Monday, September 29, 2008

Meet the (Other) Candidates

The first 2008 presidential debate has come and gone and the political pundits, as always, have analyzed the event in excruciating detail. Absent, however, in all their dissection has been any comment on the enormous amount of room on the stage in Oxford, Mississippi. The last time that a presidential debate featured three participants was during the 1992 campaign when Independent Ross Perot captured 19% of the popular vote (nearly 20 million votes), making him one of the two most successful third party presidential candidates within the past century.

Although this cycle’s third party candidates lack anything near the level of supporters, media attention, and funding that Ross Perot had in 1992, they are indeed an interesting bunch from across the political spectrum. One of them is doing this for the fourth time, two are seasoned Beltway veterans, and three have been interviewed by an alter ego of Sacha Baron Cohen. While many, including the author, do not agree with them on most issues, each candidate presents a unique set of ideas and policies rarely voiced by the two major campaigns. At the very least they offer a much needed breath of fresh air to an often stale process.

So without further ado, the five most prominent 2008 third party candidates for President of the United States in no particular order:

1. Ralph Nader. Contrary to popular belief, Senator McCain is not the oldest presidential candidate in this year’s election. Author and consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader, 74, is making his fourth formal run for the highest office. Named as one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century, Nader’s work on automobile safety led to the passage of the historic National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1966 which authorized the inclusion of energy-absorbing steering wheels, shatter-resistant windshields, and safety belts in vehicles. Mr. Nader is also remembered, fondly or bitterly depending on one’s politics, for his spoiler role in the 2000 presidential vote.

This year, Nader is back at it as an Independent candidate and is currently on the ballot in 45 states plus Washington D.C. He is running on a familiar staunchly pro-environment and pro-labor platform with support for immediate international action against greenhouse gas emissions and the phasing out of fossil fuels, a carbon tax initially priced at $50 per ton of CO2 equivalent emissions, ending mountaintop removal mining, increasing the minimum wage to $10/hour, and the repeal of the Taft Hartley Act which places certain restrictions on unions.

On defense, Nader calls for the slashing of “wasteful and redundant” spending by the Defense Department (such as expensive military equipment and post WWII deployments) and the withdrawal of all troops from Iraq within 6 months.

He also backs a repeal of the Patriot Act, supports a universal single-payer health care system, and opposes privatizing Social Security.

2. Bob Barr. Widely known as one of the leaders of the Impeachment of President Clinton, Barr represented Georgia in the House of Representatives from 1995 until 2003 as a Republican.

Representing the Libertarian Party in 2008 Barr is on the ballot in 46 states and is running on a platform which seeks to minimize the role of government in our lives. He favors cutting federal funding of entitlements and welfare, privatizing social security, and a consumer oriented health care system. On taxes, he supports the reduction and eventual elimination of corporate income tax, estate tax, and the capital gains tax. Barr is a strong advocate for free trade, drilling in the ANWR, and the right to bear arms and would leave the definition of marriage to the individual states. He also calls for the elimination of the Department of Education and slashing of funds to the UN.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. Barr opposes several pieces of legislation which he voted for as a member of Congress. These include the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution and the Patriot Act. Barr now considers the invasion of Iraq to have been a mistake and supports an exit from Iraq without delay. At this year’s Libertarian Convention Barr commented on his current opposition to the Patriot Act by telling the crowd that he would “drive a stake through its heart, shoot it, burn it, cut off its head, burn it again, and scatter its ashes to the four corners of the world.” Some voters might consider this a slight change of mind.

3. Cynthia McKinney. Ms. McKinney also served Georgia in the House of Representatives (1993-2003, 2005-2007) but as a Democrat. Her legacy is that of Hurricane Katrina activism, the attempted Impeachment of President Bush, a physical altercation with a Capitol Hill Policeman, and a dangerous belief in the legitimacy of the 9/11 Truth Movement.

McKinney left the Democratic Party in 2007 and is the current Green Party nominee on 32 state ballots. Similar to Mr. Nader, she is running a strong pro-environment campaign with proposals for greater enforcement and prosecution of environmental crime and the taxation of industrial pollution. She firmly opposes offshore drilling with a mantra of “leave the oil in the soil” and would like to stop funding any research which involves animal experimentation.

She supports the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and cutting off of all war funding, repealing international free trade agreements and the Patriot Act, and universal health care. Not as popular, she backs statehood for the District of Columbia, reparations for the descendents of African American slaves, and turning the State Department into a Department of Peace. More information about the Green Party Platform can be found at

4. Chuck Baldwin. Mr. Baldwin is pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church in Florida and the recent recipient of Congressman Ron Paul’s coveted endorsement in this year’s race as the Constitution Party nominee. Prone to controversy, he has named Presidents Lincoln and Wilson as America’s worst Presidents” and has called Martin Luther King Jr. an “apostate” who “brought havoc and unrest to America as few men have ever done.”

Baldwin is on the ballot in 37 states and his candidacy’s strict opposition to federal government intrusion is viewed by many as fanaticism. Like Mr. Barr, he wishes the Department of Education and the Patriot Act would disappear, but he would also cancel the Department of Energy, the Federal Reserve, and the Food and Drug Administration. Baldwin favors phasing out social security and sacking the Sixteenth Amendment.

On social issues, Mr. Baldwin supports the Defense of Marriage Act and he would press for the end of legalized abortion by encouraging Congress to pass the Sanctity of Life Act which would give the unborn the same rights as the living under the Constitution.

5. Alan Keyes. If at first you don’t succeed….

After an unsuccessful run during the 2008 Republican primary season, former Reagan diplomat Ambassador Keyes made a bid for the Constitution Party nomination in April but lost to Chuck Baldwin. In what has to be a record third attempt in one election season, he is now trying his luck with the newly formed America’s Independent Party.

Like Nader, he has been here before. This is his third presidential campaign (1996, 2000) and his second campaign against Mr. Obama (2004). Keyes supports a Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution, repealing the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments, and “freedom from liberalism.” On defense, Keyes would like the troops to stay in Iraq for the time being but ultimately turn over operations to the UN. He is currently on the ballot in only 3 states. does not endorse any of the presidential candidates listed above.

(photo credits:, wikipedia)