Browse By

What Exactly Is The Kiss Of Death For Alternative Party Presidential Candidates This Year?

Last year, Green Party presumptive presidential nominee (because there aren’t any other serious contenders) Jill Stein and Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson sued the Commission on Presidential Debates, demanding that they be placed on stage on national television right next to the Republican and Democratic nominees.

“To be excluded from the debates is an ‘electoral death sentence,” they said.

An electoral death sentence?

It’s true that, for as long as the Commission of Presidential Debates has set the rules for those candidates that will be allowed on stage for its debates, no presidential candidate who has not appeared in its debates has won the general election.

However, correlation is not the same thing as causation.

The rules of the Commission on Presidential Debates do not exclude third, fourth, or fifth party candidates from participating in its debates. Instead, they set a threshold of an average of 15 percent support for a candidate in national polls. So, theoretically, as many as six candidates could participate in the debates.

A candidate who has lower than 15 percent support in national polls is extremely unlikely to win an election. Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are currently polling at 5 and 10 percent support.

Their low level of support has been consistent for over a year. Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are already suffering from a figurative political death sentence. This death sentence is present even though no single general election inter party presidential debate has yet to take place.

Gary Johnson and Jill Stein can’t blame the rules of the Commission on Presidential Debates for their campaigns’ failures.

This week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the lawsuit by Johnson and Stein.

Stein and Johnson had declared that the Commission’s rules were a violation of First Amendment protection of free speech. The Commission is a private organization, though, and as such, it has the right to set its rules for its own activities. The First Amendment doesn’t include the right to force private organizations to provide a stage from which one’s speech can be broadcast.

Both in broad concept and in particular details, the complaint of Johnson and Stein has no merit.

3 thoughts on “What Exactly Is The Kiss Of Death For Alternative Party Presidential Candidates This Year?”

  1. Al Hopfmann says:

    Your last sentence about their complaint having “no merit” is quite disputable. Without getting into all the arguments related to FCC broadcast licensing, FEC “in-kind” campaign contributions, arbitrary numerical limits, private versus public determinants, and a host of valid issues, let’s refine it down to one simple argument:
    Any presidential debate should be open to participation by ALL candidates who will be on the printed ballot in the state where the debate is taking place.

    1. Juniper says:

      Why, Al? You don’t explain why.

    2. Charles Manning says:

      This is one area where Trump’s allegation of elections being “rigged” makes some sense. I favor Al Hopfmann’s approach, which I’ll refer to as OP (open participation), a private, non-partisan organization, but with some added dimensions.

      There are at least six elements of our electoral system that should be addressed by OP: the existence of what appears to be an “official” commission on presidential debates that controls who the media pays attention to; the multiplicity of presidential candidates — far too many to even mention in a news report that people would take time to read; the predominance of only two political parties; the reliance on polling that places value on momentary popularity and ignores real merit of candidates; the lack of ballot access that prevents even the most highly qualified candidates from being elected in a national election; the “Citizens United” problem; and the domination of the mainstream media, which view the electoral process as a horse race rather a winnowing process designed to elect people who objectively have the best presidential qualifications and qualities.

      OP would be aimed at vetting all candidates who wish to participate, not just those getting 15%, or any percent, in the polls, not just Republicans or Democrats or other party members, and not just wealthy persons. OP should begin right after the presidential election, aiming at the next one. All interested persons would be invited to participate in a series of debates, probably one a month. They would be subjected to evaluation after each debate that is more careful than primary elections, eliminating the polling that undergirds the horse race mentality and incorporating a process more like that used to grade college students. At the end of each debate, the number of persons allowed to participate in the next one would be reduced by, say, 50%. So at the outset, there would be a bewildering mass of candidates, but in time, that would change. Also, there should be a way of allowing people into the process after several debates have occurred. This could be done by applying the same vetting process to person who didn’t participate earlier, but based on their participation in events recognized by the mainstream media. Thus, persons like Hillary Clinton could be allowed to participate even though they fail to participate at the outset. There would have to be a date close to the national election after which no new participants would be allowed. The ultimate goal would be at least two-fold: First, to identify two or three candidates to run in the national election who have survived the vetting process of OP. These two or three could include major party candidates. Second, to allow ballot access for those candidates, if they didn’t already have it. That would entail intensive litigation and possibly mass demonstrations by people supporting the identified OP candidates who lack ballot access.

      If OP had been set up after the 2012 election, Bernie Sanders (who avoided the ballot access problem by running as a Democrat) would have been allowed to participate and might have ended up as one of the two or three candidates endorsed by OP. That would have increased his chance of being nominated by the Democrats. But people like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein could also have participated and would be in a stronger position now. The candidate in 2012 that I thought was most qualified, Rocky Anderson, would have been helped by OP. If OP got someone on the ballot other than a major party candidate who could draw as much as 5% of the national vote, that would have a huge impact. All of the three alternative candidates I’ve mentioned, together, got far less than 5% of the popular vote in 2012. They all chose party affiliation as their vehicle for election. As stated, OP would be non-partisan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Psst... what kind of person doesn't support pacifism?

Fight the Republican beast!