Gary Johnson

Getting the Libertarians Into Presidential Debates Via Lawsuit

The Commission on Presidential Debates and the Federal Elections Commission are both being sued for their roles in keeping third parties out of presidential debates.


Gary Johnson, likely to be the Libertarian Party's (L.P.) presidential nominee after the Party's National Convention which begins in Orlando on Friday, has consistently said his chances of doing very well in the general election depend on getting into a nationally televised debate with his major party opponents.

The front door in to those debates requires being on the ballot in enough states that an Electoral College victory is technically possible. That's a hurdle the L.P. will have no trouble meeting. (They have 32 states already in the bag and with signature deadlines still ahead in the others, feel reasonably confident they will get all 50 plus the District of Columbia.)

The other criteria to get in set by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is that a candidate must be polling at least 15 percent in five national polls, said polls not specifically named.  

But those polls will, according to the CPD, "be selected based on the quality of the methodology employed, the reputation of the polling organizations and the frequency of the polling conducted. CPD will identify the selected polling organizations well in advance of the time the criteria are applied."

Johnson has, as far as I know, been included in three national polls so far, earning 11 percent in March in a Monmouth University poll, 10 percent this month in a Fox News poll, and 10 percent this week in a Morning Consult poll.

Part of the problem, Johnson thinks, is that he is, after all, not yet officially the L.P. candidate. He anticipates that if the two-governor team of Johnson-William Weld come out of Orlando triumphant, pollsters will start including him more regularly.

A virtuous circle of polling and media will then ideally get him into the debates, which will feed more media and more polling and then, well, if not victory, at least something unprecedented to the Libertarian Party. Johnson's 1.27 million votes in 2012, less than a full percentage point, was their best raw number total in their 44 year history so far. Johnson very much wants to beat that.

The L.P. has not been counting on just following the CPD's existing rules as a way into the vitally important debates. Two distinct lawsuits are in process to try to achieve the same results.

One, which I reported on last September when it was filed in U.S. District Court in D.C., has the L.P., Johnson, and the Green Party and its candidate Jill Stein among the plaintiffs.  

That case makes what is as near as I can tell a fresh legal claim, that what the CPD does in collusion with the two major parties is in effect an antitrust violation of "political markets" in how they are "exercising duopoly control over presidential and vice presidential debates in general election campaigns for the presidency of the United States."

This amounts, the suit argues, to an illegal domination of "cognizable 'presidential elections market' [and] cognizable 'political campaign market' for purposes of the antitrust laws." 

The suit, in its own language:

challenges the per se illegal continuing horizontal boycott of Plaintiffs by the RNC and the DNC utilizing their jointly created and maintained Commission [on Presidential Debates], as the barrier to entry in each of the above-referenced cognizable markets.

The suit seeks treble damages based on what the defendants claim they lost by being barred from the debates, the dissolution of the CPD itself, and an injunction against "further barriers, boycotts or other agreements in restraint of trade….that cause the exclusion from presidential debates of presidential candidates who have obtained ballot access in a sufficient number of states to win an electoral-college majority."

Bruce Fein, the lawyer in the case, said in an email regarding its status that "We filed our Opposition to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, they filed Replies, we filed a motion for oral argument which Defendants opposed. We await a ruling from Judge [Rosemary] Collyer." He declined to elaborate.

Another outstanding suit to get the L.P. in debates was filed against the Federal Election Commission last June. 

A recent motion for summary judgment in the case for the plaintiffs, including the L.P., sums up the argument, after pointing out CPD has always been a deliberate duopoly for the Republicans and Democrats, always led by a team from both parties:

For years, the CPD has been violating FECA and FEC regulations limiting debate-sponsoring organizations' ability to use corporate funds to finance their activities. To accept corporate contributions and expenditures, a debate staging organization must be "nonpartisan," meaning it may not "endorse, support, or oppose" political candidates or parties, and it must use pre-established objective criteria to determine which candidates may participate. The specific, detailed, and extensive evidence Plaintiffs presented in their administrative complaints shows that the CPD does not remotely meet these requirements. Nevertheless, the FEC refused to enforce the law and ignored virtually all of this evidence in conclusorily dismissing the complaints even though there is plainly reason to believe that the CPD is violating FECA….

