Monday, August 20, 2012

Gary Johnson's letter to the Presidential Debate Commission

Despite the fact that it makes sense, I don't expect the Presidential Debate Commission to stop shilling for Ds and Rs nationally, any more than I expect the University of Delaware's Ralph Begleiter or Delaware First Media's Michelline Boudreau to stop shilling for the Democrats in Delaware.

But I do think he makes the case fairly eloquently:

Dear [Commission Member]

I am writing to request that the national Commission on Presidential Debates reconsider your current – and exclusionary – requirements for participation in this Fall’s all-important Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates.

I am well aware of the history and genesis of the Commission, including the reality that it was created largely by the respective national leadership of the Democrat and Republican Parties. While I respect and understand the intention to provide a reasonable and theoretically nonpartisan structure for the presidential debate process, I would suggest that the Commission’s founding, organization and policies are heavily skewed toward limiting the debates to the two so-called major parties.

That is unfortunate, and frankly, out of touch with the electorate. You rely very heavily on polling data to determine who may participate in your debates, yet your use of criteria that are clearly designed to limit participation to the Republican and the Democrat nomi nee ignore the fact that many credible polls indicate that a full one-third of the electorate do not clearly identify with either of those parties. Rather, they are independents whose voting choices are not determined by party affiliation. 

That one-third of the voters, as well as independent-thinking Republicans and Democrats, deserve an opportunity to see and hear a credible “third party” candidate. I understand that there are a great many “third party” candidates, and that a line must be drawn somewhere. However, the simple reality of our Electoral College system draws that line in a very straightforward and fair way – a reality that is reflected in your existing criteria. If a candidate is not on the ballot in a sufficient number of states to be elected by the Electoral College, it is perfectly logical to not include that candidate in a national debate. If, on other hand, a candidate IS on the ballot in enough states to be elected, there i s no logic by which that candidate should be excluded. 

Nowhere in the Constitution or in law is it written that our President must be a Democrat or a Republican. However, it IS written that a candidate must receive a majority of the votes – or at least 50% - cast by electors, and that any candidate who does so, and otherwise meets the Constitution’s requirements, may be President.

As the Libertarian Party’s nominees for Vice-President and President, Judge Jim Gray and I have already qualified to be on the ballot in more than enough states to obtain a majority in the Electoral College, and we are the only candidates other than the Republican and Democrat nominees to have done so, or who are likely to do so. In fact, we fully intend and expect to be on the ballots of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

However, the Commission has chosen to impose yet another requirement for participation: 15% in selected pu blic opinion polls. Unlike your other requirements, this polling performance criterion is entirely arbitrary and based, frankly, on nothing other than an apparent attempt to limit participation to the Democrat and the Republican. 

Requiring a certain level of approval in the polls has nothing to do with fitness to serve, experience or credibility as a potential President. Rather, it has everything to do with the hundreds of millions of dollars available to and spent by the two major party candidates, the self-fulfilling bias of the news media against the viability of third party candidates, and an ill-founded belief that past dominance of the Republican and Democrat Parties should somehow be a template for the future.

In all due respect, it is not the proper role of a non-elected, private and tax-exempt organization to narrow the voters’ choices to only the two major party candidates – which is the net effect of your arbitrary polli ng requirement. To the contrary, debates are the one element of modern campaigns and elections that should be immune to unfair advantages based upon funding and party structure. Yet, it is clear that the Commission’s criteria have both the intent and the effect of limiting voters’ choices  to the candidates of the two major parties who, in fact, created the Commission in the first place.

Eliminating the arbitrary polling requirement would align the Commission and its procedure for deciding who may participate in the critical debates with fairness and true nonpartisanship, which was the purported intent behind the Commission’s creation. As of right now, eliminating that requirement would not disrupt the process or make it unmanageable. Rather, it would simply allow the participation of a two-term governor who has more executive experience than Messrs. Obama and Romney combined, who has garnered sufficiently broad support to be on the ballot in more than enough states to achieve a majority in the Electoral College, and who, without the help of party resources and special interests, has attracted enough financial support to qualify for presidential campaign matching funds.

I urge and request you to remove the partisanship from the debates, and allow the voters an opportunity to hear from all of the qualified candidates – not just those who happen to be a Democrat or a Republican.

Thank you.

Governor Gary Johnson
Libertarian Nominee for President of the United States


Andrew Groff said...

