Tonight’s debate is expected to draw a record-breaking audience. Mudslinging is likely to occur on both sides during this highly anticipated display of theatrics. Dismayed by the choices of candidates being pushed on voters, an outcry has emerged for the inclusion of more voices on the debate stage: Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.
Bloomberg’s Editorial Board is already declaring, “Tonight’s presidential debate will be a failure.” Why? Bloomberg claims that "the debate will fail because it has been designed -- rigged, even -- to benefit the two major parties and networks instead of the voters.”
The decisions of the debate commission are made behind closed doors, and Bloomberg, along with other advocates of opening the debates, argue that these decisions are designed to benefit the two major parties above all else.
The exclusion and suppression of third-party voices is one thing both parties can agree upon:
“The nub of the problem is that the commission is beholden to the two major parties, which created it prior to the 1988 elections. It remains -- unofficially, of course -- their handmaiden. Its co-chairs are former officials of the two parties’ national committees.
This year, a group of civic and military leaders from across the political spectrum led a campaign to open the debates to independent or third-party candidates, but the commission once again set eligibility criteria that all but ensured their exclusion.” - Bloomberg Editorial Board
The movement to include Johnson and Stein on the debate stage is gaining momentum. Editorial boards for The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and others have all made an argument that more voices should be up on the debate stage this Fall.
A major obstacle preventing another candidate from debating with Trump and Clinton is the rule that a candidate must first reach 15% national support (according to polls specified by the CPD) before being allowed to debate.
The Los Angeles Times observes:
“…dropping the 15% hurdle would give voters a chance to engage with some alternative ideas they might otherwise miss; there’s nothing wrong with that…that would mean adding two lecterns to the stage, giving space to Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.”
This year’s presidential race seems to have sunk to an all-time low as a disillusioned electorate laments the choices available on the ballot this Fall and cries out for the inclusion of Johnson and Stein on the debate stage.
Sadly, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), and by extension the major political parties, are doing all in their power to keep additional voices off the stage. Reform of the process for organizing and administering the debates will be necessary in the future to check the power of the major parties and create a healthier debate environment.