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Let's have the Libertarian ticket in the debates

  • Author: Peter Caltagirone
    | Opinion
  • Updated: September 6, 2016
  • Published September 2, 2016

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian presidential candidate, speaks at a rally in Reno, Nev., on Aug. 5, 2016. (Kevin Clifford / The New York Times)

An open letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates:

Dear Chairmen Michael D. McCurry and Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr.:

When I became a lawyer, I took an oath to "support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States." For that reason, I will not vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I won't share my opinions that form the foundation of that admittedly cryptic statement. This is not a hit piece.

Regardless of how different or nuanced the opinions of my fellow citizens may be regarding this election cycle, most of us have arrived at the same place that I have: Neither Clinton nor Trump is a good candidate. That's 53 percent and 60 percent of us, respectively, relying on Real Clear Politics polling averages.

Even more of us want to see Libertarian candidates Gary Johnson and Bill Weld join the president and vice president debates: 62 percent, to be exact, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. In the same poll, 68 percent of respondents said they didn't have the necessary information to decide whether they would vote for Govs. Johnson and Weld. This makes sense: The main-stream media force-feeds us Clinton and Trump while ignoring other candidates.

Like modern-day cave dwellers in Plato's allegory, we are being propagandized into an illusory choice between Clinton and Trump, while the oligarchy on two-party politics tags any alternative as a "wasted vote." But the polls reveal that we no longer blindly accept what is being forced on us. From voter disgust alone, the 2016 election cycle is unlike any other in our nation's history.

Johnson and Weld are on the ballot in every state and may reach 15 percent, the minimum you require, in the five polls your commission uses to qualify a candidate for the debates. These are not "fringe" candidates. They are currently at 10 percent in those polls. Regardless of how the polling concludes, one thing is clear from those same polls: Americans want a choice other than Trump or Clinton. You can do the right thing. In the legal world, for example, a judge is sometimes confronted with a situation where the letter of the law could lead to an unjust result, but the judge, in her discretion, may "balance the equities" to achieve justice.

The same principle applies here. As the gatekeepers of the debates, your commission holds an awesome power. The presidential debates in 2012 received about 70 million viewers. Voters not only care deeply about who leads their country but they look to the presidential debates as a primary source of information on whom to vote for in the final days leading up to the election.

I respectfully appeal to you and your board of directors to do the right thing and invite Johnson and Weld to the debates. To quote from your mission statement: The "Commission on Presidential Debates was established in 1987 to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners." I only ask that you fulfill your mission. Nothing more.

Peter J. Caltagirone is an Anchorage resident and a trial lawyer licensed in five states. Though a registered Republican, he is breaking party lines this year and voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson for president.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser.