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Open the Debates is a grassroots, cross-partisan force working to open up the political debates of our nation to all ballot-qualified candidates, at every level of government.

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Big Picture
Shawn Griffiths

Among the 18 participants in the debate: (from left) Libertarian Dan Behrman, Libertarian Arvin Vohra and Life and Liberty Party member J.R. Myers.

Civility and pleas to be heard mark ‘debate’ among 18 marginal candidates

Griffiths is a contributing writer.

While the Democratic contest was quickly condensing into a two-man race, 18 minimally known presidential aspirants were convening for a sprawling discussion on Wednesday.

Though billed as a debate among independents, organizers said the gathering was really more an intervention on a broken system — a moment to give candidates on the margins an opportunity to rail against the Republican and Democratic duopoly, and to show how rivals can discuss policies more civilly than the polarized shouting that marks so much political discourse.

"One thing that's clear is that the political system we have right now is not serving us well. Worst of all, it doesn't even allow for straightforward solutions to be part of the conversation. That's why we're creating this platform for a new national dialogue," said Christina Tobin, who created the Free and Equal Elections Foundation, which staged the livestreamed event at a hotel in downtown Chicago.

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