Exclusion of Popular CandidatesSix weeks before the 1998 gubernatorial election in Minnesota, The Star Tribune pegged Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura at 10 percent in the polls. Three debates later, on October 20, he was at 21 percent. Remarkably, Ventura's cash-strapped campaign had not yet aired a single television advertisement. On Election Day, Ventura captured 37 percent of the vote and became the governor of Minnesota. Governor Ventura explained his astounding victory, "I was allowed to debate. I proved that you could go from 10 percent to 37 percent and win if you're allowed to debate. Rest assured these two parties don't want to ever see that happen again."
Minnesota public radio and the Minnesota chapter of the League of Women Voters, which alternated sponsorship of the eight gubernatorial debates, insisted that Ventura be allowed to participate. That's what happens when pro-democracy institutions committed to voter education run the debates.
By contrast, the CPD is often committed to preserving the viability of the Republican and Democratic parties, at the expense of popular third-party candidates. As a result, the CPD excludes third-party candidates that a majority of Americans want to see, even though those candidates would raise pressing national issues, may have a chance of winning the race, and will likely increase voter turnout and debate viewership.
Historically, third party candidates have played critical roles in our democracy by introducing popular and groundbreaking issues that were eventually co-opted by major parties, such as: the abolition of slavery, women's right to vote, social security, child labor laws, public schools, the direct election of senators, paid vacation, unemployment compensation and the formation of labor unions. Excluded third-party candidates, however, can't break the bipartisan conspiracy of silence on certain issues where the major parties are at odds with most of the American people.