Let third parties in
The Commission on Presidential Debates excluded presidential candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein from the first debate held on Sept. 26. In order for candidates to be invited to the presidential debates they must show 15 percent at polls selected by the Commission.
While the threshold isn’t different from any other year, the Democratic and Republican candidates are. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have the worst approval ratings in decades according to a CBS/New York Times poll. Under these auspices, it would seem like a good time to lighten up the 15 percent threshold.
Other presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Trump share the sentiment. In an interview with NBC’s Meet The Press on Sept. 4, Sanders said that the 15 percent threshold was “probably too high … it should be a lot lower than that.”
Trump had similar thoughts in a press conference held by the Reform Party in January of 2000. Although his current view, while running against Johnson and Stein, is that they should be excluded.
“I just think it’s unfair … to have such a high standard, a high criteria. For a party that’s a legitimate party, that has a substantial amount of federal funding, that’s recognized,” Trump said. “Very unfair.”
The first and only time that a third candidate party was invited to debate was in 1992, with Ross Perot. On the day of the debate, Oct.11, 1992, Perot was polling at eight percent according to the Times Mirror Center for The People & The Press poll. Although Perot later rose to achieve 19 percent at the polls, during that time he was polling lower than Johnson is now.
Johnson is showing an average of eight to nine percent in the polls and Stein is showing three to four. While these numbers may seem small compared to the Democratic and Republican candidates, the United States is not an easy place for third parties to flourish. It is often referred to as a “two party system.”
That represents 28 million Americans for Johnson and 9 million for Stein whose voices will be unrepresented at the presidential debates.
A Quinnipiac poll found that 62 percent of voters want Johnson included in the debate. This includes 60 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of independent voters.
If the Commission continues to exclude Johnson and Stein it perpetuates the myth that voters only have two options in presidential elections. Johnson is on the ballot in all 50 states and Stein is on 45, both of which are no easy feats.
Johnson and Stein have run effective campaigns and have proven that millions of Americans are interested.They should be able to make a case to the rest of the United States at the presidential debates.