Sunday, September 2, 2012

COMMENTARY: Why Gary Johnson should be given a spot in the debates


Let me give you the one reason why Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson probably will not be allowed in the presidential debates this fall.

He's far behind in the polls and barring a miracle or two, he won't win.

OK, that's one reason why. However, that's the only reason why he won't be allowed in the debates and it's unfortunate.

It's not necessarily because of Johnson's ideas.

There's nothing too radical about wanting the military effort in Afghanistan finished. There's nothing radical with the idea of cutting government spending and balancing the budget.

I've never heard anyone say "I want to pay more taxes," so I'm assuming most Americans would agree with Johnson's stance on small government and fewer taxes.

Legalizing marijuana and supporting gay marriage may freak some out, but more and more Americans are supporting both the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage, two issues Johnson supports.

Still, it's not the issues or stances Johnson takes on why he deserves to be in the debate.

Here are five reasons why Johnson should be allowed to debate President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

1. Johnson has a proven political career. Johnson was twice elected as Governor of New Mexico, meaning he's won more gubernatorial elections than Romney has and the same amount of general elections as Obama. This is not an Al Sharpton or Ralph Nader type candidate who hasn't won a thing. Johnson was the sitting governor of a state and there are only 50 individuals who can say that right now. While I understand the idea of a polling requirement to qualify for the debate, Johnson deserves an exemption here. He has the political background to receive some debate time.

2. After the countless political ads and conventions, can we really say we don't know Romney or Obama? Presidential debates are built up as the time when America is introduced to the candidates, but America has already been introduced to these individuals. Outside of the speeches by Chris Christie, Clint Eastwood and Rand Paul, I did not watch a second of the Republican National Convention. Outside of maybe Bill Clinton's speech, I probably won't be watching the Democratic National Convention. I already know who Romney and Obama are.

Meanwhile, America doesn't know who Johnson is - and that's not necessarily his fault. It's tough for a third-party candidate to compete against countless airtime for the Democratic and Republican conventions. It's also tough when you have three cable news networks uttering the words "Obama and Romney" 24 hours, 7 days a week. If the media covered Johnson more, I imagine his polling would reflect it. He's a long-shot candidate not because of his political career or stance on the issues. He's a long shot because of the two-party system and the media.

3. Johnson could make the other two candidates better. A great thing about a presidential primary is the fact the candidates normally feed off of each other because of the competition. For example, I thought Obama became a great candidate because of the lengthy battle he had with Hillary Clinton in 2008. I also thought Romney shined after Newt Gingrich destroyed him in the 2012 South Carolina primary election. Having Johnson on stage could sharpen the debate - and quite frankly, we need better debates in this nation.

4. According to one Website, Johnson would be a strong candidate if people voted on how they actually really felt about the issues. The Website is a political survey site where readers can fill out a survey and find their ideal candidate. In many states, Johnson is competitive based on the amount of surveys filled out. He currently leads in the states of Texas, Arizona and Georgia - three good states to win on election night. He's also within one or two percentage points in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - three more really nice delegate states. If Johnson was given more media time and allowed in the debates, the 2012 election would be a legitimate three-way race.

5. If you measure up all three candidates in terms of the most important issue in this campaign, Johnson wins hands down. The most important issue is jobs. The American economy is still struggling and unemployment is still above 8 percent in America, with the underemployment rates much higher. As Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, the amount of job growth during Johnson's two terms was 11.6 percent. During Romney's time as Governor of Massachusetts, job growth in the state ranked 47th out of 50th. It may be unfair to give all the credit or criticism to politicians when it comes to job growth. However, those are the numbers. Johnson's numbers are the best if you look at side to side. Why doesn't he get to debate?

Obama and Romney should not be afraid to debate Johnson. If they're afraid to debate Johnson - they shouldn't be able to be president. Oddly enough, I think both candidates would benefit perception wise if they encouraged the debates to allow Johnson in.

Allowing Johnson into the debates would be good for Americans as they may be able to finally have a choice at the ballot box in November. And, perhaps, Americans will finally get a legitimate debate on the issues - instead of an election filled with distractions like birth certificates, the "War on Women" and other non-sense.