Debates disappoint 3rd-party supporters

Sunday, October 10, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:27 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

With a nation polarized by the coming presidential election, some third-party supporters say their voices aren’t being heard.

That was part of the discussion Friday night when a small group of Columbia residents met to watch the second televised debate between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry.

“It’s a disservice to the general population when certain voices are kept silent,” said Adam Shahid, 29, chairman of the Boone County Libertarian Party and supporter of Libertarian presidential candidate Michael Badnarik.

Shahid and Liz Gaines, 19, MU campus coordinator for the Nader-Camejo campaign, said the media are largely to blame for stifling coverage of third party candidates.

“The media are really not showing the other side of the other candidates,” Gaines said. “They treat it like they have it all covered because they’ve talked about Kerry or Bush.”

She said this is just another form of bias — media bias toward the mainstream.

So as Bush and Kerry addressed questions from swing voters at Washington University in St. Louis, Shahid and Gaines interjected commentary before a large-screen television in the lower level of MU’s Brady Commons.

“It’s the same old spiel the whole time,” Gaines said. “It’s just that ‘my policy is different.’ But it’s not why it’s different.”

Shahid said Kerry was focused too much on attacking Bush’s policies instead of laying out his own.

“I went to candidate school, too, and I know how they tell you to redirect the question,” said Shahid, who ran in 2000 and 2002 as a Libertarian candidate for 25th District state representative. “I have a lot of respect for people who just answer the question.”

Gaines said she will not support either of the two parties because of their monopoly over democratic elections.

“I want Bush out of office,” she said. “But I’m not going to go against my morals and personal beliefs and vote for someone like Kerry that I don’t necessarily believe in.”

Shahid and Gaines said it was difficult to determine who won Friday night’s debate because both candidates failed to answer the questions straightforwardly and prove conclusively that the other was being misleading.

“These aren’t debates; they’re just commercials,” Gaines said. “And so there’s no winner.”

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