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Excluding third parties hurts democracy

By Daniel Nguyen

Special to the Chronicle

Since the formation of the two-party system in America, third party candidates have suffered from the dominance of major party politics, especially since the emergence of televised debates.

Prominent third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson faced exclusion from the Sept. 26 presidential debate. It’s hard to overstate the importance of the first debate between Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican Party candidate Donald Trump.

There’s no doubt the past year has featured heated criticisms from both sides of the political divide. All of the public vitriol spewed between the two major parties built up to this climactic confrontation.

With each appearance, Clinton and Trump’s collective dominance delved deeper into the American collective consciousness, and Monday’s presidential debate, being the first of three, was the most media-charged of the election cycle thus far.

As demonstrated by the Democratic and Republican primary debates earlier this year, nominees who spoke the most garnered the largest amount of support. By depriving third party candidates a voice in the presidential debate, political diversity was effectively erased in favor of a dichotomous debate.

At this point in the election cycle, focus has narrowed from a plethora of major party candidates to the final two: diametrically opposed nominees who each inspire a good deal of their own unique controversy. With the highest disapproval ratings of any two party candidates in the nation’s presidential history, there is a clear need for more qualifying voices in the 2016 presidential race.

So why have third party candidates experienced exclusion from presidential debates? The Commission on Presidential Debates instated a minimum viable polling number of 15 percent for candidates participating in major debates. The commission itself operates under the control of the two major political parties, and presidential debates are sponsored by private entities who have garnered criticism in the past.

Propounding the principal of free speech in a democratic society, a large amount of millennial voters have taken a shine to third party candidates. The result has drained supporters from both political parties. This phenomenon is not new, third party candidates have played a major role in shifting voter support in the past. In the 2000 presidential election, the popularity of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan cost then Vice President Al Gore the presidential office.

With less than 50 days to the general election, Monday’s presidential debate has helped shape the public’s opinion on the presidential race. Excluding third party candidates from the debate unfairly obscures American public voting perception and deprives the general public of their right to deliberate decision in the most consequential race in the world.

The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors.

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