Barack Obama

"Change the Presidential Debates": Gary Johnson and Our America's Bold New Lawsuit


The Our America initiative, which is headed up by 2012 Libertarian presidential candidate and former two-term New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, has produced a sharp commercial asking for donations to fund a legal challenge to presidential debates. The basic argument? The debates should be open to "all qualified candidates." Which implies that both the Dems and Reps may have to rethink their candidate-selection processes.

Watch above and go here for more background.

Hat tip: Twitter feed of Like a Libertarian.

Johnson and Vice Presidential nominee Judge Jim Gray pulled about 1.3 million votes and just shy of 1 percent of the national vote count, making them the most successful Libertarian ticket since 1980, when Ed Clark and David Koch pulled 920,000 votes and 1.06 percent of the popular vote.

As part of a series of articles about whom libertarian should vote for, I made "The Libertarian Case for Gary Johnson" back in 2012. Read that here (contains links to cases for Romney and Obama as well).

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  1. Oh, no. The last thing we want up there is a The Rent is Too Damn High candidate, standing along side the bona fides. Won’t somebody please think about the dignity of the Office of President of the United States?

    1. It’s a perfect fit, dignity-wise, IMO.

    2. Ya but think of all the good songs you could get.

    3. That scenario would be completely avoidable if the rule was simply that any candidate that had achieved enough ballot access in the States to allow for a theoretical win of the Electoral College was allowed to debate. In 2012 that would have been just four people: Obama (D), Romney (R), Gary Johnson (Libertarian), and Jill Stein (Green).

    4. The Rent is Too Damn High candidate isn’t going to be on the ballot in enough states to win the election. And if he is then he SHOULD be in the debate!

  2. Those debates are run by private organizations. If the GOP and the DNC want to have their candidates and just their candidates debate, I don’t see how you can sue to force them into doing any different. Nothing says any candidate has to show up at a debate. If the two major parties both say “I will only show up if it is a one on one with the other major party”, I don’t see how there is anything anyone can do about it.

    This seems like a pretty stupid law suit.

    1. This, the debates are stupid displays of showmanship anyway. The media put to much weight in them as is. Its a new phenomenon meant to make politics more interesting for TV viewers.

    2. I dunno, John. This lawsuit may not be so much about winning as about discrediting the TEAM BE RULED cartel.

      1. The thing that will do that is a third candidate that attracts significant support. H. Ross Perot got invited. Johnson and Reason are kidding themselves if they think getting into the debate will make someone a significant candidate. If you don’t already have a base of support, no one is going to care what you have to say at the debate even if you do get in.

        1. They don’t give publicity to candidates who can’t win, and without publicity, candidates can’t win.

    3. “This seems like a pretty stupid law suit.”

      Hmmm….you’ve never heard of anti-trust lawsuits? Restraint of Trade? Equal Employment Opportunity violations?

      If Coke and Pepsi conspired to secure all of the shelf space in every store in America, you wouldn’t see a problem with that?

      Private organizations get sued all of the time if they are engaged in illegal activities.

      1. Sure. Except that “anti trust law” doesn’t and never has had applied to elections.

        I have heard of anti trust violations. You apparently haven’t.

    4. That “private organization” is breaking the law.

  3. Which implies that both the Dems and Reps may have to rethink their candidate-selection processes.

    One of the best lines in a while here.

  4. Since the debates are privately run, I don’t see how the lawsuit would get anywhere. But I like the idea. It would be nice to have a more neutral debate organization rather than something run by the major party establishments.

    1. Even if they were run by gov’t, there’d be no gain in it unless candidates were compelled to appear. In NYC you don’t qualify for the multiple-to-1 (I forgot whether it’s 4:1 or 6:1) matching fund unless you appear. The major candidates then turn down the gov’t matching fund (thereby also liberalizing the rules on their fundraising), and the debates are between minor candidates, and major media don’t cover the debate.

