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.