The first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will take place on Monday, September 26, at Hofstra University in the suburban community of Hempstead, New York. Two third party candidates, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party, were seeking to be included in the main event.
There is a level of dissatisfaction within both parties with the winners of their respective primary processes. However, a more substantial case can be made that due to both important questions about the legitimacy of Clinton’s nomination and ongoing uneasiness about her ethical and possibly medical fitness for office, left-wing Stein may eventually accrue a greater level of support from Democrats than libertarian Johnson will gain from Republicans.
Both Clinton and Trump are well aware that a substantial amount of support for Stein or Johnson could affect their chances. While hurt egos from the bruising primary season impact both Democrats and Republicans, Clinton faces the greater danger from voters.
Opposition to Trump within the GOP is centered on the “old guard” leadership, led by the influential Bush family. Jeb Bush, despite having extraordinary advantages in dollars and contacts, succumbed to Trump, defying expectations. But an examination of recent intramural Republican squabbles should have made Bush’s loss an expected event. GOP, conservative, and libertarian voters became enraged at the lack of success Republican leaders had in countering President Obama’s hard-left agenda, which produced significantly negative results in both domestic and foreign affairs, even after securing both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the 2014 election. House Speaker John Boehner became the first victim of that fury, and Donald Trump, an outsider, eventually profited.
Independents, tired of business as usual in Washington, also were drawn to Trump’s candidacy.
Clinton, on the other hand, was always the candidate of the party bosses, and genuine questions exist about the fairness of her victory. Serious, unsettled queries exist about her campaign’s actions in Iowa, and about a nationwide primary system rigged to virtually insure that the choice of party leaders would succeed.
Add to that the fact that the Democratic National Committee chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, had to resign in disgrace after it was revealed that she tilted the primary process in Clinton’s favor (she immediately took a position with the Clinton campaign.)
Ongoing revelations about Ms. Clinton’s sale of the basic ingredient for nuclear weapons to Russia, the use of her position as Secretary of State for her personal profit, her mishandling of classified emails, her refusal to conduct press conferences, and concerns about her physical health and mental condition expand the level of uneasiness about her candidacy.
Clearly, those factors have produced a reservoir of dissatisfaction that Jill Stein, who shares many positions with Bernie Sanders (who inspired enthusiasm from many Democrat voters) can gain from.
Gary Johnson, on the other hand, cannot expect to pose a significant danger to Donald Trump, although the pro-Democrat media continues to attempt to purvey that impression. There is no question as to the legitimacy of Trump’s primary victory, and rank and file voters, generally dissatisfied with politics as usual, don’t see Trump as part of the Beltway crowd that hasn’t succeeded in addressing the nation’s diminishing economic and national security dilemmas.
Part of Johnson’s problem is that, unlike Stein, his positions simply don’t have a core constituency. While the Green Party has a natural following among progressives, key portions of Johnson’s message turn off those in the center and the right. His general call for a reduced role of government overall is popular, but, when broken down into specific, individual issues, he loses vast numbers of voters.
His positions on national security and foreign affairs are, essentially, very similar to President Obama’s, a sure loser when it comes to attracting Republicans and independents who are increasingly frightened at the quickly growing threats America faces.
Critics have pointed out that Johnson’s positions are not truly libertarian, nor do they follow the beliefs of Republican, conservative or independent voters. Liberty Hangout emphasizes that
“There is no logic in voting for Gary Johnson… he agrees with Bernie Sanders 73% of the time… he supports a carbon tax (which is ironically the type of policy responsible for bankrupting coal)… he supports TPP… he supports a basic, government subsidized income.”
The central question of whether Stein or Johnson should be allowed to participate in the televised debates along with Trump and Clinton depends less on their positions on the issues than in whether they have sufficient support to warrant it. The key questions are: what is the appropriate level of support? And if the door is opened to Johnson or Stein, who else should be allowed to participate?
In addition to Johnson and Stein, Darrell Castle is running on the Constitution Party line, Evan McMullen represents the Independent Party, Gloria LaRiva is on the Party of Socialism and Liberation line, Rocky de la Fuente is the candidate of the Reform Party, Emidio Soltysik represents the Socialist Party USA, and Alyson Kennedy is on the Socialist Workers Party line. Add to that a significant number of candidates who are on the presidential ballot on five or fewer states.
Originally published on New York Analysis of Policy and Government.
Author: Frank Vernuccio