Friday, October 19, 2012

Three's A Crowd?

If my FaceSpace newsfeed is any indication, many of my fellow Boalties have been following the election and, in particular, the debates, closely.  This morning, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, filed this complaint in federal court in D.C.  In short, it asks that the Commission on Presidential Debates be forced to include him in the upcoming debates.

In reviewing the complaint, a couple things became readily apparent to me:

1. I know very little about the laws surrounding political campaigns and the media.

2. The complaint alleges that the Commission on Presidential Debates is a 501(c)(3).  I'm a bit unclear on how that can be, as 501(c)(3) corporations are generally precluded from being involved in politics.

3. Gov. Johnson has a tough row to hoe arguing unilateral contract here, and with a debate coming up in four days, with just two court days in between, it would take a miracle for a court to even take a look at it.  Maybe a miracle in the form of an ex parte appearance.

4. It seems to me that it makes sense to add as many candidates as could mathematically become president (i.e., they are on a sufficient number of ballots to potentially gain the requisite electoral votes) to the debate.  Third party candidates are frequently written off as a nuisance to Democratic and Republican nominees, but isn't it hard for them to be anything more than that if they aren't permitted into the debate?

Ultimately, I don't think Gov. Johnson's complaint will get him very far, particularly this late in the debate schedule.  But it brings up two questions (at least for me):  1. Why do we exclude nominees who are on a sufficient number of ballots from the debates? and 2. Is the legal system the best mechanism to resolve this issue?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Probably the most valuable part of including third party candidates would be to inject some people who will actually a.) answer questions and b.) call out other candidates for not answering questions.

10/19/2012 9:16 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Thank you for not saying this "begs" two questions for you.

Also, I still have that bowtie you loaned me.

10/19/2012 10:39 AM  
Anonymous SlamMasterA said...

Seattle could use a Bowtie Tuesday.

10/19/2012 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The debates are run by a private corporation. We exclude third party nominees because the two major parties have control over that corporation and it's not in either party's interest to allow anything outside the narrow Democrat/Republican spectrum into mainstream political discourse.

The legal system is likely not the best way to resolve the issue because the system itself is weighted towards the interest of the two parties when it comes to election law. I'm surprised there hasn't been a third party debate hosted on the internet. There would be enough interest to make it viable and it would raise the profile of everyone involved.

10/19/2012 11:51 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

11:51, reading your first paragraph reminded me of Visa/Mastercard. (Yes, nerd alert). The banks created those entities so they had no incentive to issue AMEX or Discover cards. But then the legal system was able to resolve that issue. So who knows.

10/19/2012 12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a third party candidate debate scheduled for October 23:,0,5390151.story

I think the bigger problem is that even when there are third party debates, they do not get enough publicity to get anyone but people who are already intending to support third party candidates to watch.

10/19/2012 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well here is something to get butt hurt about:

10/22/2012 10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In past election cycles third-party candidates who have had significant support in national polls have been allowed to participate in the debates. Gary Johnson cannot claim such support. The law aside I can't see the point of allowing every fringe candidate to debate against the two people who may actually become President. The American people want to hear those who have serious positions on national issues and a serious chance to become President and at this point I definitely think having a Gary Johnson on the stage would detract from that - not add.

10/22/2012 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The debates do nothing to provide any insight into "serious issues" in the current format. Additional people with less face to lose could push the real candidates to actually talk about things, rather than make shit up.

10/22/2012 3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The debates suck based on the audience, not the candidates. It's two Harvard law grads trying to break down the level of sophistication of their policies to Honey Boo Boo levels.

Sorry to break it to everyone but the average voter isn't a hundredth as sophisticated as the average poster here. Perhaps they should have a debate like you describe, but only 2% of the population would have the sophistication required to comprehend it.

10/22/2012 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

but that govument dollah make me hollah. uh, what were we talking about?

10/22/2012 11:45 PM  

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