It's the latest evidence that pressure is building to end the current closed system, overseen by an unelected, opaque commission headed by two party stalwarts. That system helps perpetuate the current duopoly at a time when far more Americans identify themselves as independents than as either Democrats or Republicans.
Here is a link to the complete piece by Ignatius, on page A17 of today's Post.
Ignatius is a former Wall Street Journal reporter who joined the Post in 1986 and became successively its Outlook editor, foreign editor, and business editor, then executive editor of the International Herald Tribune. He now writes a closely followed twice weekly column and along the way has published eight spy novels.
He begins his column with the premise that "the disenfranchisement of the center is a fact of modern politics." He writes that politics is "pulled toward the left and right by campaign-finance rules, redistricting and other issues discussed in countless essays and op-eds. This centrifugal force seems to increase in every election cycle, with the resulting paralysis in Washington."
Surveys reflect Ignatius's opening assertion. For example, he cites a poll by Douglas Schoen finding that 86 percent of Americans say the political system is broken and doesn't serve ordinary people.
Ignatius then turns to "a campaign dubbed Change the Rule" as laying out a possible solution. He calls supporters - the four dozen who signed a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates -- a "who's who" of the bipartisan center, citing John Anderson, William Cohen, Jon Huntsman, Joe Lieberman, Lee Hamilton, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and retired Adm. James Stavridis.
This group wants the Commission on Presidential Debates, "which the two parties created in 1987," to stop standing in the way of competition to those parties and open the debates to a single independent candidate who passes a tough competitive test. Currently, the Commission's rule effectively prevents this third person from standing on the debate stage.
According to Ignatius, Peter Ackerman - businessman and the foreign policy scholar who is the former chairman of Freedom House and the board of overseers of the Fletcher School at Tufts University -- "argues that this rule, as currently applied, prevents the emergence of an independent candidate who might empower the underrepresented middle."
Ignatius concludes: "The system grinds forward with a perverse set of incentives that reward extremism and punish compromise. I don't know whether opening the presidential debates will fix this mess, but it might pull candidates back toward the center, where the public lives and where problems get solved."