Truthout: Third Parties Eager to Disrupt the Presidential Race and the Two-Party System

ImageLibertarian National Committee chair Nicholas Sarwark was briefly interviewed in Truthout online on May 15.

“Nicholas Sarwark, the chairman of the Libertarian Party, which supports some of the same political ideas that propelled Ron Paul’s fiery campaign in 2012, said Trump is fueling an ‘astounding’ exodus from the GOP.

“We’ve been sort of noodling around with the idea of giving the gentleman from New York an award for the most recruitment for the Libertarian Party this year, because he has helped a lot of people find their correct political home,’ Sarwark said. In the days after Trump sealed the Republican nomination, he added, the number of voters seeking membership in the party each day doubled or even tripled….

“‘The Democrats and Republicans realize how much debate exposure is worth,’ Sarwark said. ‘This is essentially a multibillion-dollar campaign contribution to the Republican and Democratic parties, and that’s the argument that we are making in the lawsuit.’

“​The lawsuit, filed last year on behalf of the Greens, the Libertarians and the multimillionaire political financier Peter Ackerman, alleges that the CPD is run by Democratic and Republican political insiders who work to shield the major candidates from t hird-party spoilers. Under FEC rules, the plaintiffs argue, the d ebate sponsors cannot accept contributions from corporate sponsor s to finance their activities unless they are ‘​nonpartisan,​’ whic h is not the same as ‘​bipartisan.’

​“​Candidates are only eligible to participate in the debates if they are polling at 15 percent or higher, which is nearly impossible to achieve for third-party candidates who do not enjoy all the free airtime given to Democrats and Republicans, according to the plaintiffs. Sarwark said it’s a ​‘​chicken and egg’ type of situation.

“‘​The way the Commission on Presidential Debates is set up, it’s former chairs of the two old parties getting together to set rules specifically to make sure that it’s a giant campaign commercial…and keep the Libertarian off the stage,​’ Sarwark said.

“​The FEC recently filed a motion claiming that its standard for taking action is ​‘​highly deferential​’​ and the plaintiffs did not supply enough evidence for a rule change, an argument that Sarwark called ‘shady.’​ He pointed to Ross Perot, who is the only third-party candidate to appear on a major televised debate, back in 1992. Perot’s polling numbers skyrocketed afterward, and some Republicans still blame him for drawing supporters away from George H. W. Bush and handing the election to Bill Clinton.

“‘[Ever] since the Perot debate, and the sort of breakout that he had, they have never wanted that to happen again,’ Sarwark said. ‘So, it doesn’t.’

“The FEC has asked a federal judge in California to dismiss the case, and it’s unclear if it will be resolved before the televised debates. Another separate legal challenge on behalf of the Greens and Libertarians has been filed against the CPD itself, alleging that the group is violating anti-trust laws by boxing out political alternatives….

“The major parties have reasons to be worried this year, especially the fracturing Republicans. Johnson or McAfee could pose a real threat to Trump—they are both successful but controversial businessmen who could attract young and socially liberal Republicans away from a candidate who rails against free trade agreements and spouts hate speech. Johnson served two terms as governor of New Mexico and runs a medical cannabis firm, while McAfee is a tech entrepreneur who has cultivated a ‘bad boy’ image.”