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Stateside With Rosalea: Blonde v. Blonde


Stateside with Rosalea: 2004 Presidential Election

Blonde v. Blonde

By Rosalea Barker

"I'm from the South, so I've had people like that in my home. They're one step up from trailer trash." People like the Clintons, that is. Thus spake a well-heeled matron in a San Francisco bookstore vox pop last week, when asked if she was likely to buy Hillary Clinton's 'Living History', which goes on sale tomorrow.

(Forgive me, but I got bitten by the NYT bug and can't remember which channel it aired on and I might have gotten the quotation slightly wrong, but "trailer trash" was definitely the lasting impression.)

There's plenty of media speculation that Hillary Rodham Clinton might toss her hat into the ring for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. The fuss about the book was so great that the Republicans had to throw a Middle East peace summit at it. Then, just to be on the safe side, I suppose, a federal judge indicted style guru Martha Stewart, which pretty much guaranteed the media would drop Hillary like a hot pomme au gratin. There's a rule against having two blondes on the front page at the same time.

As an aside, I was kept on tenterhooks all week waiting for the promised interview with the Hillary Mrs Clinton was named after, but CBS shamelessly strung me along until 10 minutes to 9 on Friday morning - the penultimate spot on 'The Early Show'. It was a very nice recorded interview with Our Ed, emphasising his modesty and public service.

Mrs Clinton was also highly visible in the story about the Senate Democrats trying to fix the anomoly about the child tax credit that President Bush had just signed into law. Republican Senator John McCain popped his head up about that as well, at which the Bush camp threw a slurry of handshakes with rank and file troops in Qatar.

Presumably McCain is going to challenge Bush for the Republican nomination, but I'm stuck with the comment his communications director on the 2000 nomination campaign made about their loss. Speaking last year at a public meeting about free air time, Dan Schnur said he often felt like saying to McCain - in response to his somewhat arrogant demeanour - "Let's insult one more audience, sir."

And what about the smaller parties? Well, five parties are big enough to qualify with the Federal Electoral Commission as national parties in the US: Libertarians, Greens, Natural Law, Constitution, and Reform. The Libertarians hold more than 300 elective offices across the nation and, according to the party's website, that is more than twice as many as all other third parties combined.

Last month the Libertarians in Illinois picked up a bit of media coverage when they pointed out that the Republicans will not be nominating their 2004 presidential candidate until seven days after the Illinois deadline for certifying candidates for the November ballot. Apparently the Republican National Committee has requested that the Illinois State Board of Elections ignore the law, and place the Republican candidate's name on the ballot anyway.

In the Libertarians' press release, the Illinois LP Executive Director Jeff Trigg said: "Libertarians don't believe President Bush should be kept off the Illinois ballot because of a technicality, any more than they believe their own candidates should suffer the same fate. But the fact is that Libertarian and other candidates have been taken off the ballot on technicalities - and the Republican Party needs to abide by the same rule of law as everyone else."

The issue of whether a party has "ballot status" varies from state to state, but it's usually decided by the number of votes their party's candidate got in previous elections for a particular national or statewide office. If a party doesn't meet that criterion, then it has to get a certain number of petition signatures to field its candidates. If you're really curious about where the five small national parties stand in this process, go to www.ballot-access.org, where there is an excellent table.

Just last week, the Greens were pleased by the ruling of a federal district court in Brooklyn, NY, requiring the New York State Board of Elections to continue to maintain Green Party voter registration information even though the Green candidate in the election for Governor got fewer than 50,000 votes - the criterion for ballot status in the state of NY.

I can't pretend to understand all this, and if you're still with me you deserve a medal! Put simply, the big difference between the voter registration system in New Zealand and the one here is that US voters are registered by political parties using all-purpose forms printed by the state they are in. If a party doesn't have ballot status, its name isn't on the registration form. (Petition signatures are another thing again.)

Since state legislatures are the body that decides the vote/race criterion and, alternatively, how many petition signatures are required for a party to field candidates, and all state legislatures are dominated by the Republicans and Democrats, it's hard to see how small parties can make much headway. In North Carolina, for example, almost 60,000 signatures are required - keeping the Green Party and the Constitution Party off the ballot even though those parties are on the ballot in most other states.

A more favourable ballot access bill recently passed the policy committee in North Carolina's House of Representatives unanimously, but has been held up because the co-speakers - a Democrat and a Republican - have refused to allow the House to vote on it. US Senator for North Carolina, John Edwards - yes, the Democratic presidential hopeful - reportedly promised in early May to work on getting the bill in North Carolina's House passed.

Perhaps he has an eye on getting the Constitution Party on the ballot in North Carolina. It used to be called the US Taxpayers Party and advocates a return to principles evinced by the Founding Fathers, including much less presidential and federal power. And much less taxation. When you consider how that would appeal to large sections of a state that includes those who may have harboured the alleged Olympic bomber for years just to piss off the feds, one can only conclude that Edwards' enthusiasm is a means to the end of diminishing Republican votes in NC.

Edwards was apparently persuaded to nudge the bill along after a meeting with Ralph Nader - the very person that Democrats like to villify as a "spoiler" for getting so many votes as the Green candidate for President in 2000. The Greens have not yet decided if they will field a presidential candidate in 2004.

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