“How many ‘thirds’ can there be?” was the question posed by Theodore Lowi, the J.L. Senior Professor of American Studies and moderator of last night’s debate between third-party candidates in the upcoming presidential election. Michael Peroutka of the Constitution Party, David Cobb of the Green Party, Walt Brown of the Socialist Party and Michael Badnarik of the Libertarian Party discussed issues ranging from abortion to fossil fuel in front of a packed Rockefeller Auditorium.
The debate was televised by both C-SPAN and PBS.
The candidates began by introducing their platforms.
Peroutka identified his governing principles as “God, family and the republic.” He urged members of the audience to “repeat the pledge of allegiance and stop at the 16th word; it’s not just a distinction, it’s a difference … We need to restore the republic.”
David Cobb presented himself as the candidate from the party that “tells the truth.” Cobb said that he is working to take “our country back from the corporate fat-cats who have hijacked it,” and that the “media tries to marginalize” the Green Party because “Greens tell the truth.”
Walt Brown did not spend his time for opening statements informing the audience of his viewpoints but instead refuted some of the statements that had already been made.
“God, family, republic — that doesn’t separate us. God: I was married by a minister … and a minister spoke at my wife’s funeral … Family: I was married for 49 years … The pledge of Allegiance was written by a Socialist minister in Boston, there goes the republic,” Brown said.
Michael Badnarik wanted to start by drawing the distinction between Libertarians and liberals.
“We are for liberty. What liberty is … is being able to make your own decisions. I want to emphasize the idea that you are not required to vote for the lesser of two evils.”
After the audience had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the platforms of the four candidates, the floor was opened for questions. The first question was on the war on terror, specifically, what should be done to win?
Peroutka, a constitutional expert, asserted that because Congress has not declared war, “we have not declared war in Iraq.” In fact, he said, “we have not declared war since World War II.” Therefore, “the Peroutka presidency — if God would grant that glory — would immediately end our involvement in Iraq.”
Cobb, Brown and Badnarik did not focus as much as Peroutka did on the legality of entering war but all expressed the opinion that the war was unjust and, if elected, they would remove United States troops from Iraq as soon as possible.
A question asked about fossil fuel gave Cobb and the Green Party platform an opportunity to shine.
“The Green Party is calling for a sustainable alternative energy source. We, the people, don’t control this government but … we must wean ourselves off the addiction to oil which is what got us into the war on Iraq.”
Peroutka said that he “[didn’t] see anywhere in Article 1, section 8 anything about constitutional energy policies.”
One student brought up whether or not the candidates endorse a living wage by asking, “The living wage for Ithaca is $8.68. I make $7 per hour. I don’t need another buck-sixty-eight; I’ll just spend it on music and alcohol. Isn’t there a better way [to help people]?”
“Minimum wage laws put lots of people out of work — particularly those people they were made to protect,” Badnarik replied.
“Minimum wage is unconstitutional,” Peroutka answered.
The polarization of the candidates was seen in their response to the topic of abortion: where Peroutka described himself as “100 percent pro-life,” Cobb described himself as “100 percent pro-choice.”
A mutual feeling of hostility toward the Patriot Act, and an expression of sadness that our government allowed such legislation to pass, unified all four candidates.
“Anyone who voted for [the Patriot Act] should be indicted … and John Ashcroft should be indicted for trying to enforce it,” Badnarik opined.
Cobb described the Patriot Act as “the worst piece of legislation that has come down the pipes” in decades.
Brown chimed in remorsefully, “only one senator voted against the Patriot Act.” When asked how each reconciles the fact that even with their names on the ballot, none of them is likely to win, each referred to a historical event or quoted a famous political figure.
The sentiment of all four was summed up well by Cobb when he said “I mean that seriously y’all, real change has only come from third parties.”
Audience members came with an open mind: “If someone really does well, then yeah, I’ll vote for them,” said Grayson Fahrner ’08.
And they were not disappointed.
“I was impressed by the debate; it made me reconsider how best to use my vote. The candidates actually have clear messages and were so relaxed,” said Samantha Henig ’06.
The event was planned by Mock Election 2004 and sponsored by Democracy Matters and The Sun.
“Events like these increase political discourse on campus. Overall, I’d say it was very successful,” said Josh Goldman ’07.
Archived article by Erica Fink
Sun Senior Writer