No Debate: How the Two Major Parties Secretly Ruin the Presidential Debates

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Broadcast to tens of millions of Americans, the presidential debates are the Super Bowl of politics. A good performance before the cameras can vault a contender to the front of the pack, while a gaffe spells national embarrassment and can savage a candidacy. The slim margin for error has led the two major parties to seek—and achieve, under the aegis of the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates—tight control through scripting, severe time limits, and the exclusion of third-party candidates. In No Debate, author and lobbyist George Farah argues that these staged recitations make a mockery of free and fair presidential elections.

With urgency and clarity, this book reviews the history of presidential debates, the impact of the debates since the advent of television, the role of the League of Women Voters, the antidemocratic activity of the CPD, and the specific ways that the Republicans and Democrats collude to remove all spontaneity from the debates themselves. The author presents the complete text of a previously unreleased secret document between the Republicans and Democrats that reveals the degree to which the two parties—not the CPD—dictate the terms of the debates. In the final chapter, Farah lays out a compelling strategy for restoring the presidential debates as a nonpartisan, unscripted, public events that help citizens—not corporations or campaign managers—decide who is going to run the White House.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781583226308
  • Publisher: Seven Stories Press
  • Publication date: 3/24/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.55 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Meet the Author

GEORGE FARAH is the founder and executive director of Open Debates, a Washington-based nonprofit committed to reforming the presidential debate process. He is also a student at Harvard Law School. His articles have appeared in Extra! Magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as other publications.

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Table of Contents

List of cartoons
1 Debate cartel 1
2 Hostile takeover 23
3 Candidate exclusion 39
4 Stilted formats 75
5 The 15 percent fiction 97
6 Issue exclusion 125
7 Failed restitution 140
8 Citizens' debate commission 155
Conclusion 173
App. A 1996 memorandum of understanding 176
App. B Joint press release from the Democratic and Republican national committees 191
Notes 194
Index 213
About the author 224
About the open debates 224
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2004

    Why Hasn't Someone Said This Before?

    The dynamic works like this: Americans who suspect something fishy is going on decide that it probably isn't because if it were that would be just ridiculous and someone would have done something about it. I've found myself thinking this way on occasion. If the political process were really that unfairly schewed towards the interests of those who could afford to contribute to campaigns, then someone would change the system, right? If the U.S. were really supporting bad governments Latin America, someone would have said something about it, right? It's a sort of naivite, or perhaps merely a natural human response, like those sociology experiments where people in a smoking waiting room fail to get up, run, or even react so long as no one else seems to notice the smoke. I think that something like this has been effect with respect to the Presidential debates, and I am glad that someone has decided to finally write a book detailing the ways in which the limited debate process reduces the pool of ideas which is the real essence of a good democracy. Before reading Mr. Farah's book I thought: if the debate process were really just a sham, someone would have said something about it. And the candidates wouldn't be quite so brazen about only including the leading candidates. They would have to cover up by at least including a third party candidate here and there (besides the anomolous Ross Perot). If it were really just the Democrats and the Republicans deciding how they wanted to run the election for the most important position in the country--and arguably the world--someone would have cried foul. No Debate cries foul in a clear and unpretentious way. I found myself feeling enlightened as I read--enlightened and also angry. The debate process has been hijacked. No Debate offers a way for us to take it back.

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