Door No. 3

A voter’s guide to third-party candidates

Imagine being a presidential candidate on your way to the presidential debate — and getting arrested.

That’s what happened to Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein during the second debate. A team of police officers arrested Stein and her running mate, Cheri Honkala, when they sat down in the road after being denied entry to the second meeting between President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Stein (pictured), 62, describes Obama and Romney as candidates of the “two Wall Street parties that have been bought and paid for” and espouses policy planks on everything from job creation and foreign relations to obesity.

“If word goes out and gets viral, we could turn politics on its head,” she says, referring to her campaign.

But word probably won’t get out: Democrats and Republicans work together to keep third-party candidates out of the spotlight. Up until 1988, the non-partisan League of Women Voters organized debates. But that year, Democrats and Republicans formed a private corporation called the Commission on Presidential Debates. The commission, which sponsors the debates through large corporate donors, fixes the criteria for debate participants so only Democrats and Republicans can qualify. It’s a system that journalist Walter Cronkite once dubbed an “unconscionable fraud,” according to Open Debates, a nonprofit working to restore more open debates.

So candidates like Stein often have to go get arrested so they can pop up in media coverage.

The policy proposals put forth by Stein — who is on the ballot in 38 states, including Washington and Idaho — would have tickled Franklin Delano Roosevelt with delight. She wants a “Green New Deal,” which takes inspiration from FDR’s version. It includes an economic bill of rights that would aim to create living-wage jobs with a giant works program to build green energy infrastructure like mass transit, and to retrofit homes and buildings to make them more energy efficient. Rather than sticking to Obama’s health insurance law, which requires many to get private health coverage, Stein would expand the government Medicare program to all Americans. She wants to drastically cut military spending and stop the government from using drones to kill suspected terrorists in foreign countries, which she says only leads to more violence.

“Simply by blowing away the offenders, the violators of human rights, we make room for the next warlords,” Stein says.

Not all small parties lean to the left. There’s also the Libertarian Party, which bills itself as both small government and socially liberal. The Libertarian presidential candidate is former two-term New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who first ran for the Republican nomination. Dubiously, Johnson is about the only politician in that race — cue Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry — who wasn’t given 15 minutes of media fame. Johnson is on the ballot in 47 states, including Washington and Idaho, and touts himself as having cut taxes 14 times as governor while still leaving New Mexico with a balanced budget.

Johnson’s vice presidential candidate, Judge Jim Gray, sat down with The Inlander during an early October swing through Spokane. Gray, 67, is a retired judge and former federal prosecutor in Southern California; he describes being shut out of the debates as “the frustrating part” of the campaign.

“Any party that is on the ballots in enough states to technically win the Electoral College should have a voice,” Davis says. “It would help people, it would make the debates more interesting [and] certainly more substantive.”

Johnson and Davis propose repealing the income tax and replacing it with a retail consumption tax that they say would bring manufacturing jobs back to America. And they prefer simpler and more innovative business regulations, like having oil companies get drilling projects bonded by private insurers so “every oil drop that pollutes the oceans, there’ll be money there to take care of it.”

Johnson and Davis would also legalize and regulate marijuana, bring American troops home from European bases, close down the detainee prison at Guantanamo Bay and repeal the Patriot Act.

“Our country is in trouble, it’s in trouble from a liberty standpoint,” Gray says.

If neither the Greens nor the Libertarians provide a rebellious enough solution for you, go ahead and try another flavor. There are still four other presidential candidates between the Washington and Idaho ballots:

Constitution Party: Former Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode is this conservative party’s standard-bearer. Goode’s highest profile moment came in 2006 when he disparaged America’s first Muslim congressman for getting sworn in on a Koran, which, incidentally, had been owned by Thomas Jefferson. (Washingon, Idaho)

Socialism and Liberation Party: In what sounds like a pretty sweet deal, presidential candidate Peta Lindsay wants to cancel all student debt, abolish interest paid to banks and stop all foreclosures and evictions. (Washington)

Socialist Worker’s Party: Still not militant enough for you, comrade? SWP presidential candidate James Harris is, according to one profile, a supporter of the Cuban Revolution. Which may make him the last one on Earth. (Washington)

Justice Party: Presidential candidate Rocky Anderson is a former two-term mayor of Salt Lake City. Anderson calls for reforming tax laws, ending corporate welfare, rewriting the Patriot Act so the federal government can’t spy on citizens, and ending the practice of torture. (Washington, Idaho) 

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