Include the Libertarian Candidates in 2016 Presidential Debates

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are currently the two most unpopular presidential candidates in the histories of the NBC/Wall Street Journal and ABC/Washington Post presidential polls.  

Half of each candidate’s supporters are negative voters, according to a recent ABC/Post poll.  They oppose the other candidate more than they favor their own.  Fewer than half strongly support their candidate.  For Trump, that means less than 23 percent; and less than 22 percent for Clinton.  The alternative perspective means that 56 percent of registered voters prefer not to vote for either candidate.  Indeed, in this same ABC/Post poll, “while 51 percent of Americans say they’d be satisfied with a Clinton-Trump race, 44 percent say they’d want a third-party candidate to run.” 

That means approximately one-half of registered voters feel disenfranchised and want an alternative to both Clinton and Trump. 

These extremely high negative numbers are important for two reasons.  First is the fact that half of registered voters could choose to stay home rather than be forced to vote for a candidate they do not respect.  The second is that presidential poll numbers determine which candidates are invited to participate in the presidential debates. 

If Clinton and Trump are the only candidates on the debate platform, many voters will ignore the debates rather than sit through hours of name-calling and pandering to their respective political bases.  Don’t expect any substantive efforts by either candidate to convince undecided voters that they can unite and lead this very diverse country.  

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) requires that a third-party candidate poll at least 15 percent to be invited to a presidential debate.  The CPD will likely demand that this threshold be met, regardless of the extremely high negative numbers for both Clinton and Trump. 

In addition to the 15 percent threshold, the CPD requires that “candidates must appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning a majority vote in the Electoral College.” 

The Libertarian Candidate, Gary Johnson, is on the ballot in all 50 states.  He has been polling in the 10 percent range against “presumptive” nominees Trump and Clinton.  Now that all candidates have been selected, polling results will reflect reality, rather than “what if” candidacies.  Clinton and Trump together can only be sure of about 50 percent of the vote.  That leaves up to 50 percent possible for Johnson.  Fifty percent of the votes for Johnson to 25 percent each for Clinton and Trump sounds like a “mathematical chance of winning.” 

Someone needs to speak for disenfranchised voters at the debates.  Someone other than Clinton needs to challenge Trump on his immigration position.  Someone other than Trump needs to challenge Clinton on her paternalistic government positions.  Someone needs to force Clinton and Trump to tell us how they can unite this country, rather than to continue dividing it.

 To the disenfranchised voter, do not disengage yourself from this election.  Use whatever influence you have to persuade the Commission on Presidential Debates to include three candidates in each debate this year; not just two.

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