Third-party candidates should respect precedent set by CPD


Out in the cold:  Should third party presidential candidates be allowed to participate in debates?



Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein are polling at 8.8 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.

To participate in the presidential debates, a candidate must reach the minimum of 15 percent of the total vote, a threshold set by the Commission on Presidential Debates in 2000.   

Many have declared the 15 percent criterion undemocratic and advocate for eliminating it to allow Johnson and Stein to participate in the presidential debates.

Yet, adding more talking heads to the debates would not only further disorganize the already unruly debates but would result in little to the election.

Johnson and Stein insist that the polls are “undemocratic” and “rigged” against them by asking pollsters about a two-way race and not a four-way race, and their suspicions are not irrational.

As the CPD is a bipartisan body, rather than non-partisan, setting strenuous requirements for a third-party candidate would be in its best interest.

Yet, no evidence indicates that the CPD has acted on the potential bias.

The 15 percent threshold balanced the CPDs’ goal of inclusivity, without being so inclusive that invitations would be extended to candidates with meager support.

Allowing these candidates to join now, just 30 days from the election, would be an injustice to precedent and all previous third-party candidates since 2000.

Further, adding more candidates to the debate would spoil the purpose of debates: educating voters.

As seen during the Republican debates earlier this year, more candidates equal less time to speak for all involved.

It’s time to focus on the stances of candidates who have a realistic chance of winning, rather than fracturing voter education.

This is not to say that the minor parties’ ideals don’t carry any weight, because they do.

Johnson’s cross-party support of same sex-marriage, abortion rights, trade agreements, fiscally prudent government and legalization of marijuana offers a range of stances for voters to stand behind.

Additionally, Stein’s “WWII-scale national mobilization” to stop climate change, paired with her desire to create millions of jobs by transitioning the U.S. to renewable energy sources, presents a future that should energize any voter concerned about climate change and alternative energy sources.

But this doesn’t change the fact that, currently, Stein and Johnson lack interest from voters and stand little chance to win the general election.

A path to success does exist for minor parties, but it is a long-term solution. It stems from focusing on local elections and seats in congress rather than prematurely running for the higher public offices.

Currently, neither the Libertarian Party nor the Green Party hold seats in congress. Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King, who both identify as independents, are the only  third-party members of Congress.

Stein and Johnson can utilize the momentum from this election to slowly acquire seats, build a strong foundation for their parties, gather support from voters and eventually run a successful campaign for the presidency.

Jacob Knutson is a sophomore  journalism and political science major from Rapid City, S.D.

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