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October 25, 2012

Presidential Hopefuls Meet in Third Party Debate

President Barack Obama and governor Mitt Romney are not the only ones racing for the Oval office this fall. Moderated by Larry King, four other presidential candidates debated in Chicago this week. To be invited on stage, the candidates have to be on the ballot in a minimum number of states or polling at least one percent in any national survey.

The four candidates represent completely opposite wings of Americans politics.

Jill Stein from the Green Party emphasizes environmentalism and is considered left wing, while Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party focuses on stricter penalties for illegal immigrants, gaining substantial support from the Christian right.

Rocky Anderson from the one-year-old Justice Party advocates what they call economic justice. They want to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and abolish corporate personhood. They are considered center-left on the political scale.

The biggest party represented at the debate was the Libertarian Party, with the former Republican governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson as its candidate. Libertarians support fewer regulations on the economy, a less powerful state and personal civil liberties.

Despite their different approaches, they candidates agreed on a number of issues. Everyone argued that the Pentagon budget is too large.

The debate also touched on issues completely gone from the Obama/Romney-trail. Both Mr. Johnson and Ms. Stein spoke to legalize marihuana, with some support from Mr. Anderson. Although Mr. Goode argued against legalizing drugs, he considers drug use to be a state issue.

Though neither of them is likely to be elected president, both Democrats and Republicans worry that they might draw “too many” votes. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader famously received almost 100 000 votes in Florida in the 2000 election, which may have helped tip the vote in favor of George W. Bush.


“Look, there’s only a couple of voices being heard here, and it’s Tweedle-Dee and it’s Tweedle-Dum,” – Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party.

“Marijuana is a substance that is dangerous because it’s illegal. It’s not illegal on account of it being dangerous, because it’s not dangerous at all,” – Jill Stein, Green Party.

Warm Up Questions

1. What is a “third party”? Can you name any “third parties”?

2. What does it mean to be “on the ballot”?

3. What does “left wing” and “right wing” mean in terms of politics?

Discussion Questions

1.Should third party candidates be allowed to participate in the main presidential debates? Why or why not?

2.What are the upsides and downsides to allow third party candidates to run for president? Do you think the electoral system should be different?

3.Why do you think three candidates from completely different political platform all support legalization of marihuana? Do you think it should be legalized – why or why not?

Additional Resources

Video Transcript

Lesson Plan: Too Much Government? Miller Center National Discussion and Debate Series

Lesson Plan: Strategizing the 2010 Midterm Elections

Last Debate Marks Home Stretch For Presidential Contenders

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