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Gary Johnson: One Debate Rule is Preventing Real Choice in POTUS Elections

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Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and potential 2016 Libertarian presidential candidate, discussed the current lawsuit challenging the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) in an exclusive interview for IVN.

Among the plaintiffs in the suit, which concerns violations by the CPD and the Federal Election Commission, are the Green Party and the Libertarian National Committee. The purpose of the suit is to change the rules that obstruct third party candidates from participating in presidential debates.

The CPD was created by the Democratic and Republican parties “for the express purpose of keeping third party and independent candidates out of debates,” according to the plaintiffs.

Governor Johnson’s Our America Initiative and related project, Fair Debates, are at the forefront of the efforts to reform the debate rules.

A similar suit was filed prior to the 2012 campaign. In his interview, Johnson compared the outcome of that suit and the current action:

“It’s important to note that our 2012 suit was, unavoidably, filed very late in the process. Ironically, we had to be excluded in order to have a claim, and the CPD was very careful to not formally exclude anyone until right before the first debate. That timing issue clearly hurt our case.” – Gary Johnson

Johnson argues that the CPD has been “very open and, frankly, arrogant in their intent to exclude candidates other than the Republican and the Democrat.” He also claimed the CPD has “gone to extraordinary, documented lengths to ensure that no other nationally-televised debates can ‘compete’ with their own.”

Johnson has a lot at stake. In his 2012 bid for the presidency, he placed third, with under 1.3 million votes. He knows that to stand a real chance at the presidency, the first hurdle is winning the lawsuit.

What outcome constitutes a win? Johnson answered:

“A ‘win’ is very simple. If there are to be nationally-televised debates, they must include all candidates who are constitutionally qualified to serve and who appear on enough states’ ballots to potentially be elected in the Electoral College.” – Gary Johnson

According to the lawsuit, current CPD rules require “a candidate to poll at 15% in an average of five national polls taken in mid-September.” The plaintiffs argue that this is biased against independent and third party candidates, who do not receive the national attention generated by those running in the Democratic and Republican primaries.

“Simply removing the arbitrary polling requirement eliminates any potential bias and subjectivity from the decision as to who will be on the debate stage. That is the most straightforward and realistic solution,” Johnson explained.

The CPD case cites polling data that shows a “record number of Americans – well over 40% – now identify themselves as independent, and 62% say they would vote for an independent candidate for president in 2016.”

So why should it be so hard to reach the 15% threshold?

“Unfortunately, while a majority of voters clearly are not satisfied with their ‘major party’ choices, they are also vulnerable to the perception, institutionalized by the Republicans and Democrats, that those are their only real choices. The debates are a big part of that perception, and the news media plays along.“ – Gary Johnson

According to Johnson. research shows that $100 million in spending would be required to match the media coverage automatically granted to the Republican and Democratic candidates.

“In short, reaching 15% without the inherent advantages enjoyed by the ‘major’ parties is virtually impossible,” he contends.

Elaborating further, Johnson stated: “Achieving ballot access in dozens of states is a monumental, expensive process that provides a more-than-adequate and perfectly logical threshold. If a candidate can be elected, he or she should be allowed to participate. There is no need for any polling requirement.”

Other groups have also joined the campaign for more open debates. Yet, public complacency on the issue may be a barrier to building grassroots support for these efforts. Is there enough public awareness and support for efforts to open up debates?

“Not yet,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t enough in 2012 to deter the CPD from its exclusionary ways. Thousands of voices need to become millions, which is why the Our America Initiative’s effort is so crucial.”

To generate these millions of voices requires money – a lot of it – and Johnson does not underestimate the role this will play:

“Timing is obviously important, and frankly, an important element of that timing is funding. The CPD will have unlimited resources from its corporate and special interest supporters, and will use those resources to bury us with motions and other delaying tactics. It is essential that we have the resources to fight back and get a timely resolution.” – Gary Johnson

“We have a strong case, and when both the court and the public have an opportunity to see the lengths to which the Republicans and Democrats have gone to seize and maintain control over the debate process, we believe we can ultimately prevail,“ Johnson concluded.

Grassroots efforts have a history of overcoming great odds to achieve change. With a little help from the courts, that could become a reality for the 2016 presidential campaign and have a major impact on election dynamics this coming year and in the future.

