As November rapidly approaches in the United States, leaves fade to yellow, winds become chilled, and the heat of the American political climate continues to escalate. Although tension is generally expected in American politics, the 2016 election is particularly divisive.
According to a poll done by ABC News and the Washington Post, both republican Donald Trump and democrat Hillary Clinton are at high percentages of unfavorability. Trump is 63% unfavorable while Clinton is 56% unfavorable.
Consequently, third-party supporters, mostly voters for the Green Party’s Jill Stein and libertarian Gary Johnson, see an opportunity to purport their cause. Specifically, advocates argue that third-party candidates should be allowed a podium at the presidential debates.
Evidently, the spirit of elections and campaigning is clearly alight across the United States and the University of Denver is no exception.
Ordinarily red bricks are splattered with vibrant red, white, and blue paint, urging students to cast their vote at the polls. Indoors, patriotic posters can also be spotted on cork boards across campus, requesting aid to help elect candidates.
Vice President Joe Biden even made an appearance at DU, delivering the keynote address at the 19th annual Korbel Dinner.
Many students at DU will also tune into the presidential debates, which have traditionally featured a Democrat versus a Republican. Kate Brown, a sophomore studying Psychology, is one of those many students. She is in favor of allowing third-parties to have a place on stage.
“Yeah. It doesn’t hurt. Why not?”
Brown jokingly adds,
“I usually don’t like either of the candidates anyway.”
The debates themselves are produced by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a bipartisan group containing members of both the republican and democrat parties. Historically, no third party has ever participated in the events.
The Commission is lead by Frank Fahrenkopf, a former head of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, former press secretary for Bill Clinton’s administration.
At a press conference in 1987, Fahrenkopf stated it would be unlikely for the Commission to consider allowing third-party participants, and it has been as such ever since.
Candidates must reach 15% support across five national polls in order to debate. Currently, the averages, according to RealClearPolitics, place Clinton with 43.8%, Trump with 40.9%, Johnson with 7.3%, and Stein with 2.5%.
Jeremy Salo, a Sophomore studying Game Design, feels this threshold is reasonable, though he says he has difficulty offering a concrete answer.
“It’s somewhat hard to say… Yeah, the number is 15% and that sounds fine to me.”
The first presidential debate of 2016 already occurred on Sept. 26, with three more remaining. Though it seems unlikely, third-party supporters continue to try and sway the Commission of Presidential Debates.
Supporters argue that it isn’t a matter of individual candidates, parties, or percentages but rather informing the voters of their options. If third-party candidates were allowed to debate, it would increase exposure and potentially push them closer to the necessary 15%.
Cedar Haugen, a freshman studying Physics, agrees with this notion. He surmises that no parties should receive favoritism.
“It’s basically free publicity for those two parties. Because the debate is uneven, it displaces representation and is therefore not equal.”