In many ways, Mike Gravel did not get a fair shake this election. He has done a lot for this country. He attempted to filibustered the draft. He helped release the infamous “Pentagon Papers” to the public.
Alone among members of Congress, Senator Mike Gravel had the courage to take a stand that not only helped bring the atrocious Indochina wars to an end, but also made a great contribution to breaking the wall of secrecy that governments erect to protect themselves from their own citizens. I am of course referring to his release of the Pentagon Papers, properly called “the Gravel edition,” which provided the public with a unique opportunity to become educated about affairs of state.
In the years since, Gravel has continued to show the same moral integrity and courage, particularly with regard to war and aggression, the severe threat of nuclear war, the destructive impact of the military-industrial complex on American democracy, and the programs of aggressive militarism that have led even Europeans to rank the US as the greatest threat to world peace, far above Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, or other states assigned this role in the US doctrinal system. It may be that these consistent and honorable commitments are responsible for his being largely excluded from the media, even from presidential debates. And the same integrity and courage should be an inspiration for people who care about their country, the fate of its people, and its role in the world.
The Gravel campaign also put out a video “Et Tu, Dennis?”
In all honesty, I would like all active Democratic candidates in the debate. However, I do understand some of the pressure candidates are under. Ideally, Democratic candidates would show some solidarity for one another. Realistically, the Democratic candidates are in direct competition with one another. It is not surprising that the only candidate to mention Kucinich’s exclusion was Obama, the candidate Kucinich told his supporters to make their second choice if they didn’t make the 15% threshold during the Iowa Caucuses. The political game is perfectly obvious. Obama wants to be the candidate to pick up Kucinich’s supporters, either in the later primaries or in the general election.
However, the other unfortunate side-effect of this direct competition is that candidates attack the candidates they think they can win votes from. This means Gravel is much more likely to attack Kucinich for his stance on exclusion rather than Clinton or Edwards.
The only notable exception to this I’ve seen to this are the Republican candidates attacking Ron Paul. Basically, all the Republican candidates want to be the most “Alpha-male” candidate, so when Ron Paul starts some of his classic non-interventionist rhetoric, the other candidates salivate to be the one to deliver the most devastating zinger.
In all fairness, if we want to fix the debate exclusion, it needs to happen at the party level, not the individual candidate. The Democratic party should have some rules about excluding candidates from a presidential debate. If a candidate is excluded, the party won’t support the debate. Democratic candidates that break the rules would face party sanctions. Look, there is no reason to let MSNBC establish the criteria for debate inclusion. The Democratic party can easily come to the aid of an unwelcome candidate by forbidding those the organizers do want from participating. However, such rules would need to be established ahead of time.
Ultimately, it is the Democratic party that is hurt by this exclusion process. Yes, it helps the top-tier candidates by marginalizing the excluded candidates, but it also misrepresents the true spectrum of the party. This lack of diversity means the base of the Democratic party is not as big as it could be. In short, allowing MSNBC to determine the candidates is costing the Democratic party votes.
The true problem exists with the lack of solidarity in the party over candidate exclusion. However, expecting an individual candidate to take initiative on any such measure without collective agreement works directly against the candidate’s rational self-interest and obligation to be in the race to win it.