Will Anyone Let Gary Johnson Debate?

Posted by & filed under 2012 Election, An Independent Viewpoint, Controlled by Parties, Culture of Corruption, Hyperpartisan, In the Press, Independent Candidates, The IVA Angle, WTF?



The short answer: Very unlikely.

The long answer: There are several reasons there hasn’t been a real “third option” in a presidential election since Ross Perot’s 1992 candidacy, but arguably the chief obstacle for third party presidential candidacies like those of Gary Johnson has been missing a place in Presidential debates. Why?

Regrettably, you can’t crawl out from under a culvert and run for president of the United States,” Johnson says.

The Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonprofit cofounded by the Democratic and Republican parties in 1987, requires a candidate to poll at 15% nationwide to be included.  Recently writing about the candidacy of Green Party nominee for President, Jill Stein, the New York Times succinctly described the third party debate quandary:

[The Third Party] problem, then, is of the chicken-and-egg variety: To get national name recognition, she needs television exposure in debates. But she does not qualify for debates because of a lack of national name recognition… She thinks that is by design, to benefit major parties.

“If they actually have to debate a living, thinking, informed person, it’s very hard for them,” Ms. Stein added, referring to Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney. “They have kind of a mutual agreement, which you can see evident in the nature of their debate right now. If it’s important, they won’t go there. Many issues are not on the table.”

For third party candidates in the 2012 election cycle, the problem debate exclusion isn’t actually anything new: Candidates such as Johnson or the notorious Buddy Roemer both made the decision to leave the GOP Presidential Primary process and run on different tickets after being excluded from several 2011 primary debates by GOP insiders.
Last month, Fair.org columnist Peter Hart proposed a solution to Gary Johnson’s problem that we’d be happy to see tried out:
“TV networks have followed along with the CPD structure, but there’s no reason they have to. Why not invite all legitimate candidates with ballot access to an open presidential debate? The candidates who don’t show–probably the ones named Romney and Obama–can be represented by empty podiums.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that the #LetGaryDebate movement has gained much traction, despite a CNN Protest, and the support of Penn Gillette from Penn & Teller. However, the Johnson campaign has tried to remain upbeat, telling US News & World Report that:
“The campaign is “optimistic” Johnson could appear at the first debate, which will take place Oct. 3 at the University of Denver in Colorado.”
If Johnson does manage to miraculously score a third seat at the table in October — watch out. He’s quite the debater, having already delivered the best debate quip of the current electoral cycle:

Included in the Independent Voters of America manifesto is the point that we believe to take back our government, independent American voters must help break the two parties’ stranglehold on our elections. Including Gary Johnson in the 2012 presidential debates and raising the national profile of the Libertarian Party could certainly be a good place to start.


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