….a debate staging organization cannot use a criterion that only the Democratic and Republican candidates can realistically satisfy. But that is precisely what the CPD has done.

The CPD requires a candidate to poll at 15% in an average of five unspecified national polls taken in mid-September. This level of support is virtually impossible for an independent candidate who is not a self-funded billionaire to achieve. Candidates who do not participate in the major party primaries lack access to free media coverage and must rely instead on paid media to garner the necessary name recognition to satisfy the rule. Studies show that to gain sufficient name recognition to poll at 15%, an independent candidate would have to spend over $250 million. This is an unheard-of amount of money for an independent candidate to raise, especially before appearing in any televised debates….

And even if it were possible for an independent candidate to raise this amount of money, it would not matter because the CPD's polling criterion works to the systematic disadvantage of non-major-party candidates…

That all should be enough to get the FEC to do something, the suit argues. But:

Despite these allegations and the detailed evidence substantiating them, the FEC – itself by statute a bipartisan organization – simply turned a blind eye, as it has in the past, to protect the CPD and the major parties. The FEC relied on an interpretation of its debate staging regulation that is at odds with the text of the regulation and inconsistent with FECA. The FEC ignored virtually all of Plaintiffs' allegations that the CPD is biased in favor of the two major parties. Its cursory analysis of Plaintiffs' detailed evidence that the polling criterion disproportionately disadvantages independent candidates was conclusory and illogical, and failed to actually consider Plaintiffs' allegations. This was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law…..

the mid-September timing of the CPD's 15% determination disadvantages independent candidates. The CPD has never and would never exclude a Republican or Democratic nominee from the debates. By contrast, independent candidates cannot be certain that they will be eligible for the debates until the CPD makes its determination two months before the election. But participation in the debates is a prerequisite for victory. The CPD's timing requires independent candidates to campaign and fundraise for months without even knowing whether or not they will ultimately be eligible for the debates and thus even have a shot at winning. This uncertainty creates a serious and concrete obstacle to independent campaigns. Donors, volunteers, and voters are much less likely to support, and the media much less likely to cover, any candidate whose participation in the debates is still up in the air…..

the FEC has consistently rejected challenges to the CPD's 15% polling threshold….including the administrative complaints in the present action. If the FEC interprets its existing regulations to permit a polling threshold that is not reasonably possible for anyone other than a major-party candidate to satisfy, it is doubtful that the FEC is willing or able to police the use of polling at all.

The motion for summary judgment requests that:

The Court should grant summary judgment for Plaintiffs, and direct the FEC to do its job, which is to enforce the law and put an end to the CPD's biased, anti-democratic, and fundamentally corrupt and exclusionary polling rule.

That second case is before Judge Tanya Chutkan, also in U.S. District Court for D.C., and also awaiting a decision on the motions for summary judgment.

Time is obviously of the essence in both cases, but the lawyers involved cannot predict or be sure whether the judges in the two cases will act in a timely enough fashion.

Not to be a bummer, but no one can force the other candidates to participate in debates if they don't want to. It remains to be seen how Trump and Clinton would react to being required to stand up in public against Johnson or any Libertarian. In 1980, incumbent Jimmy Carter refused to show up at a debate with Reagan and that year's third party star, John Anderson, and either Trump or Clinton could do the same.

As I wrote last September, "Ross Perot in presidential debates did amazingly well for non-major party candidates in 1992, then was excluded from the debates in '96 and did far less well, with his vote percentage dropping by 10 points, more than 50 percent."

In 1992, both George Bush and Bill Clinton wanted Perot in the debates, each thinking they'd be helped. In 1996, neither Clinton nor Bob Dole wanted him, so he wasn't there. If the majors see no benefit to debating a Libertarian, even these legal victories could become Pyrrhic if the majors just choose to take their own debating ball and go home.

