It’s only natural that the Democratic incumbent, Barack Obama, and the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, should participate in tonight’s first presidential debate, but in fact there are two other candidates who qualified for the ballot in enough states that they could, technically, win the election.
Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party is on the ballot of 48 states and Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party is on 39 state ballots. In a pure democracy it would be considered a given that Johnson and Stein would join Obama and Romney on stage, but in the United States elections don’t work that way. That’s because the three presidential debates are run not by the government, but by a nonprofit organization, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). The CPD was created in 1987 by the Democratic and Republican parties as a bipartisan—rather than a nonpartisan—effort.