Gary Johnson

Let Gary Johnson and Jill Stein Into the Debates!

The Commission on Presidential Debates should include third parties if it's at all serious about providing voters with "the best possible information"


As mentioned in this space yesterday, today is the deadline for getting presidential candidates on the ballot in Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Ohio, and the District of Columbia, which will bring the number of ballot-access cutoffs to 33. (Though the invaluable Richard Winger at Ballot Access News points out that Florida, to name one state with an expired deadline, still has a back door available to the Evan McMullins of the world.) And, obviously, Ohio is weird.

At any rate, Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson has qualified for 39 out of 51 ballots, with the expectation of getting on all of them, and Green Party pick Jill Stein has gotten on 27 while expecting to beat 2012's total of 37. Combined with polling averages of 9 percent and 4 percent, respectively, this hard-fought ballot access should be enough to land Johnson and Stein on the debate stages this fall, I argue in today's L.A. Times. Excerpt:

The commission and its overlords are right to be pondering a tweak to the rules, if for no other reason to fulfill its stated mission, which reads in part "to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners."

You cannot provide the best possible information by limiting the debate to Trump and Clinton — the two most disliked presidential nominees in modern history. Besides, even with our seemingly inevitable two-party sorting process, a full 20% of registered voters consistently indicate that they will not be pulling the lever for either D or R. Johnson and Stein, meanwhile, have combined for the same national polling percentage — just a tick below 13 — both before and after the major-party conventions, suggesting that the traditional halving of third-party polls between summer and election day might not be happening this campaign season.

Just as important, both major-party candidates back policies that are uncommonly extreme in an American context. Trump's hostility toward the free movement of human beings may get the most ink, but Clinton has embraced an economic agenda arguably to the left of anything we've seen since George McGovern, with giant college-tuition giveaways, a major ratchet in the federal minimum wage, expansions to the actuarilly suicidal entitlement state, and a batch of new taxes to magically pay for it all. The last three presidents spent considerable oxygen talking about the urgent need to reform Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid before the Baby Boom generation retires; the next one decidedly will not, unless it's Johnson.

Read the whole thing here.

Meanwhile, remember how FiveThirtyEight was saying that Johnson's polling was "trending downwards," suggesting (to the site's number-crunchers anyway) that "voters may be moving away from third-party options"? Well, with a raft of new national polls over the past couple of days, including an Economist/YouGov weekly survey that since early July has produced 4-5-5-5-8 and now 9 percent, FiveThirtyEight's poll-plus page has Johnson at 8.7 percent, his highest daily showing since his July 15-24 peak. He'll need do better than that, of course, but he ain't slipping.

NEXT: Brickbat: Say What?

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  1. It warms my cockles that even 9ish percent of people might be sorta Liberty friendly.

    1. Most Gary Johnson supporters are not “liberty friendly”. They just think it’s cool GayJay gets high.

      1. You obviously don’t know many GJ supporters; I know many, and NONE of us smoke pot, or care that GJ does, or does not. We’re what you’d call “liberty friendly”, as are most of his supporters. And to a man (and several women) we think Trump is a fool, and Hillary is a crook.

  2. Funniest… Headline…. Ever!

    Might as well be asking for whirled peas.

  3. The Commission on Presidential Debates should include third parties if it’s at all serious about providing voters with “the best possible information”

    Whoa. That’s a big “if”, Matt.

    1. ^This. So much so. CPD is part of the entrenched duopoly.

      1. Of course, that should not be surprising. Kind of like the NFL not scheduling games with teams outside the league

  4. Is it bad for me to not want Jill to debate? I feel like you should have to be on the ballot in 50 states. I would love to see her VP in a debate though. He thinks Bernie Sanders is a white supremacist and has a penchant for calling Obama an Unlce Tom.

    1. I feel like you should have to be on the ballot in 50 states.

      The practical problem with that is the hostility of state boards of elections to non-duopoly candidates and to referenda the government doesn’t like. We’ve seen the shenanigans they’ve pulled. Plus, I’m not sure about all fifty (leaving aside DC and PR for the moment). Does it really matter if a candidate couldn’t get on the ballot in NH or Montana?

      1. Yeah. I’d say “ballot eligible” in enough states to win would be a reasonable compromise.

        But when you have a “bipartisan commission” that was set up specifically to prevent third parties (like the league of women voters) from having a say in presidential debates, I don’t think reasonable compromises are on the table.

      2. I agree that third parties shouldn’t necessarily have to worry about getting on the ballot in all 50 states, they should just have to get on enough ballots in order to reach 270 in the electoral college.

        However I disagree that Montana and New Hampshire shouldn’t be included in this strategy (especially for libertarians) small rural states where the media ad buys are cheap (Granted NH is a little different because of Boston being so close) and its relatively easy to campaign in, should definitely be included as states where they should get on the ballot.

        Heck I’m still convinced that if the LP focused more time on building up their state parties in small rural states like MT and one party states like WY and ID they could get more people elected down ballot. Which I think is more important than spending all their resources on winning the Presidency.

