Debating about Debates

Just to continue the election discussion (with ready eye on differences between Canadian and U.S. system) started from a previous post along with links to other related stories and comments, I would like to add some more comments about Elizabeth May (leader of the Green Party) being excluded and then included in the television debate.

In another article from the Globe and Mail, it quotes that “Mr. Layton and Mr. Harper said they objected to her presence because, on occasion, she had expressed support for Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion. Allowing her into the debate would effectively put two Liberals on the stage, they argued.”

Do their reasons for excluding May, if true, seem a bit absurd and illogical, especially in a democracy? Are we not free, in a democratic country, to express our support for the party and leader we so desire? Are not leaders also free to agree with ideas and members from parties not their own? If there are, in fact, ‘two Liberals on the stage,” then maybe the other leaders should think long and hard about why those ‘liberal’ policies are attracting support and consider counteracting those ideas or buidling upon them and suggesting how their own parties can do a better job.

Indeed, in these build up to elections, so much, too much time is spent on arguing about procedures, how to play the game, rather than the substance of the game itself. It’s no wonder many Americans find our system odd when we have such heated debates on the participation of Elizebeth May, yet just automatically include the Bloc Party (whose only interest is in protecting French rights) as one of the players in every election.

How about in the States? Do these issues arise? Or maybe it’s worse in that only 2 parties are ever really in the debate? Or is actually less about the Party but the Presidential candidates? Other than Nader in the past, does any name even have any recognition beyond the 2 main parties?

Patrick Law

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Debating about Debates

  1. mistermanly

    Hi Patrick,

    Please excuse me in advance for my tendency to lecture.

    Political debates are quite complicated down here, mostly because they’re privately funded, so the rules are set by the two main parties, since they foot the bill. They make a show of being open to third party participation by saying that, if such a third party got 10% or more of the popular vote in the last election, their Presidential candidate will be included. What they don’t mention is that, over the decades of their control of the Government at both State and Federal levels, the Democrats and Republicans have agreed, for once, on the need to maintain their power, and have set the system up so that it is almost impossible for any other political organization to have a fair chance in elections. Heck, if I recall correctly, no third party has even managed to get on the ballet in all 50 States, with the possible exception of Ross Perot in 1992, let alone have any real chance of winning. On the other hand, a third party candidate who gets even a tiny portion of the vote, can swing the election on way or the other. Perot, for instance, kept the first President Bush from a second term, and Nader probably put the second President Bush into office by taking the hand full of votes he got in Florida away from Gore.

    On the gripping hand, it gets even worse when you understand that we don’t actually get to vote for President. What we really do is cast a vote to elect a group of people, the number of whom is equal to the number of Senators and Representatives from the State in which one is voting, who, if elected, then become members of that year’s Electoral College. This group then meets and elects a President. Note that, while it doesn’t happen often, at least in some States these people aren’t legally bound to vote for any particular candidate, so it is possible that, especially in a close race, the candidate who seems to have won, may not win. In an extreme case, someone who wasn’t even running for the office could be elected. I’d truly love to see that happen.

    Mister Manly

  2. Mr Manly,
    No worries about lecturing. I can use a few more for learning. The Electoral College….that’s one thing I’m glad we in Canada don’t have. Isn’t that a beast of a system to understand?

    It’s also good to hear your comments here, at other posts, and at your blog, because we can bounce what we read from a distance in Canadian papers with what Americans, such as you, actually think.

    On a personal note, usually I’ve been voting for minor parties….minor candidates who don’t have the support financially that the major parties do. There is no worse feeling than when I’m about to vote..and someone tells me I’m actually wasting my vote and putting someone else in government. While that may be true…there is no worse feeling than this sense of helplessness where my vote…really means nothing? Or my voting action actually produces a more undesirable result than not voting at all?

    -patrick

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