Third Party Debates: 2012

This is to date the final debate of third party candidates. I don’t believe one was held in 2016, if it was, I couldn’t find it, and honestly I don’t care anyway since it’s the same candidates from 2012. Knowing what I do now about Stein and Johnson, I’m not looking forward to analyzing this: Stein’s a disorganized hippie and Johnson is a complete imbecile. We have this one new guy I’m hoping will be the saving grace here—Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, which I had never heard of before. Apparently their shtick is getting corporate influence out of Washington. They were on the ballot in 15 states in 2012, usurping the Constitution Party, briefly, as the 5th largest party in the US. But since then they haven’t gotten anyone elected to any office and didn’t even nominate anyone for President in 2016 (they endorsed Sanders.) I give it another 4 years before they’re officially dead. [Checking in from the future to say, not yet, but they’re completely irrelevant at this point even for a third party. Their official website is also a complete mess.] We also have Virgil Goode, which sounds like a pseudonym for Satan if he took on human form, representing the Constitution Party. Let’s get this over with.

The moderators’ speech before the debate is godawful. It’s adorable how she’s giggling at the audience’s enthusiasm though. And man, even in his mannerisms Virgil screams “evil!” I’m not even sure what the hell the first question is even about. Was there really nothing more important to talk about? Was this some big issue at the time, this “top 2?” It seems to be some other way to keep the third parties down. So this is just another typical question having them all reiterate the obvious—of COURSE they want to make third parties have an easier time getting elected. Doesn’t that go without saying?

Virgil sounds like a literal cartoon character. I’m not trying to make fun of him, it’s just he has the strangest voice you will ever hear. Rocky seems ok: not all that charismatic, just passable. Stein is meh at best. Gary looks like a dope up there. (Seriously, I can’t think of a better way to describe him. Looking at him up there and his skittish mannerisms, his dough face, he’s a big dope.) Just after this first taste of everyone, I can honestly say that having seen what’s come before, Stein, Gary, and Virgil are the weakest candidates their respective parties have ever fielded. Gary has none of the presence or gravitas of his predecessors. Stein has none of the intelligence or charm of Nader or Cobb. I never liked the Constitution Party, but most of its candidates, especially Phillips, were very personable… Virgil isn;t. This guy Rocky’s decent but just that. I’d probably have vote for him in ’16 as opposed to the 4 choices we had that election though, for whatever small praise that’s worth.

I don’t know why, but Jill Stein’s story about getting arrested outside the office of the Committee on Public Debates kinda rubs me the wrong way. On the one hand, yes, it’s important to stand up against the system. But at the same time, just protesting and getting arrested doesn’t do anyone any good either; same as Monica Moorehead from ’96, you just end up looking petulant and entitled. If you’re gonna do something like that, at least plan it out right, get some kind of media outlets on your side to cover it and raise a stink. Or, considering this was 2012 and phones existed, have people set up to film it and do a viral campaign. It’s not that hard these days. I never heard about it then. I know she did the same thing in ’16 too, and I only learned of it by browsing r/politics so often. Again, why do the same thing and in the same uncovered, unhelpful way? You’re not affecting the process and even you must know that. Telling your story here too, and the way she does it, it just comes off badly to me. Like she’s bragging “oh yeah, look what a badass I am! I’m so cool, I got arrested and accomplished nothing!”

It goes along with how, in 2016, Stein said she’d give Snowden a position on her cabinet and give the Green nomination (which wasn’t even hers to just give away anyway) to Bernie if he’d take it. It’s extreme pandering that misses the point. We want Snowden brought home with honor and vindicated…but a spot on the cabinet? Why? How has he earned that in any way? Bernie doesn’t want your Green nomination, he knows that splitting the vote would give us Trump. And considering the other candidates who worked hard to win that nomination and lost to you, for you to hand it away to an outsider that didn’t even run and comes from another party is the worst kind of insult. This feels like the same thing. Nobody cares you’re some protester badass about the debate access…just have a good stand on the issues, offer a legal solution to third party shutout and mobilize your supporters to carry it out. Trespassing and getting arrested is what I expect from well meaning but ignorant high school and college kids, not a serious, knowledgeable presidential candidate.

Jesus Christ, we’re still on this topic? It’s almost 1/3 of the way over and all they’ve discussed is how unfair it is they’ve been excluded from the main debates. We get it. And no one’s disputing how rigged the whole thing is. But enough. We went out of our way to check out this debate to hear you speak your piece. What are your stands on the major issues?