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  1. Libertarians are too insignificant to be included in any debates, and at the same time if they were allowed into the debates they’d siphon off a significant enough amount of votes so as to “screw up” an election.

    1. Yea, they’ll just say the LP spoiled the election.

      1. I would love to see how Johnson responds to this. “Yes, I think both Clinton and Trump should be afraid. Unlike Clinton, I have XYZ credentials that make me a social liberal. Unlike Trump, I have ABC credentials that make me an economic conservative. I represent the largest voting block in the nation, and I fully expect to siphon votes from the two most hated presidential candidates to run since the Grand Wizard of the KKK.”

        1. I’m pretty sure they’ll beat out the Grand Wizard of the KKK by election day.

    2. Forget the lawsuit. Johnson is already polling at 10 to 11 percent in 3-way polls with Trump-Clinton. Buy a few national ads and bump that up to 15 percent, and they have to include him by their own rules.

      1. Polls themselves are not structured to include third parties as an option. I was just included in a poll a week or so ago. Prob not one of the ‘acceptable polls’ but still. The first question (roughly) was – If there were only two choices for President, would you vote for Trump or Clinton. I had to be a vociferous prick – There are gonna be a dozen choices on the ballot in my state and I wouldn’t vote for either of those scumbags – and I’m not ‘undecided’ either. Most people will choose what they perceive to be allowed to choose – and national ads won’t change that.

        The poor flunkie doing the poll continued to the end – but I’m sure my data ended up in the 1-2% ‘other’ or ‘data fail’ bucket.

  2. I was in college when I realized that the two parties had codified their duopoly into being impenetrable. The two parties get in power, then make all the rules to exclude other parties, or at the very least make it absurdly difficult to get in.

    I’m happy they’re trying these lawsuits, but I’m about as confident in them succeeding as I am about the Browns winning a Super Bowl in my lifetime.

    1. Same here. The FEC exists exclusively to protect the duopoly from threats to its power.

    2. The two parties get in power, then make all the rules to exclude other parties, or at the very least make it absurdly difficult to get in.

      Unfortunately thats a serious flaw of the Constitution itself. Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members

      Once you put the incumbents in charge of judging the elections/returns; then you’ve just opened the door to gerrymandering, duopoly control of speech around elections, campaign finance rules to protect incumbents, etc

      1. The near-immediate division into the two-party system was unanticipated by the Framers of the Constitution. Madison’s writings indicate that he expected that there would be a number of competing factions and shifting alliances. Instead, everyone (including Madison himself) basically fell in line behind Jefferson or Hamilton.

        1. I think they chose to be blind to ‘parties’. The founders were very good at doing all sorts of historical research to structure government – Adams and Madison in particular. It beggars the imagination to believe that they just somehow ‘missed’ the little reality that every one of the historical examples they studied went to permanent political parties quickly – and the Constitutional Convention was itself proof that the differences of opinion would ossify into something permanent – small v big; free v slave, creditor v debtor, etc.

          I assume they chose to be blind because they all had the conceit that they could always work things out ad hoc amongst their little circle of privilege. And honestly, they were able to do so in many ways because they had different ideas of corruption than we do – eg all the land companies and such that they personally made a lot of money on

      2. Actually the more I think about it, this sentence is the source of a lot of problems. It even encourages cronyism and career incumbency and public debt since it means that each branch of government controls future versions of itself without any checks or balances. So it becomes cheaper for cronies to control the pols for longer without uncertain future competition. It provides the incentive for the legislature to limit its own growth rather than grow in line with population because that makes the legislature itself easier to control. And it makes it easier for the promises today-bills tomorrow free lunch.

        1. But this is common in any organiz’n with a governing board. How else would you have it?

          1. IDK the solution. But that ‘control over time itself’ seems to me like it may be an underlying reason for the difference between the individualist right and the individualist (rare as it is) left. We see the problems when it is government that is the perpetual organization (‘force’ isn’t fearful because it draws blood but because we individuals can die) – they see the problems when it is corporations (property ownership made ‘eternal’ by the state).

