By Jerry Alatalo
“It was government by discussion that broke the bond of ages and set free the originality of man.”
– WALTER BAGEHOT (1826-1877) English economist
he 2016 process for electing the next President and Vice President of the United States has come down to – using a college basketball term – the “Final Four”. For sports enthusiasts, the annual competition among U.S. collegiate basketball teams called “March Madness” – where an initial field of 64 teams battles it out on the hardwood until those still standing dwindle down to the “Sweet Sixteen”, then “Elite Eight”, “Final Four”, and the eventual national champions – is a much-anticipated yearly ritual. For the purpose of this writing, it is important to remember that sports champions become determined through direct competition on the field.
There is no difference between candidates for office and athletes, in the sense of logic that asserts politics and sports are fundamentally identical with regard to “deciding it on the field”. Because, thus far, Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson (the “other two” making the “Final Four”) have not secured a place in debates with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the “on the field” concept has become ignored or trampled under foot.
That current situational reality of election 2016 is equivalent to telling two NCAA basketball teams who’ve fought through the competition to the final four that they must now… “Forget about showing up – you’re out of the game, so just stay home.” Most people upon hearing such a development would consider it simply in direct contradiction to everything taken for granted about being an American. In the same way of thinking, exclusion of Dr. Stein and Mr. Johnson from debates with Ms. Clinton and Mr. Trump is un-American and wrong.
Now, what is going through the minds of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump when neither of them are welcoming of a series, perhaps four or more, of 4-way debates (ideally, very lengthy ones) for the benefit of American voters? Such a series of debates could easily be arranged, but the obvious stumbling block is the awkward absence of agreement between the four remaining candidates. Dr. Stein and Mr. Johnson agree for equally obvious reasons, chiefly: to get their messages to voters via national media and maximize their respective campaigns’ chances for success.
For Clinton and Trump, their silence or opposition to 4-way debates is also about maximizing their chances for success, but upon consideration one comes to see their stance as failing to recognize the distinction between political and business/market-driven competition. Men and women who run for political office do so, ideally, for reasons associated with the concept of public service – to citizens in their cities, counties, states, regions or nation. Those men and women loyal to the public service nature of political participation and leadership have no fear of allowing people to express the full spectrum of ideas focused on improving constituents’ health and well-being. In fact, they encourage and welcome any practical ideas offering real potential for realized improvement in societal conditions.
It could be argued that encouragement and welcome inclusion of ideas which are new, different and/or opposed to those predominating at any given time in political arenas small to great is an especially important consideration at the highest level, the presidency, where conditions in the lives of billions around the Earth are in the balance. How can Americans accept or tolerate a political system where more time for actual head-to-head debate gets devoted to, as an example, races for State Representative or Senator – than the time allotted for presidential debates?
If candidates for a particular local or state office spend, say, an average of three hours in head-to-head debates, wouldn’t the logical extension at the presidential level lead one to imagine grand totals/averages for presidential candidates in the range of thirty (30) to forty (40) hours, particularly in the remaining 90 days before election day? Now is not the time to stifle debate but to let it expand to maximum levels, all the while knowing the American people are wise enough to make good decisions on both ideas and the candidates who propose them.
The question for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump with regard to 4-way, lengthy, prime-time televised debates is this: “What exactly are your reasons for opposing debates with Dr. Stein and Mr. Johnson, when any imagined result leads to record-level viewership by the American people?” Moreover, can any reasonable observer but conclude that 4-way presidential debates will profoundly increase citizens’ interest, enthusiasm, discussion, study, critical thinking skills, and participation in the democratic process? The consequences are nothing but positive – absolutely positive.
So, the Green Party nominee Dr. Jill Stein presented her proposals, ideas and reasoning during her acceptance speech in Houston, Texas over the weekend. Let Ms. Clinton, Mr. Johnson, Dr. Stein and Mr. Trump agree on:
- the benefits of election debates and affirming the immensely positive educative nature of intellectual effort for political “competition”, alternatively known as public service
- serious debates’ potential for raising the level of democratic thought, speech and action by Americans, and people of the world, to record heights
- the moral imperative for forthrightly engaging – like the great philosophers of ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy – in the honorable, broad-spectrum exchange of cross-sector ideas devoted to betterment of humanity
- And… the rightness of rapidly arranging then carrying out the “Great 2016 Presidential Debates”
Do the right thing, America. Settle matters “on the field”. Let the debates begin…
“To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!”
– H.L. MENCKEN (1880-1956) American editor
(Thank you to TYT Politics at YouTube)