Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Alternatives to Barack Obama & Mitt Romney present ideas in Chicago

While Free & Equal characterized it as a “debate” I was heartened by how much agreement Jill Stein (Green), Rocky Anderson (Justice) Virgil Goode (Constitution) and Gary Johnson (Libertarian) expressed.

To get the basics out of the way: Last night, October 23, at the Hilton Chicago (720 S. Michigan) in the International Ballroom, Free & Equal hosted a debate between the four candidates. The event was moderated by Larry King and ChristinaTobin, the founder and executive director of Free & Equal. The format was to pose six questions submitted by social media, with candidates each given two minutes to respond and then one minute to “rebut”.

There will be a second round debate on Tuesday, October 30 in Washington, DC. The second round debate will focus on foreign policy and will include only the top two candidates. The top two candidates will be determined by a ranked voting poll onFree & Equal's website that uses Instant Runoff Voting to determine the winners.

[much more below the fold]

I request people take Free & Equal's poll and rank Anderson & Stein in the top two positions and Goode in the last position. The poll closes today (Wednesday, October 24) at 9:30 Central.

Based on interviewing 50+ people about how they heard of the event, Stein & Johnson will have the largest bases. Although there was a sizable contingent of people who attended because they were interested or had some connection to RalphNader and his supporters, like Theresa Amato. Nader has endorsed Anderson.

My guess is that Anderson won more support during the debate. The two Johnson supporters I attended with felt Anderson was impressive.

Areas of Agreement

The United States is a mess and headed in the wrong direction, even on the road to totalitarianism. Policy changes can fix this, but there needs to be a willingness to make significant changes in areas where the two major parties have been unwilling to antagonize interest groups.
  • War on drugs: the law enforcement policies do more harm than the drugs
  • Military spending: it's too high
  • Iran: no wars of aggression
  • Overseas bases: retrench and bring troops to the United States
  • Afghanistan: brings troops home immediately
  • Money in politics: has been corrupting
  • Civil liberties: the Bush/Obama years have implemented unAmerican, totalitarian policies
  • NDAA: the power to detain citizens without trial is contrary to who we are
  • Student debt: it's too high

Virgil Goode

Virgil Goode began by saying that even though he was elected as a Democrat, a Republican and an independent he was "always conservative". Goode was the least likely to agree with the other three candidates. He advocated eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood and saw drug policy as a state matter.

Goode clearly communicated his four-point plan multiple times.
  1. balance the budget
  2. issue a moratorium on "green cards" until unemployment drops to 5%
  3. eliminate political action committees and SuperPACs
  4. term limits
Goode avoided mentioning abortion or gay rights issues, which seemed interesting because I always associate hardline social conservatism with the Constitution Party.

I thought Goode performed particularly well. His accent is so thick, I thought he was calling for a moratorium on "green cars" until unemployment hit 5%. It wasn't until his closing remarks that I understood what he was getting at.

Goode was much more aligned with the others than I thought he'd be. And he was clear about saying where he disagreed and noting that some of those positions weren't going to be popular with the audience, who was much younger than the people who normally attend political events.

Rocky Anderson

I think that if someone came to the event looking for find a candidate, s/he probably came away supporting Anderson.

There is probably little to distinguish Anderson from Stein on the issues. Anderson has been elected as mayor in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Anderson often seemed able to bring together more issues in a broader critique in a short period of time. Anderson also gracefully added context to his ideas. For example he talked about how at the end of Apartheid, South Africa had ballots with eighteen candidates. He talked about how the United States decided to have free secondary education.

Anderson also had some of the best soundbites: "prosperity not austerity" and when discussing the NDAA's provisions for detaining U.S. citizens without trial Anderson firmly said, "Obama asked for this power" and the United States is "on the road to totalitarianism.

Anderson was the only candidate who promised to free federal inmates in prison on drug offenses without some other aggravating offense. Anderson was also the only candidate to specifically address the retroactive immunity Congress granted telecoms for spying on Americans.

Jill Stein

I had met Stein previously in Chicago and was less than impressed. She failed to make the case that the current election cycle was substantially different than elections of the past or future. Her platform seems like the same stuff the Greens have been saying and not getting traction with for a long time.

And in the beginning of the debate, Stein seemed to fall into this pattern of delivering more of the same. However, she got better as she went along.

Stein was the only candidate to talk about the prosecution of whistleblowers, although she didn't mention Bradley Manning (whom she has promised to pardon). Stein called for an international treaty banning drone strikes. Stein explained marijuana is "dangerous because it's illegal, not illegal because it's dangerous".

Stein was particularly strong on student debt. She called for "bailing out students, not banks". She referred to student debt creating "a generation locked into being indentured servants". Stein's prescription was to make public higher education free.

Where Stein sealed the deal with a "win" for me was on the question of amending the U.S. Constitution. Goode and Johnson indicated term limits would be their top priority for amending the Constitution. Anderson was quite proud of his support for an amendment banning discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation. Stein then said the United States needs an amendment that says "money is not speech and corporations are not people."

To me, Stein's answer reflects better understanding of the power imbalance in society, and what needs to be done about it.

Gary Johnson

Johnson did well. He was mostly aligned with the values expressed. Johnson was also the candidate to politely note that the moderator skipped opening statements.

Johnson described himself "pro choice in everything" and listed his critique of the status quo as being:
  1. heightened police state
  2. excessive military intervention
  3. unsustainable spending and borrowing
Johnson emphasized that he believes the United States is on the road to "monetary collapse" where hyperinflation would make money worthless. Johnson wants to cut Medicare, which he believes is excessively generous.

At one point Johnson gave his agenda rapid fire (so I might have missed some items). He promised:
  • not to bomb Iran
  • end Afghanistan tomorrow
  • marriage equality
  • end Drug war; legalize marijuana
  • repeal PATRIOT Act
  • undo NDAA regarding detention of U.S. citizens
  • balance the budget in 2013
  • eliminate the income tax and replace it with a "fair tax"

Johnson was also specific in what he'd cut from the Department of Defense
  • 43% reduction in spending which would bring the United States to the spending level of 2003
  • stop intervention
  • reduce footprint (bases overseas)
  • intelligence
  • research & development
  • drone strikes
  • funding Syrian insurgents

Johnson was interesting on drugs. He said that he had used both alcohol and marijuana. He also advocated allowing cocaine to be legal on the theory that it was better than methamphetamine. He reasoned cocaine does heart damage and methamphetamine distorts one's personality and causes people to behave in an anti-social manner.

Johnson also referred to his time as governor of New Mexico, boasting of winning as a Republican in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one and vetoing 750 bills.

One of Johnson's most effective statements was talking about the ACLU report card issued during the Dem/GOP presidential primary. Johnson said Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney had zero liberty torches. Barack Obama had 16. Ron Paul ("my hero") had 18. And Johnson had 21 liberty torches.


  1. Thanks for writing this up. Really points out what a shit job the corporate media does of asking questions that people care about, and how good they are about narrowing the focus.

    In Monday's debate, for instance, "foreign policy" apparently is just "what are we doing in the Mid East?" -- there are no other international issues/policies that should concern us. Oh wait, maybe China a little. And Mali? Whatever.

  2. I interviewed 50+ people before the debate started. It's hard to estimate, but that might have been about 10% of the people who were there.

  3. The alternate debate shortchanged climate change too.

    Not a big shock since Christina Tobin pretty openly aligns herself with the hard right Libertarians.

    And there's no Libertarian answer for climate change other than, "It doesn't exist" or possibly "There's nothing that can be done about it."