    3. I agree that winning either of these lawsuits is at best a long shot. I believe that another huge obstacle is that judges, like it or not, are partisan, and whether the judge is liberal or conservative, is still going to rule against this suit to protect their party. We are at a point in this great nation that to actually make real changes in our government is going to take nothing short of revolution.

    4. Agreed. If for no other reason, I can’t see that a justice will agree with that assessment given that judges seem adverse to anything that might throw a big wrench in the status quo (small wrenches are occasionally tolerated). If freedom of speech doesn’t come into play, why the hell would anti-trust given the fact trusts essentially exist in other industries and are left unchallenged by the anti-trust that is government.

      I’d say the chances of Yellowstone Park going critical tomorrow is probably a better bet than this changing any time soon in American politics.

    5. It’s called “learned helplessness.” You know how you tie up an elephant? You tie him to a tree with a chain when he’s young. He tries to escape but, can’t. Then you tie him to the tree with a rope. He still tries to escape, but can’t. Eventually he stops trying to escape. And then you can tie him to a wooden stake in the ground with a clothesline, and he doesn’t try to escape, because he’s learned that he can’t.

      American voters are the elephant. They’ve had a third choice all along, but they think they don’t.

      1. OR… Libertarian candidates are generally quacks who people tend to dislike after listening to them speak for more than five minutes.

        Gary Johnson isn’t a good candidate. The end.

        1. See, I agree in general, having looked at State-level LP candidates.

          But Johnson does a lot better.

  3. Libertarian moment, eh?

    1. One can hope…

  4. I hope to God these lawsuits break the Democrat and Republican political cartels, because that’s exactly what they are.

    1. Statists gonna state. Those with power will always do whatever they can to consolidate and increase their power. It is the way of the universe.

    2. The two-party system didn’t just materialize out of nowhere. Our federal republic is uniquely set up to favor two political parties, and not much more — particularly at the national level. Not necessarily by design, but certainly in practice. It’s not a conspiracy.

      And Trump is doing more to break the ‘political cartels’ than any lawsuit ever could. But he doesn’t get much love around here because he apparently loves America too much, and that’s a big no-no for the cool libertarian crowd.

      1. Although I won’t be voting for him, I have to give Bernie more props for fighting “the establishment”. I was particularly tickled by his outright snubbing of Debbie “I’m batshit crazy” Wasserman Schultz. I’m hoping she feels “the Bern”, and it leaves a scar.

      2. I don’t love him because his instincts are basically authoritarian and he has no idea how the Constitution works, as far as I can tell.

        I’m far more patriotic (and hawkish) than the Reason average, but … certainly not in Trump’s fashion.

        (I’m an “America is great because of its particular ideals and limited government” patriot; when America ignores what it stands for, I oppose those actions, while retaining my fondness for the principles of the Republic.

        Because, well, I think they’re really good principles; if other countries adopted them I’d love those countries too, because they’d be great, too!)

  5. I wish William Weld was more libertarian and his positions on guns is worrisome, but I’m still stupidly optimistic enough to support a Johnson-Weld ticket because I truly think they can win. The House will stay Republican, so the problems I have with their gun positions, among others, will never matter. All that matters is that they rein in the government.

    1. Weld got an A and high B’s from Cato on fiscal policy (taxes and spending) during his three terms as governor. That should be encouraging.…..lliam-weld

    2. “I wish William Weld was more libertarian and his positions on guns is worrisome”

      That’s like calling anti-Trump rioters “rowdy”

      “Mr. Weld, a Republican who will run for re-election next year, called for a statewide ban on assault weapons ? a proposal he opposed during his 1990 campaign ? as well as a waiting period for buying handguns and a prohibition on handgun ownership by anyone under 21. His proposed legislation would also limit the number of handguns an individual could buy and would impose tough penalties for illegal gun sales and gun-related crimes.

      “”The purpose of this common sense legislation is to remove deadly guns from our streets and to take weapons out of the hands of many teens who themselves are becoming deadly killers,” the Governor said.”

