By Graham Earnshaw
WASHINGTON, Oct 19, Reuter – Lenora Fulani doesn’t expect to be elected president of the United States on November 8, but she’s standing anyway.
So are 322 other people, not counting Republican George Bush and Democrat Michael Dukakis. The candidates range from the serious contestants presenting themselves as an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans, to the political fringe, to the downright wacky.
The Socialist Workers Party has a candidate. So does the Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Voters, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Al Hamburg of Hell, Wyoming, who once put his dog Woofer D. Coyote on the presidential ballot, is also standing this year, but he could not be reached for comment.
The strongest alternative candidacies in recent American history were John Anderson, who got 5.7 million votes in the 1980 race against Ronald Reagan and then-President Jimmy Carter, and George Wallace, who took 9.9 million votes in the 1968 contest against Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon.
But the “also-rans” now generally say they’re in the race for the world’s most powerful elected post to air their often unorthodox views and push the main candidates closer to their own positions.
If the contest between the Democrats and the Republicans is close, the presence of alternative candidates on the ballot could be crucial in some states — or so the longshots hope.
Fulani, a 38-year-old black psychologist from New York who represents the New Alliance Party, is the only alternative candidate to have made it onto the ballot in all states.
She argues for arms spending cuts, more welfare spending and the rights of minorities, the poor and homosexuals.
“Across this country the people cry out for a decent life,” she said in a campaign speech. “Job training, job opportunities, farm subsidies, decent welfare payments. This is what the people need.”
“But when it has come time to select a President of the United States, there have been only two parties on the ballot in every state of the country. Two parties – the Democrats and the Republicans – with a bipartisan loyalty to white corporate America,” she added.
With the Communist Party’s Gus Hall not on the presidential ballot this year, the Socialist Workers Party candidate James Warren is the only standard-bearer for the far left. But one of his aides said his aim wasn’t to win votes.
“We haven’t been concentrating on asking people to vote for us,” said Marea Hinelgrin. “What we are concentrating on is getting the working people who are thinking about the economic crisis coming down on them right now, to think about perspectives for the future.”
At the other end of the political spectrum, the virulently anti-communist Lyndon LaRouche also warns of impending disaster.
LaRouche, who claims to have been the target of assassination attempts by such diverse forces as the KGB and the Jewish Defence League, says the Soviet Union will probably invade Western Europe within two years unless the United States sells Moscow more food.
Running as an Independent Democrat, LaRouche predicts global economic collapse and unprecedented famine which he says will probably lead to the demise of constitutional government in the United States by 1992 if drastic measures are not taken.
Former Senator Eugene McCarthy, a hero of the anti-Vietnam war movement who made a strong bid for the Democratic nomination in 1968, is running again this year as the candidate for the Consumer Party, but only in a handful states.
Then there is the Libertarian Party which, with a platform of extreme economic conservatism and social liberalism, claims to be the third-largest U.S. party after winning nearly one million votes of more than 87 million cast in 1980.
Its candidate Ron Paul, a former Republican Congressman, is on the ballot in 47 states. He hopes to capture up to two million votes this year by urging reduced government control over business and the complete decriminalisation of drugs.
“We believe that a person has absolute freedom to do what he wants as long as he or she doesn’t hurt others, and take it to the extreme of advocating the legalisation of all drugs, including heroin,” said Paul’s adviser and son, Randal.
The rules governing the election of the president make it very difficult for anyone but the candidates of the two major parties to even get on the ballot in every state.
The requirements vary from state to state, but usually involve collecting a number of registered voter signatures. The toughest state is Florida, which this year required over 56,000 signatures to place a name on the ballot.
“The lack of fairness in our electoral system is stunning,” said the New Alliance Party’s Fulani recently.
“For example, the requirement for ballot access for an independent presidential candidate is one and a half million votes (nationally) whereas the Democrats and the Republicans only need 50,000.”
It is not an issue which receives much attention, but the Fort Lauderdale News in Florida earlier this year published an editorial calling for more open politics.
“A two-party political process, protected by discriminatory, unequal laws, is not healthy for the state, its government or its people,” it said. REUTER JLK AMK NNNN