      1. Some people think presidential debates have gone on since Kennedy-Nixon. They forget, or didn’t know, Johnson didn’t debate Goldwater and Nixon didn’t debate Humphrey, even though in each case one issued a challenge to the other to do so. OTOH, Clark debated Commoner in 1980.

  5. Although I don’t like most libertarian policies and I also know the public will not let you guys dismantle the safetynets, I’ll vote for Gary Johnson over Hillary or any other republican (except Bloomberg) any day.

    I voted for Gary Johnson in 2012. Although, in NY State, it didn’t matter.

    To be completely honest, if I were in a State in which a Republican had a chance to win, I would had voted for Obama.

    1. Gary Johnson is to the LEFT of Barak Obama on many many things.

      I voted for Gary because he’s just simply more liberal.

    2. Which would have meant Obama would have stolen a vote from Johnson. An act that happens all the time.

  6. Per above, this is a private party.
    And any attempt to force the broadcasters to provide airtime sounds like state-run ‘news’ to me.
    Much as I like GJ, I don’t see this as a good idea. You can tell the voters about the candidates, but you can’t make ’em think.

    1. In Gary’s defense and the defense of others that want to run that are not necessarily part of the political machine, I think it’s a matter of fairness that the broadcasters include these people.

      1. Fairness is honoring contracts. Dishonoring contracts for some arbitrary concept of non-contract fairness is not fair to contracts or society in general.

        Or are you saing that your sense of fairness outweighs general contract fairness?

        1. No.

          I mean in the rules of debates and broadcasting. Forget the word Fair. I know u guys don’t like that.

          1. What rules? You mean the ones in the contracts? Or are you fantasizing again and these are in your head and nothing you can actually articulate? Something you know when you see it?

            That’s obscene.

      2. …I think it’s a matter of fairness”…

        Which is pretty good evidence that you don’t think at all.

  7. Hmm – have to agree with others here, that since these are private affairs, fuck off, GJ.

    BUT – why doesn’t GJ get with some others and have their own Debate Korp. set up debates for less-favored candidates? I’m sure it would take a few election cycles to gain traction, but I’ll bet with some KOCHTOPUS!!11!!1ZOMFG!11one! funding, it could work.

    Come on, Gary, do that! If I gave a shit about elections and debates, I’d do it myself. But I don’t watch debates, and I’ve stopped voting, soooo….leaving it to those who still care.

    1. Wow!!!

      No one can say you libertarians don’t hold true to your principals.

      1. No, they are displaying their ignorance. A debate commission is a tax exempt organization. They agree to follow rules like having objective criteria as to who gets into the debate. They are breaking that rule. They can either follow the rules they agreed to or they can give up their tax exempt status.

  8. Let’s say you were the boss of a company and had since 1996 used the same employee to vet job applicants for you for the most important managerial position before they were given a final interview. Then you noticed that all of the people you ended up hiring from those who you got to interview turned out to be terrible at their jobs – and all came referred from the same employment agency – who were giving your employee kick backs the entire time. Well – that scenario is EXACTLY how the Presidential Debates in our nation have been handled since 1996 – the official sounding “Commission on Presidential Debates” is actually a private organization funded by the Democratic and Republican parties whose express purpose, since being embarrassed by Ross Perot’s appeal to voters in the 1992 debates, has been to keep third party and independent candidates out of the nationally televised debates – essentially keeping the supposed bosses, the American people, from ever hearing from all of the qualified applicants for the position!

    1. To me a huge way we can get better governance for our nation is to make qualification for the debates available to all candidates that have secured enough ballot access for a hypothetical win of the Electoral College (which would have put the amount of debaters at a very reasonable of 4 people in 2012), mandate that these candidates MUST appear at the debates if they wish to stay qualified for the ballot (no more incidences of incumbents weaseling out of them, as Jimmy Carter did in 1980 when he refused to appear on the same debate stage as John Anderson), and have the broadcasts made nationally as the one public funding of elections done besides funding the polling and counting of votes themselves.