      1. For me personally, if there was one thing a candidate would be “bad” on, I’d choose guns. The issue of guns has never really been that important to me, and while I would be very against calls to ban all guns, banning assault (“scary-looking”) weapons, imposing wait periods, and raising the age to 21 isn’t that concerning to me although some people would surely try to use them as baby steps toward banning guns altogether. A lot of other people would disagree with me about the importance of these things of course.

        1. Guns are the worst thing for a candidate to be bad on. It’s a litmus test for who’s an authoritarian and who isn’t.

          1. I disagree. If anything, I see it as a gnomon for concern about individual liberty?a recognition that the use of force is dangerous & ought to be a priority consider’n. The fact that people care about gun issues, pro or con, is an indication they might yet become radical or at least moderate libertarians.

        2. The gun issue is probably the most important litmus test for libertarians. It’s our canary in the coal mine.

      2. The more significant thing IMO is – has he changed and is that change believable or merely opportunistic

        1. has he changed and is that change believable or merely opportunistic

          This. People do change their views on all manner of issues, but unfortunately professional politicians do it so often that it’s impossible to tell if they’re sincere or not.

    3. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that Weld, if gets the VP nom, and if – in our fevered dreams – a Johnson/ Weld LP ticket can actually win the election – he’ll only be VP, which is a pretty meaningless position. All he’ll have to do is break ties in the Senate, and sit behind Johnson and clap at appropriate times like trained seal during SOTU speeches. At least I assume that’s all a VP does based on Biden’s uselessness.

      Also, Johnson/ Weld would still be far preferable, “impurities” and all, to Trump/ whoever and Clinton/ whoever.

      1. Yeah, I’m not a Weld fan, personally, but VP is nearly powerless, except when curing cancer.

        1. Umm – have you just aborted the Internet?

        2. Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Someone should ask Biden how that little project of his is coming along.

      2. There’s also being a scapegoat for unintentional blunders by the President, inappropriate touching of the opposite sex, drinking lots of coffee, remembering not to say “Viet-MUH-nese”, picking an uninteresting pet project then making the worst of it, pretending interest in Presidential succession and having to do interviews with Katie Couric.

  6. In a fair and just world, both the hosts of the debates and the networks airing the debates would tell the republican/democrat duopoly to go pound sand and that the minor party candidates are invited to take part, whether the duopoly damn well likes it or not.

    But as we all know, the world is neither fair not just, and the idea that government force can (or should) be used to compel these organizations to allow unwanted people into these proceedings is wrong and unprincipled, and (understandably) there’s hardly any judge in America that would make such a ruling.

    After all, where do you draw the line? If you can legally mandate that the Libertarian candidate must be allowed into the debate, then what about the Green Party candidate, the Constitution Party candidate, etc. etc.? A judge either has to allow ALL the registered parties in, or decide to impose some arbitrary standard himself, and there’s no legal justification for any judge to do such a thing.

    1. “Afterall, where do you draw the line?”

      Umm, how about any candidate on enough state ballots to have a mathematical chance to win the presidency. What’s that in any year – 3-4 total candidates? Please don’t spew that 2-party bullshit line about having too many choices for candidates being a bad thing

      1. how about any candidate on enough state ballots to have a mathematical chance to win the presidency.

        Which is basically what the LP’s suit is trying to do, but you’d have to have actually read the article to know that:

        The suit seeks treble damages based on what the defendants claim they lost by being barred from the debates, the dissolution of the CPD itself, and an injunction against “further barriers, boycotts or other agreements in restraint of trade….that cause the exclusion from presidential debates of presidential candidates who have obtained ballot access in a sufficient number of states to win an electoral-college majority.” [emphasis added]

        1. That’s ultimately the crux of the legal argument too —

          Are the Presidential debates part of a public function or a private function. If they are about influencing elections, then they are a public function and any legal judgement that puts the control of elections into parties hands and takes it out of voters hands is an abomination.

          If they are about showcasing candidates, then it is an anti-trust violation but no judge is ever gonna call elections ‘markets’

    2. Why is this a problem? Why is it an issue for lots of people to get on the stage, as long as they have a mathematical chance to win? Dem, Rep, Green, Socialist, Libertarian, Constitutionalist, Sharia, Christian Theocract, Fascist, etc. If there are enough people who support the position, shouldn’t they be in the debates?

