I miss Glenn Greenwald. He was one of the few informed and honest voices in the US media. Fortunately, we can still follow him on the Guardian UK. His latest article addresses how the rules for the Presidential debates express the sorry state of democracy in the US today. His summary statement is perfect, “Secret collusion between the two parties, funded by corporations, run by lobbyists: all the ingredients are there.”
The debates were once run by the League of Women Voters who would not let the candidates cherry pick topics or control the questions to be asked. The two parties came together in 1990 to protect their candidates from such democratic scrutiny. The independent League of Women’s voters was replaced by a private corporation called “the Commission on Presidential Debates” that would be under the mutual control of the two parties.
According to a recently leaked document the purpose of the change was to “eliminate spontaneity” and “exclude all third-party voices.”
“We have a private corporation that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties called the Commission on Presidential Debates. It seized control of the presidential debates precisely because the League was independent, precisely because this women’s organization had the guts to stand up to the candidates that the major-party candidates had nominated. And instead of making public these contracts and resisting the major-party candidates’ manipulations, the commission allows the candidates to negotiate these 21-page contracts that dictate all the fundamental terms of the debates.” -George Farah
Under the new agreement the candidates are not allowed to ask each other questions. They can only address topics previously agreed upon. Neither the audience nor the moderator can ask follow up questions. Even reaction shots of candidates are to be cut out.
The presidential debates are now paid for by large corporate sponsors and the debate commission is run by lobbyists. As has become obvious, the moderator is chosen for an inability to think outside the box. As Greenwald concludes:
“Lobbyists who enrich themselves by peddling their influence run everything behind the scenes. Corporations pay for the process, which they exploit and is then run to bolster rather than threaten their interests. The media’s role is to keep the discourse as restrictive and unthreatening as possible while peddling the delusion that it’s all vibrant and free and independent and unrestrained. And it all ends up distorting political realities far more than illuminating them while wildly exaggerating the choices available to citizens and concealing the similarities between the two parties.”
So what is the difference between the presidential debates and the muppets? Not much. The only difference is, sometimes when you watch the muppets, you’ll get surprised.