Open the Debates Letter


Stein-Baraka Campaign Urges Trump and Clinton To Participate in Four-Way, Open Debates

Today Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein, along with her Vice Presidential running mate, Ajamu Baraka, published an open letter to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton urging them to participate in open debates that include all four campaigns that have the potential to achieve 270 electoral college votes.

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), actually a corporation controlled by the Democratic and Republican National Committees and funded by big business donors, stifles real democracy by limiting debates to candidates from their parties.

The establishment parties created the Commission to keep independent voices out, and make sure the debates stay inside a narrow set of issues that the parties agree on beforehand. The Commission makes sure there are no surprises for the establishment by creating arbitrary barriers to keep out candidates who run outside the two party system.

For example, the Commission demands that candidates poll at 15% or higher to be included in the debates, while using polls that don’t even offer the Green Party ticket as an option.

This blatantly rigged system is why the League of Women Voters called the Commission “a fraud on the American voter”.

We hope that Donald Trump will follow the example of Ronald Reagan, who insisted that independent candidate John Anderson be included in the debates in 1980. When President Jimmy Carter refused, Reagan defended democracy by debating Anderson without Carter. Reagan understood that we can’t have real democracy if voters aren’t allowed to hear from the candidates on their ballot.

We also hope that Secretary Clinton will stand with the public's right to know where all the candidates stand. Clinton and the Democratic Party should reject an undemocratic process where two parties manipulate the debates for their own benefit.

We can’t have democracy without a free exchange of ideas and an informed public. Debates are the most important way for voters to get information. The Commission is a thinly disguised scheme to protect the two establishment parties from competition, and perpetuate a political system controlled by the wealthy and big business interests like previous debate sponsors Anheuser-Busch, Southwest Airlines, and the International Bottled Water Association.

The debate corporation should no longer be accepted as the gatekeeper deciding who gets included in debates; nor should it be the choreographer of carefully scripted debates that prevent honest discussion of the real issues the country faces. We need a truly independent commission that not only represents Democrats and Republicans, but all national parties as well as independent voters. Fifty percent of voters do not consider themselves Republicans or Democrats. A new independent debate commission should reflect the true diversity of the American public.

One of the four key pillars of the Green Party is grassroots democracy. Greens have long been committed to creating new institutions for a more participatory democracy. A real debate commission, not a two-party corporation designed to prevent real debates, would greatly improve our political process in the United States.

As de facto leaders of their parties, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could be champions of democracy by working to end the monopoly of the elitist Commission on Presidential Debates that prevents voters from hearing a full debate on the issues facing the nation, and demand four-way debates in 2016. Will Clinton and Trump stand for American democracy - or against it?

Below is the Open Letter:

Open Letter to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: Join us in Open Debates including four parties

Dear Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton:

In the spirit of democracy, we are writing to ask that you support open debates in 2016 that include all of the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates who are on enough ballots to win at least 270 electoral college votes.

There will only be four campaigns on enough state ballots to win the election: your campaigns, the Libertarians, and our Green Party campaign. All candidates should be included in the series of Presidential debates, so that voters can be informed about all of their choices. We propose four open debates, three for the Presidential candidates and one for the Vice Presidential candidates.

The US electorate is changing rapidly and is no longer limited to Republicans and Democrats. The number of eligible voters who identify as Republican or Democratic has steadily dropped from approximately 80% in 1958 to 50% today. A majority of US voters do not identify with either of your parties.

Open debate is essential for confronting the urgent issues our nation faces. The US economy is not serving the people of the United States, most of whom are struggling to survive and cope with massive debt; never-ending wars are sapping the strength of our nation and creating chaos around the world; we are threatened by mass extinction, climate change, and toxic pollution; health care costs take up nearly 20% of our GDP yet tens of millions go without necessary care; and racially-biased policies like the war on drugs, mass incarceration and police abuse continue to plague our society. These are just some of the crises we face, and in order to find solutions, more voices are needed in the political dialogue.

The presidential debates are the most important events in our election process. They should provide voters with multiple opportunities to see all the candidates on the ballot across the country, representing the diversity of American political thought, discussing important issues in an unscripted manner so that the people can make informed decisions about the direction of our country.

It is public knowledge that the debates are now controlled by a corporation calling itself the Commission on Presidential Debates in order to sound like an official body, when actually it is controlled by your two parties. This corporation has not served the US voting public well. The debates are choreographed in a highly controlled way, depriving voters of the honest debate they deserve. There is no significant participation by the public, moderators are chosen by the candidates, questions are vetted, and unscripted back-and-forth between candidates is minimal. This controlled format prevents spontaneity and ensures that real issues and innovative solutions are kept out of the public dialogue. Open debates will strengthen our nation, no matter who is the next president.

As the de facto leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, you have the power to end this charade. You can stand with the people and be champions of open debates. We urge you to end the monopoly of the elitist corporation that prevents voters from hearing a full debate on the issues facing the nation. We urge you to demand four-way debates in 2016.

A foundational principle of our nation has been that a marketplace of ideas, where all views are discussed and the best ideas win out, is essential to our democracy. The country is crying out for real leadership. By standing with the majority of Americans who want open debates, you will show you are a friend of the transformation our democracy needs.

While only one of us will be elected to serve the nation, we will make great strides together in confronting our problems and defining new solutions if we come together in open debates.


Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka


See the petition to Open the Debates

Write a letter to the editor supporting open debates

We can build a better future together.