Do third-parties have a place on the national stage?

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Libertarian Candidate for President, Gary Johnson

By Adam Schalke, Staff Reporter

As the first presidential debate comes closer to being broadcasted, many are curious as to what they can expect from a live debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Both pundits and commonplace spectators alike are wondering aloud as to whether or not Donald Trump’s now trademark gaffes will hurt him on the national stage, and if Hillary Clinton’s rehearsed policy quips can compete with Trump’s off-the-handle approach.

While there is much talk of what will happen in the debate, there is also great talk of who will be absent from the stage. Some voters are insisting that third party candidates, former governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson, the candidate for the Libertarian party, and Green Party candidate Jill Stein be given a place on the stage. The Commission on Presidential Debates mandates that a 15 percent support threshold be met for anyone who is let on the debate stage. According to a Sept. 7 poll from CNN, Johnson and Stein are at seven and two percent respectively.

Those who do not want to vote for Clinton or Trump feel that they lack a viable candidate for president and have turned to third party candidates as another option instead of aligning with the two mainstream parties.

Still, while many support the inclusion of third-party candidates, others say that they don’t have a place alongside the two major parties.

“I don’t think Johnson or Stein should really be in the debates because I don’t think they can realistically win,” said Derek Teeter, a senior political science major. “All they’re really going to do is take votes away from Clinton in swing states and give the election to Trump.”

Still, others, like associate professor of public administration LaVonne Downey, say that third-parties create a more democratic environment, they’re resources could be better applied to other areas.

“Third parties are not necessarily a waste as they bring different ideas to the electorate and expand choice which is part of a democratic election,” she said. “They may have more impact in races such as at the House level because districts are smaller and if an election is close they could more easily impact turnout and thus the election. They have a small audience to reach.”

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be on Monday, September 26.

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