Thursday, December 13, 2007

Kucinich Excluded from Iowa Debate

The Hill reported yesterday that Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) is being excluded from this week’s Iowa presidential debate because he has not rented office space in Iowa. The Des Moines Register informed the Kucinich campaign that Kucinich is not invited because the newspaper determined “that a person working out of his home did not meet our criteria for a campaign office and full-time paid staff in Iowa.”

The campaign said of the exclusion, “[I]f the Register has decided to use hair-splitting technicalities to exclude the leading voice of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, then the entire process is suspect.” The campaign claims that Kucinich has also been barred from public appearances by the Iowa Democratic Party and Iowa Public Television.

Excluding Kucinich from the Iowa debates expands the disturbing trend of excluding important voices from political debates. Third party candidates are frequently excluded, as Ralph Nader found in 2000 and 2004, and as I found in 2006. These exclusions are done against the wishes of most voters. History shows that debate participation by third-party candidates raises debate viewership and voter turnout. The 1992 presidential debates, which included third party candidate Ross Perot, were watched by record-breaking TV audiences, averaging 90 million viewers, with a larger audience for each successive debate. Presidential voter turnout went up in 1992, reversing a 20-year downward trend. In 1996, with Perot excluded, the presidential debates averaged only 41 million viewers -- and voter turnout nosedived. In 1998, participation by third-party candidate Jesse Ventura in the gubernatorial debates in Minnesota generated massive voter turnout.

I hope the Kucinich campaign will commission a poll to find out how Iowa voters feel about his exclusion from the debates.

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