    3. i appreciate your point…. but the current system is set up to maintain a duopoly. of course there should be some arbitrary limit. whether that is ballot access, or some lower polling percentage.. (personally, ballot access seems like a no brainer, since it is the biggest roadblock for most third parties)…. it has to be achievable. the point of the lawsuit is that the threshold is set, intentionally, at a level that a third party can’t reasonably crack without the impact of the debate.

      1. You’re 100% correct. The current system is unfair, and the Libertarian candidate should be invited to take part.

        The entire point is, who gets to determine what the arbitrary limit is, and what will it be? Do you have to be on all 51 ballots? Two-thirds of the ballots? A majority? Do you need a polling average of at least 1%, 2%, 5%, 10%? Are you also going to include a mandate that all polling organizations MUST include third party candidates in all of their questions? And who’ll make this final decision, a Bush appointed judge, an Obama appointed judge, an Appellate court, the SCOTUS?

        And keep in mind that any decision a judge ultimately makes can always be overturned by a higher court later on. Can you see why almost any judge would be understandably reluctant to wade into these waters?

        1. I’ll make the rules. There should be 2 thresholds:
          1. Ballot access in enough states to win 270 Electoral votes.
          2. A polling threshold of 2% in national polls including all candidates who meet threshold 1.

          1. These thresholds would include every interesting third party candidate (like Perot, Nader, Anderson) and exclude every crank (like LaRouche, the Greens, the Constitution Party, etc.) And the Libertarian would get in if they have a decent candidate.

          2. The second is always the problem no matter what the number is. Polls are themselves an instrument of manipulation – esp when the ‘free coverage’ about the election is almost exclusively about the poll results. And since the CPD was created to kick the League of Women Voters out of their sponsorship of those debates, you can bet that any ‘objective criteria’ they come up with is going to be designed solely to reinforce the party/campaign control over the debates. 2% is no more objective than 15% or 30%.

            1. The news stories around the formation of CPD in 1987 is instructive re the attitudes of the two parties.


              Mr. Kirk said, ”We believe the Democratic and Republican Parties are making history today by assuming their rightful responsibility for the single most effective voter education project

              Mr. Fahrenkopf asserted, ”The extremely competitive nature of the two parties will ensure that we will reach the best possible agreement for all concerned, most importantly for the voters of this nation.”

              We’re from government and we’re here to help

        2. i can see why a judge would be hesitant to actually set the hard threshold… but what is clear is that the current threshold is too restrictive, and intended to prevent less well known parties from having a chance to put their platforms on full display for the public. i would suspect they could order them to reduce the requirement, but not give explicit limits.

        3. Am I the only one who thinks it’s a little ironic for libertarians to ask the State to intervene to make someone let them into a debate?

          Is there some law preventing other debates that let other people in?

          Preventing people from seeing them? Penalizing people for participating?

          (Now, a lawsuit to keep the FEC from interfering at all? I support that.)

          1. Yes – there are FEC restrictions on a)media that broadcast a candidate debate (mostly related to third party funding and air time to provide info on whether the candidates themselves are corrupted) and b)on any third-party hosting a debate (which aren’t enforced re CPD but would be enforced re anyone else). And there are agreements between every candidate for office and the political party they will appear on on the ballot – some of which ensure that the party not the candidate controls any multi-candidate appearances.

            In an ideal world where everyone is an angel and candidates can’t be corrupted, the FEC doesn’t exist. But it is pure stupidity to pretend that it doesn’t actually exist. And since it does exist, why should it be allowed to enforce its own rules for everyone except the CPD?

    4. But the audience can tell them to pound sand if they put on candidates the audience is not interested in hearing.

  7. I do not think an antitrust case is anything that an economic conservative be making. Debates are not an official part if any election process, and no candidate has a positive right to participate. A case could be made that the Commission standards for inclusion are fraudulent.

