Connecticut's Third Parties: It's Time For a Change

Members of Connecticut's Libertarian, Justice and Green Parties say viable third party candidates should be allowed in presidential debates and allege unfair voter laws.


The presidential debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have ended. But there's a debate between other nationally-known presidential candidates that's still to come. 

Dr. Jill Stein, heading the Green Party's ticket, and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, heading the Libertarian Party's ticket, are scheduled to face off in a second third party debate on Monday, Nov. 5. The debate will be broadcast online at RT.com from 9 to 10:30 p.m.

Stein, Johnson, former U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode (Constitution Party) and former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson (Justice Party) faced off on Tuesday, Oct. 23 in Chicago, the night after Obama and Romney ended their trio of debates. The first third party debate, moderated by Larry King, can be viewed in its entirety here.

Whether it's a growing trend or a cyclical one, whenever elections come around, talk of third parties is inevitable. Political aficionados discuss whether they're viable, whether they should be treated the same as the Democratic Party and the GOP, or whether people who vote third party are throwing away their vote. 

For Dan Reale, Mike DeRosa and William Brighenti—members of the Connecticut Libertarian, Green and Justice Parties, respectively—it's time for third parties to be given the respect they feel they deserve. While they certainly disagree on a number of issues, the three men all agree that third parties should be given a broader stage on which to debate their platforms. 

"I don’t feel that the current election laws are fair—they make it almost impossible for a third party to get elected," Brighenti said. "Should Rocky Anderson be able to debate Obama and Romney? Absolutely. Other viable, legitimate candidates—they should be included in the debates."

And just how are candidates allowed to participate in the presidential debates to which we've grown accustomed? The Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit corporation established by the Republicans and Democrats in 1987, lays out the rules regarding, well, the presidential debates. The rules of that commission state that in order for someone who's not the Democratic or Republican nominee to participate in the debate, they need to be polling at 15 percent or better in national polls.

Reale, DeRosa and Brighenti all agreed the presidential debates aren't really necessarily debates after all. The real issues aren't discussed, they say. For starters, before Obama and Romney took the stage on Oct. 3 in Denver, teams representing both men agreed to a slew of rules by which the debates would be governed.

For Reale, who's running as a Libertarian candidate to represent Connecticut's second congressional district in Washington, the Commission on Presidential Debates was created to give the two major parties total control over an essential part of the electoral process. 

"The Demopublicans set up the Commission on Presidential Debates where both Demopublican nominees agree not to debate anyone else at any forum but the one sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates," Reale told Patch. "The reasoning was that we can't have another Ross Perot telling the truth and forcing the Mr. Potato candidates to come up with a real answer to an actual question." 

According to DeRosa, who's running to represent Connecticut's first congressional district in Washington, the problem is the same. How can a candidate receive 15 percent in national polls if they're not given a similar stage on which to speak?

"If you keep voting for the lesser of the two evils, you're going to get the evil of the two lessers," DeRosa said. "What the two parties tend to do is move towards the imaginary center which they create for themselves."

DeRosa said, like Ross Perot's polling in 1992 suggests, that if the public were exposed to the views of these third party candidates, their ratings would naturally increase. 

"If people are going to hear the third side of the story, the fourth side of the story, the fifth side of the story," Americans will understand the issues more thoroughly and change their opinions, DeRosa said.

Brighenti thinks the situation—making it hard for third party candidates to have exposure to the masses because of the debate rules—is "very dangerous."

"The majority of the people unfortunately are oblivious to it," he said of the rules. "Maybe it accounts for the reason that 50 percent of the people will not vote. It's very sad."

Reale refuses to accept the Libertarians are a third party.

"We're a second party—the Republicans and Democrats are one party pretending to be two," he said. "They fight like they're married, and usually on the most comparatively irrelevant wedge issues. While they argue who gets the remote or whose turn it was to take out the trash, the fiscal house is burning down, and they couldn't care less."

All three men agree that ballot access for third party candidates is a huge hurdle over which to leap.

"We made our best effort to get on the ballot," DeRosa said of Stein's campaign. "In Connecticut, it's very difficult."


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