Off the Leash: Democrats and Republicans don’t have monopoly on political ideas and public policy …

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The first presidential debate is coming up Monday, Sept. 26. This is an important time in our country’s history, so be sure to tune in.

Now that I’ve given my public service announcement, let’s talk about presidential debates. Do any of you find it odd that there were no third-party candidates allowed in the primary process? And, that there are none allowed to participate in the general election debates?

Well, don’t be surprised. There hasn’t been a third-party candidate invited to the party since Ross Perot got 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992, the largest third-party share of the vote since 1912 and Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party. Perot split the Republican vote, which helped Bill Clinton win the election.

Remember John Anderson back in the 1980 election and his debate with Ronald Reagan after Jimmy Carter decided not to show? Anderson was a smart man and he brought many good arguments into the debate.

Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, joined the Democratic Party so he could have a fighting chance to push his ideas forward. He knew, all too well, that without affiliation with one of the two most powerful parties in the country, he would be relegated to the sidelines.

So, who do you think made the decision to exclude alternative voices from our political process? Who benefits from their absence? The Republicans and the Democrats.

I would suggest that, perhaps, Perot scared the crap out of both of the major parties. He gained more votes than any independent presidential candidate in recent history, so they decided to slam the door on any future gate crashers who might loosen their grip on power.

Shouldn’t we hear all viable perspectives when the stakes are so high? Why aren’t we outraged? Why don’t we demand equal access? I think we all suffer from selective amnesia.

Dissenting opinions fade away and we don’t even notice they’re gone. If Sanders hadn’t changed parties, we would have missed his unique voice, his light — exposing the hidden powers that have all but destroyed democracy in this country.

If we don’t fight for the inclusion of outside points of view, we deserve the “business as usual” we have gotten for the past 40 years. The League of Women Voters won’t do it for us. CNN, NBC, ABC and all the major media outlets won’t do it for us. All they’re interested in is ratings, and, you can bet the Democrats and Republicans won’t do it for us.

If this makes you angry, good. Use that anger to effect change. If you’re not angry about this and so much more that is happening in our country, then maybe democracy is not for you, because democracy takes work. It is dependent upon an engaged populace.

Authoritarianism is much easier: Keep your headdown and do what you are told to do. I’ve heard it said that the mind of the common man is shaped for fascism. I hope they are wrong.

Pay attention and vote.

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