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Commission on Presidential Debates to Allow Third Candidate? Yeah Right…

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The Washington Post reported Thursday that the co-chairs of the Commission on Presidential Debates claim they are open to including an independent or third-party candidate in the general election debates. This is true, but only if the third candidate clears a near-impossible hurdle or a major movement emerges that pressures the commission to change the rules regarding candidate inclusion.

CPD co-chairs, Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. and Michael McCurry, will appear on the PBS public affairs show, The Open Mind, on January 24 to discuss the issue.

“The dynamic in the electorate right now and the dissatisfaction with the two major political parties could very conceivably allow an independent or a third-party candidate to emerge, and we are very clear that they would be welcome in these debates,” McCurry told Open Mind host Alexander Heffner.

When asked if the commissioners hoped that there would be an alternative voice represented in the debates, Fahrenkopf said, “I think it would be great.”

Current debate criteria requires candidates outside the two major parties to a) be eligible to run for president, b) qualify in enough states to have a mathematical shot at winning the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election, and c) must be polling at 15% in national polls chosen by the CPD 7 weeks ahead of Election Day, a highly improbable task for any candidate who does not have established name recognition already.

“The way our system works, if you are not known to be in the debates or have the prospect of being in the debates, you’re not considered legitimate by the media, you won’t be covered by the media, and therefore you have no way to get name recognition, unless you buy it through your own advertising,” Level the Playing Field chair Peter Ackerman explained on C-SPAN in December.

The Washington Post confirms this by suggesting that there are “no prominent third-party candidates vying to join the Republican and Democratic nominees,” despite the fact that former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson officially announced he was running for the Libertarian nomination recently, and there are plenty of other candidates running under a third party or as independents.

Whether voters like it or not, society has mostly allowed the media to decide for the public which candidates are viable and which candidates aren’t.

Ackerman, who is currently suing CPD over the 15 percent rule, says current studies show that the price tag for any independent or third-party candidate to buy the amount of exposure a candidate gets from participating in the Republican or Democratic debates is estimated to be around $260 million.

Neither CPD co-chair said they were willing to tweak the rules or offer any special accommodation to change the two-party structure of the fall presidential debates, which means that the one solution for voters who want an alternative option is to get behind a nonpartisan movement that pressures the CPD to change its rules.

Until that happens, it is unlikely that voters will see more than two people on the presidential debate stage in 2016, in the near future, or in any of our lifetimes.

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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304 comments
David Arthur
David Arthur

Exactly, thank you Mr Woodard, the homogeneity between the two parties would be cleanly and obviously exposed by any clear minded independent with a basic understanding of economic equity and efficiency, and social justice, and liberty. It's just fairness; equity... It's not difficult to see the imbalance between producers and consumers. I don't want to call it corruption, but at some point it has to be called what it is, even if it says it means well.

Jeb Patterson
Jeb Patterson

Chenyn but they aren't allowed to debate. I voted Gary Johnson last time.

RuiningAmerica
RuiningAmerica

Yes, it would be a good change. Some advice: "Independents" need to start thinking about other ways to "fix" structural flaws in our government, that would give us better representation. It was smart of our Founding Fathers to create 3 branches of government, but they had no concept of future size of our country or government, TV or the Internet. Consider a fourth branch, the Fiscal Branch. The Legislative Branch and Executive Branch are overwhelmed.

Allan Seidl
Allan Seidl

Jeb Patterson the entire world has socialized medicine and it'll not work here... who's kidding themselves?

James Woodard
James Woodard

Dave you drive a hard stright nail. Those two parties have it there way and they will never willingly allow any screw-up to change things.

Ron Culpepper
Ron Culpepper

Whoever gets the GOP nomination will be moving into the White House in 2017. Bernie is too much of a Socialist and Hillary is too corrupt and dishonest.

James Woodard
James Woodard

Agreed. Is there any Independent candidate available and willing to run. However the way Partisan Parties have it so bound up for themselves no independent would ever be added to the national ballet.

Joe Toth
Joe Toth

We also don't want Sanders.

John Mark Matson
John Mark Matson

It is time to vote for an American and not a party. There is too much a divide between reps and dems. We don't need a divided congress, a bunch of do nothings, because of division. We need a fed gov that is American first, American always.

Cyndi Romero
Cyndi Romero

Quit changing laws start enforcing them.

Leanne Salls
Leanne Salls

That's why we need publicly funded elections. And #feelthebern

Jeb Patterson
Jeb Patterson

My death tax plan? I never mentioned it. I am with Rand where we need to simplify our tax code and wipe out most of them. Death tax needs to go but with Bernie there will be no way we can.

Preston John Fred
Preston John Fred

There is a less voter turnout in today's society , that is because the voter has 2 political parties to chose from . Which is not voting for the best leader, merely the lesser of two evils..

Ben Huie
Ben Huie

I would do something 'sort of' like what they have done with the GOP debates. If a 'third party' candidate is 'serious' (defined by some polls threshold) then include him or her. Otherwise there is chaos. There are many candidates on the ballots in many states - prohibition party, communist party, etc etc etc

Michael Damoth
Michael Damoth

It's time to stop believing the delusion that the Committee for Presidential Debates has anything to do with Democracy.

Daniel D Brown
Daniel D Brown

You can't even talk about anything related to Cruz is eligibility. On Mark Levin's page. Without being kept from posting.

Timothy Francis O'Brien
Timothy Francis O'Brien

No matter how many state ballots we're on in the LP, they'll try to find a way to exclude us from the debates.