  5. Quoth Glenn Reynolds today;

    “If you want to support someone other than Trump, the obvious thing to do would seem to be supporting Gary Johnson. I really don’t understand the GOP people who say they’ll support Hillary.

    Posted at 7:30 am by Glenn Reynolds “

    1. Statism is their blankie

    2. Literally ANYONE other than Trump! Literally!

      Gary Johnson you say? Oh, that’s a non-starter, sorry.

      1. They’re not going to vote for Trump because he’s not bomb happy enough. Johnson’s the same way but in spades. Good luck attracting neocons with peace arguments.

    3. “We’re voting for Hillary. We can’t put Trump in the White House!”

      “Why not vote for Johnson?”

      “Are you crazy? He’ll split the vote and Hillary will wi– uh….” *TILT*

      Seriously, though, it’s sad that some people are stuck in the 1960’s and refuse to have anything to do with “those pothead peaceniks”.

    4. They’re evil? I mean, I can understand how a partisan, low-info Dem can support Hillary. But anyone else is just a monster.

  6. Some of Gary’s positions might start to undermine everyone’s faith in the all-encompassing state as the solution to all of life’s problems. Now that would hardly be the “best” information, would it?

  7. Useless. GJ will barely be able to get a word in edgewise. Remember that fellow Rand Something-or-Other in the Republican Gang Bang “Debates”?

    Moderators won’t call on him for any substantive questions. When he finally does get a chance to speak, he’ll be immediately interrupted by trump. Chaos breaks out. Moderators step in and declare it’s time to move on. Next question goes to Clinton and Trump.

    Useless. The “debates” are rigged.

    1. 30 minutes of Trump/Hillary going back and forth while Johnson stands there followed by “Governor Johnson, are you still sticking to your no smoking marijuana pledge?”

      1. Bingo. And he won’t even get that out before Trump starts hooting, “DOPER GARY DOPER GARY!”

        1. Gary’s gonna have to toughen up for these debates.If Trump butts in, Gary needs to Doctor-Evil his ass.

    2. Plus, if he brings up any inconvenient facts the moderators will “Candy Crowley” him.

    3. As a forum for any meaningful expression of policies, probably so. However, I can see some value just in adding basic legitimacy to the party in the minds of the average low-information voter. And I mean *really* basic, as in, “I guess that’s a real party, I remember they were in the debate”.

      1. How many people remember the names of the third and fourth guys at the Team Blue debates?

  8. Johnson and Stein deserve to be in the because even combined their poll numbers do not clear the 15% threshold by over 2% points?

    So what rules for debate participation would you have, while avoiding the “clown car” effect that was ridiculed by the likes of Gillespie in the early GOP debates?

    1. Top N (3, 4, 5, take your pick) polling candidates?

      1. That’s the status quo, with N being (unofficially) 2.

    2. I think having a rule that for the first 2 presidential debates (one is usually on foreign policy and the other on domestic policy) plus the VP debate, having the only requirement to be included be that you’re on the ballot in enough states that you can mathematically win the electoral college. Then, if they feel like they need to whittle down the field for the final debate, reintroduce the 15% polling requirement. With the caveat that the polls to be used have to be identified before the first debate, and they make the requirement an average of 15% across the five polls instead of 15% in each poll (like it is now). I think that would be a reasonable compromise, but as someone pointed out above, the CPD is part of the duopoly, so reasonable compromises are right out.

    3. Being on the ballot in all 50 states should count for something

  9. So Gary’s at 9%? Wasn’t tyere a whole article saying his numbers weren’t slipping?

  10. Please give Jill Stein as much media exposure as possible so that people who otherwise know her only from her website can see what a complete lunatic she is.

  11. Here’s what I don’t get – in a year when so many pillars of the establishment are wobbling and toppling, why prop up one of those pillars – the CPD? They’re just the duopoly’s tool.

    Have an debate outside CPD auspices and promote the heck out of it.

    1. Because Hillary and Trump just won’t show up.

  12. Johnson and Stein must never be allowed on the debate stage. They might bring facts and logical argumentation into what is intended to be a joint Democrat/Republican press conference.

    Modern politics is a fact-free melee to bypass the intellect and incite raw emotions, fear being by far the most important. Fear immigrants who will rape your daughters and steal your jobs. Fear ISIS who will force you to worship Allah. Fear the rich who exploit you. Fear China who will flood you with cheap goods, destroying American jobs.

    Drum up fear, convert it to hate and use it to expand the government. But it only works when there is no rational alternative, therefore, no rational alternative can be permitted at the debates.

    If Gary Johnson reaches 15% the CPD will do what the RNC did to Johnson four years ago – only use polls in which Johnson’s name doesn’t appear.

  13. The johnson Facebook page put up a poll that had him in the lead. This was for 18-25 year Olds I think, maybe 26. But it was 37%. Hillary had 30.

  14. if it’s at all serious about providing voters with “the best possible information”

    Aye, but there’s the rub…

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