Want to See Gary Johnson and Jill Stein Debate? Here's Why You Won't
The Commission on Presidential Debates -- an organization created by Democrats and Republicans in 1987 -- sets the ground rules and extends debate invitations to presidential candidates; and they have only three rules:
- You must be constitutionally eligible to be president. (Makes sense.)
- You must be on enough states' ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning the election. (Also makes sense.)
- You must have, on average, 15% support among five public opinion polls (which are not immediately disclosed) to be determined at a specific point in time. (Which is also not immediately disclosed.)
My paraphrasing of this third rule may seem cynical, but if you read these three rules as they are officially written, you'll walk away with more questions than answers. This is not the level of transparency that you'd imagine for something so important to the American public.
Digging a little deeper, things get even less transparent: the Commission on Presidential Debates doesn't choose which polls count toward eligibility. They rely on Gallup as an adviser.
So You're Telling Me There's a Chance!
Gallup is a respected company, and it would be hard to question their credibility on political polling. But regardless of credibility, why aren't the deciding polls (remember, Gallup selects five) announced with ample notice? What if a candidate has been excluded from one or more of the polls? How can someone win 15% of a popularity contest that he or she isn't allowed to participate in? (This is what I mean by saying that media companies have de facto control over who can participate.)
Putting all of these questions aside, shouldn't constitutional eligibility and ballot access be enough to qualify for the debates? (Ross Perot made a similar argument in 1996.)
Obviously, the debates can't be open to every presidential-wannabe, but think back to the last time you were in the voting booth. Were you overwhelmed by choices for president?