    Then there is Johnson’s social authoritarianism and his economic conservatism being smoke and mirrors

    1. I am only “anti-trust” when it comes to the monopolism of the government.

  8. Are they even having Presidential debates this year? I just assumed Trump was threatening to not show up if he wasn’t going to be treated fairly by being able to pick the moderators, the audience, the debate format, his debate opponent, and the production crew. And I’m sure Trump is going to claim the debate commission is unfairly biased against him if they let in third party candidates and thereby cut into Trump’s bloviating time and have multiple opponents attacking him. Of course, he’ll also claim they’re unfairly biased against him if they don’t let in third party candidates who would show how terrible and universally hated “Pudgy” Hillary is.

    1. Nonsense. Trump needs those opponents there so that he can prove his victimhood on the stage. In the GOP debates, he’s the guy who benefited from being able to talk about the kiddie stage and all that stuff. A stage full of people sputtering at what he says gives him plenty of one-liners.

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  10. As long as the majority of the people believe that voting for a third party is not even an option, there is no reason for anyone in the CPD, FEC or the courts to defect from status quo. I’m not optimistic.

  11. even these legal victories could become Pyrrhic if the majors just choose to take their own debating ball and go home.

    Which is probably what would happen.

    1. if one of them backed out, i think the other would still show up. they would be able to bite their tongue on topics the other “side” usually brings up, and let the third party join them in trashing the girl/guy that didn’t even show up. it would be a way to help ensure the third party was more likely to be a spoiler for the other person.

    2. I’m sure the League of Women Voters would welcome the opportunity to stage the debates again. I think Trump probably welcomes as much noisiness on the stage as possible. And can you imagine the political ads if Hillary rejects Women Voters?

    3. What would happen if ballot access became the debate criterion is that ballot access would get a lot harder.

      1. Yes. Which is why the debates need to be taken out of the CPD itself – which this lawsuit isn’t even really approaching. The FEC notion that the CPD is just a ‘public education’ 501c3 that is neutral and has no stake in the market it controls (ie government itself – at all levels) is laughable

        1. How does the CPD actually “control” government?

          It does not.

          It controls – indirectly – how the sort of people who think The Debate Matters decide who to vote for.

          It can’t stop other debates from happening, or from getting shown on the Internet (or on TV if they can sell ads by broadcasting!).

          It can’t do anything other than control who gets on one debate.

          Like UGCC said below, the solution to this non-problem is more debates, not “make the Government make this one let more people participate”.

          Hell, if, for example, some Communists wants a Presidential Debate where it’s only the Socialists and Communists debating, more power to them.

          “The solution is more speech”.

          1. How does the CPD actually “control” government?

            Here’s the lawsuit against the FEC (which is directly the ‘government’ part of it)


            It is a case study for regulatory capture. With the prize being the Presidency and 99% or so of Congress.

            And I wouldn’t give a shit if the Communists and Socialists colluded for debates. Since they control – NOTHING – in government.

  12. The best way to beat the CPD is to make the irrelevant.

    Stossel could host a third party debate (this time waiting until the third parties have actually nominated candidates), then invite the major-party candidates to attend. If the major-party candidates don’t show, have some Democratic and Republican celebreties, who need the exposure, come to the debate to defend their parties’ candidates.

    Fox could promote the heck out of it – and simulcast it on the Internet as a public service-slash-promotional-gimmick (“we’re the station with *real* debate coverage!”).

    1. Issue a statement that “we fully support the right of the two-party cartel to promote their candidates through joint press conferences, but if you want a *real* debate representing candidates or representatives from *all* the parties, watch Fox!”

      Look, not telling Fox how to do its job, but *I’d* watch this.

      1. They’ll need Dem and Rep celebrities whose egos are so big they’ll ignore the desperate calls from party headquarters begging them not to legitimize those icky third parties.

        Egos big enough that they’ll say, “I’m the only one who can credibly represent our party to disaffected voters in this, the Year of the Outsider.”

        1. I’m thinking Ted Nugent to stand in for Trump, and Rosie O’Donnell to stand in for Cankles.

          1. Or Palin and Streisand.

      2. That is actually a freaking awesome idea, and I would watch it too!

      3. And on the off chance they can’t get the celebrity stand-ins for Hillary and Trump, they can always use animatrons or CGI generated characters mouthing canned responses.

