Why isn’t Jill Stein in the presidential debates? It’s really not all that complicated

A lot of supporters of third party candidates are petitioning for them to be included in the debates, but it’s not that easy to get a spot on stage. It’s all about poll numbers, which is why Jill Stein isn’t in the debates in the lead up to the general election in November. Being in the debates doesn’t mean she won’t be on the ballot, so there will be a chance for voters to show their love for the Green party candidate, but the vast majority of Americans won’t get to hear her platforms on a national stage, which is sort of the whole point.

I get third party supporters’ point — to win, voters have to know you who you are. And the best way to get to know a candidate is through town halls and debates. That’s the whole purpose of them. But that’s not how it works. Politics is a game you have to know how to play, unfortunately.

The debates aren’t run by either the RNC or the DNC, though. They’re organized by the Commission for the Presidential Debates (CPD), which is a non-partisan non-profit that’s been operating the debates since 1988. According to its rules, a candidate has to be on the ballot in enough states to theoretically win the 270 electoral college votes and have at least 15 percent in the polls. Stein will be on 45 ballots and has just 3 percent in recent polls.

She just doesn’t have enough support to warrant a place on the stage with the other candidates, but should could theoretically work her butt off to get that support and go up in the polls in time for the second or third debates.

Stein, along with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, is claiming the debate system is just as “rigged” as the elections. Both candidates are asking their supporters to reach out to Frank Fahrenkopf, who heads up the CPD, and show that voters want the CPD to get rid of its silly rules.

Maybe the rules are arbitrary. But being able to theoretically win the electoral college and get a certain percentage of the popular vote seems like just common sense to keep the issues streamlines. Our election, debate, and party system might need to be reformed, but doing that just weeks before a general election turns it into a sideshow, distracting voters from the real issues and the real problem hand: in 2016, we are going to have to choose, just realistically here, between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The CPD has pledged that it will review polling data before each debate contest, so candidates like Stein and Johnson should work on their ground game to get up in the polls.

That could be why Stein is causing such a ruckus — she is really behind at 3 percent. She’s also fighting a nasty campaign against Clinton, believes that vaccines and wireless internet are harmful to children’s brains, and was arrested for vandalism this month. Johnson is at 8 percent in the polls, so he has more of a fighting chance.

Stein’s sort of a hack. I’m all for starting a revolution, but let’s make sure we’re doing it with mentally sound people leading the way.