Yesterday night at Busboys and Poets, those issues and more were covered ad nauseum in a debate between the third party candidates. The four candidates all packed into a small back room of the hip cafe on V Street for a debate moderated by perhaps the most (in)famous third-party contender ever, Ralph Nader.
For starters, here’s a brief rundown on each candidate and his or her respective party:
- Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Party candidate and has ballot access in 49 states (the exception being Oklahoma). He supports the usual slate of Libertarian positions, including the Fair Tax, massive spending reductions in both social programs and the military, and a hands-off approach to both social and economic policy.
- Harvard-educated physician Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate and is on the ballot in 38 states and districts, or as she likes to say, “for 85 percent of the population.” Her platform, dubbed The Green New Deal, is basically a beefed-up, environmentally-focused stimulus package taking its cues from the European Green Party manifesto with the same name.
- The Constitution Party is running former Virginia Representative Virgil Goode for president, and is on the ballot in 24 states. If Mitt Romney’s policies will take America back to the 1950s, Goode’s promise to vault the nation into the paleolithic era, calling for, among other draconian proposals, a moratorium on almost all immigration until unemployment is below five percent. He also criticized the Fair Tax for being too high and progressive in an exchange with Johnson.
Read more after the jump on Gavin’s summary of the highs and lows of the third party debate.
- Last but not least, Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is running on the newly formed Justice Party ticket. He is on the ballot in 15 states, and his platform is similar to Stein’s, although he puts enormous emphasis on “equal application of the laws,” as a former civil rights lawyer.
The debate was, in many ways, a complete contrast to the highly publicized sparrings of President Obama and Governor Romney. At hardly any time did the candidates try to construct a narrative or obscure their positions with a hand-waving story. Instead, they opted to list their policy positions methodically with little appeal to emotion (besides anger) or a shared American experience. There was a certain amount of friendly camaraderie between the candidates—after all, they share similar struggles—and they criticized the two major parties much more than their fellow outsiders.
Johnson bellowed so loudly into his microphone several elderly viewers had to cover their ears. Stein was thoughtful and sensible, but would be seen as too “grandmotherly” (her word, not mine) and gentile by many Americans. Goode was too crass and bigoted towards gay people and immigrants, and spoke in a drawl so deep you thought it had to be an act. The only exception may have been Anderson, the only candidate to mention his elected experience in his opening statement, but his level of exposure makes Johnson seem like a household name.
But even without the glitz, the debate had its entertaining moments. As it turns out, Johnson believes climate change is actually caused by humans, although he supports no government action to mitigate it (Goode, perhaps not wanting to be odd man out, simply passed on the question).
Nader contributed to the festivities by carting out a giant poster of Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner emblazoned with corporate sponsors, in response to a previous Johnson quote that elected officials should wear NASCAR-type jackets listing their campaign contributors.
In a particularly poignant response, Stein decried the American security state with a story about her arrest for protesting the second presidential debate, saying she was “handcuffed to a chair for 8 hours in a ‘dark site’” and “surrounded by 16 police officers” with her running mate Cheri Honkala.
Of course, none of these candidates has a dream of being elected when the votes are counted Tuesday, but as Johnson emphasized, the threshold for their success is much lower. If any candidate can garner 5 percent of the national popular vote (Johnson is polling closest), all the obstacles to ballot access nationwide are eliminated.
“That’s an absolute game changer,” he said, because of significant time, money, and litigation needed to get on the ballot in each state.
In the end, it must take a special kind of crazy for these candidates to commit so much time and energy for campaigns that regularly only amount to a the-system-is-broken critique, but it was Jill Stein who offered the best rationalization for their plight: “One of every two voters is staying home,” she said. “My campaign … our campaigns are giving them a reason to come out.”