Mike Gravel Should Be In the Debates

I spoke with Senator Mike Gravel on Thursday and asked him whether it seemed fair to him to be excluded from Democratic Party Presidential Primary debates on the basis of his performance in polls that did not include his name among those whom people could say they supported.

Of course, he said that it did not. But he also raised some additional questions, and told me what he would say if included in a debate.

Gravel said that 70,000 supporters had donated to his campaign. That means he has qualified for the debates by the factor that he couldn’t be prevented from competing in, namely number of donors. In this regard he differs from some of the candidates being included in the debates; they have not achieved the required number of donors, but are being included on the sole basis of their performance in polls in which they had the distinct advantage of their names being included.

Gravel told me that his campaign was trying to find out from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) whether the DNC had submitted lists of names for the polls, or whether the companies doing the polling had created the lists of names. The DNC has not answered this question, Gravel said. I think it is obliged to answer it, and not just to Senator Gravel, but to all of us. This is the same political party that heavily slanted its last primaries in favor of one candidate. It ought not to be blatantly tipping the scales this time. I think, likewise, that the companies that did the polling have a responsibility to answer why they excluded a candidate.

Of course, the media that does not care to cover this story was very much involved in the biasing of the primaries last time and this time. It was the media that added super delegates into the reported counts of actual delegates in 2016 and slanted the reporting against Bernie Sanders. It is largely the media that does the polling.

Gravel, who has long said he only wanted to improve the debates, not be elected, said on Thursday that he favors Sanders for president and Tulsi Gabbard for vice president but that he also likes Elizabeth Warren. In contrast, he said he really did not like some of the others, including Pete Buttigieg, whom Gravel referred to as “an empty shirt.”

If he is permitted into a debate, Gravel said, he would make the following point. “Bernie gets hammered for being a democratic socialist,” said Gravel. “But what we need to point out is that there are two socialist organizations, one Democratic, one Republican. With Republican socialism the benefits go to the military industrial complex for unlimited wars and cruelty to fellow human beings. We need to make the comparison to Democratic socialism which benefits the people. With Republican socialism you benefit the 1% through the military industrial complex and Wall Street. That’s the message I wanted to get out.”

Gravel also discussed his long-standing goal to empower people to actually make laws, which will be the topic of his forthcoming book. But he returned to what he called “the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the military budget.” Only Sanders and Gabbard are mentioning it, Gravel said. “Mainstream media,” he said, “has demonized China and Russia to such a degree that everyone accepts that they’ve been doing all these horrible things that in fact the United States has been doing.”

Gravel wants to be in the debates but doesn’t think much of them. He said the moderators ask ridiculous questions. He said he thought it would be better to let the candidates create the questions. When I suggested allowing someone from the left to ask questions, the way that CNN has allowed people from the right to ask questions in Republican debates, Gravel agreed. But the fact would remain that one could learn a lot more about the candidates simply from their own websites — perhaps especially from Gravel’s. I’ve compared all of the candidates’ positions and found Gravel’s the best on foreign policy and in general.

My view of the exclusion of Mike Gravel from the debate stage is not only that it indicates a lack of reform or contrition on the part of a political party that rigged a primary four years ago, but also that it indicates the motives behind the attacks on people like Julian Assange.

Remember, the stories came out, very briefly, about the DNC emails that further confirmed efforts to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign and slant the elections toward Hillary Clinton. And then, very quickly, all corporate attention was focused on the question of who had leaked the emails. And this was not a hunt for the party to thank for the public service, but rather something framed as a criminal investigation and a bit later — incredibly — as the exposure of an act of war or treason (committed via some sort of miracle against the United States by someone with no U.S. citizenship or loyalty whatsoever).

We no longer even think to thank those who helped inform the U.S. public about the conduct of a U.S. political party. Instead a publisher is denounced as an enemy for having committed journalism. What message is that supposed to send? Clearly this: when we rig our elections, you don’t question us, you don’t even think to question us, or we’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse. Capisce?

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