On Friday, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced that only Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton would be the only candidates invited to the first debate on September 26 at Hofstra University. This came after deciding to use the average of five different polls to determine eligibility. Only those candidates averaging above 15% were granted an invitation.
First of all, the methodology for inclusion is patently flimsy. Any pollster or political science graduate can identify that polls are useful in identifying general trends. However, they are not to be calculated as if they are an exact science. In fact, almost all have a margin of error of at least 3%, which is significant when considering that this is one-fifth of the required threshold.
Second, how did the CPD even come to this 15% requirement? There is no indication that this is based in any sort of scientific reasoning. This number is nearly impossible to reach, considering that third-party candidates get next to no media coverage, resulting in significantly less name recognition. Rather, the CPD came to this number in 2000 after successful third-party performances by Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996. It is worth noting of course that the CPD consists only of Republicans and Democrats. While many in the GOP blame Perot for George HW Bush‘s loss in 1992, some Democrats equally blame Ralph Nader for Al Gore‘s loss in 2000.
Lastly, even all of the above were insignificant, isn’t this election perhaps worth a change of pace? It is understandable that some third-party candidates are not serious, and that there needs to be some threshold. However, the ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld is on all 50 ballots (not achieved by a third-party since 1996) and comprised of two former governors (not done by any party since 1948). Moreover, the Republican and Democratic nominees are the most unpopular in American history, leaving most voters desiring a different candidate. If this third-party ticket is not permitted a spot in the debates, it all but confirms the duopoly of the CPD and the two major political parties.
This decision by the CPD is not final. Libertarians and Johnson supporters of all stripes should contact the CPD and respectfully demand that he be included in the debates. This election is the opportunity of a lifetime for lovers of liberty, and we should not quietly give up on this chance.