No matter how closely scholars might search the U.S. Constitution, they will find nothing to ordain the two-party system which dominated our political scene in the 20th century.
There is no mention of political parties in the document. The Republican and Democratic parties were not even in existence when our forefathers put pen to parchment in the late 1780s.
The very concept of political parties was disturbing enough to our first president, George Washington, that he warned of their ill effects in his Farewell Address.
"Let me now warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party...It agitates the community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection," Washington wrote.
That rather dim view of parties notwithstanding, it's clear they are here to stay. However, there is no constitutional justification for the two major parties to receive any preferential treatment.
That's why the Commission on Presidential Debates' decision this month to exclude candidates that don't average at least 15 percent support in five major national polls from the debates was disappointing.
First of all, its criteria to average out percentages in five major polls makes it almost as convoluted as college football's Bowl Championship Series' ratings system.
Secondly, 15 percent seems to be a rather high mark to participate in televised debates. It's just a debate. The candidates are not being awarded representation in Congress based on their support in the polls.
Setting an arbitrary poll number in September as the criteria for debate participation gives an unfair advantage to established parties with access to big coffers. The big money supporters behind the Democratic and Republican candidates spend plenty of money up front to ensure that everyone knows who there candidates are.
Minor party candidates often wait until just before the general election to spend the limited funds they have so they'll get the most bang for their monetary buck.
Jesse Ventura's stunning election as Minnesota governor was a good example of this third party strategy. Dean Barkley, Ventura's campaign manager during the campaign, said recently the ex-wrestler's approval rating was at 10 percent as late as Sept. 15.
If Ventura had been required to show a 15 percent approval rating in the polls he would never have been allowed on stage at Central Lakes College at the first of the televised debates in the 1998 gubernatorial race. Yet that debate proved to be a jump start for his campaign.
Defenders of the commission's 15 percent rule argue the debates would be too cumbersome and yet the Republicans currently conduct televised debates with as many as six GOP hopefuls.
In the interest of allowing American voters a complete choice among the people who will be on the presidential ballot, what would be so bad about having a few more candidates in the debates?
Although popularity plays into the voting public's decision it is an election not a popularity contest. The public is often served by listening to minority-view voices.
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