By: James Hogan ~Guest Writer~
The election is just over a month away with a lot of people still split or undecided, but one of the candidates will not be on stage for the debates leading into November. Gary Johnson, Libertarian presidential candidate and the former governor of New Mexico, has been barred from appearing in the presidential debates of 2016.
The requirement for being a part of the debate is polling at 15 percent around Labor Day. Gary Johnson sits at about 10 percent nationally. Bear in mind, that 10 percent is roughly 22 million American citizens who have voiced their intent to vote for Gary Johnson. Despite the large number of Americans that want to see Johnson debate, he won’t be on stage this year. Instead, the public will only be exposed to the ideas, opinions and plans of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Here is where things get interesting. In 1992, Ross Perot, a third party candidate, was allowed to debate against Bill Clinton and then President George H.W. Bush. At the time, Perot was polling at just barely eight percent. A man who was supported by fewer people and had the support of no formal political party was allowed to participate, but Johnson cannot. A man who was governor of the state of New Mexico for two terms is barred from the debates, but a less popular businessman was allowed to debate. To make things more absurd, Perot had at one point dropped out of the presidential race and suspended his campaign, but he came back and was allowed in the debates while polling a level below Johnson, who has not dropped out at any point.
Regardless of the arbitrary 15 percent rule, there is a public call for a third party candidate another voice to break up the bickering. According to Gallup, more than 50 percent of American voters have wanted to see a third-party candidate at the debates since 2007. For nearly a decade, the American public has been calling for someone else to get on stage. Now in 2016 there is a candidate who appeals to at least 22 million people and he won’t get to participate.
What effect could getting Johnson in the debate really have? Does having a third party candidate really make any difference?
Look at Perot. The man came into the first debate polling at eight percent, yet when Election Day came, he received 19 percent of the vote. A candidate with no political party behind him more than doubled his numbers in a month. Imagine what Johnson could do with inclusion at the debates. If the former governor doubled his numbers the way Perot did, Johnson could conceivably win 20 percent of the nation’s votes. Based on current projection, that means he could win multiple states and vitally affect the Electoral College. In simple terms, putting Johnson on stage could change the way that more than one state’s electors vote.
Even if you don’t think a third-party candidate could win the election or don’t like Johnson in particular, we can all recognize the importance of hearing every voice. Not letting a third-party candidate participate is silencing the views of millions of Americans. Calling for Johnson to debate does not endorse his views or mean we believe in him. It simply means we believe in the electoral system.