This then takes a turn for the worst when the moderators realize they never had the candidates do opening statements as they had promised, so we have to go back and have them do those openers ALMOST ONE THIRD OF THE WAY INTO THE DEBATE ITSELF. Total amateur hour, completely ruins the immersion and supposed professionalism of the event, embarrassing for the candidates who want to be taken seriously. No one cares about the opening statements anyway, certainly not this late in the game. Just roll with it and ask an extra question or something.

I will say Johnson did do a good job of appealing to the left more by playing up the aspects of Libertarianism which would appeal more to us. He specifically focuses on weed and gay rights in his “opening” statement. This crowd seems a lot more liberal than any previous one because they boo the Constitution Candidate when he says he wants to defund planned parenthood, where that same position bizarrely got applause each time before, even at Hofstra University in 2004. I agree with what all of them except Virgil have to say on weed, but it’s just annoying hearing them yell it and, again, it comes off as pandering and obnoxious. They’re really taking in these applause lines, I tell you what. Just say you’ll legalize and tax it, you don’t have to make a big show of it.

I don’t know if I’m just already in a bad mood or the shoddy moderation has soured me to everything, or it’s my hindsight knowledge of Stein and Johnson (I’d probably love the latter especially if I weren’t so disillusioned by him after 2016) but I just can’t get into this debate. It’s like when I watch Hillary Clinton try to give a rally. Sure, she might hit on some decent talking points I agree with (gays deserve fundamental human rights, yadda yadda) but I can just sense that I’m being pandered and talked down to, not invigorated by a kindred spirit. And for whatever reason, again probably my hindsight and bitterness from 2016, Stein and Johnson just feel phony to me. I know from my own research the ridiculous positions they hold like wi-fi and GMOs cause cancer (Stein) and wanting to defund education and all other beneficial programs (Johnson.) Just like the Democrats though, they’re using a lowest common denominator applause line, in this case, legalize weed, to make me vote their crazy ass in. `

The moderators to this debate are literally the worst I’ve yet seen, which is saying a lot. They try to move onto rebuttals before Stein even gets a chance to speak on the marijuana issue, and then try to move onto another question in the middle of Rocky’s answer even though he had not yet run out of time. Just inexcusably awful. How hard is it to stick to a simple outline of notes and keep track of four people’s speaking time? Especially after the monumental fuck up of the opening statements, you’d think they’d be going out of their way to make sure the rest of the night goes smoothly. I don’t understand why they continually ask for rebuttals even after going around twice or more on both questions now, and when all the candidates sans Virgil agree on the subject anyway, and he’s not gonna rebut because he got booed for his own answer while the rest of them got applause. Johnson is allowed to use his rebuttal to do another stump speech, this time about cocaine putting literal holes in your heart! They play a video of someone asking a question…only to then ask it themselves. Why? Why not just do the latter? It’s a waste of precious time! Who organized this shit show?

As this goes on to Iraq and all the candidates jerking themselves off about how they didn’t fall for the Iraq War chest-beating from Bush, I think what’s turning me off from this debate is that they’re always yelling their answers. This comes off like a bad primary debate where each candidate just wants to say their popular talking points super loud so everyone knows to clap real hard. There’s no understated, gentleman’s disagreement style of decorum that we enjoyed in the other Third Party debates and the best primary and general election debates. It’s a four way stump speech at a rally. And hey, those are good too. They have their place. It just doesn’t make for a good debate is all.

Jill’s voice in particular just pisses me off. It’s not a “shrillness” or anything like that. She just draws out every word as she speaks to the point where it’s uncomfortable to listen to. It sounds like she’s either struggling to talk or else picking her words carefully to get the best applause in each sentence. I swear to god, the way she grips the podium, sways from side to side, and yells (but it sounds like talking because her voice is so weak) it looks like shes hanging on for dear life as a cyclone is sucking her up or something. She needs to work on standing still and how she moves her hands. You’ll notice all politicians do that, they make a lot of purposeful hand gestures as they speak. She’s very bad at that. She just sounds out of breath and stressed out.

The other problem I have is kind of the reverse of 1996, which is that there’s not a lot of diversity of thought. The Justice Party is basically a “Me too!” left-wing third party just as the Natural Law Party was an arbitrary right-wing third party that just repeated everything the Libertarians and Constintutionalists were already saying. The Libertarians and Constitutionalists can exist side by side because the former has appeals to the left (like we’re seeing with Johnson as he plays up the weed and gay rights here) and the latter appeals to evangelicals. The Greens and Socialists can exist side by side because the latter wants redistribution of wealth and left-wing economics while the former wants certain fringe ideals like anti-vaxing but otherwise is focused on protecting the environment. Natural Law and Justice, as generic right and generic left, just don’t have niches to fill. The reason why 2004 and 2008 were so great is because we had the perfect balance. 2012 is a step backwards, only now there’s too many left-wing platitudes being repeated. (I do applaud Johnson for accentuating this part of his platform, as that was my advice to the party from earlier cycles. It just makes for a boring debate with two left parties already on stage is all I’m saying.)