        1. I like this idea the best. Hologram Trump, Hologram Clinton and Gary Johnson.

  13. We’re against the FEC and anti-trust aren’t we? Therefore we shouldn’t invoke either. Gary Johnson, alas, is no Libertarian.

    1. Better to sit there with our thumbs up our asses than compromise our principles.

    2. If you own an American League baseball team and you think the designated hitter rule is stupid, you still send a DH out there in your lineup while you work to change the rules.

  14. As much as I hate the duopoly, this is stupid.

    The debates should be privately run, and we have no right to demand they let us into them. If we’re ever going to be a serious contender in a Presedential race, it shouldn’t be because we blatantly violated our libertarian l

    1. *principles instead of “l” at the end.

    2. Depends on whether you’re an anarcho or a libertarian. That seems to me to be the source of most of the infighting in LP. But I have yet to hear from any anarchos why they are even IN the LP – much less why they think they should be controlling it. If the anarchos are just using an Alinsky-type bomb-throwing-but-NAP-compliant rationale to be in the LP; then why can’t the LP do the same re the two main parties?

    3. The debates used to be privately run, by the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan third party.
      Then Ross Perot got in the debates and almost won as an independent.
      So the 2 biggest parties formed their own bipartisan (not non-partisan) debate commission and rigged the rules.

      1. Actually they formed CPD in 1987. The Bush GOP wanted to eliminate a potential third-party threat from another John Anderson (but conservative). And the Dem establishment was worried about a potential Jesse Jackson bolt. None of those happened so they let LWV run the debates in 1988. But CPD coordinated the two main campaign ‘debate demands’ so that LWV was driven out before they hosted the final debate.

        1992 debates were run by CPD. But they couldn’t control a Trump/Sanders combo in Perot who was leading polls during primary season as an F both of U outside the tent. I’m gonna bet that the two parties colluded via CPD and the donor class to include him in the debates if he promised to stop campaigning and getting free media coverage. It becomes easy then for the two parties to isolate Perot by feeding selective polls to media and getting the ‘don’t throw your vote away on Perot’ hyenas going. The 1992 debates by CPD are more a function of them making mistakes controlling the political debate during primary season the first time through. Now they know better – hence the ‘promise not to run as an independent’ and the ‘sore-loser’ ballot access laws that neuters the Trumps/Sanders

  15. Seems like a pretty good deal to me dude. WOw.

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  17. We do realize that if Gary Johnson gets in the debates, he will get destroyed, right? Look what Austin fucking Petersen did to him. What do you think Trump and Hillary do with him? He’s not nearly as polished or eloquent enough to worry about getting in the debates.

    1. Erk… you had to bring that up! Somebody reassure me McAfee isn’t 1. an antiabortion woman bullier, 2. a bomb-throwing arnychist 3. an islamic jihadist 4. an anti-energy luddite… PLEASE!

      1. Watch his inability to answer this simple question and pray that he doesn’t get into the debates.

  18. Of the 18 “anti-libertarian states” all but 3 have dictatorial abortion laws and (except for Washington) prohibitionist weed laws. These are your typical entrenched looter soft machines that keep the mixed economy unfree.

  19. Libertarians complain about agreements between private parties. Cite antitrust laws.

  20. Q to Queen Hillary = why do you support the racist war on drugs?

    Q to Queen Hillary – Is it true you found Saddam’s nucular bomb up his ass?

  21. So Gary Johnson is a done deal now?

    Libertarians have a once in a lifetime opportunity this election, but will still get nowhere with these two washed up Republican governors.

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  23. “If the majors see no benefit to debating a Libertarian, even these legal victories could become Pyrrhic if the majors just choose to take their own debating ball and go home.”
    How so? I would rather see these charades put to an end than see the usual two major-party hacks in their customary parallel interviews. If a successful lawsuit ultimately results in these cowards calling off the whole thing, then I say good riddance.

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