Those of us who care little for the New England Patriots might have spent last Monday night watching a different sort of game — CNN's Republican Presidential Primary Debate. Located in sunny Tampa Bay, Fla., the debate was what you would have expected: a dog pile on the Republican front-runner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. For those of you who missed it, the debate went something like this:
Wolf Blitzer: "Gov. Perry, what do you think about anything?"
Perry: "Realistically Wolf, I think we need to …"
The rest of the field: "I disagree with whatever Perry is saying right now."
To be fair, Mitt Romney acquitted himself well, and other candidates made some articulate, well-thought-out points. Also, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., said that Gardasil, the HPV vaccine, causes mental retardation — but hey, no debate is perfect.
In fact, this debate was especially imperfect because it denied America an opportunity to hear from some of the more interesting candidates.
To qualify for last Monday's CNN/Tea Party Express Debate, a candidate had to average 2 percent of votes in three national polls occurring in the months of July or August.
These requirements mean the American public will be denied a fully stocked buffet of GOP presidential primary candidates. While these numbers are definitely reasonable, it denies media attention to a more screwball candidate, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer.
Roemer's signature issue is his belief in strict campaign finance reform. His campaign nobly accepts only donations of $100 or less and no money from Political Action Committees.
Roemer's poll numbers often barely register. When his name is actually listed as a possible candidate in polls, he occasionally draws 1 percent support. But the numbers are unimportant. While the quantitative argument for Roemer is painfully weak, he deserves a spot for qualitative reasons.
I recently asked Roemer about being excluded from the debate. "I'm not one to be overly anxious about it. I need a debate — there's no question about it. My ideas are different. I talk about the money, and its corrupting influence in politics," Roemer said. "And I talk about unfair trade … These are my two issues. Nobody else talks about them."
And that's the point. Nobody else in the primary talks about campaign finance. Even if Roemer has a miniscule chance of winning, injecting his ideas into the primary may help define the national discussion.
Excluding fringe candidates is often done to allow other contenders more time to speak. So far, the debates already suffer from an imbalance of speaking times, with an emphasis on the front-runners.
As evidenced by former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum's complaints during the August Fox News/Washington Examiner debate, no matter how many candidates attend, some will not get enough speaking time. Adding Roemer will not change that reality.
Just look at former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who has as much of a shot as Roemer of winning the nomination — zero, for those of you wondering — yet is on stage for all of the debates. With all due respect to the speaker, if he can focus primarily on chiding the media for asking "gotcha" questions, then why can't we have Roemer dinging the media for not asking about campaign finance?
Furthermore, making campaign finance reform a part of the national discussion is something that everyone can and should rally around. The point of the fringe candidate is to inject into the national conversation important issues that do not often get mentioned.
The morality of knowing who is paying for what in politics should be an outright priority, especially for the upcoming 2012 election. With President Obama rumored to be raising $1 billion for his reelection campaign and a possible President Rick Perry — who was labeled a crony capitalist by members of his own GOP establishment — a discussion about money in politics needs to be broached. Roemer is the person to herald that discussion.
Therefore, I hope Fox News allows Roemer on stage for its Sept. 22 debate. You may disagree with some of Roemer's policies. I happen to disagree with nearly all of them. That fact still does not diminish what his candidacy can bring to the podium. Roemer's poll numbers may be low, but let him debate. Campaign finance matters, and America deserves a look into who is funding the president it elects in 2012.
Chip Lebovitz '14 would like to congratulate his parents on their 25th anniversary. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.