After Arrest, Green Party Candidate Suing Commission on Presidential Debates
The Green Party was not just excluded from the presidential debates this campaign season, but their ticket of Dr. Jill Stein and Philly activist Cheri Honkala were arrested last week after staging a protest at the presidential town hall debate in Long Island.
Now, Stein is taking the Commission on Presidential Debates to court. According to a press release sent out by the campaign last night, the CPD “deprived her of her constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, and free speech, as well as her statutorily protected civil rights.” And that’s a lawsuit.
Last week’s arrest got tons of play over the Internet, including mentions at Gawker, the Huffington Post and Washington Post. Before Stein and Honkala were taken into custody, they told Philadelphia Weekly they expected their actions to play out as they did.
“Cheri and I agreed that this mockery of democracy, this violation of our basic right as citizens, of a so-called democratic country— we are here to challenge the violation of our democratic rights,” the presidential candidate said on her way to the debate. “We are prepared to be arrested in the service of democracy and a future that serves us all.”
The brain of that mockery of democracy, she said, is the CPD: a bipartisan project of the Democrat and Republican parties created in the 1980s, in part, to make sure neither candidate got too many surprises while on stage during presidential campaigns in front of the world. Embarrassment was had all around last week when a leaked CPD memo showed the concessions candidates make on each other’s behalf.
Additionally, the criteria for participating in presidential debates, according to the CPD’s website, is as follows: “(1) are constitutionally eligible to hold the office of President of the United States; (2) have achieved ballot access in a sufficient number of states to win a theoretical Electoral College majority in the general election; and (3) have demonstrated a level of support of at least 15 percent of the national electorate, as determined by five selected national public opinion polling organizations, using the average of those organizations’ most recent publicly-reported results.”
Reason Magazine has called these criteria “nearly prohibitive” to third parties and there have been numerous online petitions asking the CPD to include both Stein and Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. Both are on the ballot in Pennsylvania.
Stein noted in a news release detailing the lawsuit: “Our constitution is supposed to protect us against manipulations of democracy of the kind scheduled tonight, and I hope the court will act now to stop this farce, but either way, we will keep up the fight, and one of these days American elections and our debates will be reclaimed by the American people.”
She will be participating in a debate with Johnson, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party tonight in Chicago. The debate will be moderated by former CNN host Larry King and featured on Russia Today and Al Jazeera—not Fox, NBC or even CNN, despite the former host’s name in the billing.
Though Stein has filed a lawsuit, she is not expecting the CPD to change this year—especially now as the 2012 presidential debates are over.
Her campaign manager, Ben Manski, notes in a campaign email: “When Justice Marshall said he was ”the world’s original gradualist,” he was referring to the nearly century-long legal struggle for civil rights. Legal change takes time.”