      While the law suit by Our American Initiative may not be a purist libertarian position – in that it seeks to force a private organization to have to abide by the desires of outsiders – considering those “outsiders” are in fact the American people as a whole – I still happen to think in terms of such a critical part of determining our governance that this in fact absolutely the correct thing to do and wish them th

      1. …and wish the Our American Initiative the best of luck with their suit!

      2. OK, say all the states adopt that rule and disqualify the major candidates from their presidential ballots. There is then no candidate name on either the Dem or GOP line for prez. You think voters won’t still pull for the electors nominated by their respective parties, knowing full well who those electors will vote for? You think the news will stop reporting on the major candidates just because their names are off the ballot?

  9. want in the debate? Win the fucking nomination of the big parties. they’re the only ones who have a chance to win. 1% is a fucking joke.

  10. No matter the veracity of “The two party system is boned”, the vast majority of the population is all in on it. So starting out saying “we need to destroy this venerated institution”immediately gets you chucked into the ‘dangerous crackpot’ bin.

    1. Pretty much. They also fail to mention that the Constitution is designed for two parties. If you want multiple parties, set up a Parliamentary system not the system we have.

      1. No, the US Const’n was certainly not deliberately designed for 2, or any number of, parties (and in fact the election of prez & VP was screwed up for a while because of that).

        Meanwhile parliamentary systems aren’t necessarily conducive in & of themselves to multi-party systems. You may think they are because so many countries have parliamentary & multi-party systems, but that’s just because when most have A & most have B, they’ll also tend to have A & B, just by chance overlap. It’s other features of gov’t, elections, and polities that tend to produce multiple parties?for instance, party-candidate-list elections & regional ethnic politics.

  11. The debates are private affairs arranged by private parties. If Gary Johnson believed in freedom of association, he would not be bringing a lawsuit to use the power of the state to force private individuals to include him if they don’t want to.

  12. Seems to really go against the Citizens United grain. If it’s valid for a corporate entity to run an ad endorsing one candidate, then it’s valid for a corporate entity to run a 60 minute infomercial with two candidates droning tediously.

  13. The current two party monopoly has a vested interest in keeping any real discussion by alternative candidates out of the debate.

    For the system to survive in it’s current dysfunctional form of kicking the can down the road, they need to exclude Gov. Gary Johnson and anyone else willing to expose the lies.

    Bringing failure to the forefront and exposing it is and cannot be allowed. The status-quo does not want anyone to question the continued failures they promote.

  14. I’m getting a kick out of all of the comments about the CPD being a private organization and therefore able to do whatever they want.

    Apparently nobody has heard of “anti-trust” laws and would be perfectly happy if Coke and Pepsi secured the display shelves (and they are capable of doing that) of every store in America to market only their products to the American Public. That’s not much different than what the D’s and R’s are doing through the CPD with the debate commission. Setting up an organization that takes advantage of the size and power of the D’s and R’s to exclude competition in order to represent only their products.

    Private organizations get sued all the time for violations of existing laws, whether it’s anti-trust, restraint of trade, or equal employment violations (and a slew of others).

    Is the Johnson lawsuit a gamble? Sure….but it’s a gamble worth taking.

    1. I get a kick out of you thinking anti trust law applies to everything in society. By your definition of “anti trust”, my failure to invite you to my dinner party is a monopoly you could sue me over.

    2. Moreover, there is this thing called the “1st Amendment”. You can’t force Hillary to debate anyone she doesn’t want to consistent with the 1st Amendment. Johnson is saying that the courts should force candidates to debate other candidates.

      Well, fuck that and fuck Johnson on this. The courts shouldn’t be telling anyone who they must or much not debate.

      1. The issue isn’t with “Hillary” or “Romney” or any of the individual candidates. Nobody is trying to tell anyone who they have to debate.

        It’s with the organization known as the Commission on Presidential Debates.

        1. But the CPD is powerless to get the candidates to debate.

    3. While you may be right that the CPD is helping protect the incumbents and large parties, I don’t really care. I don’t think it is ultimately the problem. As someone already mentioned Ross Perot was invited to the debates.

