What are the terms for being allowed to participate in a political debate?

BELLOWS FALLS — The media outlet VTDigger recently hosted a debate with three candidates for Congress. I wonder, and have asked explicitly: How did they choose who to include and who to exclude from the debate? They haven't responded. So what?

When the organization announced the debate, I immediately responded, informing that I am also a candidate and would like to participate.

Well, who the hell am I? My name is Liam Madden. I am a Marine Corps sergeant who became the leader of the nation's largest antiwar organization of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. I then became an entrepreneur who co-won MIT's Solve award for organizations innovating climate change solutions.

I announced my candidacy to VTDigger several weeks prior to the debate. My campaign has been covered by other Vermont media outlets including The Commons, the Brattleboro Reformer, and VPR. I am not a completely obscure yahoo clamoring for unwarranted attention. In short, I am a serious candidate.

VTDigger finally responded after they received dozens of requests from Vermonters who would like to see me included. The response: “the terms of the debate have already been set, and you can't be accommodated.”

Naturally, I asked what those terms were. No response.

Naturally, I asked the other candidates to simply allow me in at whatever terms were agreed upon. No response.

Naturally, the following letter has been sent, and this current letter to the editor is meant to prompt other Vermonters to ask if this situation is any indication or the kind of courage and transparency we can expect from these three candidates , if elected.

“Dear Becca, Molly, Kesha, and VTDigger leaders:

“I am still awaiting a response to my inquiry about the debate. What are the terms? Why aren't you sharing them with me? How exactly were the candidates chosen? On what criteria? What about my idea to publish a concessionary critique op-ed? Most importantly, why can't those terms simply accommodate another person if the candidates agree? Why wouldn't you agree?

“I'm sure if you can put yourself in my position, you might see how I could see this as rather arbitrary and anti-democratic. I'm sure you could imagine seeing it even more cynically, as a capricious favoritism/protectionism of a preferred “in-group” where public-interest journalism - sharing the ideas and informing the public of their full set of options about a consequential matter and carrying it out as a sacred obligation - is being exchanged for a gatekeeping role in service to the ideologies you prefer.

“Help me see this differently.”

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates