Third Parties in Presidential Debates


Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debating (photo courtesy of Wikimedia).


The three presidential debates that run on prime time television should be open to the major third party groups. Currently only candidates that poll over fifteen percent in recent polls can participate. This year with the two main candidates very far left and far right, respectively, the people should hear more from the independents.

According to recent poll done by Los Angeles Times, one in five voters are not decided on who to vote for. This uncertainty creates voters more interested in learning about the candidates. The media, however, mostly only broadcasts third party candidates during prime time if a significant story is available. For example, CNN’s Anderson Cooper show analyzed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson’s  Aleppo comment. But they never show Johnson’s rally speeches or analyze his platform even though he is polling in eight percent in the most recent CNN Poll of Polls. The presidential debates can allow him to tell undecided voters that he is another option.

In addition with only two candidates in the debate, sometimes the debate turns into a long argument fueled by party hostilities. During the first debate, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump quarreled back and forth over climate change, President Obama, and NAFTA. This pointless bickering contradicts the main purpose of the debates. The debates are supposed to inform the voters how candidates will try to fix problems, not why their opponent is wrong. A third party candidate can bring in another point of view to stop the party focused arguing.

Especially in this election cycle another more moderate and mixed point of view can raise up issues that are ignored by Trump and Clinton. For example during the primaries, Independent senator Bernie Sanders galvanized young millennials to vote and made Clinton’s agenda swing more to the left. If this happened in the general election, maybe Trump’s promises can be more realistic.