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Presidential Debates/Reforming the Electoral College

Ralph welcomes George Farah, author of “No Debate,” who tells us how the Commission on Presidential Debates with its secret contracts and secret sponsorships is not the non-partisan organization it appears. And board member of National Popular Vote movement, Stephen Silberstein, updates us on how close we are to reforming the Electoral College.

George Farah is an antitrust attorney, pro-democracy activist, and a political commentator as well as the founder and executive director of Open Debates,  a Washington-based nonprofit committed to reforming the presidential debate process. He is author of the book No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.

“There is no doubt when you have a Commission that is largely controlled by the two parties; and they are trying to appeal to the two major party campaigns that you’re going to get the kinds of moderators that are extremely mainstream moderators, who aren’t going to ruffle anyone’s feathers… they’re only going to address bread and butter major issues, which truly does allow for the entrenchment of the existing power structure.”

George Farah, author of “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.

“In 2012, we created so much noise regarding the corporate sponsorship of the debates that three of the sponsors withdrew. And they don’t want that to happen again. I don’t think they’re going to release the sponsorship until the eve of the debates and possibly even after.”

George Farah, author of “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.

Stephen M. Silberstein founded and served as the first President of, Innovative Interfaces Inc., a leading supplier of computer software for the automation of college and city libraries. Mr. Silberstein sold his interest in the company in 2001 and now devotes his time to philanthropic and civic matters, one of which is sitting on the Board of Directors of National Popular Vote.

“Right now, with these fifteen states and the District of Columbia, we have 196 Electoral College votes. So, we’re just seventy-four votes short. Maybe another five or six states, and then it will take effect… we’re working our tails off to get it for the 2024 election. And we’re quite optimistic that with a little luck and a whole bunch of hard work, we will get there.

Stephen Silberstein, Board Member of National Popular Vote

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 342 Transcript (Right click to download)

10 Comments

  1. Mark Hughes says:

    I agree that presidential debates are Super Bowls. Great comparison, but it’s tragic. Our entire political and electoral systems has turned into a sport full of yelling, obnoxious fanboys in the stands. Just watch CNN on election night, it looks like ESPN Gameday. It’s repugnant. In a recent interview, I heard Chris Hedges say that the Republican Party isn’t an actual political party; it’s a cult. Quite true. Of course that is also incredibly true for the Democrats, we all see the cult-like devotion that many liberals have toward Democratic candidates no matter who. not to mention the obvious worship that the Republican base has of Trump. And due to today’s social climate, the devotion of each party’s acolytes has reached Scientologist levels.

    Farah said the debates are unfiltered and not affected by Big Money? Seriously? Or is he saying that’s how they should be? If the latter, I’m with him all the way, and it does affect the debates. Then again, when you kick your perceived competition off the ballot, as the Dems did to the Greens in PA, you’re affecting the debates!

    Farah asked, “Why, when we’re in the middle of a devastating pandemic, high unemployment, an open Supreme Court seat, multiple foreign policy challenges, are we rationing the most important political event?”

    Because our political leaders don’t want to govern. For the reasons he just mentioned. America is a greasefire that they helped ignite, and they want no part of cleaning up the mess. No, what they’d rather do is be the opposition party, because that way they have no responsibilities and, even moreso, can rake in tons more money. And there’s a lot of money in being the opposition to the incumbent. Like Krystal Ball has said a few times, this squabbling on Capitol Hill isn’t because McConnell & Pelosi & Schumer want to do the right thing for the people; they’re just posturing to put as much blame on their opponents as possible. During this crisis, the Democrats have raked in record-level sums, do we think they want that spigot turned off?

    So Anheuser-Busch is the debate’s principal sponsor. Which in turn means foreign money (Belgium’s AB InBev, the parent company) is propping up this scam. Figures.

    The lack of commercials during the debate I think will end relatively soon. Corporations are eventually going to begin pushing to advertise their crap products, and because capitalism has so much control over our political system, the politicians will cave. And willingly so provided there is enough donor money at stake. Maybe we’ll see AB air a bunch of tacky beer commercials during the debates, like during Super Bowls.

    §

    Reforming the inherently anti-democratic Electoral College won’t work. Complete elimination is the only way to restore any semblance of democracy in presidential elections. Glad to hear this topic discussed, as it is ignored in the MSM, but there needs to be a deep dive discussion into the Electors. The people who do the actual voting for president. I appreciate touching on state legislatures’ impact, but we know what and who they are. Here in NC, Electors are selected by the duopoly and their names aren’t even on the ballot in some way. Here’s a quote from the NC Board of Elections webpage:

    “When you vote for a presidential candidate, you aren’t voting for president. You are telling your state which candidate you want your state to vote for at the meeting of electors. The states use these general election results, also known as the popular vote, to appoint their electors. The winning candidate’s state political party selects the individuals who will be electors.”

    https://www.ncsbe.gov/about-elections/electoral-college

    But these Electors drive the EC, and there is the phenomenon of the Faithless Electors which seemingly turned the tide in the 2016 presidential election. The Constitution and the Amendments are woefully inept in defining them, who they are, what are the prerequisites and qualifications for being one, etc. They’re mentioned in the Constitution but not defined, one of its many failures. It’s mystifying to talk about the EC but not this clandestine cabal.

