Why Gary Johnson and Bernie Sanders should debate
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If the political gods would grant me three wishes, one of them would be for a nationally respected media organization such as C-SPAN or PBS offering to host a town-hall meeting debate between Libertarian Party nominee Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonNew Mexico lawmakers send recreational marijuana bills to governor Judge throws out murder convictions, releases men jailed for 24 years On The Trail: Making sense of Super Poll Sunday MORE and former Democratic primary candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel On The Money: Biden says workers can't turn down job and get benefits | Treasury launches state and local aid | Businesses jump into vax push Symone Sanders 'hurt' at being passed over for press secretary: report MORE (Vt.)


Let me repeat what I recently wrote in The Hill: Gary Johnson should be included in the presidential debates alongside Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and GOP nominee Donald Trump, especially if his support reaches double digits in the coming weeks, which looks likely. My suggestion for a Johnson-Sanders debate, or joint discussion, is not a substitute for Johnson joining the formal presidential debates, which I believe he should.

In a campaign that will go down in history as one of the most shallow and repulsive campaigns in presidential campaign history, between two of the least liked and least trusted nominees in the history of presidential politics, Johnson offers our discourse a degree of seriousness, depth and respect that is sorely lacking.

Johnson is a serious, authentic, experienced and idealistic libertarian who, whether we agree with him or not on individual issues, offers voters a substantial degree of substance on issues that deserve the widest possible audience.

Similarly, Sanders embodies a coherent philosophy, a clear potential direction for the future of the nation, and a progressive agenda very consistent with the tradition of the great Democratic presidents. Sanders is both a man of ideas and a man of action. The Democratic Party, and the nation, are well-served when he offers voters a clear choice and offers his supporters a place to make a stand.

Think about this, in an election that will be remembered in history as being, for a huge number of voters, a choice between the lesser of the evils: It is possible there is not one single supporter of Johnson, or one single supporter of Sanders, who considers their champion the lesser of the evils. What happened to the America that once produced many leaders our people could trust, and support with enthusiasm, the way supporters of Johnson and Sanders believe in, and trust, them?

I warned very early in The Hill that the 2016 campaign debates that were planned were destined, as structured, to insult the intelligence of the voters. What happened? The GOP debates turned into a sideshow within a freak show, with insults hurled from Trump toward other GOP candidates that were infantile and, at times, arguably defamatory.

On the Democratic side, the debates were obviously scheduled by the Democratic National Committee to reach the smallest possible audience, a ridiculous proposition with Clinton now refusing to do press conferences on any normal basis.

Many who care about the future of America would be thrilled to hear a debate, or discussion, or exchange of ideas in depth between Johnson and Sanders. Johnson would present his libertarian views with passion and depth, while Sanders would present his progressive agenda.

What would be interesting in a Sanders-Johnson battle of ideas would be their alternate views on issues such as healthcare, regulation of Wall Street and income inequality as well as those areas where they might agree, such as civil liberties and the "war on drugs."

Regardless of which candidate we support, the two major-party candidates have reached epic heights of being distrusted, in a campaign that abysmally lacks substance on the issues voters care about.

The current campaign is an insult to the intelligence of voters from both major-party candidates and from the most of the media that covers them.

By contrast, Johnson and Sanders are supported by large numbers of citizens who consider their preferred leader among the best of the best, not the lesser of two evils.

The more the voices of Gary Johnson and Bernie Sanders are heard in our national debates, the better it is for truth, justice and the American way.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at brentbbi@webtv.net.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.