Dear American political spectator: Please note that TV talking heads find it easier to pontificate upon the horse-race of our presidential sweepstakes than to cover the actual election process . . . much less the public policies being espoused by those men and women seeking your highest office.
“What is Aleppo?” asked Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson, last Thursday, in response to a question on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” The resultant media mass conniption suggests Gov. Johnson has indeed made it into the running, at least by media standards.
Johnson initially thought Aleppo was an acronym for some ridiculous government bureaucracy he hadn’t yet encountered. Once it was explained that Aleppo is a besieged city in Syria, Johnson “got it,” explaining that he opposed the U.S. policy of intervention and regime change in the Middle East.
Perhaps someday a newsperson will ask Hillary Clinton about her role in creating the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo.
What with so much coverage concerning the blank drawn by Johnson about a city in a country he doesn’t want to bomb or invade, the entire media missed a bigger story, the one about grassroots citizen action accomplishing a Herculean feat.
Last week, Rhode Island became the 50th state to officially announce that the Libertarian Party presidential ticket, consisting of former two-term Republican governors Gary Johnson of New Mexico for president and Bill Weld of Massachusetts for vice-president, had earned a spot on the ballot.
This is the first time in 20 years that any non-elephant-or-ass party has garnered a place on all state ballots (and the District of Columbia to boot). For four decades, Libertarians have gathered petition signatures in 100-degree heat as well as cold so bitter ballpoint pens freeze up, all to run candidates who spoke from the heart even when their head knew they had no chance to win.
Without this struggle and victory by Libertarians, voters would have no viable alternative to Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, the two least popular nominees in history.
The last few months, various Republicans have frantically sought an independent presidential path. But they discovered no such route was reasonably possible — not so late in the cycle.
Even with multiple millions in cash.
Why should it be so difficult to seek the presidency (or other elected office) without being a Republican or Democrat? Because Republican and Democratic politicians want it that way — and so have legislated it that way. They don’t want you to have a choice . . . well, not a choice other than them.
Through blood, sweat, tears and perseverance, Libertarians have nonetheless provided that choice.
Now, that Libertarian choice stands a chance. Nearly 60 percent of the public repeatedly inform pollsters they want to vote for someone other than Trump or Hillary. Even more urgent, the desire to see and hear from Gary Johnson in the three presidential debates — along with Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein.
Meet the private organization, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), founded and run by Republican and Democratic Party bigwigs. It decides who gets to debate before the American people on television and who does not. With most normal, non-political people hardly fixating about the presidential race until the debates, the private, partisan Commission’s determination is tantamount to deciding who may or may not become president.
With all the talk about rigging the election, here it is!
Of course, the CPD claims it has merely set out criteria to prevent all 410 presidential candidates registered with the Federal Election Commission from being on the debate stage. As CPD member and former chairman of the Federal Communication Commission, Newton Minow asked a reporter: “You want to have 410 candidates in the debate?”
The Commission’s criteria set is three-fold: (1) the candidate must be constitutionally eligible, (2) on enough state ballots to have a chance mathematically to gain a majority, and (3) garner at least 15 percent in five polls selected by the Commission.
If the last requirement — the 15 percent — were jettisoned, as it should be, only four candidates, not 410, would qualify: Republican Donald Trump, Democrat Hillary Clinton, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein.
Furthermore, presidents are not elected by national popular vote, but by state-by-state results. So why should national polls have any bearing whatsoever?
Johnson is currently polling at 25 percent in his home state of New Mexico. That’s four points below Trump, at 29, and 12 below Hillary at 37 percent. In a very close election, a win for Johnson in one state could throw this whole contest into the House of Representatives. There, the unpopularity of Trump and Hillary might cinch it for the Libertarian.
A chance to debate might also make it possible for enough voters to feel comfortable they know enough about the Libertarian candidate to commit to him, catapulting him into first place or second or a far closer third. Or perhaps his support might plummet and Johnson would no longer be a factor.
But shouldn’t the voters decide, rather than a private corporation controlled by the two-party establishment dictating that Johnson will not be heard from?
Numerous newspapers, usually skeptical toward Libertarians, have either endorsed the Johnson/Weld ticket or emphatically called for Johnson’s inclusion in the debates. The GOP’s previous standard-bearer, Mitt Romney has advocated having Johnson in the debates.
What does Trump say? Well, back in 2000, Mr. Trump made his position clear, calling the CPD’s 15 percent threshold, which excludes third party candidates, “disgraceful.” Trump added, “It’s amazing that they can get away with it. I just think it’s unfair to have such a high standard, a high criteria. . . . Very unfair.”
Most recently, Trump told the Washington Post that he preferred to debate Hillary one-on-one. Might not be the best approach, however, since in polls Mrs. Clinton consistently loses more support than does Trump when the Libertarian and Green candidates are included.
What do you think? It’s your country. Call the Commission on Presidential Debates that is hijacking your political process (202-282-1020). Don’t be just a spectator.