Well, well, well. It should be interesting to see how this falls out. The Democratic and Republican parties need to find some way to fight this without being seen as anti-democratic; it's simply not in their interest to allow third parties into debates. To be sure, sometimes the people will reveal themselves as utter and complete flakes ... but look at the past few elections. Quite a startling number of people are entirely willing to vote for utter and complete flakes. Maybe because the flake's articulated policy positions match their own, maybe because they feel the need to shake up or change something, somehow. But people at large aren't going to vote for these candidates, not because they do or don't agree, but because they've never really heard of them or their positions. If the FEC changes the rule, or is forced to adopt something broader, you could wind up with massive presidential debates, with five, six, seven candidates. In the near term, it almost certainly would not produce a win for a minor party, but it could very well produce a loss for a major one. Minor parties have made a difference in two of the last three elections, by siphoning off the extreme wing voters of the major parties.
That said, I imagine the networks would prefer broader debates purely because it would make them more entertaining, and people might then actually watch.
In the meantime, the Senate passed an election reform bill. I must admit, I don't understand the opposition to making people verify their identity when they register. Surely preventing fraud is a worthwhile goal; what's the point of merely verifying signatures, when the person signing needn't be who they say they are? (I have a horrible feeling this is part of the unstated point, in which case, the ACLU and NAACP should be ashamed of themselves.)Posted by iain at April 11, 2002 05:01 PM