  2. Don Harris says:

    Please get someone on from a proportional voting organization. The National Popular Vote Compact does not solve the problem.

    The problem isn’t that the electoral vote doesn’t always match the national popular vote. That is supposed to happen on occasion.

    The problem is that the winner take all process in each state takes the votes cast for one candidate that does not win the popular vote in that state and changes it to an electoral vote for the candidate that won the popular vote in that state. A candidate winning 40% of the vote in a state could get all the electoral votes.

    The NPVC only changes this injustice from the state level to the national level. A candidate could get 10% of the vote in a state and under the compact the state would award all their electoral votes to that candidate if the candidate won the national popular vote.

    Awarding electoral votes proportionally is a better way to go. This would make every state a battle ground state and better reflect the will of the voters in the electoral vote than either the compact or the present system. .

    On a separate note, Happy anniversary! (maybe for you- but not for me)

    !0-24-2020 will be the two year anniversary of your appearance on Washington Journal when you said you would have me on your program to discuss an approach to getting the big money out of our political process that requires no legislation so it can can be implemented immediately. There is even still time to get it started and have participants cast meaningful votes in 2020 that could build a base for 2022. It is something that people that would vote for Biden or Trump can also participate in together with those that will not vote for either on the congressional level in 2020 and could even inspire some non-voters to vote.

    Wouldn’t it be a good thing if all those citizens the current major parties are trying to keep divided could work together on something and cast a vote in 2020 that affirms they are working together?

    While you did not offer a specific timetable for when you would have me on your program I thought that you meant it would happen by now. Is there some reason you have changed your mind or just misspoke?

    While you only have one hour a week which may make it hard to fit this in between all the recurring guests, Washington Journal has up to 21 hours per week. Maybe you could get C-Span to help you out by having a discussion between us in one of their hours. I asked them to help you but got no response.

  3. The prescient warning from the League of Women Voters when they were forced out of their nonpartisan stewardship of televised presidential debates by the two parties gives us little solace when the LWV has since maintained silence in the face of blatant corruption favoring the duopoly.

    Today, we at Open the Debates carry on George Farah’s fight against rigged, meaningless debates that fly in the face of the overwhelming will of the American electorate, that fly in the face of the fundamental basis for healthy self-government (a well-informed electorate). All while claiming to work “for the benefit of the American electorate”.

    Join the fight at openthedebates.org. Of course, we would love to speak with Ralph about how to break through the noise and open the debates and the political system to new ideas, more voices, and better choices.

  4. Demetrio says:

    And yet, despite the charade that the present electoral system is, Nader advocates for obligatory voting!!!

  5. Wortmanberg says:

    Isn’t the debate problem with the parties, not the Commission? The focus seems to be in reforming the Commission rather than exposing the parties’ collusion. It might amount to the same thing but the story would have more impact with the public, methinks, if the laser beam were aimed specifically at the parties shutting down the public’s choices, and the Commission being the product of thus endeavor, than if the Commission is allowed to continue to exude the connotation that it is some kind of neutral, public-spirited body. In this, the media cannot be excused from failing to report these basic facts. In general, I wasn’t persuaded by the idea that the media has no choice but to cover the debates within the framework laid down for it by the Commission. It could sponsor its own debates with other candidates and report that the two regular party camdidates refuse to participate because of the arrangement they made to only submit to the tightly scripted formats of the Commission, and so on. Their hands are not tied.

  6. Afdal Shahanshah says:

    A word to describe the presidential debates that isn’t used quite often enough is “cartel”: collusion between private entities to limit competition. It describes the Commission on Presidential Debates perfectly.

    Friendly reminder that Ohio was STOLEN in 2004, Kerry didn’t lose it. As in, computerized election fraud. Don’t take my word for it, watch this short clip:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8lxgh-WpfM

  7. margaret walsh says:

    good morning from camplunalinda ..

    i listened for it ..
    i did not hear it ..

    the CENSUS affecting the ELECTORAL COLLEGE ..

    i listened for it ..
    i did not hear it ..

    CHRISTINA TOBINS’s work with independent .. third party debtaes ..
    got this announcement this morning ..

    It’s happening – Debate #3 is set for October 24th

    Thanks to our incredible sponsors and the dedication of the Free and Equal team to putting integrity back into the debates, a third presidential debate will be happening in less than two weeks.

    Join us on Saturday, October 24th at 6pm MDT in online or in-person in Cheyenne, Wyoming at the first-ever Independent National Convention.

    Read the Press Release

    Ralph knows Christina .. she got him on a lot a state ballots!!

    thank you for your consideration .. Margaret

  8. margaret walsh says:

    good again .. to clarify my 1st comments .. submitted several days ago .. re: electoral college .. i listened for it ..i did not hear it .. the effect of the CENSUS on the ELECTORAL COLLEGE .. did you have a chance to read my comments? did you opt not to post them?

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