By LISA GOODMAN
Who is Eligible to be President of the United States?
- People at least 35 years of age
- Natural-born citizens– those considered to be U.S. citizens at birth. This means people who were born in the United States or a U.S. territory, or people born outside of the United States to parents who are U.S. citizens.
Did You Know: People who moved to the United States from another country but were not “naturalized citizens” are called “aliens,” according to the U.S. government. Some people think the term “alien” is dehumanizing and prefer the term “undocumented immigrant,” instead.
Getting on the Ballot
To become a candidate for a U.S. Presidential election and get your name on the voting ballot, you must first win the majority of elections leading up to the general election, known as primaries and caucuses, which are run by individual states. In order to be recognized by enough people to win these elections, a candidate has to first gain the support of their political party and have enough financial backing (or enough money to run a campaign). This means that a candidate’s values and policies often represent the values and policies of their political party.
When you hear the word democracy, you may think of many choices and free elections. However, going on 160 years now, ALL U.S. presidents have been either a Democrat or a Republican. Candidates from other political parties are called “third party” candidates, and there are several of them on the ballot for the Presidential election this year. Even so, none of their voices will be heard at any of the Presidential debates, which are restricted to the Republican and Democratic candidates. They also do not have any nationally televised conventions. This makes it difficult for the American people to hear the ideas that third party candidates have for this country.
Throughout U.S. history, third parties have been champion political reformers and have promoted many policies–including child labor laws, the 40-hour work week, women’s right to vote, unemployment insurance and social security benefits. Sean Wilentz, director of the American Studies program at Princeton University, told pbs.org, “[Third parties] are the ones that raise the issues that no one wants to raise . . . There’ll be an issue that’s being neglected or that is being purposely excluded from national debate because neither party wants to face the political criticism that it would bring. A classic example was slavery. . . [third parties] change the political debate and even policy, but they themselves as a political force, they disappear.”
Did You Know: Abraham Lincoln was the last third party candidate to be elected president. For the 2012 Presidential election, Democrats and Republicans have raised over 600 million dollars, while third party candidates have raised a total of about two million.
Look at the Numbers
We have had 44 U.S. presidents since 1789. Of those 44. . .
- ZERO women have been elected to the office, though more than 30 have been candidates. Victoria Woodhall was the first to run in 1872 with the Equal Rights Party.
- Until Barack Obama was elected in 2008, ALL U.S. presidents have been Caucasian. Shirley Chisholm was the first African-American to run for president, in 1972.
- NONE of our presidents have been of a non-Christian faith. Out of 44, ZERO have been Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh or Athiest.
- Most elected presidents are between 50-59 years old. John F. Kennedy was the youngest U.S. president at 43, and Ronald Reagan was the oldest to be elected at 69.
Think About It. . .
- When you tune into news media on television or the internet, how often do you hear about third party candidates? How often do you hear about Democratic or Republican candidates? If there was more media coverage of third party candidates, do you think more people would vote for them?
- Rich people, corporations and special interest groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) donate large amounts of money to Presidential candidates. When their candidate becomes president, will they expect policies to go in their favor? Do you feel large donations should be allowed? Why or why not?