Yesterday, Libertarians across 130 cities staged a national protest in support of a recently trending movement: #LetHerSpeak. This may have been something you saw on your Facebook feed or potentially heard on some news channels, but you probably don’t know what it means. You may have some basic knowledge, but probably don’t know the full picture. On the surface, it’s a small protest against the lack of third party representation in the upcoming debates. That doesn’t seem like a big deal. There are qualifications that must be met and Jorgensen hasn’t gotten there. Libertarians aren’t that popular and rarely make a dent in presidential elections, makes sense. But, have you ever actually given any thought as to why? Have you ever considered why the two party support is low, but there hasn’t been another significant party in over 100 years?
The Let Her Speak movement goes a little further than the surface level look at the Third Party issue. Instead of being a comprehensive overview of electoral corruption, it’s a focused movement to expose one area of electoral injustice, which is that the two major parties have made it virtually impossible for a third candidate to reach the debate stage. Now, as I write this, I can hear the future eye rolls and sighs reaching my ears from across the timeline. “Here we go, another Libertarian conspiracy theory from the party of Vermin Supreme”. I don’t agree with that sentiment, but I understand it. I’m asking you to at least attempt to hear me out. You’ve clicked on the link you might as well see it through. Despite whatever your preconceived notions may be, the simple fact is that the rules regarding presidential debates are rigged to keep it an exclusively bipartisan event. The only problem being that the United States is very far from being a bipartisan nation.
Before we delve into the corruption issue, we need a little background on presidential debates. Formed in 1987, The Commission for Presidential Debates is a non-profit organization that organizes and executes all United States Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates. Despite being considered nonpartisan, the Commission was established and maintained by the Republican and Democrat parties, who remain in control of the organization today. This commission has the power to decide on locations, times, and rules for the debates. They also establish the standards for admittance.
Here lies the first issue that #LetHerSpeak is trying to address. The Commission, while toting themselves as “non-partisan”, is in fact extremely partisan. In spite of the fact that there are probably more than 100 parties in the United States, the CPD only represents the interest of two. Being the two major power holders in the nation, the Democrats and Republicans have a clear and obvious interest in excluding other parties. They have nothing to gain. Sure, a third party can potentially decrease support for the opposition temporarily; however, the threat of another major party coming into the fold is too risky for both. In the scope of Congress, the term ‘bipartisan’ is considered a good thing, but in the broader context the nation, the term is seclusionary and conspiratorial. Bipartisan rule making has only ever led to more corruption from Washington D.C.
Now that I’ve made the claim, it’s time to provide the proof. As stated previously, the CPD establishes the standards of admittance for presidential debates. With the existence of so many political parties all running a presidential candidate, the idea of a governing body for debates is completely reasonable. It would be a disaster to have an over crowded general election debate, like we saw in the 2016 Republican primary. Too many voices on the stage fighting for screen time is clearly not beneficial to the American people; however, that doesn’t mean we should restrict ourselves to two. The proof of suppression is in the CPD’s selection criteria.
There are essentially three rules to admittance. The first rule simply states that the candidate must be eligible for the office as dictated by the Constitution. No problems there. The second rule states that the candidate must be on the ballot in enough states to gain the necessary amount of electoral college votes to win. This doesn’t account for the possibility of a write in candidate, but is an understandable restriction to avoid overcrowding the stage. The third is the problem. It’s how the CPD has been able to stop any third party candidates from reaching the stage since Ross Perot.
The third rule states that the candidate needs to poll at a minimum of 15%, nationally. Seems like another reasonable restriction to avoid an over crowded stage; however, that simply not the case. If that restriction were removed today, there would be a total of 4 candidates in the next debate. The effect is already achieved by the second rule. Four debaters is hardly too many; in fact, it may not even be enough to represent the diversity of thought in the American civil discussion.
The effect of this rule is much more sinister. Even if polling wasn’t objectively bias, a party with no access to debates has no chance of gaining the national media coverage required to poll at 15% in a nation of 370 million people. The CPD knows this. It’s an organization made up of Republicans and Democrats. They want the power to stay in the hands of the Republicans and Democrats. They want you to choose between the lesser of two evils; because, it keeps them in power. The binding truth in all of this craziness is that maintaining the status quo maintains the powers that be.
Michael A. Romano