If the four long-shot presidential contenders are kind of Don
Quixotes, as debate moderator Larry King put it, then at least on
Tuesday night their windmill jousting would be televised.
Those who saw Jill Stein (Green Party), Rocky Anderson (Justice
Party), Virgil Goode (Constitution Party), and Gary Johnson
(Libertarian Party) square off at the Hilton Hotel in downtown
Chicago on C-SPAN or streamed online got a glimpse of the little-
known contenders below President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt
Romney on the ballot in many states.
What the public saw was broad agreement on issues ranging from
the war on drugs (end it) to the future of American military
spending (reduce it), as well as a handful of proposals from each
candidate that stand in stark relief to the policies of either Mr.
Obama or Mr. Romney.
The debate, supported by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation
and moderated by Mr. King and the foundations Christina Tobin,
offered an opportunity for the little-known candidates to make their
cases to the public in a forum that was good and real and honest and
open, without debate contracts and private interests, as Ms. Tobin
Whether by their near-zero polling numbers or the strictures of a
two-party political system, these candidates were shut out of the
more heavily watched debates between Obama and Romney. (Mr. Johnson
garnered enough support to be included in a single candidates'
debate during the GOP primary process, however.)
The candidates found plenty of common ground. All four opposed
rules that winnow contenders for public office, saying they are bad
for democracy and unnecessarily limit voter choices. All supported
reductions in American military spending. All said they would have
vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act.
All but Mr. Goode said they would legalize marijuana and end the
war on drugs. Goode said he would keep marijuana illegal but would
cut spending on drug enforcement as part of his plan to deeply
reduce federal spending in his first year in office.
But the candidates did open up some policy proposals sharply
different from one another and from the two major-party presidential
Dr. Stein and Mr. Anderson called for free higher education for
all Americans, with Stein pointing out the benefits from the
original, post-World War II G.I. bill and Anderson arguing that
other industrialized nations have already achieved such a system.
Johnson and Goode ridiculed the sentiment as ignoring the reality
of Americas beleaguered fiscal condition.
Free comes with a cost, Johnson said. Free is accumulating more
to the $16 trillion in debt than we already have. Free has gotten us
to the point where we are going to have a monetary collapse.
When asked to offer one constitutional amendment they would most
like to see passed, the candidates again diverged. Anderson argued
for a new Equal Rights Amendment enshrining protection from
discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation.
Johnson and Goode said they would push for term limits for
Congress something they say would keep members focused on
achievement instead of political longevity.
Stein said that even with term limits, corporations and big money
can still buy what they want. Hence, her preferred amendment would
upend the US Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling authorizing
limitless campaign spending by corporations and individuals. …