Potential 'Occupy Debates' Movement Threatened

A former Green Party candidate and Occupy FCC activist is seeking to get third party candidates into the televised presidential debates and has called on the Republican and Democratic candidates to push for inclusion, suggesting there could be an "Occupy Debates" protest targeting media, sponsors and candidates if the criteria for participation are not changed.

The first of three presidential debates, organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates, is scheduled for Sept. 26, 2016, at Hoffstra University in Hempstead, New York. The second will be Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, and the third Oct. 19 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“The Campaign for Open Debates urges Republican candidate Donald Trump to follow the lead of President Ronald Reagan who in 1980 sought inclusion of third party candidate, John Anderson, in debates with President Jimmy Carter," said Kevin Zeese, who is launching the campaign.

In an email to journalists Monday, Zeese took aim at the commission and its participation criterion of polling at least 15% to get a seat at the debates. “The Campaign for Open Debates will use a variety of tactics that target sponsors, venues, media outlets and the commission itself with protests, sit-ins, occupations and more,” said Zeese, who was involved in the Occupy Movement, including the Occupy FCC protest targeting FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and pushing for the Title II reclassification that eventually emerged.

Currently, the RealClear Politics website has Libertarian Gary Johnson polling at 8.9% in an average of seven national polls, compared to Hillary Clinton at 41.6% and Donald Trump at 37.1%. Green Party candidate Jill Stein has polled at as high as 6% nationally, according to Democracy Now.

He pointed out that GOP candidate Donald Trump had weighed in against the 15% participation cut-off when Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura was running for president in 2000.

At the time, Trump said the 15% cut-off seemed "very, very unfair."

"Carter refused and Reagan and Anderson debated without him and with an empty chair for Carter on-stage. We hope that Mr. Trump demands inclusive debates and Secretary Clinton decides to join the open debates," he said. "Both candidates can show they are in favor of real democracy by supporting open debates."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.