Debate the debate debate

First off, sorry if this has been covered in another thread…a quick check did not find a thread specifically about this. Listening to NPR this morning, heard a story about the presidential debates, and the probable non inclusion of “third party” candidates. There are 3 criteria set up by the bipartisan debate commission, the third requires an average of %15 voter support in 5 specific voter polls that the commission chooses. Needless to say , neither the Green Party (Nader) nor the Reform/Natural Law Party currently meets the threshhold.

Here are the arguments as I currently understand them.

FOR INCLUSION of 3rd Party: The 15% threshold is an arbitrary number that even Abe Lincoln would not have met(this, according to John Hagelin (sp?) of the Reform/Natural Law party). Buchanan is receiving matching funds from the federal govt, so he argues that his is a recognized campaign by the govt. Leaving out 3rd party candidates will prevent a variety of issues from being seriously debated, some argue that the 2 parties, or at least their current candidates are not that distinct anymore.

AGAINST INCLUSION: A line has to be drawn somewhere. There are currently about 100 candidates for prez, depending on the state you live in…if Nader and Buchanan/Hagelin are included, other candidates will demand their place as well. The commission says that the purpose of the debates is to focus in on the stands of the candidates who have a realistic chance of winning…they feel that a 15% threshold would be meetable by any “realistic” candidate.
Of course the commission can invite anyone they please, I don’t see how this is a legal issue…but on principle, how do you feel about this? I tend to lean toward the commission on this…but not enough to offer a spirited defense of their position…

I have no idea if this is true or not. But, then, things were a lot different in Abe’s day.

Also, this is the guy who thinks people can fly by sitting cross-legged and thinking real hard, so I’m not real tempted to believe anything that he says…

a real audio link to the NPR story is at

the commission has their rules laid out here

Hagelin is from Fairfield, Iowa…home of Maharishi University…and the famous carpet flyers :slight_smile: …about 90 miles from where I live.

This may or may not be relevant, but …Jesse Ventura was at 10% in polls in September of 1998 before the October debates for the Minnesota governor…

I read somewhere that Perot was well under 15% in '92 before the debates. It was only after the national exposure (and possible credibility?) he got from the debates that his numbers went up.
When I read that, it was not sourced, and I can not remember where it was that I read it, so I feel free to either verify or debunk that.


I don’t there is a question that the the two ruling parties hold all the cards and make it exceedingly difficult for a 3rd party to do ANYTHING. I think the 15% rule is a bad one.

The Reform party is getting money from the Federal gov’t, and they are on all 50 (or at least close) ballots. I think they should have a seat at the debates. I also would like to see Nader there, but he doesn’t seem to meet anything I would use as an objective standard.
I think the debate commision is doomed to be mired in controversy for a long time over this. (It sort of reminds of the old rating system in college football for the #1 ranking)

The 15% requirement is ridiculous. Healthy multiparty systems often do have formal thresholds for representation … it’s a different matter from a debate, but a lot of the math holds true. The Federal Republic of Germany has been a stable three- to five-party system for almost its entire existence, and it uses a 5% threshold for parliamentary representation. Sure, this results in a theoretical maximum of twenty parties, but in practice the number will be three to five.

The 15% requirement invented by the bipartisan (and, to borrow from the Simpsons, they don’t mean “bipartisan” in a good way, they mean it literally) commission would almost never include any but their own nominees.

A strawman argument will be made - and mark my words, you will hear it - that if more Presidential candidates are taken seriously that the United States will turn into an Italian/Israeli-style parliamentary system with too many political parties. That’s right, if we take Hagelin or Buchanan or Nader seriously, the Presidency will cease to exist! Setting aside tremendous confusion in political theory, this is still a bogus argument. There are integers between two and ten (I can think of seven!), therefore it is possible to have more options than a two-party system without having the confusion and fragmentation of a ten-party system. All you have to do is look at other countries (election happen outside the U.S.? Say it ain’t so!) and do the math.

Most of independents/undecided I have spoken to are not very thrilled with the choices of Dubya or Prince Albert. And these are the ones who will decide this election due to the relative closeness of the race. Both of the mainline candidates (esp. Gore re: Nader)are reluctant to allow an “outsider” vulture votes on election day. Would Clinton have been elected in '92 if Perot had not been in the race?

I believe that any party that has received “public” funds and is reqistered in enough states to receive a possible 270 votes in the electorial college should NOT be excluded in the most watched, FREE advertising available on TV.

What about the Libertarians? I think Harry Browne’s well ahead of John Hagelin in the polls, and about even with Buchanen, last I heard. Everyone forgets about the Libertarians. :mad:

Yes. Perot supporters were divided roughly evenly between Bush and Clinton as their second choice in 1992 (not the case in 1996).

i think it should be mandatory that a 3rd party candidate be included. is there some great cost incurred by having one? do they claim it wastes too much time? like paying attention at all is worth the time. it would make the debates more interesting, less same old same old. they just want an excuse to maintain the status quo. an illusion of democracy.

                                              Dal Timgar