No Debate: Stein Excluded

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Thursday, June 24, 2010
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Without her, the debate offered "very limited options for dealing with the major crises we face."

The old stereotype has hardly changed. It wasn't three white men in front of the microphones during the gubernatorial debate at WRKO in Boston last week. It was two white men, Tim Cahill and Charlie Baker, and one black man—Gov. Deval Patrick—in the debate from which Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein was conspicuously excluded.

How much of a change is that, really?

As Stein complained later, though the speakers sparred over which was the more adept at cost-cutting, the three of them agreed about everything worth disagreeing about. They agreed that the state needs casinos. They agreed that the state needs to fire more workers. They agreed, as Stein said afterward in a press statement, "that the solution to health care costs is to cut services and narrow choices for consumers. Single-payer health care—the solution that is currently working in many developed countries around the world, and for which I have been a longstanding proponent—was not mentioned once."

The conventional wisdom was that Stein was not invited to participate in the debate because she is considered so unlikely to win that it would have been a waste of viewers' time to give her a mic. But there may have been a less obvious agenda. Stein has run for governor before, and won widespread acclaim in the press for her performance in the debates that have included her. She got 20 percent of the vote when she ran for Secretary of State in 2006. She is seen by some Democrats in high places in the state as a spoiler who would upstage Democrat Patrick as a progressive and take votes away from him.

True, her polling numbers are small, but they more than doubled between February, when she announced her candidacy, and late May. That change only brought her from 3 to 8, but it was by far the largest percentage increase realized by any candidate, including Patrick. Supporters point out that Cahill's number at the time of the debate was only 14. Stein's 8 points are even more significant, they add, considering that only 40 percent of those polled had heard of her.

In any case, to deny Stein a place in the debate is to reinforce a self-fulfilling prophecy. She won't win, therefore she can't debate; she can't debate, therefore she can't get exposure, and the prediction of the debate organizers (including former House Speaker and Democratic Party boss Tom Finneran, who hosted it) comes true. That kind of thinking is what's robbed the American political landscape of fluidity and held it hostage to an ossified two-party system (in this case, Cahill is running as an Independent, but it's pretty hard for Finneran et al. to ignore him, since he's the state treasurer—and, by the way, a former Democrat who left the party partly to avoid a fight against Patrick in the gubernatorial primary).

Accessible political process? Public service? Equal time? Concepts like that fall out of the Democratic machine's memory like change out of a drunk's wallet.

It's not only the talk radio station that marked Stein for invisibility. In an article April 18 announcing Republican Charlie Baker's triumph over opponent Christy Mihos for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, the Boston Globe noted, "Baker has cleared a major hurdle and is now free to focus on the general election race against Governor Deval Patrick and state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, a former Democrat running as an Independent."

Earth to Globe: this general gubernatorial election is a four-way race. And Stein's run is not merely quixotic.

Stein's exclusion from the debate was not only a loss for her. It was a loss for the listeners, too. Stein would have challenged the other participants' views on health care. She would have forced them to answer questions about casinos, questions like how much casinos would bring in in taxes compared to the amount they would drain by necessitating more law enforcement and social services. She would have interrupted the backslapping about the virtues of Massachusetts' punitive health care law by raising questions about the costs it imposes on low-income people without guaranteeing them adequate benefits. As Stein said, people listening to the debate were "left with the impression that there are very limited options for dealing with the major crises we face in terms of employment, funding services and providing health care and education to our citizens."

Comments (3)
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Great article. It's all true; it does much more harm to the voters of Massachusetts to exclude her in the debate. It's a ridiculous shame that basically resulted in everyone losing an hour of their lives for no reason. And the points about the Globe are quite salient as well. More times than not, if they're talking about her, it's to say "Oh look, she's running again! Crazy!" and not actually to discuss what distinguishes her from the other candidates.

Posted by Joseph on 6.22.10 at 14:16

Thanks for doing the work of true columnist's, shame on the shameless Finnerman. However, by the Duopoly excluding Jill from the Debates, it has a somewhat good effect for the Green Rainbow Party Cause, by giving us the Free Publicity of not being included. I think more folks are talking about why she is being excluded than what the not so "Good Fellas" had to say. All I have heard from their Camps so far is how much their campaigns have raised and wasted. The NASCAR boys with all their Corporate Sponsors & Lobbists dangling from their Suits, have shown nothing but Un-Gentlemenly behavior.

Posted by Rick Purcell on 6.23.10 at 7:09

The Polling numbers are small because Jill Stein is not being covered by the media and she is being excluded from the debates. Cahill is nothing more than another Republicrat. It is no secret that many Democrats backed Reilly and not Patrick. Cahill will appeal to that group. The Republicrats agree on one thing, they do not want any third parties in the elections.

When I ran for United States Senate the two Republicrat candidates held several debates, excluding me. I was excluded for a very good reason. Had I been included in the debates people would have seen just how little difference there was between Beatty and Kerry. They were both for the war, Free trade, and a stagnant economny with high unemployment . Even at that I did well considering the pittance of resources that I had

Had I been included in the debates I would have done better, and neither Kerry nor Beatty wanted that. They want people to be toggling back and forth between the two major parties, which are really one major party.

Posted by Robert Underwood on 6.23.10 at 21:58



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