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Let Gary Johnson Debate

Let Gary Johnson Debate

The first presidential debate for 2016 is less than three weeks away, and the only actual Republican in the race won’t be there. He wasn’t invited…and he won’t be without your help.

That’s right. When the world convenes in New York on the 26th, Hillary Clinton will take the stage in defense of her center-left Democratic Party. Donald Trump, having hijacked the Republican Party for his own ends, will represent some mix of bigoted populism and authoritarian trash-talking.

There will be no one standing for Conservative values. There will be no defense of the Republican legacy of Lincoln, Eisenhower, or Reagan. Neither of those people on stage represent the right. Just left, center, and crazy.

Gary Johnson

As we watch Trump destroy the Republican Party’s good name and tarnish the Party of Lincoln with the bigot’s brush, Governor Gary Johnson – the closest thing to a Republican in the race – will be at home like the rest of us, sighing at the television as the camera flips between shots of Trump offending Clinton with insults and Trump offending the rest of us with his obvious con-man shtick.

Why will Johnson be at home? Because the question of “Who gets included in the debates?” is not one we get to decide. It is a question decided not by the government, or the courts, or the Constitution. It’s not decided by the people. Rather, “who gets invited” is decided by the “Commission on Presidential Debates”, which is a private organization made up of Republicans and Democrats.

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15% Rule

This commission decided that only candidates above 15 percent support can be at the debates. Why 15 percent? Because no candidate can get that amount unless they’re a Republican or Democrat. There simply isn’t enough time or money to get another nominee up to that high threshold unless that candidate is either a Democrat or a Republican.

How convenient for the commission! A private organization filled with Democrats and Republicans rigged the rules so that only Democrats and Republicans qualify for the debates! I’m sure that’s an accident that only happens to repeat itself 100 percent of the time.

This unreasonable 15 percent rule allows the media to ignore Libertarians, who have a legitimate argument that they, not the current GOP, are the true heirs of Reaganism. It allows the media to ignore the Greens, who have their own historical roots in American political thought. It allows the media, and the two parties that control the media, to drown out dissent from the left, the right, and the center.

It also keeps you from having an actual choice for President beyond “vanilla with email problems” and “orange sherbet, pre-chewed by a screaming homeless man”.

Think through what the 15 percent requirement means in a world where only Democrats and Republicans are given widespread coverage of their candidates and ideas. It’s hard to imagine either party ever nominating someone who’d poll below that amount.


Unfair Coverage

After all, both those parties start with a solid 25 percent of the electorate before they ever say a word. Then, after a year of nonstop coverage of their nominating process, Americans are shown a four-day infomercial called “The Republican National Convention” and another four-day infomercial called “The Democratic National Convention.” No one else is covered. No other ideas are discussed.

Where’s the free, nonstop coverage of Gary Johnson’s campaign? Where do we get to watch dozens of speakers defend his ideas and attack his opponents? This isn’t some crackpot running on a lark. Gary Johnson was the very popular, very successful Republican governor of a Democratic state. Same thing with his running mate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. When do we get to hear them make their case?

This is where the circular logic starts in. Johnson cannot debate until he gets to 15 percent in the polls. But Johnson cannot get 15 percent in the polls without the visibility that the debates bring. How is that a reasonable requirement when virtually no one, from any party other than the Republicans and Democrats, could possibly meet it?

You have the most disliked Democrat as one nominee, and an even more disliked bigot as the Republican nominee. Are we really going to try and argue that Americans don’t want another option? Most Americans hate these nominees! Ten percent of the country is already on board with Johnson. That’s with almost no coverage of his ideas – a protest vote against these two candidates, really. With even minor coverage of Johnson’s campaign, he’d be well over the 15% mark.

If you think about it rationally, Johnson being at 10 percent with no media coverage is more impressive than if he hit 15 percent with fair coverage. It’s clear that Americans want to hear a third message, beyond what Clinton and Trump offer. It’s also clear that the two parties are terrified of letting Johnson speak. It’s almost like they know one or both of them will be toast if Johnson gets to make his case directly to the American people.

Imagine if the media covered Johnson the way they cover Trump and Clinton. Imagine if every political news story told us what Clinton said, what Trump said, and what Johnson said. You’d hear Johnson talk about how Clinton isn’t the devil, but isn’t a saint either (which rings true). You’d hear Johnson talk about the ridiculous bigotry of Donald Trump and how Trump does not represent Republican values.

You’d hear some policy discussions between Johnson and Clinton – the two adults in the race – and Trump could either join the adult table or sit on Twitter and complain about being left behind. However you imagine it, the American people win if Gary Johnson is offered a chance at the debates.

Johnson’s poll numbers will balloon when more Americans get the chance to hear what he has to say and realize that yes, right now, issue-by-issue, the Libertarians represent more Americans than the Republicans do. Don’t just take my word for it. Go look at the three campaign’s issues pages: Trump, Hillary, and Johnson.

Let Him In

I propose that we allow Johnson into the first debate, regardless of whether he makes the leap from his current standing to 15 percent. Let Johnson and Weld make the center-right case. Let Clinton make the center-left case. Let Trump stand there and beclown himself in a torrent of insult and idiocy.

Image source: Flickr

Then, after the American people get a chance to hear what these candidates have to say, we can talk about narrowing this to a two-person race or not. Then we can start talking about poll number cutoffs. Then we can measure Johnson’s viability; after he has a chance in front of a national audience. Give Gary Johnson and Bill Weld a chance to make the case that they, not the bigoted Donald Trump, are the true representatives of the center-right in this country.

In full disclosure: I am voting for Hillary Clinton. Having Gary Johnson in the debates will likely cost my preferred candidate votes. If he does well enough in the debate, it could cost her the election. I support Johnson’s inclusion anyway. The conservatives and libertarians in this country deserve to be represented on stage. Neither Trump nor Clinton can claim to represent the ideas of those voters, and they deserve representation.

The debates are the last, best chance for Americans to learn about their next president and what his or her plans are for the coming years. While we cannot host a debate for literally every candidate for office, surely we can agree that, at the very least, the candidates on the stage should represent the broad range of American political ideas. We only reach that broad range if we include Gary Johnson in the debates.

Of the people with even slim odds of winning the Presidency, only Gary Johnson can honestly claim to represent conservative values. It would be a grave mistake for America to allow his voice – and the voices of the millions who support Johnson – to be silenced.

This column does not reflect the views of Benzinga.

Posted-In: Donald Trump Gary Johnson Hillary ClintonPolitics Opinion General Best of Benzinga


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