I feel like I’d like Rocky more if I knew what his Party was about and his signature issue. As is, he just comes off like generic liberal as I said earlier. I think he’s the second best person on stage after Gary (who’s doing pretty good I have to admit, it’s just all for nothing considering his failure in 2016). He needs to do a better job framing himself though, and I know I’m just watching him in this one debate, but as a third party candidate, that’s part of the game. You’ll see the other third partiers do this a lot in past debates, say “the green party stands for…” or “libertarian means…” or “We at the Constitution Party believe…” He doesn’t do that. Just gives the typical leftist answer, which Stein and even Gary already have done, so it’s like who is this guy and why do we need him here reiterating the same talking points? What is his party’s ethos? What’s their platform and what are their chief priorities?

The lone highlight at this debate is the question “if you could write a constitutional amendment and it was guaranteed to pass, what would it be?” For me personally, that’s tough. I support a constitutional amendment guaranteeing sexual orientation and gender identity but as important as that is to me, I’m not sure that’d be my first choice. I paused the video to consider, and ultimately drafted this answer: I think establishing once and for all that Corporations are not people would be the most important. Maybe even throw it all together with LGBT rights as the “Definition and Rights of the Person” amendment in which it is laid out in no uncertain terms that a legal person is and ONLY is, a physical, living, actual human being…not a corporation or any other artificial, monolithic, faceless entity. Then I would say that in addition to the rights guaranteed already by the Constitution, a human being is guaranteed to complete bodily and spiritual autonomy.

Rocky says that he’d guarantee rights of women and gays, basically bringing back the Equal Rights Amendment from the ’70s but adding LGBT people to it. No way would it pass (he says it would) with the Right-wing’s ridiculous hatred of LGBT, unfortunately. Virgil says term limits. A valid issue to tackle, but nowhere near my own highest priority. Limiting to 6-12 years is ridiculous too. Johnson also says term limits. Stein wants to declare that money is not speech and corporations are not people. I wrote my own answer before hitting play again and seeing what the candidates said. I think it’s super interesting that my answer ended up being Stein’s and Rocky’s combined. Again, I want to clarify that these people don’t have bad positions on the issues, they’re just flawed candidates even by third party standards and this is just a bad debate.

This was maybe the worst overall debate I’ve seen, and if not then bottom 5 for sure. The worst moderation, a step backwards in terms of the balance and discourse (more yelling vague applause-lines as opposed to calmer, more thorough discussion and the balance of left to right is off). I think maybe I was being too hard on Johnson earlier by calling him the worst Libertarian candidate based just on this debate. I was letting my knowledge of his failure in 2016 color my perception of his performance here. He actually did a really good job being passionate, reasonable and appealing to the left through libertarianism, as opposed to only playing up the right-wing aspects as his predecessors did. If he had just done his homework on foreign policy this year, and not come apart at the seams, I would have been proud to vote for him. Jill Stein is insufferable. She just is, I’m sorry. I can’t stand her yelling, the way she stands on stage as if she’s supporting her body weight with the podium, and the blatant pandering. Rocky is a good guy and has a good stand on the issues. I’ll check out a campaign speech of his if I can find any and give him a fair shake. But he didn’t make himself or his party stand out as he needed to do. He was the brand new party and the underdog among underdogs here so he really needed a knockout performance and I don’t think he delivered. Virgil actually kinda grew on me in the end. I actually started to feel bad for him, being the only one up there espousing a rightist platform and continuously getting booed. I don’t know if it was adaptation of the party or he didn’t want to piss off an obviously liberal crowd, but I appreciated toning down the God and anti-gay rhetoric as the event wore on. A step in the right direction for sure.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Cassie,

    This seems like one I can say, I’m glad you watched it so now I don’t need to. It was a year when the best of the Former third peart candidates, Ron Paul, took a run at the Republican Nomination. This is bout the only time I ever aggressively campaigned for a presidential candidate. If I look around my house I could probably still find Ron Paul campaign posters. For me he made Obama and Romney look like the incompetent’s petty politicians they are and were. After your thorough analysis I don’t feel I missed anything by not watching this debate. Another good job of Political analysis by you!

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