Tonight's Republican Primary Debate was the best run debate we've had so far. The structure was better and Wolf Blitzer managed the back and forth between the candidates more effectively than past moderators have done. This made it more of a real debate, but my enjoyment was tainted by a nagging awareness that the eight candidates standing on the stage did not really represent the diversity of the Republican Party. I had to ask myself why the Republican Party of Florida and Tea Party Express allowed CNN to pick some candidates and exclude others based on arbitrary criteria which seem to serve their interests and not those of Republicans or the nation.
This was not a debate between candidates who represent Republican voters, but rather a debate between candidates hand picked by the media to play out their fictional version of what a Republican primary campaign should be like and what kind of candidates represent the factions within the Republcian Party. Weak Republican leaders have allowed the media to effectively take control of this election and pick which candidates we are allowed to see and ultimately who we can vote for.
At the heart of this problem is the systematic exclusion of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson from every debate since the first one in South Carolina. Governor Johnson is as well qualified as anyone on the debate stage. He has an exemplary record as a two term governor in a swing state. He is the only governor in the race who still has the support of a majority of his home state voters. He comes from a business background and built a multi-million dollar company from nothing. He has one of the best defined issue agendas of any candidate. He has an active campaign with state organizations nationwide and a prominent presence in New Hampshire where he's currently focusing his efforts.
Johnson has everything it should take to be a leading candidate, but for some reason the media seems to have singled him out for exclusion. Are they ignoring Johnson for not fitting their definition of a Republican because he's not pro-war, pro-bailout and religiously conservative? Do they think having two libertarian-leaning candidates legitimizes that movement too much and might get either Johnson or Ron Paul elected? Are they afraid that as a candidate who strongly appeals to independents and crossover voters he's too dangerous to Obama?