We went to the down-ticket presidential debates in Boulder, CO and were less than thrilled … 

The Socialist candidate for President of the United States is so dedicated to the common good, that when she's standing on a street corner being interviewed by a reporter, and she sees a supporter of a different candidate struggling with his sign against the wind, she steps over, grabs the sign, and holds up one end.

"He's a good guy," says Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, now holding up a promotional piece of cardboard for a candidate who is not her.

Imagine Hillary Clinton holding up a sign to help Donald Trump …

There's a sad togetherness on the edges of the presidential election, down from the Democrats and Republicans, and even past the Greens and Libertarians. And so La Riva had come to the University of Colorado Boulder's Macky Auditorium this week for one of the few presidential debates for alternatives, to debate the candidates from the Constitution Party and the the Reform Party, two other parties with representatives less famous than Donald Trump's butler.

Just a few feet away from La Riva is Darrell Castle, the presidential candidate from the Constitution Party. It’s the party for people who think everything was perfect in 1787. He’s standing on the street, totally unrecognized and unacknowledged.

The Reform Party is there, too. It’s party that surprisingly won 19 percent of the vote in 1992, and is represented by "Rocky" de la Fuente.

At the event, there are few TV cameras or reporters. Online, no trending hashtags or viral videos or billion dollar campaign war chests resonate through any of these candidates or the event.

But everyone here, whether Socialist on the left or Constitutionalist on the right, is together in that they’re boiling with rage at their exclusion from the larger debate, and at the biggest lie in American politics: which is that there's only one of two viewpoints — Democrat or Republican.

And that's why they're willing to endure the endless humiliations of being the nominees from lesser parties, like sitting alone at folding tables and flying to Boulder for this particular debate, which is attended by literally 50 people and moderated by half-deaf ex-TV actor Ed Asner, who keeps addressing Darrell Castle as "Nathaniel."

Everyone complains that, in this dumpster fire of an election, they have to choose between the Giant Douche and the Turd Sandwich. But in every state, there are more choices. In California, 5 presidential candidates crowd the ballot. In New Mexico, 8. And in Colorado, a staggering 22 people are running. They come from many parties you haven't heard of, including the Prohibition Party (don't let them plan your bachelor party) and the Nutrition Party, which seems to be a presidential campaign solely devoted to one man's desire to promote his restaurant.

There is also the Laurence Kotlikoff for President Party, which stands strongly behind Laurence Kotlikoff being President.

Up on stage during the debates, the candidates were fine. Unpolished, but fine. Each knew the issues, had plans, and enumerated them well. One common theme was that there are too many wars and we need more parties.

The Socialist wants a 30 hour workweek and free college, free daycare, free everything. The Constitutionalist wanted to repeal every gun law, leave the United Nations and have no more abortions. The Reform Party's platform is merely boring. It wants a line item veto and a balanced budget and sensible stuff.

Nobody said "grab them by the pussy." Nobody threatened to put the other ones in jail. Nobody bragged about their dick. In many ways, the debate was much less crazy than the famous ones, even though it was allegedly so much further out on the fringes.

And the candidates here showed up!

Which is more than can be said for some. The organizers invited the Green Party's Jill Stein and the Libertarian Party's Gary Johnson, but Stein's campaign said she was ill; Johnson's campaign said he didn't want to risk being "attacked."

But there were other candidates who should have been there.

Vermin Supreme runs on a platform of zombie apocalypse awareness, time travel research and promising a free pony for all Americans, but he wasn't invited because he didn't poll high enough.

And Zoltan Istvan wanted in; he supports "rights for future advanced sapient beings like conscious robots and cyborgs." But he wasn't allowed.

It was slightly sad. There are real problems with the electoral process, and more attention to alternative parties might give them a boost and help the nation find solutions. But college kids merely came to this event for the opening acts, which included one of Bob Marley's sons and the Flobots, a hip-hop group from Denver — and then bailed before the debate even started.

Probably should've closed with the Flobots.

At least Ed Asner, the moderator, learned something. By the end, he had stopped calling Castle by the wrong first name.

"I'll never forget your name again!" Asner told him.

Small victories. That's life at the bottom of the ballot. Castle just has to hope that, in the next two weeks, 100 million people moderate debates with him, thereby learning his name. Then Nathaniel Castle — or maybe it was Darrell Castle? — could very well be the next leader of the free world.