After her call for a protest outside the first presidential debate at Hofstra University led to a string of arrests and her being escorted from the venue, Jill Stein's absence at the second debate was not particularly surprising. But the Green Party presidential candidate is nothing if not persistent. Stein's campaign announced that she would be live-streaming her responses to the debate on Facebook, careful to tout it as a "3-way debate" on social media.
To participate in the debates, candidates are required to appear on a sufficient number of state ballots to have a mathematical chance of winning an Electoral College majority, as well as poll at 15 percent or higher in an average of five major national polls. Stein's polling at an average of three percent made her ineligible to join the debate, although she did make the case for her participation in a USA Today op-ed that alleged the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was "a deception created by the parties to keep competition out."
Supporters of Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary "Where-Is-Aleppo" Johnson, who also failed to meet the polling criteria, have criticized the CPD's debate participation requirements and demanded that third-party candidates be allowed to join the debates.
But perhaps it is best that Stein and Johnson won't be on the debate stage. Although the much-watched debates could boost the recognition of the little-known candidates and their platforms, the boiling tension between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — particularly in light of the latter's terrible, no-good week — would have made it all the more difficult for them to get their messages across to viewers.
American voters' aversion to both Clinton and Trump — both are the most unpopular presidential candidates in more than 30 years — have seen many declare that they would cast a protest vote. But the stakes are dangerously high in this election, and many in the Clinton camp have dismissed a protest vote as essentially a vote for Trump. Even the likes of Bernie Sanders, who launched his career on protest votes, implored his primary race supporters against voting for Stein or Johnson.
It's likely that Stein understands her protest against the debate criteria won't change much — at least in this election. But by inserting herself in the debate via Facebook live-stream, Stein is indicating that she will not sit out of any part of this democratic process just because the rules say so. In that way, the candidate is following her long history of rebelling against the political machine — it's just a question of how much impact, if at all, it can make in this time around.