would Victoria Woodhull Do?

By Kimberly Wilder  Posted by Ian Wilder (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Victoria Woodhull was a woman’s rights advocate, a leader in the woman’s suffrage movement,  and a supporter of the labor movement. In 1872, Victoria Woodhull was a candidate for President of the United States with the Equal Rights Party.

This year, one of the pre-debate educational events at Hofstra University in Long Island will include a historical re-enactment presentation entitled “Women’s Rights: Conflicts and Schisms”, which will include the character of Victoria Woodhull.

Here is a question for the debate hosts and organizers: Would Victoria Woodhull, a third party presidential candidate, have been allowed to participate in the Presidential Debates at Hofstra? If Victoria Woodull was excluded - as modern, woman presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney is slated to be - what would Victoria Woodhull have done?

Debate Background

Hofstra University is hosting a Presidential Debate on Wednesday, October 15, 2008.  The organizers of the debate are set to include only the two major party candidates, thus excluding four other national presidential candidates. As the host venue, Hofstra has not corrected this injustice.

The debate is sponsored by the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates.  Hofstra’s website mistakenly refers to this commission as “nonpartisan” when it is actually bi-partisan–entirely controlled by the Democratic and Republican Parties and funded by a few large corporations (much like the presidential election).  Or, as Connie Rice put it in her 2004 NPR story, Top 10 Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About the Debates:

The “independent and non-partisan” Commission on Presidential Debates is neither independent nor non-partisan. CPD should stand for ‘Cloaking-device for Party Deceptions’ — it is not an independent commission on anything. The CPD is under the total control of the Republican and Democratic parties and by definition bipartisan, not non-partisan. Walter Cronkite called CPD-sponsored debates an ‘unconscionable fraud.’

Of course, that won’t stop the corporately funded PBS from televising the debate in 2008.  Since they did not heed the word of the 2000 debate moderator Mark Shields who commented on the exclusion of that year’s Green Party presidential candidate from the debates:

My apology to Ralph Nader for not demanding he be included in the presidential debates.

As part of the activities leading up to this debate, Hofstra is having Historical Re-enactments and Discussions on Democracy on Tuesday, October 14, 2008.  If many of the characters included in the scheduled re-enactments were alive today, they would be protesting the exclusion of third party candidates from the actual debate the next day. The following presidential candidates were not invited to the Hofstra  Presidential Debate, even though they are on the ballot in enough states to win in the electoral college: Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, independent candidate Ralph Nader, and Libertarian candidate Bob Barr.  All of these candidates will be on a sufficient number of ballots to win a majority of the electoral college votes.

What Would Victoria Woodhull do?

It will be fascinating to see a portrayal of Victoria Woodhull at the Hofstra event, because Woodhull was such a visionary woman. There was some controversy about her among woman suffrage leaders, because Woodhull had bold ideas and strategies. While other women were fighting for the right to vote, Victoria Woodhull said to just do it, just vote. She noted that women already had the right to vote, since the 14th and 15th Amendments granted that right to all citizens.

Similarly, Victoria Woodhull ran for President, while some people at the time would claim that as a woman, she was not eligible.

If Victoria Woodhull was running for President today, and was not invited to the debates, I believe she would have just shown up. (And, I am hoping that some of the third party candidates will do just that at Hofstra on Wednesday, October 15th.)

What Would You Do To Help Third Party Candidates Receive Fair Treatment And An Invitation To The Debates?

Here are some action ideas:

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