The third debate between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be Monday and focus on foreign policy, but it won’t be the final debate of the campaign.
The next day — Tuesday — talk show host Larry King will host a debate to be aired over the Internet involving four lesser-known, almost anonymous, candidates for president. Good for him.
They are Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode and Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson.
None has a remote chance of getting elected president, but that doesn’t make them quacks. Among their multiple handicaps is that none has found a way to break through the high-dollar, high-profile two-party system that has long dominated politics in our country. Yet as Mr. King noted, “They have a story to tell. It’s a valid story.”
Their debate is being sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation. It has faulted the debates between President Obama and Mr. Romney for excluding third-party candidates.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, which is sponsoring the Obama-Romney debates, requires that participants have a minimum of 15 percent support in multiple national polls and a mathematical chance of winning. Clearly, none of the minor party candidates meets that threshold. Getting known and getting on ballots isn’t easy, in part because they lack the support system that the two traditional parties provide. Ms. Stein, the Green Party candidate, might be as well known today for getting arrested on a disorderly conduct charge for protesting last night’s Obama-Romney debate as she is for any of her positions on public issues.
We don’t know whether she or any of the other candidates would make a good president. We have only modest familiarity with their backgrounds, their values and their positions on contemporary issues.
What we do know, however, is that tens of millions of Americans say they are weary of the way the two major parties conduct business. They hold Congress in alarmingly low regard and have indicated an interest in shaking up the entire system. Then, perhaps out of habit or because their fear of change exceeds their desire for it, most vote for Republicans or Democrats, often knowing little more about their positions than about the positions of candidates from minor parties.
The trouble with casting uninformed ballots is that we don’t know what we’re getting — or missing.