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Why Gary Johnson Isn’t in the Debates

Gary Johnson

The 15 percent rule that is going to prevent Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson from participating in the presidential debates is so flagrantly ludicrous that it doesn’t even pass a smell test.

That’s the rule that the Commission on Presidential Debates has established for determining whether a presidential candidate will be invited to participate in the debates. It states that only those candidates who have reached 15 percent in five public opinion polls in which people are asked who they plan to vote for.

How ludicrous is that? A vast number of people haven’t made up their minds on which they’re going to vote for by the time the presidential debates are being held. That’s the primary purpose of the debates and the campaign season — to enable people to learn about the candidates and their positions and then decide who they are going to vote for. In fact, that’s the mission statement of the Presidential Commission: “to provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.”

The 15 percent rule works fine for the major party candidates because they are obviously sufficiently well-known and well-funded to be able to easily reach that 15 percent threshold. That is, by the time the first presidential debate is held, it is a virtual certainty that each of them will easily be at the required 15 percent minimum in the polls.

Not so, however, with third-party candidates. Since they are relatively unknown to the American people and since they do not have much money for advertising, it is a virtual certainty that there is not going to be a sufficient number of people who are willing to declare that they definitely intend to vote for that candidate.

Thus, today, it’s no surprise that only a few weeks before the first debate, only 10 percent of the American people, according to the polls right now, say that they intend to vote for Johnson.

But what if we were to ask the American people a different question. Suppose we asked people if they wanted to have Johnson in the presidential debates so that they could hear what he has to say and then decide whether to vote for him? Wouldn’t you think that that number might be higher than the 10 percent that say that they’re definitely going to vote for Johnson?

Well, it turns out that that question has been asked. According to an op-ed entitled “Let Gary Johnson Debate” in the Los Angeles Times this week, “A Recent Quinnipiac University poll asked likely voters the following question: ‘Do you think that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president, should be included in the presidential debates this year, or not?’ In response, 62 percent answered ‘yes.’”

Imagine that — a whopping 62 percent want Johnson in the debates! That’s how many people want to hear what Johnson has to say before deciding whether to vote for him.

In other words, many people, not surprisingly, are not ready to commit to vote for Johnson because they don’t have enough information about him. That’s why he’s at only 10 percent in the polls. But 62 percent want him in the debates so that they can get information about him (see the Presidential Commission’s mission statement above) to decide whether they are going to vote for him.

If the Presidential Commission were really serious about its mission statement, that’s the poll they would use — a poll that asks people whether they want a candidate to be in the debates. The poll they’re using now that asks people who they’re going to vote for is obviously ludicrous.

In fact, it’s worse than ludicrous. It’s a rigged game, specifically designed to prevent third party candidates and independents from garnering votes from the electorate. It’s also what all those ridiculous petitioning requirements to get on the ballot are all about — to place enormous and expensive barriers to protect the existence of the one-party system in America.

One party? Yep. One party. Just like in Communist China, which also has long been a one-party state. Here in America, the one party is the Welfare-Warfare Party, and it’s divided into two wings, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

Think of the National Football League. Its one league, divided into two conferences, the National Conference and the American Conference. The winners of two conferences compete against each other in the Super Bowl. But it’s still one league.

It’s the same thing with the Welfare-Warfare Party. One party, divided into two wings, with each wing competing for votes on Election Day.

Think of a giant box in which most everyone is living and participating in society. The outside of the box is labeled “The Welfare-Warfare State.”

In their campaigns, the Democrats and Republicans take positions within the legitimate parameters of the welfare-warfare state way of life. For example, one candidate will exclaim, “I think the Federal Reserve should raise interest rates.” The other responds, “I think the Federal Reserve should lower interest rates.”

Both candidates fit fine within the box. They are considered respectable and acceptable. They will be invited to debate each other.

Enter libertarians, who challenge the legitimacy of the welfare-warfare box itself. They want the box to be dismantled. They hold that the box is immoral and destructive. Libertarians say, “Forget about whether interest rates should be raised or lowered and instead just abolish the Fed and establish a free-market monetary system.”

The libertarian candidate, needless to say, is anathema to those who are living within the welfare-warfare box and who fiercely believe in the box. The people who own and maintain the box want it to be preserved and strengthened, not dismantled. The last thing they want to do is expose more people to libertarian arguments that challenge the legitimacy of the box itself.

That’s the real reason Gary Johnson is not being invited to participate in the presidential debates.

Does it matter to these people that they are flaunting the will of 62 percent of American voters? Not in the least. They don’t care what those 62 percent think – or, for that matter, all of the hundreds of thousands of people who signed petitions to put Johnson on the ballot in all 50 states. All that matters to these people is preserving and expanding their welfare-warfare box and the power and largess that comes with it, a box that is responsible for the moral, financial, and monetary morass in which Americans find themselves today.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.


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