Gary Johnson and Jill Stein should be allowed to participate in the first presidential debate.
Above all, it is the right thing to do for democracy. The most democratic thing to happen to the debates would be for both Johnson and Stein to be included, however Stein is very far from the 15% mark, and hasn’t passed even 5% in the polls yet. However, if the DNC sabotaged Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary I suspect there is no chance the DNC will allow Jill Stein to have a podium.
Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is polling better, but has yet to pass 11% in the polls and likely will not cross the threshold of 15% in order to be invited to the debate stage.
Stein would be a much bigger electoral threat to Clinton than she would be for Trump, and a strong debate performance could resonate with anti-establishment voters in the Democratic Party who are only reluctantly supporting Clinton because Sanders lost to the clock in the primary.
If Hillary Clinton’s political gain is what determines the DNC’s tactics, though, it could be a shrewd electoral move against Donald Trump to push for including Gary Johnson in the debates because his libertarian philosophy and fiscal-conservative economic ideas could attract many more Trump voters than Clinton voters. Clinton and her surrogates could even start contrasting Trump’s childishness and authoritarianism with Johnson’s maturity and common sense on the campaign trail to bolster his public profile and start luring away reluctant Trump voters.
The worst-case scenario for the two major parties would be for Johnson to attract so many Clinton voters and Trump voters that Johnson actually takes the Election 2016 lead, but this is highly improbable. Still, the fear of Johnson’s potential debate success is an awfully corrupt and absurd reason to keep him out of the debates.
In reality, the 15% threshold for debate participation is undemocratically high in our two-party system, and both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein deserve podiums for polling nationally in third and fourth place, respectively. At the very least they should be included in the first debate, and a threshold can apply for the second and third debates.
Unfortunately, our two major parties enjoy the benefits of the simple duality from which American voters get to choose in most contemporary elections, and likely will not be interested at all in helping third-party candidates. Better luck next time, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.
Image via WHNT