by Zach Garretson
On September 7, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will be hosting a Commander in Chief Forum to be aired on NBC. IAVA is one of the leading veterans’ organizations in America, and their hard work has made a huge impact for many veterans. One of their biggest victories was the reform of the Montgomery GI Bill into the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Even with their impactful advocacy work in the past, they have completely missed the mark for this forum.
Despite Gary Johnson polling higher than either ‘old party’ candidate among our military, IAVA has only invited Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to participate in the Commander in Chief Forum. This has sparked an outrage on the IAVA Facebook page, with hundreds of veterans demanding that Johnson be included.
It is clear veterans want a third option, and that they tend to support a non-interventionist, pro-liberty candidate above all else. In a poll of active duty military and veterans, Johnson leads the pack by over 6 points. The governor finished at 36.7%, while Trump received 30.7% and Clinton only 15.1%. This poll is backed by also examining military donations from the 2012 election. Ron Paul, the only anti-war candidate, received more donations from active duty than President Obama and all of his Republican competitors combined.
Despite all of this, IAVA is not including the Libertarian candidate in this forum. Paul Rieckhoff, CEO/Founder of IAVA, issued a blanket statement to those who asked him about Gary Johnson on his Facebook page.
The historical standard for general election meetings between candidates is to include those who meet a threshold of 15 percent in five national polls leading up to debates and occupy enough spots on state ballots to chart a path to the White House. Currently, Gary Johnson does not clear this bar, but we will continue to monitor his candidacy.
While true that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) does require a candidate to reach 15% in the polls to be included in their debates, the IAVA Forum is not hosted by the CPD, and Mr. Rieckhoff does not have to play by their rules. If the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America truly cared about the people they represent, they would give a voice to their constituents’ top choice.