The presidential candidates representing third parties in the US 2012 election have held their own debate in Chicago.
It was no surprise that much of the mainstream media failed to show up for the event as these candidates came to present an alternative vision for US domestic and foreign policy.
Polls show that most US voters have not even heard of the third party candidates.
"Our federal government today ... is on an absolute unsustainable path, the results of which are going to be a monetary collapse unless we actually bring this under control. And as a third party I've been given the opportunity here to make the case that's not being made by either of the two major candidates."
- Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate
But from the Green Party to the Libertarian Party, and from the Constitutional Party to the Justice Party, both left and right were well represented in this presidential debate.
"We are calling for getting money out of politics through public financing," said Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate. "We are calling for opening up the airwaves to all qualified candidates. We are calling for a constitutional amendment to clarify that money is not speech and that corporations are not people to take back our constitutional rights."
Meanwhile, Rocky Anderson, the Justice Party presidential candidate, pointed out how constricted the debate had been between the Republicans and the Democrats.
"They are arguing about who is going to spend more on the military budget .... They're both trying to outdo each other in terms of who is going to drill more both offshore and on public lands. And neither of them even dares to talk about getting rid of this disastrous failed war on drugs, neither of them talks about catastrophic climate change and neither of them talks about poverty," he said.
So, did the third party presidential candidates put forward coherent policies? And should Americans take them seriously?
To answer these questions on this special edition of Inside Story US 2012 presenter Shihab Rattansi is joined by David Swanson, an author and activist.
"It was substantive, it was entertaining, it was democratic with a small d. People were allowed to applaud and that added to the debate. And there was much more passion and much more disagreement on basic issues of ideology. It was much more of a debate on certain topics, on others everybody agreed.
"This [debate] is a showcase of what's missing from other debates. I mean it would be absolutely wonderful to have the taboo topics - the assassinations, the drone wars, the drug war mentioned.
"Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson clearly both want to amend the constitution if needed or take whatever steps necessary to clean the money out of the system."
David Swanson, an author and activist
FACTS ABOUT THE PARTIES:
- The third party debate was hosted by the Free and Equal Elections Foundation
- The debate was moderated by former CNN host Larry King
- The debate questions were submitted via social media and chosen by King
- The Libertarian Party argues that government should have a limited role
- The Green Party advocates economic sustainability and social justice
- The Constitution Party stands for limited government and dedication to the constitution
- The Justice Party backs people over corporate and concentrated wealth