The very first news item I encountered this morning as I opened my computer was the death of Geraldine Ferraro. By many standards, she did enjoy a good life: former member of Congress; Vice Presidential candidate (the first female one in the United States — there wouldn’t be another for over 2 decades); TV host; she had a loving husband (that’s one!) and 3 grown children. Yet none of this is what I remember most about Ms. Ferraro.
I remember the 1984 Vice Presidential Debate.
But let’s step back.
The first Presidential Election I have any recollection of was the 1976 contest between Gerry Ford and Jimmy Carter. However, the first debate I can recall sitting through was in 1980 between Carter and Ronald Reagan. That’s the one with the famous Reagan catchphrase “There you go again.”
In those days, the debates were run by the League of Women Voters.
By 1984 we had — heaven help us all!!! — a woman candidate for Vice President. How could this be? Can she possibly be qualified?? Quick! Somebody set up a debate between Geraldine Ferraro and the Republican candidate, George H.W. Bush (later known as “President Bush” or “Bush 41”). It wasn’t the first Vice Presidential debate, but it is the first one Generation X is likely to remember.
The woman, who normally wore sharp little suits like this, showed up in a rather unflattering grey sweater. Even to a child it seemed like a thinly disguised attempt by some patriarchal campaign handlers to make her seem “friendly,” “feminine,” and god help her “momlike.” She stood there, next to a former CIA director, former Ambassador, former RNC Chairman in his blue wool suit with the red silk tie, and looked like she was ready to take the class on a field trip. I can’t recall a word of what was said. From where I sat, this moment lost the election for Mr. Mondale.
But onward to 1988, when Dan Quayle was the Vice Presidential candidate. The poor man is right that he took a lot of heat for statements that wouldn’t have gotten a second glance had they come out of the mouth of his running mate’s son. Again, a debate, but now under the auspices of the Commission on Presidential Debates — a wholly owned subsidiary of the two major political parties.
I’ll skip such fine moments as “Gridlock!” and “Oh no say it ain’t so Joe!” and move on. In 1992 they were honest enough to include a third candidate in the debates, the popular if mercurial Ross Perot and his running mate. This would be the last time the CPD would include any “undesirables.”
The Republican field is already starting to populate with Presidential candidates and wanna-be candidates. Before the year is out, we will be subjected to various debates between them where the only thing they actually agree on is that President Obama stinks, is too liberal, might be a socialist, might be a communist, might be a Muslim, might be the anti-Christ, might be Kenyan. In short, they will call him everything except a nice Blank man. By this time next year, the running will be between a short list of 2-5 players. By 18 months from now, we will have had a couple of Presidential Debates and maybe a Vice Presidential one or two.
What will be missing from this picture is all the third party candidates. And this brings me to a proposal.
Let’s have a big, televised debate next spring or summer with all the “other” candidates. And I do mean all of them! Everybody who can get his or her name on the ballot is welcome to come on (at their own expense), answer questions, and talk about their views.
I predict that two things will happen. Most of the candidates will come across as having serious holes in their platforms — if not being completely loony. Some of the candidates will actually have a good idea or two, and perhaps some of these ideas will either create a credible third party or get co-opted by one of the mainstream parties. Either way, this is a win for both the candidate and the country.
In closing: a job fit for a dog; more like this please; insanity; interesting but not happening; way down; when did Jim Bakker start talking sense?; a lousy graph; the good old days?; dangerous; sakura; and even Time thinks it’s odd.