17 August 2011

Project Vote Smart: are all candidates equal?

Back in 2008, I did a series of profiles of presidential candidates. My principal resource for the survey was the candidate list maintained at Project Vote Smart, the home of the "Political Courage Test," which every self-designated candidate is invited to take. On a lark, I decided to visit the website today to see how many people had declared their candidacies already. There were nearly 200 candidates, though some (usually high-profile Republicans) are listed as "potential," while many "announced" aspirants to the major-party nominations may as well be independents, given their obscurity. Candidates for the major party tickets easily outnumber announced third-party candidates; many of the latter identify with no particular party, their candidacies in some cases probably reflecting no outreach to the general public. At some point soon I'll have to start a fresh profile series, if not of the actual candidates then of the numerous parties listed on the site. For now, I have a bone to pick.

Project Vote Smart has a page with a presumably comprehensive list of announced and potential candidates, listed in alphabetical order. That's perfectly fine and appropriate, but this page is actually a kind of back room and is not the page you're sent to when you click on candidates for President on the project's home page. Do that, and you get a little album of photos and a much shorter list of candidates -- all of whom are Republican except for President Obama and some of whom are only "potential" candidates. Only if you click on a small line of text to the right of the photos can you access the complete list of candidates. I can only interpret this to mean that the candidates with photos -- all candidates of the Bipolarchy -- are the first-class or first-tier candidates, while those who appear only on the second list are second-tier at best. There seem to be no criteria for inclusion on the photo page apart from being the President of the United States or a high-profile Republican. At this time of intensifying dissatisfaction with the products of the two leading parties and an at-least increasingly professed interest in independent candidates, is this the message Project Vote Smart really wants to send?

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