Check Out Part 1 of the Interview

IVN Exclusive Interview: Gary Johnson Says Voters Need A Candidate Not Constrained by Partisan Litmus Tests

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Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

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418 comments
Dennis Maloney
Dennis Maloney

Unfortunately, all the " Libertarians" that I've heard of turn out to be wack jobs. No way that real, average people could ever support them.

Ellen Pyatt
Ellen Pyatt

It is always time to change the rules. Challenge authority, do it eloquently and loudly. Ask for what you need, clearly, kindly, authoritatively.

NV Loan
NV Loan

Although I disagree with some of his opinions, I'd rather vote for him in hopes that one day the election process will be more diverse than red and blue.

Douglas Payelle
Douglas Payelle

When I see and hear someone state that they stand with Hillary what I really hear is that they are not for change that thay like the corruption and money in our government. That they stand by the under handed deals that not only helps corporations but even to the point of poisoning our food and water. They stand by a person that skirts the law so closely that thier friend go to jail but not her. It's like saying I stand by my local meth dealer

Jack R. Wilden
Jack R. Wilden

Gary Johnson is an idiot and one of the worst governors NM ever had . But he's right about this ..

Tony Curcio
Tony Curcio

Dems &Repubs both want 3rd party possible candidates suppressed, they don't have the power to Control them.

Dru Phariz
Dru Phariz

I love Gary Johnson. He will have my vote if Bernie drops out. #Hilliarchy supporters: don't bother with your mindless, broken-record responses.

David Lebis
David Lebis

They should be allowed in the debate I'm sick of both so called parties They are two heads on one snake in the grass

Mina Jiluda
Mina Jiluda

Like a broken clock, Johnson is at the right message. Why do we, the citizens, pay for the elections when the two main political parties control everything?

Haley A Hackney
Haley A Hackney

Gary Johnson has been funded by the Koch Brothers in the past so nothing he says is credible to me. Plus, I'm an Independent voter so I'll be voting for policies and not a political party.

Dru Phariz
Dru Phariz

I've never heard this. What is the source of your claim? Citation please.

Haley A Hackney
Haley A Hackney

Gary Johnson might not be funded this year by the Koch Brothers but he was in 2012, Google it. I'm not voting for a presidential candidate that has had/has ties to the Koch Brothers. Greed (Koch Brothers) has corrupted our political system.

Jon Noble
Jon Noble

The club doesn't let in the people who want to tear the club down. You have to start your own club. We need to start new debates, and the debate between the LP and the GP is the debate real Americans are having.

Dennis Thering
Dennis Thering

We need to make sure no public funds are used for the parties debates. Unless they invite everyone.

Jon Noble
Jon Noble

He and Stein should just start holding a series of debates, not just one or two. They should hold debates across the country, and their debates should be fun to watch. It would catch on.

John Reynolds
John Reynolds

Who's going to pay for these debates. They aren't free.

Dennis Thering
Dennis Thering

They can use the money the parties should be paying for using public resources on private primaries.

Bernard Zitzewitz
Bernard Zitzewitz

They debated 1 on 1 in 2012, but they really need to get one nationally televised.

Donna Brown
Donna Brown

Libertarian's are just Republicans in sheeps clothing. No real choice here.

Susie Roberts
Susie Roberts

God Bless Donald Trump. Trump for President !!!!! TRUMP'S FOR AMERICA AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE !!!!! VOTE TRUMP !!!!!

Dennis Thering
Dennis Thering

The rnc/dnc took the debates from The League of Women Voters because the League included third party candidates now and again.

Dennis Thering
Dennis Thering

Invite Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Gary Johnson, green party candidate and, if you need a Canadian, Ted Cruz. Get all of them on the same stage. The moderator needs to be able to call out a candidate if they try and answer questions with campaign slogans. If they don't start answering questions they lose time on their summary. After all, they spent the debate campaigning instead of answering questions.

Bob Davis
Bob Davis

The only Republican that I liked was Buddy Roemer.

