The United States also has two established parties that have lost the support of voters. So why hasn't an independent had a serious chance to become president here in more than a century?
One big reason is that, in the U.S., the Commission on Presidential Debates has set rules that effectively allow only two participants, and if you can't get in the debates, you can't be elected president. Macron was in a distant third place. He became one of five candidates in France's March 20 presidential debate, a three-and-a-half-hour affair that was watched by half the country.
Macron is precisely the kind of independent candidate that millions of Americans want. He pulls ideas from both the right (more defense spending) and the left (environmentalism). He rejects the litmus tests of the two main parties in France. "The classical answers of the rightists and leftists are no longer valid," he said.
Strong Support for Reforming the Debates
"While the presidential election isn't rigged... the debates sure seem to be."
That is what the editorial board of the Charlotte (NC) Observer wrote last August. Now the board is back with a strong commentary on the latest developments in the drive to open the final fall debates to a third presidential candidate. The editorial, which has been widely reprinted (in Lima, Ohio, for example, and Boulder, Colo.), reports on progress of legal action against the Federal Election Commission:
A federal judge has generated hope that the debates can be unrigged and that voters can hear from at least one more perspective. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ruled that the Federal Election Commission must reconsider the criteria the Commission on Presidential Debates uses to determine who can get on stage. The primary one requires a third-party candidate to average 15 percent support in five national polls. The judge said the FEC, in finding that the commission did not play favorites, "acted arbitrarily and capriciously and contrary to law."
According to the Observer, "Chutkan was perturbed that the FEC was so dismissive of a complaint brought by a nonprofit called Level the Playing Field along with others." The plaintiffs offered what the judge called "mountain of submitted evidence" to show that the Commission on Presidential Debates is closely tied to the major parties and historically has excluded anyone but the Democratic and Republican nominees. In her Feb. 1 ruling, the judge, said the editorial, "ordered the FEC to consider that evidence more carefully."
The FEC responded two months later "by sticking to its guns, saying the debates commission's treatment of third-party candidates is fair," according to the editorial.
The Observer took a clear stand: "We hope the result of all this is a process by which a legitimate independent or third-party candidate can get a crack at participating in at least the first presidential debate in 2020."
Where the Lawsuit Stands
As the The Observer noted, the FEC has now responded to Judge Chutkan's ruling of Feb. 1. The next step will be the response of Level the Playing Field to the FEC's new filing. We can expect LPF's answer by early June. The Judge will then consider both filings and issue a ruling. Stay tuned.