Third-party debate discusses ideas ignored by major candidates - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

In third-party debate, candidates discuss topics ignored by Obama, Romney

The third-party candidates debated Tuesday night in Chicago. (Source: RT/YouTube) The third-party candidates debated Tuesday night in Chicago. (Source: RT/YouTube)

(RNN) - There is virtually no chance somebody other than President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be elected president Nov. 6, but that doesn't mean there aren't other people running.

On Tuesday night in Chicago, the nation's "third parties" had an opportunity to explain their views, which differed greatly from the normal rhetoric heard during this election.

Former CNN host Larry King moderated the event, and it was sponsored by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to get more candidates on ballots. The debate included candidates from four parties: Jill Stein of the Green Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party.

Questions about 'war on drugs' and student debt

The candidates answered six questions on topics including election reform, the war on drugs, the role of the military, the cost of college education and the National Defense Authorization Act.

On most social issues, the candidates were in agreement - except for Goode, a staunch social conservative. On the question of the war on drugs, Stein, Anderson and Johnson each railed against the status quo and argued the U.S. wastes billions of dollars each year through law enforcement and incarceration for a fruitless cause.

All three argued for the legalization of marijuana and Stein, a medical doctor by profession, argued marijuana is physically safe substance.

"Marijuana is dangerous only because it's illegal - not because it's unhealthy," said the Green party candidate, explaining the biggest dangers associated with the drug are the criminal elements that form as a result of its prohibition.

Johnson, who has amassed a large following this election season based on his social libertarianism, addressed drug use by teens, but said it should be dealt with by parents.

"Fifty percent of kids graduating high school have used marijuana, but that's a family issue - not a courts issue," the former governor of New Mexico said.

Only Goode, the Constitution Party nominee, argued the war on drugs was not a waste and said he would not support legalization in any form.

The most diverse dialogue came on the question of education. Johnson, who is as fiscally conservative as he is socially liberal, argued the reason for the high cost of education is guaranteed government student loans.

"Because of guaranteed government student loans, no one has the excuse to not get a college education. And so because of that, institutions of higher learning are immune from pricing," Johnson said.

The Libertarian nominee said if students were not able to pay the high cost of tuition and did not have government-guaranteed student loans, universities would drop the price to make it more affordable to more students.

Stein argued college should be "free," and a system similar to the G. I. Bill for veterans should be adopted for everyone, because it proved to be beneficial in the past.

"For every dollar that we invested as taxpayers, $7 was returned in benefits to the economy, including more than enough revenue to cover the full cost of those tuition payments," Stein said.

Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, agreed with Stein and added students should be allowed to declare bankruptcy on their government student loans - something they can't do under the current system.

"You can charge a Maserati on a credit card and have bankruptcy, but not student loans," Anderson said.

Agreements on NDAA and term limits

The question that received total agreement from all four candidates was about their stands on the NDAA, the controversial legislation that, among other things, grants the federal government the right to detain American citizens without due process. All four said it should be repealed immediately.

"What we have seen through the Bush years, and now Obama, has been absolutely subversive and anti-American," Anderson said. "There's been no more anti-American act in our history than the NDAA.

'And in 2009, President Obama asked for the power to indefinitely detain people without charges, without trial, without legal assistance and without the right of habeas corpus. We are on the road to totalitarianism and that's not an exaggeration."

On an evening full of topics largely ignored in the debates between Obama and Romney, the debate was closed out with the hypothetical question: What sort of amendment would the candidates write if they were assured it would be passed by Congress?

Anderson said he would write an amendment guaranteeing equal rights for people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Stein said she would write an amendment that rolls back recent first amendment rights given to corporations, which have resulted in so many super PACs.

Both Johnson and Goode said they would write an amendment to impose term limits on members of Congress.

"If we don't adopt term limits, you will always have a Congress that is always worried about the next election instead of what's best for the country," said Goode, who served 12 years in the U.S. Congress representing the state of Virginia.

The spoiler effects

None of the candidates are expected to have a realistic chance of winning, but Goode and Johnson each have the potential to be a spoiler.

Goode is well known in Virginia, which is expected to be a tight race for Obama and Romney. His staunchly conservative stance on social issues and immigration could pull votes from Romney, who had his conservative credentials questioned throughout the campaign.

Polls have put Goode at 2 percent of the vote there, but that could be enough to tilt the state toward Obama.

Johnson, by far the best-known of the participating candidates, was a popular governor who briefly ran in the Republican primaries but switched parties after being kept out of nearly every debate.

Despite his Republican credentials, who he will take votes away from is difficult to determine. His fiscal conservatism could appeal to conservatives, but his socially progressive ideals, including being a adamant supporter of marijuana legalization, could take some votes from Obama - especially in Colorado.

"Because Colorado has a marijuana initiative on the ballot and Governor Johnson has endorsed it and the president has had no comment, I think that he disproportionately probably pulls a few more votes in Colorado from the president," said Johnson campaign advisor Roger Stone, according to NPR.

Whatever effect the third party candidates have on the outcome of the presidential race, the issues they talked about gave an opportunity for voters to hear more than what has been offered by the two major parties - something King appreciated.

"You're all Don Quixotes in a way," King told the candidates. "But the windmills have a way of stopping and we have a way of saluting you just for getting into the fray."

A recording of the debate can be watched on YouTube.

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