An order was recently handed down against the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) by a United States federal court to reconsider its stance on its criteria for a presidential candidate to get into the debates it hosts. The CPD, a non-profit controlled by the Republican and Democratic parties, has created arbitrary requirements to fundamentally disbar third party participants from the presidential debates. For this reason, a case was brought against the CPD in federal court stating that the rules that it has created for admittance to the presidential debates are arbitrary and unfair. The court has recently ruled against the CPD stated that the Federal Election Commission, the federal body governing election law, has 30 days to issue a statement regarding the CPD’s status. The order specifically states:
“The FEC is ORDERED to reconsider the evidence and allegations and issue a new decision consistent with this Opinion “within 30 days, failing which the complainant[s], a civil action to remedy the violation involved in the original complaint.” The FEC is FURTHER ORDERED to reconsider the Petition for Rulemaking and issue a new decision consistent with this Opinion within sixty days.”
Currently, the CPD requires a candidate to have 15% approval rating from five national polls. During the last election, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson was close to reaching the benchmark but was shy by 3 percentage points. Furthermore, candidates are not told beforehand which 5 polls will be used.
Keeping Out Dissenting Voices
The presidential debates were hosted by the League of Women’s Voters, but this changed because of the non-partisan nature of the organization. The Republican and Democratic Party wanted to keep out non-establishment voices from entering debates and potentially upsetting their political duopoly.
This issue fundamentally boils down to freedom of speech: If dissenting voices are not allowed to appear on the debates then the American people are forced to consider options that are not reflective of their actual political beliefs.
It is the position of the Libertarian Party that debates should be open and that the candidate with the best ideas should compete on the merits of their ideas. The collusion exhibited by the Republican and Democratic Party is not surprising considering that they have used such tactics to keep out dissent before. For those who champion the cause of liberty and free speech, this event demonstrates a step in the right direction. The goal is ultimately to have the presidential debates open to all party candidates regardless of their ideological bent. This will provide the American people an opportunity to hear ideas that they might not be otherwise exposed. This is what is at the very heart of the idea of freedom of speech.
Thus, the CPD acts as a mechanism to censor those who would speak out against the interest of the two party system and the ideological foundation that supports its political position. We will be keeping tabs on the development on this story because it will have staggering implications for future U.S. presidential elections.
Gary St. Fleur
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