If the two-candidate presidential debate from Denver proved anything, it was that President Obama is a terrible spokesperson for progressive values. Romney's fervent claims that free market capitalism solves all problems could not be rebutted in any convincing way by a president who has spent the last four year betraying every progressive constituency that elected him.
At one point the president made the Romneyesque assertion that " The genius of America is the free enterprise system." Really? I thought the genius of America was that just power is based on the consent of the governed.
Fortunately, I was able to watch the "expanded debate" on Democracy Now in which the magic of video editing allowed two additional candidates to participate: Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.
Stein and Anderson quickly put Obama and Romney to shame. They raised the debate out of its tedious quibbling and talked about real solutions that are being ignored by both Obama and Romney. Voters would have come away much better informed if either Stein or Anderson had been allowed into the debate.
Another striking way in which the two-candidate debate failed was the way it sidestepped some of the most critical issues of domestic policy. Things would have been different if Jill Stein had been allowed to stand on the podium and raise the issues she has been talking about on the campaign trail. For example:
• Poverty. Half of Americans are living in poverty or close to it. Stein says that this is eating away the social fabric of the nation, and she wants to address poverty as an urgent problem. Obama and Romney spent their time talking about tax breaks for business owners.
• The big Wall Street giveaways, including the Obama Administration's latest massive outlay of $40b a month under the new "quantitative easement" program. Stein opposes further bailouts and wants to break up the big banks that have grown even bigger since President Obama took office.
• The bloated Pentagon budget that has doubled since the fall of the Soviet Union, resulting in the United States spending as much as the rest of the world combined. Obama and Romney would continue the spending with minor adjustments. Stein says we can be just as secure while cutting back as much as 50%.
• Climate change. This is the greatest challenge our generation faces. It's already killing a lot more people than terrorists, and yet Obama and Romney are foot-draggers in the battle. Stein wants to push for international climate treaties and to launch a major industrial mobilization to move the nation toward clean, renewable energy.
• Stagnant wages. While they will talk about jobs, Obama/Romney don't address the fact that the new jobs the economy is creating pay far less than the jobs that were lost. Stein wants to push for livable wages and for labor laws that help workers get their fair share of productivity increases.
• The student debt crisis. This is our greatest consumer debt problem and its undermining higher education. Obama wants to be thanked for keeping the interest rates constant - in other words, for doing nothing. Romney wants to make things worse by privatizing the loans. Jill Stein would talk about bailing out students rather than Wall Street banks, and making higher education tuition free so that student debt does not continue to accumulate.
• Real solutions to health care. Romney and Obama propose Obamacare/Romneycare health care reforms that are destined to fail, resulting in cuts in coverage, rising co-payments, and medical bankruptcies. Jill Stein would talk about a proven solution that is providing affordable health care around the world: Medicare-for-all.
• Big money in politics that is taking over our democracy. As beneficiaries of the cash, Obama and Romney don't want this discussed. Jill Stein would note that she refuses to take this money, and that she stands for public campaign financing that would roll back the ability of big donors to buy elections.
• Threats to civil liberties posed by the indefinite detention bill, the Patriot Act, and the growing spying network of the Department of Homeland Security. Jill Stein would repeal the laws that infringe upon our civil liberties, and issue an executive order to forbid the FBI and Department of Homeland Security from infringing upon free speech.
• The secret contract of the Commission on Presidential Debates which reveals an intention to never allow any other candidates to challenge the Democratic/Republican duopoly. This strikes at the heart of our democracy and if makes the United States the only developed democracy that allows two private parties to suppress their political opposition.
You don't have to agree with the Green Party on every issue to see that a debate on "domestic issues" is a sham if it dances away from all these topics. And even more importantly, it could be argued that our nation is put at risk by having possible solutions to our critical problems censored and expunged from the national dialogue. For our very survival, we need to break up the "only two candidates" censorship and challenge the degenerate journalism that sustains it.