VillageMusic AlanSimcoe
VillageMusic AlanSimcoe

The rules will change when the situation renders them obsolete. Independents have an opportunity to remove the conversation from the control of both party establishments by supporting insurgent candidates IN THE PRIMARIES. Is there anybody out there who does not see (at least) two powerful movement challenges to the status quo? I'm not a big Trump or Cruz fan, but it seems obvious that they have aroused great numbers of regular people. Sanders' support speaks for itself. It would be very exciting to see, in the next election cycle, two weakened establishment parties and two other "populist" parties. That would cause a rule change.

Lyle Croisant
Lyle Croisant

Everyone should be an independent voter don't be controlled by any one party!

Gayle Neville Muskus
Gayle Neville Muskus

For all the choices we are accustomed to from Google, Microsoft Windows, Firefox, Mac, and the list goes on ... can't we get more than two choices for POTUS?? Is that too unreasonable?? It will certainly effect your life more than a left or right handed mouse!!!

Tigris Rose Rashida
Tigris Rose Rashida

Also, Jeb, do YOU have 5.45 MILLION dollars your going to be giving away when you die? i call complete BS on your "death tax" affecting all statement. 99% of estates do not have to pay an estate tax The purpose is to circulate at least some money back into the economy if it has been stored for a whole generation. Relax.

Terrel Scambler
Terrel Scambler

It would be easier to make the delineation Conservative or Liberal, and have candidates split along those lines. All parties participate in the debates leading up to the new primaries and we vote based on the best representative from each group, rather than party.

Steve Eiland
Steve Eiland

Cool change the system, split the votes and garuntee an establishment victory. Trump 2016!!! Change is coming, and the establishment is begining to realize it!

Chris Boarini
Chris Boarini

What is wrong with more choices? Our "Democratic Government" is broke and run by Money. Let as many Independent candidates run as possible! Spread the Money around. Competition is a Good thing!

Preston John Fred
Preston John Fred

I stand Independent no political party's involved conservative or liberal just the progress of America and the benefit of Americans

Ken Knehr
Ken Knehr

Bernie IS a third party. Even though he is running as a Democrat, he is not representing the Corpritists of the Democrats or GOPers. His election will usher in an era where third party ideas and candidates are possible.

Ken Connolly
Ken Connolly

It all has to do with money and ratings. What advertiser will buy air time for a debate of third-party candidates. Should add Trump and Cruz as independent candidates running under an establishment political party.

Jeb Patterson
Jeb Patterson

Lynn, and our government is to be trusted all of a sudden? If Bernie is president he will expand the IRS and all sorts of government. The purpose of our country it to have small governments with limited powers. What exactly is a developed nation? Only ones that are used as models of success to fool us into full blown socialism? Denmark and Germany are facing crises with their free schooling. Universal healthcare means long waits and less care. I used to have really good insurance but Obamacare took care of that for me.

Ken Hald
Ken Hald

Yes but, I am not optimistic anything will change.

Ed Montero
Ed Montero

Theirs no right or left only the truth , in this election there is a revolution by the people. Like the sanitation workers years ago we can only take so much. The sewer has backed up. Rise up and make them feel the Bern.

Bruce Haley
Bruce Haley

What Tigris Rashida and James Woodard both said. Period.

Anatole Evans
Anatole Evans

Stand up to Hillary Clinton 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? Hillary Clinton is enabler and chief!

Larry Lewallen
Larry Lewallen

Easy peasy - vote out all incumbents each election cycle until the start to listen to the voters.

Lynn Houston
Lynn Houston

Jeb Patterson But look at Mexicos government government, it's a joke, no wonder nothing works there!! And I'm guessing that you have good health insurance!

Mark Elliott
Mark Elliott

The Republicans and Democrats exist to keep "we the people" divided so we are easier to control. Can you imagine how a third party candidate would divide Government? That's why you'll never see it happen....they will team up to insure it doesn't happen. They are on the same team FB fiends and we're the opposition!

Ken Rand
Ken Rand

Yes we need a change, but to what? I have seen the German system where you have coalitions giving minority parties too much influence in the running of the government. I do not think we want that.

Elizabeth Lynn
Elizabeth Lynn

I hope Fox News hosts one of the main debate. If I was GOP nominee I would demand that Fox News host one of the 3 debates.

Chenyn Allen
Chenyn Allen

If you read your ballot, there are always more than two choices. The problem is the American people are too lazy, apathetic to do independent research and prefer to be spoonfed information from Corporate news which will only acknowledge the parties with money to buy airtime.

Chenyn Allen
Chenyn Allen

If you read your ballot, there are always more than two choices. The problem is the American people are too lazy, apathetic to do independent research and prefer to be spoonfed information from Corporate news which will only acknowledge the parties with money to buy airtime.

Chenyn Allen
Chenyn Allen

Why is it THEIR decision? Of course they're going to say "No", it benefits them to keep the American public ignorant of the true political process. The only one I've ever heard of wanting to level the political playing field is Bill Clinton. And I don't believe his wife shares his views.

Anthony Brancato
Anthony Brancato

But what happens if Ted Cruz or someone else uses the Republican party "rules" to snooker Donald Trump out of the nomination - and Trump retaliates by running as a third candidate? And/or Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination and a "Save The Donkey" movement, regarding Sanders as unelectable, puts up Martin O'Malley or Joe Manchin as a fourth candidate?

Rick Loughrey
Rick Loughrey

A third seat at the table???? Lmao cause like,,,,you know,,, there's an independent candidate that is registered in all 50 states right?? And this candidate actually has a chance to win right? Lol wow you guys are soooooo sad......