Roger Gauldin
Roger Gauldin

The electorial process tells us we're not smart enough to elect anybody so the politicians do it for us

Anatole Evans
Anatole Evans

Looking like things have to get worse before they get better! No Bernie Sanders to make it better, I vote Trump to make it worse! Tough Love! Change is coming! Getting very top heavy! Will not stay home and will not vote HRC! Anyone not shouting about our corrupt and broken political system is part of the problem! When I see HRC smile and pay lip service to what Bernie Sanders has been fighting for his whole political career it makes my blood boil! Clinton's done more damage to black families than the KKK! Do your home work on the private prison industry and the get tough on crime legislation and the resulting militarization of the police! HRC and Bill Clinton as guilty as sin!!! I think the notion that congress will work in harmony with HRC has been completely dispelled! Yes I think that revolution is going to be necessary!!! Without a revolution nothing changes! Question is who is energizing voters! Who is growing the voter base? Who will turn out young voters? Who will get voters out that traditionally don't vote? Who is getting the independent vote? By far Bernie Sanders is the best hope for meaningful change and HRC is the best candidate for more status quo and republican obstruction! Look at the polling trajectory of where Sanders started and how far HRC has fallen! Amazing and totally missing from the discussion! Hillary Clinton is asking us to believe the corrupting influence of money does not change congressional bills and votes! She is asking us to believe the one percent are spending billions in lobbying for no reason! If you are buying this I got some things I would like to sell you!!! Yes the media blackout is in full effect! Check out Trump coverage Vs. Sanders!!! Guns and abortion! Keeping the people distracted and stuck on stupid! Divide and conquer! Only rich lives matter? Stand up to Hill first!! Trump is next! About as fair and balanced as the Corporate media! Feel the Bern! The two party system has been playing the same game for forty years! The only ones benefiting and getting what they want is the one percent! Just a trending news story brought to you by repetition creates reality inc. Also brought to you by just ignore Bernie Sanders inc. Not all that different from how Bill Cosby handled these questions! Bill Clinton is just a much better liar! Check out the list of allegations and the number of women making them! I believe victims and I don't trust the Clintons! Bill Clinton and Bill Cosby used power, intimidation, and a persona larger than life to silence a lot of women! Just wrong! Rape was part of the allegations and money was paid out! How many women need to come forward before we believe them? HRC is enabler in chief!

Ed Newton
Ed Newton

It really doesn't matter who the next president is. The country and the world at large has gone amuck! A one world government is around the corner.

Joe Reiser
Joe Reiser

Everyone who supports Bernie Sanders must write him in on the ballot no matter what the consequences, the only way we will ever get a third party Canidates in the primaries and in the elections, then your votes will actually count! Let the real Revolution begin!

Samuel Eakin
Samuel Eakin

I'm not even a Bernie fan but I absolutely agree, just on the point of the matter. same with trump. -Diane

David Knear
David Knear

The rules have been in their favor for years.

Gaylene Bartlett
Gaylene Bartlett

I wish him well, but this STILL wouldn't apply to primary debates.

Drmikey Phillips
Drmikey Phillips

'institutioalized' is a great example of a 'politically correct' adjective. propaganda, matrix, partisan schlock seems more graphic a description of partisans. dems=gop=1%rs.

Carolyn Burrell Jones
Carolyn Burrell Jones

It's true.My friend,who always vote straight democratic ticket,called me crazy when I told him there were 6 choices on the ballot in 2012

Charles Highum
Charles Highum

I call on all Libertarians to support Bernie. We will support your candidates against the status quo. Help us, we help you. No BS

Sherry Parton
Sherry Parton

I don't know about anyone else but I'm happy with Trump...he got them stirred up and scared..they need a wake up call !!

Edie Shaw
Edie Shaw

I typed strongly, not song lyrics!!!

Edie Shaw
Edie Shaw

More than past time to change the rules!!! But in the meantime (though you have my son's vote), I just feel so song lyrics against the Democrat options, that if I have to vote for Donald Trump, I will do so, while being sick at heart!!! Respectfully, you need to get out there & get your platform known!

Roger Pudder
Roger Pudder

Congress has sold out to the united nations !!! Congress should be one third independent.!

Laren Holler
Laren Holler

This idiot was a lousy governor here in New Mexico. He won't be any better as President. VOTE BLUE NO MATTER WHO, NO MATTER WHERE 2016!!!

Bear Adkins
Bear Adkins

Get REAL \U0001f44e\U0001f3ff\U0001f44e\U0001f3ff