Who Says the Debates Need to Change? Voices from All Over the Political Spectrum Decry Duopoly Control

From the Media

“The debates are part of the unconscionable fraud that our political campaigns have become.a format that defies meaningful discourse. They should be charged with sabotaging the electoral process.”
-Walter Cronkite

“By deciding yesterday to exclude Ross Perot from this year’s debates, the commission proved itself to be a tool of the two dominant parties rather than guardian of the public interest. This commission has no legal standing to monopolize debates, and it is time for some more fair-minded group to get into the business of sponsoring these important events.”
- New York Times editorial, 1996

“In dictatorships, it’s common for political insiders to hinder or even silence non-establishment challengers. To do that in America, which supposedly champions open elections, is outrageous and intolerable. But that is just what the Commission on Presidential Debates has done.
- Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel editorial

“The Commission on Presidential Debates is a corrupt stranglehold on our democracy.”
- Phil Donahue

From Republicans

“I’m for more open debates.I think the very concept of an elite commission deciding for the American people who deserves to be heard is profoundly wrong.”
- Newt Gingrich

“I want to see my party achieve victory based on what we have to offer this country and our ability to offer it with integrity. I don’t want to see us achieve victory based on the fact that we are better at rigging the game than other people.”
- Alan Keyes

“if broadening participation in the debates increases public participation in our political process, that can only be good for America.”
- Oliver North

” We really ought to stop trying to manipulate history before it’s happened.”
- Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune

“The debate commission is a corrupt duopoly.”
- Steve Forbes

“I’m trying to forget the whole damn experience of those debates. ‘Cause I think it’s too much show business and too much prompting, too much artificiality, and not really debates. They’re rehearsed appearances.”
- Former President George H. W. Bush

From Democrats

“Where did these people come from to be final arbiters of free speech?”
- John Culver, a former US senator and CPD director.

“It’s fundamentally undemocratic. It’s awfully close to corruption.If this group can arbitrarily rule that a billionaire who gets 20 million votes and qualifies for $30 million in election funds can’t participate then God help the rest of us.”
- Jesse Jackson, after Ross Perot was excluded from the presidential debates in 1996

“The American people are the losers because the real issues never are aired by the candidates.”
- U.S. Representative Ed Markey, (D-MA).

From Others

“The Commission on Presidential Debates must be replaced if we want to have a democracy in this country.”
- John B. Anderson, former Republican Congressman and independent presidential candidate

“The CPD events sent the message that their [youth] concerns don’t matter. While seniors and social security each were referenced more than 60 times during three debates in 2000, neither teenagers nor college students were mentioned at all. The kicker? Every debate occurred on a college campus!”
- Jeff Milchen, former director of Reclaim Democracy! 

“Competition is healthy in all things. Third-party candidates in presidential debates will have the effect, ultimately, not of weakening the two-party system, but of strengthening it.”
- Michael R. Beschloss

See our overview of the presidential debates and the need for reform.

Thanks to OpenDebates.org for providing many of the quotations collected here.