Democrats Criticized for Excluding RFK Jr. from Presidential Debates


Democrats can’t claim to be the party of “democracy” while excluding the election’s most notable third-party candidate from the debate stage, alongside the legal challenges thwarting the campaign of their top opponent this fall.

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump agreed last week to engage in two debates this year, a change from the traditional three held before Election Day. The first debate is set for June 27 and will be moderated by CNN, while the second is scheduled for Sept. 10 with moderators from ABC. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (RFK Jr.) is missing from this lineup, and it’s not Trump’s doing.

In an interview with Scripps News last week, Trump stated he would have “no problem” with Kennedy joining the debate “if he got whatever the threshold is.” To qualify, candidates need to be on the ballot in enough states to win 270 electoral votes and hit 15 percent support in four national polls by June 20.

However, big media and the Democrats are working together to keep Kennedy out. CNN is only considering surveys conducted after March 13, and in those, Kennedy has exceeded the 15 percent benchmark in only two. If polls from the start of the new year were included, Kennedy would meet the requirement, as per RealClearPolitics’ aggregate of surveys.

The third-party candidate also needs to prove ballot access in enough states to win the election. But NBC reports “that may not even be possible, with some states not even processing submitted petitions until the end of the summer.” Kennedy, however, is confident he’ll qualify for the June debate stage, telling Fox News on Sunday “we are in discussions with CNN” to participate.

“We have shown CNN that we meet all of those criteria,” Kennedy said. Have they? Probably not, especially considering that some states will not process ballot petitions until well after the first debate next month.

But that doesn’t mean Kennedy should be excluded from the presidential debates. The criteria themselves are flawed. A well-funded candidate consistently polling with more than 1 in 10 Americans for months is clearly a significant contender deserving of a spot. In fact, a significant majority of voters want Kennedy included.

According to a May Harvard/Harris poll, 71 percent of the more than 1,600 registered voters surveyed said the debates should include a third-party candidate like Kennedy.

There’s only one campaign systematically excluding opponents from the electoral process, and it’s not Trump’s. While failing to exclude Trump from the ballot as an “insurrectionist” this spring, Democrat donors are “funding legal efforts to try to keep [Kennedy] off,” NBC News reported in April. Democrats, as per NBC News, are “waging an open war on the likes of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whom they view as mortal threats to President Joe Biden’s re-election.”

If Democrats wish to champion “democracy,” they should support open competition in the debates and on the ballot.

Tristan Justice
Tristan Justice
Tristan Justice is our western correspondent and the author of Social Justice Redux, a conservative newsletter on culture, health, and wellness. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and The Daily Signal. His work has also been featured in Real Clear Politics and Fox News. Tristan graduated from George Washington University where he majored in political science and minored in journalism.

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