“They gave this election dignity,” asserted actor and debate moderator Ed Asner in his closing remarks at Tuesday night’s Free and Equal third-party presidential debate in Boulder.
The 86-year-old Emmy award-winning actor and former president of the Screen Actors Guild was referring, of course, to the three presidential candidates — the Reform Party’s Rocky De La Fuente, Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Constitution Party’s Darrell Castle — who participated in the lively two-hour forum at the University of Colorado’s Macky Auditorium.
Though complaining endlessly about their own exclusion from the three nationally-televised debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton earlier this autumn, the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and Jill Stein of the Green Party — both of whom had initially expressed an interest in attending — inexplicably skipped the only significant third-party presidential debate of this election cycle. Independent Evan McMullin, the “Never Trump” candidate who is running neck-and-neck with his major-party rivals in neighboring Utah, was also a no-show.
Stein and McMullin reportedly based their decision on whether or not the Libertarian Party nominee would accept Free & Equal’s invitation to Tuesday night’s debate — a forum he eagerly participated in four years ago. When Johnson declined to participate, they both ducked out.
“It is interesting that some presidential candidates fighting to be included in the Republican and Democratic debates might also exclude themselves from a vigorous discussion with peers on the issues when invited to do so,” said a disappointed Christina Tobin, a longtime election reform and voters’ rights activist and founder of the Free & Equal Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization launched eight years ago.