By Alex Biles, University of Michigan
Back in February 2010, a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll found that 59 percent of Americans were “dissatisfied with the way democracy is working in the United States.” Taking into account persistent high levels of unemployment, unpopular wars, and talk of entitlement reform that has Baby Boomers up in arms, we can safely assume that the figure hasn’t made a huge jump for the better.
CNN Polling Director Keating Holland would comment, “One reason that Americans think the government is broken is that they think the way we choose our elected officials is broken.” While it’s encouraging to know the network’s representatives can add two together, it would be much more comforting to see CNN use its own information to improve the method by which we elect our leaders.
And that makes the cable news giant’s decision to exclude Republican presidential hopeful Gary Johnson from its upcoming New Hampshire debate all the more aggravating. CNN’s actions do the democratic process no favors and are another blow to the mainstream media’s status as the nation’s Fourth Estate. It’s laughable enough that Donald Trump was invited to attend.
Although the prospect of Johnson receiving the Republican nomination is dubious, he fulfills CNN’s own criteria to enter the debate – meeting the national poll threshold of 2 percent. More importantly, Johnson brings a refreshing voice to the table in a stale GOP field. In his two-term tenure as New Mexico governor, Johnson guided tremendous economic growth while balancing his state’s budget – not unlike governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN), a rumored player many believed had the best chance of defeating Barack Obama in 2012. Additionally, he runs counter to the Republican establishment, vehemently supporting drug policy reform and opposing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq – and now – Libya.
The libertarian-leaning politics of Johnson will not appeal to all, but polls show that many of his issue stances are consistent with the views of the American majority (or close to it, in the case of drug policy reform). His pragmatic nature makes him more of a viable candidate than fellow libertarian Ron Paul, whose fringe stances on certain issues tend to alienate much of the American electorate.
By excluding a presidential hopeful, CNN has taken away the opportunity for voters to listen to a two-term governor with realistic alternatives to the status quo. It is regrettable that the network’s decision comes at the expense of the American people and our democratic process.