No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates

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Seven Stories Press, 2004 - History - 224 pages
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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The book is a critique of the state of presidential debates (they suck) and call to include third parties candidates most especially Perot, Buchanan and Ralph Nader. As a pragmatic move, the author recommends inclusion of only those like these, while excluding the rest of the third parties. Since I so dearly love third parties, the pragmatic move might be a smart one. The author also clearly demonstrates how utterly pitiful and unjust it is that the debates exclude third party candidates. To support his point, he even finds surprising backing from people like Alan Keyes! How wonderful it will be if the author’s ideas come to fruition. 


Debate Cartel
Hostile Takeover
Candidate Exclusion
Stilted Formats
The 15 Percent Fiction
Issue Exclusion
Failed Restitution
Citizens Debate Commission
1996 Memorandum of Understanding
Joint Press Release from the Democratic and Republican National Committees
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About the author (2004)

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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