I may just use parts of this in my reply to our own Delaware Debate scenario. I was invited to the debate provided the usually money-centered reasoning as being a litmus test of a "serious" candidate. My representation of both the Libertarian Party of Delaware and The Green party of Delaware seem to hold no merit at all, even though the State recognizes our credibility and seriousness by including us on the November ballot. This results in disenfranchising these voters to have their selected representatives put forth their subscribed positions on today's most important issues in the public market of ideas in an arbitrary and irrational manner. All in all, which ever way things turn out debate-wise, I guarantee October 16th will be a very interesting night for those choosing to be in Newark for the "festivities". Whether it is to be on stage in ideological battle or outside demanding to be heard. Freedom, Liberty and Democracy have not yet been driven from the hearts and minds of the American people. Nor shall it stand that those in power will affect this abomination.

anonone said...


You "representing" the Green Party and the Libertarian Party is a joke and travesty. The Green Party and Libertarian Party are farther apart from each other in governing philosophy than even the Republicans and Democrats.

Why don't you show some courage and run in the party that is most sympathetic to your policy views, or run as an independent? Otherwise, you're justing acting like a gutless opportunist that is hurting the image and message of both parties. Until you make up your mind about where you truly stand, you aren't a serious candidate; you're just a joke.


Andrew Groff said...

Anonone, To clarify things. I am running as a Green Party candidate. I have made an active choice to do so. The Libertarian party of Delaware has endorsed me. Under a separate thread you have established a purity test of a candidate based on party platforms. I find useful ideas in both GP and LP statements and I believe there are areas of agreement and outcomes that can be developed that would address both party's planks. I suppose that I am a pragmatist and look for ways to go from our current unacceptable government to a future point through a peaceful legislative process. We see where sides digging into entrenched positions creates no movement and no progress towards anyone's goals other than those seeking personal political power. As for me, I am hesitant to get into this whole politics business as I find very few who are genuinely determined to solve the real problems of the day currently running for office or those already there. I have found enough Greens and Libertarians willing to work together to try this coalition out and see what happens. When we actually get some people in office then we can debate the rest of the list with each other. In my experience it is easier to be critical than correct. I want Green Party candidates actually elected to office. I want Libertarians to achieve success as well. In a business environment I have found that by assembling groups of varying abilities, philosophies and ideologies the resultant solutions to problems and acceptance of remedies is quite powerful.

I would like to address the remark about my being an opportunist. Please show me where this illusive opportunity is. My goals are to help build the Green Party and help, where I can, with the Libertarians. They have been very kind and helpful to the Green party as well. I hold no illusions that my participation in this process will yield me anything personally, other than meeting some wonderful devoted people and making some new friends. Because of my involvement in this effort, and the effort with Occupy DE last year, my small business is in shambles. I can regroup after November and push ahead. If you are sympathetic to either of these parties, please help. Criticism is important where it is substantive. Personal attacks and vitriol accomplish little. If you can't add to the debate, please refrain from poisoning it.

anonone said...


Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

it isn't a question of purity; it is a question of judgement.

The Libertarian and Green parties are diametrical opposites in their core governing philosophies. The differences are irreconcilable.

You would be an easy mark in a debate. I would just simply recite the core beliefs and platform of the Libertarian Party and ask you if you agreed or disagreed. If you agreed, you'd expose yourself as a reactionary ultra-conservative economic Darwinist, because the vast majority of people actually think that having a safety net, public schools, mandatory education, civil rights laws, etc. are good things. If you disagreed, it would expose you as either ignorant of the Libertarian Party platform or someone who has no core principles or maybe both.

The Green Party, on the other hand, believes that government can be used as a force for good, so they believe in strengthening, not destroying, the safety net, public schools, mandatory education, civil rights laws, environmental laws, bank regulations, etc.. These positions are the completely opposite of the Libertarian Party's positions.

Why, as a Green Party candidate or an OWS supporter, you would hope that Libertarians achieve success is beyond rationality. It is no coincidence that the Libertarian Presidential Candidates in recent years have all been former conservative Republicans, including this year's candidate. So, hoping that Libertarians achieve success is hoping for more corporate government that takes care of the wealthiest at the expense of everyone else.

I am voting for the Green Party Presidential candidate this year. I wish that I could vote for you, too, but I will never vote for anyone who supports the heartless and cruel governing philosophy of the Libertarian Party.

Take a stand, Andrew. If you didn't before, you now know what the Libertarian Party truly stands for. Make your choice: Libertarian or Green Party and then don't look back.