      With that being said, I also wouldn’t have a problem if Coke and Pepsi convinced a grocer to stock only their products. Who the fuck cares? Why should government prevent private organizations from conducting business in the way they see fit? If a grocer allowed Pepsi and Coke to buy up all the shelf space, people who wanted Dr. Pepper or Sam’s Cola or Jones or whatever else would shop elsewhere. Thus the grocer would lose out on potential profits. Anti-trust laws don’t protect us; free markets do.

  15. I lost a lot of respect for Johnson after he sued last time over the Sherman Anti-trust Act. About the most anti-libertarian suit there is.

    If they don’t want to include someone, I don’t think they should be forced to – freedom of association and all. These kinds of articles though who the hypocritical libertarians are when they start calling for the same laws they allegedly despise to be used against opponents.

    1. ^^THIS^^

      I don’t see how the courts can force a candidate to debate anyone they don’t want to. You have a right to say what you want and to debate and associate with whom you choose. Shame on Johnson and any person who supports this.

      1. “Well, fuck that and fuck Johnson on this.”

        Now, now John… need to get all lovey dovey….
        The lawsuit is no skin off of your back.

        Unless, of course, you have skin in this game.

    2. “These kinds of articles though who the hypocritical libertarians are when they start calling for the same laws they allegedly despise to be used against opponents.”

      Hypocritical? Perhaps…

      But sometimes when in Rome, one must do as the Romans….before the the Empire collapses.

      1. This won’t help the Empire stave off collapse. Forcing private groups to allow people in is anti-libertarian, and even if it magically helped Johnson win, libertarians would lose all credibility on the issue of freedom of association.

        1. “…libertarians would lose all credibility on the issue of freedom of association.”

          With whom? the 99% percent of American people who have no idea what the libertarian perspective on freedom of association means?

          We’re certainly not losing any credibility with the Green Party…they support this lawsuit.

          “This won’t help the Empire stave off collapse.”
          So what are you doing to prevent it? Besides throwing peanuts from the gallery at those who are trying?

          1. So you’re saying that libertarians should support an anti-libertarian position because 99% of America doesn’t know what the libertarian position is?

            What happens if this wins? When Gary Johnson gets up there and is asked his opinion on the Civil Rights Act, and he says “I don’t think the federal government should be able to force businesses to do business with people they choose not to”, you don’t think the D or R candidate standing on stage won’t immediately call out the hypocrisy?

            “So what are you doing to prevent it? Besides throwing peanuts from the gallery at those who are trying?”

            Certainly not giving up my principles to do it. Rather I will focus on state and local elections where there is more chance for impact.

  16. GayJay was invited to the initial GOP debates. How’d that work out for him? He got crushed by Vermin Supreme in New Hampshire. Debates don’t help bad candidates no matter how good they are “on the issues”.

    1. “GayJay was invited to the initial GOP debates.”

      Nope, he was invited to the 1st debate in South Carolina and was excluded from the next 3 debates.

      “He got crushed by Vermin Supreme in New Hampshire. ”
      There was no debate in New Hampshire.

      “Debates don’t help bad candidates no matter how good they are “on the issues”.
      This debate that you have just embarked on certainly isn’t helping your issue. You can’t event represent a single accurate fact.

  17. If they were raising money to fund a real debate instead of the silliness that passes for debates I could see contributing, but a pox on using government to force the private entities who run the current shams to invite us. That’s exactly what I want to stop, government coercion.

  18. I don’t agree with the lawsuit strategy, but otherwise I really like the ad. I only wish that an online petition to open the debates would get as much press and social media traction, not to mention serious response from the White House, as the recent petition to deport Justin Bieber.

  19. This obviously has no chance of going anywhere, but I hope that’s not the point It would indeed be betraying libertarian ideals, but if it gets enough attention that reps and dems need to explain why the current system is better (which they obviously can’t) it maybe will be worth it.

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