Let’s play a game. You win full citizenship and legitimate representation in the American electoral process if you know who half of the people on this list are:
A. Jill Stein
B. Cheri Honkala
C. Gary Johnson
D. Jim Grey
Take as much time as you need, you’ve got about a month before it really matters….All right times up. My guess is that you didn’t know most of these names which is fine, but that highlights why the recent complaints about diversity amongst presidential debate moderators is so pointless. Univision, and the National Association of Black Journalists are fighting for the wrong kind of diversity.
For the last several days the National Association of Black Journalists and Univision have been complaining loudly that the four people selected to moderate the presidential debates in 2012 are not reflective of America. Candy Crowley of CNN, Jim Lehrer of PBS, Bob Schieffer of CBS and Martha Raddatz of ABC news will moderate the 3 presidential and one vice presidential debates respectively. That’s four white people, two women, in a year when upwards of 25% of the electorate will be non-white. I get the frustration, I get the annoyance of Gwen Ifill who has been a part of last two presidential debates being snubbed, but what I don’t get is why any of this really matters given the purpose of these debates. That takes us back to our pop quiz at the beginning.
Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate for president, Cheri Honkala is her running mate. Two women, running for president of the United States, for a party that has qualified to be on the ballot in enough states to earn 270 electoral votes, the minimum needed to win. In a year where the GOP has been accused of having a “War on Women” wouldn’t it be great if they were in on the debates? Gary Johnson and his running mate Jim Grey are the Libertarian Party candidates, in an election year where Stand Your Ground laws, the Affordable Care act and a continuing illegal war in the Middle East are raging, not to mention that Ron Paul’s default Libertarian run in the GOP primaries caught fire, wouldn’t it be great to have those men in the debates as well?
The problem with the complaints of Univision and the NABJ are that as usual minorities are fighting over scraps and crumbs of pie rather than attacking the entire system and making a stronger argument. No oppressed minority has ever won anything asking the majority to include them nicely, you have to have significant numbers, affect the bottom line and force your way in, anything else is tokenism. The problem with the presidential debates isn’t that they don’t have enough minority moderators. Ever since the 1988 ‘rape’ debacle with Dukakis and Bush, the debates and questions are so scripted, vetted and sanitized that the moderators hardly make a difference in the questions asked or how they’re answered. The problem with the debates is that the entire process is a sham masquerading as an open democratic discussion. NABJ and Univision should be fighting for the ENTIRE debate process to be open, to more candidates, third parties, and thus more moderators as well. They should be pooling their resources to challenge the entire sorted affair rather than selfishly fighting for their own special place at the kid’s table. Who’s more likely to get their demands met? Two parties, several networks (MSNBC and Fox and NBC) and a powerful journalist organization, or a bunch of individuals talking in several different directions?
Within a week this story will cease to be important. Either because the Presidential Debate Commission will buy off the complainers (offering a token spot to some minority or giving access to another network) or because they’ll run out of breath complaining, but either way an opportunity will be lost. America deserves a debate between all qualified presidential candidates and from journalists across the spectrum. But until we start protesting as one unified voice the powers that be will continue to ignore thirty scattered voices yelling in the wind.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.