Even Donald Trump Wants Gary Johnson in the Debates

Sixteen years ago, Trump advocated opening up the presidential debates to third parties. His arguments hold true today.

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So when it comes to the first presidential debate, only Hillary Clinton and Donald J Trump, the two most-hated candidates in recorded history, will be allowed to participate.

Here are four good reasons why Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president who is a former two-term governor of New Mexico, should be allowed to participate. And here's a bone for supporters of the Green Party's candidate, Jill Stein: At least some apply to her as well.

1. 15 percent makes no sense.

The Commission on Public Debates, which was created by the Republican and Democratic Parties in 1987, says participants must average 15 percent in five polls they choose. But why 15 percent? If you're going to insist on a poll-driven number, 5 percent makes far more sense. That's the number you need to hit to receive federal matching funds and it's also the level that most states insist on for a party to receive "major-party status" and thus not have to jump through a bunch of ballot-access hoops every election.

FWIW, according to RealClearPolitics' latest roundup of national polls, Johnson was at 8.6 percent just after the commission turned him down, which was higher than what independent candidate Ross Perot was at in 1992 when he was invited to the debate.

2. He's on the ballot in all 50 states.

Johnson is on the ballot in all 50 states, so he can theoretically win the election but more realistically, he will totally influence the outcome. In fact, a recent state-by-state poll had the guy in double digits in 42 states and at 15 percent or better in 15 of those. What the hell is going on when a figure who will be on every American's ballot isn't given a shot to make his case on the same stage as the Republican and Democrat?

3. Americans want more choices at the ballot box.

According to Gallup, 60 percent of us say the Democrats and Republicans do such a poor job that a third major party is needed" to represent our views at the ballot box. Just 38 percent say the Dems and the Reps are getting the job done. And get this: A Suffolk University/USA Today poll found that 76 percent of likely voters believe "a third-party candidate who is certified on a majority of state ballots should be included."

4. Donald Trump wants third parties included (or at least he did in 2000).

Here's a charming bit of video from 2000, when the debate commission announced its 15 percent rule for the first time. Donald Trump himself argued forcefully that the Reform Party candidate, Pat Buchanan, and the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader, and others should participate in the presidential debates and the only reason they were being excluded was that Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore were scared of competition. Minnesota's then-Gov. Jesse Ventura introduces Trump by calling the exclusion of third parties "despicable" and noting that if he hadn't been allowed to debate Democrat Humbert Humphrey III and Republican Norm Coleman, he never would have become governor.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie.

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  1. I want Johnson in the debates, but in the case of trump he’s afraid to debate Hillary Clinton one on one. trump is first, foremost and always a coward. From dodging the draft to refusing to debate Cruz trump has shown a yellow streak whenever he has to deal with the real world that refuses to swoon over his childish antics. As much as I want Johnson in the debates, because sanity beats corrupt and crazy if the nation is going to be stuck with Clinton and trump as the two major candidates we need to see them one on one.

    1. Has Trump lobbied hard to get Johnson included?

      1. No, but one would have to actually watch the video or read the write-up to know that. And who has time to watch a 3 minute video? You don’t get first post that way.

        And of course, read the write-up?! Pffft, READING IZ 4 FAGZ!

    2. The narrative needs to be controlled, so 3rd party candidates are not welcome. especially since the Democratic and Republican Parties formed the debate group in the 1980s.

    3. You seem to forget how cowardly Hillary ducked out of the California debate against Bernie.

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  2. If Johnson had been evenhanded with his criticisms, maybe he would have stood a chance but his Trump criticism has been scathing and his Hillary criticism has been much less so. Why would Trump agree to a two-on-one debate? He’s not a genius by any means but he’s not that stupid. Then again, the debate commission was set up to exclude third parties so the idea Johnson would get in was largely fantasy anyway.

    1. “If Johnson had been evenhanded with his criticisms, maybe he would have stood a chance but his Trump criticism has been scathing and his Hillary criticism has been much less so. Why would Trump agree to a two-on-one debate?”

      Because as long as Johnson is attacking Trump and sucking up to Clinton, he’s appealing to Clinton voters and taking votes away from Clinton. Which is good for Trump.

      1. I think he’s trying more to appeal to disaffected Reps who can’t stand Trump but you have a fair point.

        1. Well, that’s the thing: Disaffected Reps who can’t stand Trump are almost all going to vote for:

          1) Clinton; or
          2) Johnson

          Having Johnson as much in the mix as possible presumably shifts a lot of those votes away from Clinton and to Johnson. Advantage Trump.

          1. Yeah, but Trump has an even better advantage without Johnson.

            Trump gains support when he speaks. Clinton loses support when she does so. Maximizing the time Clinton needs to power through her feebleness and speak is a clear advantage to Trump as every word out of her mouth causes at least one person to decide not to vote for her.

            1. “Drumpf gains support when he speaks.”

              This is… arguable. The “Mexican” judge, the Khan family kerfuffle, the “we should arrest mothers who get abortion” line. Not exactly vote-winners.

              He does better when he’s in front of a TelePrompter and seems like a somewhat sane mainstream-ish Republican.

