February 6, 2012. Porto Alegre, Brazil. That was the headline at Brazil’s independent Sul21 news outlet. After a cross-continental interview session between Whiteout Press Sr. Editor Mark Wachtler and Sul 21’s Samir Oliveira in Brazil, the South American journalist had come one step closer to understanding America’s often confusing election system. Entering the discussion with the notion that US elections are not fair and are in fact biased in favor of the ruling elite from both major parties, this author did little to persuade him otherwise.
Dr. Jill Stein, candidate for the Green Party nomination for President.
The first article in the US-Brazil exchange was written and published by your author three days ago via Examiner.com. It’s titled, ‘Question from Brazil – are US Elections Fair?’
Below, translated from its original Spanish by Google Translator, is the corresponding article from Brazil’s Sul21 detailing the 2012 US Presidential election.
United States already has 334 Candidates for President
By Samir Oliveira - Sul21 Brazil
The US electoral system is complicated, full of primaries and caucuses that are regulated in different ways in each of the 55 states and voting territories. The difficulty completing all formalities for a candidate to have his name printed on the ballot for President contrasts with the extreme ease with which any American can be cast a vote in the race for the White House: you need to be more than 35 years old and born and lived at least 14 years in the country.
So far, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has received the enrollment of 334 citizens who wish to run for President of the United States - including the current holder of the office, Barack Obama, who will try for re-election. The number may still increase or decrease, as more people will file their declaration of candidacy or quit the elections, which take place on November 6.
In traditional media, both there and in Brazil, little is known about these candidates. What tends to get readers and viewers are information about the two major US parties: the Democratic and Republican parties, which have been alternating in power since the early nineteenth century. Unlike Brazil, the US electoral system does not prejudge the ordinary citizen who wishes to occupy a space in the institutional politics to join any party. So pop up several independent candidates.
Project Vote Smart lists most of the applications listed in the country and provides also the response of Presidential candidates to a questionnaire involving issues such as abortion, civil unions between homosexuals and foreign policy.
Although there are many non-partisan candidates or other independents vying for the federal legislative houses, these spaces are still dominated by the two traditional parties. In the House of Representatives, 435 are divided between Democrats (193) and Republicans (242). In the Senate, there are 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans and only two are independent.
Rules are different for those who want to run for office outside of the traditional parties
The abundance of information on GOP candidates for President of the United States contrasts with the almost total absence of news about the other names who wish to replace the current President Barack Obama at the White House in the elections of November 6 this year.
Journalist Mark Wachtler, President of the Independent Voters Association, criticized the many barriers that the American electoral system imposes on those who wish to compete outside the two traditional parties. "The electoral system is dominated by Democratic and Republican officials, who create obstacles to block various names or other independent parties," he says. He explains that, though it may be easy for any citizen to registration to vote, getting on the ballot to run for elective office is much more difficult. "In Illinois, for example, Republican and Democratic candidates must collect 600 voter signatures to appear on the ballot. Independents and other parties need to get 5,000 signatures," he explains.
The journalist says that one way some people choose to circumvent the system is by trying to compete by joining one of the two traditional parties. This is the case of one of the current Republican candidates for President, Ron Paul, who was nominated to run for the White House in 1988 by the Libertarian Party. "He realized that it was virtually impossible to win as a third party candidate," says Wachtler. But even that tactic may fail, since there is often a tendency for a party to shun a candidate if his views reflect that of another political party, or he gives statements that are not consistent with the philosophy of the traditional parties.
The journalist denounces the US media, which he says also favor traditional candidates. They establish the criterion for participation and inclusion in their programming and debates, and decide who will be the recipient of their promotions. "To participate in a debate on national television, the candidate must have achieved at least 5 percent in the polls. But for most candidates it is impossible, because their names aren’t even included in the polls. That leaves them out of the debates and voters don’t even know they exist," he criticizes.
Wachtler, who is also Chief Editor at the website Whiteout Press, believes that the "corporate media" of the United States rarely gives voice to those that compete on the outside of the traditional system. "On the few occasions when the media mentions an independent candidate or another party, they portray them like a mutant monster with three heads and five arms," he condemns.
Extreme left and libertarian candidates from other parties
Despite all the difficulties, candidates from other parties - beyond the traditional Democratic and Republican - do not give up running for President of the United States, though they know that the chance of winning is very close to zero. In the elections this year, there are already names from both ends of the political spectrum, the liberal left and the conservative right.
From the Socialist Party, Stewart Alexander tries to be the new US President, alongside Alex Mendoza as Vice President. On the platform of government, they claim "a true democracy, freedom of press, of opinion and expression, an end to wars and military occupations abroad and a campaign of global disarmament." The Socialists also propose the establishment of a "democratically controlled national bank and a tax on large fortunes." Among other proposals, are also the formation of a national public healthcare system and the end of the war on drugs, by legalizing and taxing marijuana.
Former Air Force sergeant and director of the pharmaceutical company Sativa Science, R. Lee Wrights tries to be the new Libertarian Party US President. The demographic to which he belongs, whose slogan is "maximum freedom, minimal government," say they are the third political force. In terms of government, Wrights, as well as the Socialist Stewart Alexander, promotes the proposal to end all wars in progress supported by the country. "For decades, Republican and Democratic presidents have used the mantle of bipartisanship and subterfuge of protecting national interests to justify an interventionist foreign policy that has brought down upon us the hatred of many people," he criticizes.
The Libertarian candidate defends a regulation on smaller health plans, believing that this will lower their costs, and believes that immigrants should be treated as "an economic problem." "They come to the United States because here there are some types of jobs that need to be filled," he says. Wrights also considers that the policy of war on drugs has been shown a real failure and preaches that there should be legalization and regulation on substances that remain banned today. "The solution is clear: end the drug war and the return policy of regulation that existed before. The natural tendency in the free market is that products considered legal become safer over time," says the candidate’s website.
Competing for the Green Party, Dr. Jill Stein maintains a platform on the left. On her site, she advocates "A new politics for the other 99 percent of America that doesn’t collect a CEO’s salary." The Greens - whose slogan is "another US is possible, another party is necessary" - preach the need for political reform in the country to allow greater popular participation in government decisions.
The Green Party platform states, "The United States was born as the first great democratic experiment, we need to rescue this heritage. We, the citizens are the government and we can not allow the usurpation of our authority by individuals and agencies that are isolated from public control."
The above is from Sul21 Brazil and was translated with the help of Google Translator.