The Commission on Presidential Debates decides which candidates the American people will hear from.
The media decides whether the American people should know about that decision-making process.
Fact is, the Commission on Presidential Debates is, literally, a partnership between the Republican and the Democratic Parties. The same two parties that have a self-interest in keeping a third voice off the stage.
Fact is, the Commission on Presidential Debates, the Republican and Democratic Parties, the pollsters, and the media sponsors that are given the privilege of hosting the debates, have private agreements that govern who will and will not be allowed to participate.
The 15% rule is a publicly disclosed threshold. But nobody really knows the private agreements that lie beneath.
For all the talk about Trump not releasing his tax returns or the 33,000 emails Clinton intentionally deleted from her server, why doesn't anyone demand that the CPD disclose the secretive agreements that have reduced our political discourse to a shouting match between two unpopular candidates?
Nobody makes these demands because the major media outlets, the two parties, their pollsters, their pundits, and partisan organizations like the CPD are all part of a system that has been designed to insulate the two parties from the competition of ideas.
We need to start scrutinizing all the components of the two-party system. Not just the parties, but the organizations that work beside it, the election law barriers that are erected to protect it, the media that is controlled by it, and the individuals who make a living within it.
They all have a self-interest in its preservation.
The public, however, deserves unbiased scrutiny of the facts.
It is a lack of scrutiny that allows us to focus on whether or not a third party candidate reaches the arbitrary 15% polling threshold to get into the debates, thus avoiding more fundamental questions like: is our presidential debate about who can win or lose according to a poll conducted before the debate, or who can win or lose after there has been an open exchange of ideas?
And it is a lack of scrutiny that allows us to accept the top-line analysis of these polls without regard to the nature of their conduct.
If our democracy is supposed to embrace a free exchange of ideas, we must scrutinize those who have set a standard of debate entry so high, that it excludes two former governors who have ballot access in all 50 states.
We should look deeper into the polls that exclude independent voters, young voters, low-income voters, and other substantial subsections of the electorate.
We should ask why media outlets make up headlines to suggest that our campaign is not 100% committed to offering voters an alternative to BOTH Clinton and Trump.
We should reject the notion that the American people are either red or blue.
And, finally, we should ask why more and more voters feel like our democracy is anything but democratic.
-Gov. Gary Johnson