I’ve talked about the shady nature of the Commission on Presidential Debates before, but the punchline is that the CPD is a private organization founded and run by Republicans and Democrats. Acting on behalf of the duopoly, the CPD is the warden of the stage, and its requirements for attaining a spotlight are unusually high for anyone who does not have an R or D next to their name.
Multiple lawsuits, and some nasty words from many places have been brought against the CPD as a result.
I argued that Johnson’s numbers in the polls, especially in swing states, are high enough to warrant concern from both Trump and Hillary, and on principle, they should give the Libertarian candidate a spot next to them so that each can lose or win votes in a fair face to face debate.
But this wasn’t the only way Johnson was looking to get into the debates, however. Both he and Jill Stein of the Green Party filed a lawsuit against the CPD, arguing that the organization allowed Democrats and Republicans to monopolize the spotlight and all the media attention and financial benefits that go with the free publicity.
Sadly for Johnson, Stein, and Americans looking for an alternative option to the current crop of highly unpopular candidates put forth by Republicans and Democrats, the judge tossed out the case.
“Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries are wholly speculative and are dependent entirely on media coverage decisions,” writes U.S. District Court Judge, Rosemary Collyer. “The alleged injuries – failure to receive media coverage and to garner votes, federal matching funds, and campaign contributions – were caused by the lack of popular support of the candidates and their parties sufficient to attract media attention.”
But according to Johnson’s Campaign Manager, Ron Nielson, this isn’t over.
“We are exploring our options, with the firm resolve that this case and the larger issue of fair debates are too important to simply allow such an arbitrary dismissal,” said Nielson.
“With Gov. Johnson consistently polling in double-digits, we continue to believe that the CPD should make the right and fair decision to invite him to participate in the upcoming debates,” he added. “There is clearly an unprecedented desire for alternatives to the Republican and Democratic nominees, and voters deserve an opportunity to see and hear that there are, in fact, other credible, serious choices. The CPD could act today to end the two-party stranglehold on the debates, and that is precisely what they should do.”
The head of the CPD, Frank Fahrenkopf, has stated he was willing to give a little wiggle room to anyone who comes close to reaching the required 15% approval in 5 major polls, but didn’t specify how much leeway he’s willing to give.
In the grand scheme of things, Nielson is correct, and something has to change. Johnson – and to a lesser extent, Stein – have achieved a good deal of spotlight of their own, but what Judge Collyer seems to fail to recognize is that much of the Republican and Democrat media attention results from national debate stages like the ones the CPD controls. If Libertarians were invited onto the stage, then there absolutely would be a significant amount of media attention that would result in a change of poll numbers.
Many either don’t know the Libertarian party exists, or feel it’s not as legitimate as Republican or Democrat due to its absence on such high profile stages. In other words, the judge reaches that conclusion because decisions like hers leave little room for that conclusion to change.