I'm about to embark on a project I'm ambivalent about. As my small gesture in the struggle against the American Bipolarchy, I'm going to post profiles of as many Presidential candidates as I can discover, in alphabetical order. My primary reference is going to be the list published at the Project VoteSmart website. At the same time, I'll set up permanent links to as many candidate websites as I can find, again in alphabetical order.
At my most ambitious, I've considered putting together a questionnaire to send to all the candidates, McCain and Obama concluded, to see how many bother to respond and to draw out their opinions on subjects ranging from the scope of presidential power to strategies for breaking down the two-party system. The idea will be to get them to think outside the box a bit, to skip the platitudes of political discourse, and overcome liberal-conservative dualism.
Why the ambivalence? Because for all that I might admire any of these people for challenging the Bipolarchy and for refusing to be intimidated, I can't help thinking that this still isn't what the Founders intended. At first glance, a lot of the independent candidates seem to be self-appointed, and the Founders certainly never anticipated, and definitely never desired, that hosts of people roam the country proclaiming, "I want to be President!" Electioneering, especially at the highest level, was abhorrent to them. At the very least, a proper candidate should be first nominated by someone else. Some of the present candidates, of course, are nominees of independent parties, but I'd be more impressed if someone can say they were tapped to run by a non-partisan public gathering that can claim to represent a piece of the real world -- a city or a county, for starters. It's admirable for the 2008 candidates to believe that they don't need the sort of credentials to run that only the Democrats and Republicans can give, but I'm not sure it helps matters if people think they need no credentials at all, apart from whatever private-sector expertise or military service they list on their resumes.
In a sense, I suppose I'm attempting to appoint myself a gatekeeper. Since I intend to be critical in my profiles, inevitably I'll be asserting criteria for separating serious candidates from frivolous ones or outright cranks and con men. All I can say in my defense is that, in the end, everyone's a gatekeeper, since each of us ultimately decides that only one person is a credible candidate. I don't have to be defensive at all in promising that I'll be a more liberal gatekeeper, in the non-ideological sense of the word, than the many others who only ever discover two credible candidates every four years. I promise all candidates a fair and somewhat sympathetic hearing, since my attempt to elevate some of them to greater public notice is probably as foolhardy as their own campaigns.