  3. But Trump is Hitler, why would anyone take Hitler’s advice?

    1. We should ALL listen to Hitler’s advice… ***IF*** we want to learn how to sacrifice scapegoats, and design REALLY cool uniforms and insignia that make us all want to insanely FOLLOW-FOLLOW-FOLLOW the Dear Leader, RIGHT NOW!!!

      Trump’s got the scapegoat thingee nailed nine ways to Sunday, and I bet he can do the rest, given the chance…

  4. God. I can’t wait for this inconsequential election to wind to a close and the next caesar to take his or her crown and begin their rule over a doomed government.

    Then all the wasted column space about the unimportant kabuki theater will be replaced (hopefully) by real news.

    1. Nah, if we’re following the last 8 years’ trends, we’ll be on to wall-to-wall coverage of the 2020 race by approximately Valentine’s Day.

  5. So, I finally got to add my support for Johnson to an actual poll this weekend!

    Alas, it was not a national poll. It was the local Republican party polling door-to-door (and carefully distributing get-out-the-vote information only to those who agreed with them). But hey, it’s something.

    The lady took it like a champ, she made no effort to proselytize Trump beyond the Trump shirt she was wearing, and I appreciate that.

    I threw her a bone and said I’d vote Portman for Senate, which I probably will.

    1. I threw her a bone

      Seriously, are we not doing “phrasing” anymore?

      1. I whipped it out when they came to my door for a survey.

        A pen… I whipped out a pen.

        1. A pen… Being a shortened version of just which particular 5-letter word?

          (Just ’cause it’s short, does NOT mean that you need to shorten the NAME of the doo-hickey! Else we are just stuck with “doo”, sounding WAAAY too much like “poo”…)

  6. “Johnson is on the ballot in all 50 states, so he can theoretically win the election”

    He could theoretically win the election without being on the ballot in any states — get enough write-in votes to carry one state (or even one congressional district in Maine or Nebraska).

    If that happens, he gets at least one electoral vote.

    If only two other candidates get more electoral votes than he does, and none of them get at least 270 electoral votes, he is one of the top three from among whom the US House chooses the next president (the Senate chooses the vice-president, but must choose from the top two — so William Weld would have to get at least 135 electoral votes to get into contention in that way).

  7. Anyone hear the sound of a dead horse being beaten?

  8. Kind of odd to cite a guy that Reason hates so passionately.

    Trump doesn’t want Johnson in any debate, though. He came out against it before, and then has backed off that only as it became clear Johnson wouldn’t make it. It’s better optics and plays into his tough guy routine. Sort of like playing with the idea of debating Bernie and backing off, only in reverse.

  9. He’d get eaten alive…

    1. … which would bump up the number of viewers for round 2

    2. Trump would eat and Hillary would barely be alive.

  10. Looking at Johnson’s interview by former Clinton employee George Stephanopoulos I’d say that if Johnson were to get into one of the remaining debates, he would end up looking foolish. The only questions that he would be asked would be
    “Why don’t you drop out since you can’t win?” and “Why are you running when all you offer is the chance to be a spoiler?”

    Does anyone seriously believe that the questions of free trade, Constitutional adherence or limitations on government would ever be asked by the likes of Lester Holt?

  11. The best possible outcome for the debate would be if a meteor struck Hofstra University and only destroyed the two podiums and the people standing behind them.

  12. For Trump, it’s a good idea for him to lobby for having Gary & Jill included in the next debate.
    He looks presidential by playing the fairness card, while Hillary looks her conniving self by playing the lawyerly rules card about the 15% requirement and blah blah blah

  13. The relevant issue is not ‘why Johnson should be included’. The relevant issue is why are the two parties allowed to control the terms of the election itself. As long as that continues – and it will be reinforced as long as voters keep voting for the duopoly – then we do not have the governmental structure we like to believe we have – democratic control of a republic.

    1. As much as I’d rather have someone other than Trump on the R ticket, at least the GOP followed through with the will of the people by sticking with Trump. The DNC, on the other hand, rigged their contest from the get go against Bernie.

    2. +1 hammer and sickle or swastika, your choice

  14. If what’s his name wants time on TV, let him buy it like everyone else. The democrats and republicans owe him nothing.

  15. Trump does better when there are more people on the stage. His primary campaign debate performances noticeably deteriorated when the field shrunk as he has little grasp of policy or, indeed, basic facts. He backed out of the last debates when it would have been just him, Cruz and Kasich. (That’s no guarantee that he will have a poor performance tonight, of course.)

  16. RE: Even Donald Trump Wants Gary Johnson in the Debates
    Sixteen years ago, Trump advocated opening up the presidential debates to third parties. His arguments hold true today.

    Yes, Trump the Grump wants Johnson at the debates.
    But only as an usher.
    Honest debate with a member of the LP would expose the republican (and democrat) parties stupidity and corruption.
    The ruling elitist turds simply can’t have that.

  17. Well, he’s “grown”, and now his position coincides with the conventional wisdom, doesn’t it?

  18. Hitlery Clinton is afraid to debate 3rd party candidates.

  19. Didn’t watch the stupid video – that’s the lazy-man’s method of “writing” an article.
    But it sounds like it, or the authors, didn’t mention that Trump was the Reform Party candidate – at least he had announced he was, for a time – in 2000.
    He was making the argument for multiple parties to be included, in the debates, out of self-interest not some altruistic impulse.

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