The prospect of a White House run by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has reignited a critical debate about whether it’s possible for an independent to be elected president of the United States. Consider this paradox: Two of the leading 2016 presidential candidates — Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — have no history of loyalty to either major party. Yet both decided to run in the party primaries — Trump as a Republican, Sanders as a Democrat — while pledging to support their the party’s winner should they not win the nomination. That these two very different candidates came to similar conclusions helps illustrate why there is so much dissatisfaction with our nation’s political system. As billionaires, people such as Trump and Bloomberg can self-fund an independent campaign, but without adequate liquid resources, all other qualified candidates have no way to mount a serious bid for the U.S. presidency outside the two major parties. This is the product of collusion between operatives from the Democratic and Republican parties who, through the design of hidden rules, jealously guard their duopoly.
Here is one example of an anti-competitive rule: Based on a little-known rider to the 2014 reconciliation bill, Democratic and Republican presidential nominees can now receive $834,000 per person, per year, through their parties for use in the campaigns. But unaffiliated candidates can collect only $2,700 each.
Here’s another: If you are the Democratic or Republican nominee, your party will automatically appear on the ballot in all 50 states and the District. If you are an independent candidate, you must get your name on the ballot through 51 separate signature drives, requiring the collection of millions of signatures.
… And here is the most undemocratic rule of all: All those who run as a Democrat or Republican know on Day One that if they win the nomination, they are guaranteed a place in the fall presidential debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates — dominated by Republican and Democratic loyalists — requires all candidates to average at least 15 percent support in the polls just seven weeks before the election.