John Stuart Mill, the influential nineteenth century British philosopher, captured the very essence of democracy when he said, “If mankind minus one were of one opinion, then mankind is no more justified in silencing the one than the one – if he had the power – would be justified in silencing mankind.”
The very spirit of these words was missing, however, in the recent presidential debates, where candidates from both parties were excluded from conveying their message to the broader American public.
If you watched the recent debates that took place, it would not be surprising if you believed that Democratic candidates Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, and Republican candidates Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter, have dropped out of the race to the White House. However, their campaigns are still in full swing, each candidate trying to win the remaining primaries that are still very much up for grabs.
The exclusion of these candidates is absolutely unfair and a shameful blow to democracy. Networks like Fox, CNN, ABC, and MSNBC have included only the candidates that they deem electable and popular and have excluded all the other candidates who would help give voters more diverse platforms to choose from.
The media is supposed to give all the candidates equal time but by not inviting particular candidates because they are less popular restricts the voters from hearing all the possible solutions for the nation’s problems.
Dennis Kucinich has protested his exclusion from not only the various presidential debates broadcasted by different networks, but also the Texas Democratic primary.
Kucinich was also barred from participating in the January 15 MSNBC debate in Las Vegas. He brought forth a lawsuit against the network so he could participate. However, the Nevada Supreme Court sided in MSNBC’s favor.
Andre Calvert, a former St. John’s student who works for Kucinich’s campaign, noted, “I feel that the exclusion of Dennis Kucinich is a major blow to democracy because not all of the presidential candidates are being heard.” When asked why he thinks Kucinich was left out, he replied, “Dennis Kucinich is excluded because the various media organizations have vested interest in the other candidates, and don’t want a strong anti-war voice to be heard.”
In a controversial move, Fox News excluded Ron Paul from one of its debates and his campaign was never given a reason as to why it did so. This move was ridiculous since Ron Paul has broken fundraising records, garnered strong grassroots support, and has beaten both Thompson and Giuliani in some primaries.
Certainly, it seems that the voters have loudly declared that Paul’s campaign means more to them than either Thompson’s or Giuliani’s. To invite Thompson and Giuliani while excluding Paul is simply unjust.
The media should realize that as an agent of information, it should never exclude candidates from the debates. Doing so is a disservice to the American people and even democracy, which calls for everyone’s voice to be heard. Only by hearing all the candidates can voters adequately make up their minds. The media should help the American people choose a candidate, rather than silencing voices. In a close election like this one, it could make all the difference.