Gary Johnson Would Have Kept the Candidates More Honest at the First Presidential Debate

Coverage of the first presidential debate, held at the University of Denver, has largely focused on Romney’s forceful performance or how the candidates ran roughshod over the moderator. Even though I had the privilege of attending the debate in person, as one of the lucky few DU students who had their names drawn in the raffle, it was actually rather bland.

After a lot of “hurry up and wait,” where students were required to go to pick up their tickets at 2:00 p.m. (the debate started at 7 p.m. Denver time), the debate finally started. However, form mattered far more than substance and no matter how many statistics Obama and Romney threw out and technical policy details they discussed, neither of them really articulated how their plans would address the country’s underlying problems. For example, neither candidate explained how he would substantially cut the deficit. Instead, Romney kept harping on Obama’s $716 billion cut to Medicare, while Obama kept attacking Romney’s $5 trillion tax cut. 

Something was missing, and that something may very well have been third party candidates

For example, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein could have added a lot more substance and interest to the debate. One student I talked to before the debate told me that, as a Ron Paul supporter in the primaries, he was “disappointed that Gary Johnson isn’t here.” Even though such candidates don’t reach the threshold of 15% in polls, they do have good ideas and could have kept the major party candidates more focused on their own plans rather than exchanging snide comments about each other’s policies.

Several of my fellow students mentioned that they were undecided, or that they weren’t “a fan of either Obama or Romney but attending the debate in person is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Why couldn’t we include the top third party candidates and let undecided voters make a more informed decision? If they stand “no chance of winning” what’s so scary about them anyway? Maybe we should start holding the major parties accountable and let other voices be heard in the mainstream political process. Then debates could focus more on substance and less on the show itself.