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|US Election 2020: The Other 1,214 Candidates Running For President by Nobody: 2:44am On Nov 04, 2020|
The US has had presidents for more than 230 years, but only the first - George Washington - has ever been elected as an independent candidate.
The twin peaks of US politics, the Republican and Democratic parties, dominate media coverage and campaign donations so completely that the chances of an outsider winning are virtually nil.
What kind of person looks at those near-insurmountable odds and thinks - I'm running anyway?
Quite a range as it turns out: As of 9 October, some 1,216 candidates (of varying levels of seriousness) have filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president.
The BBC asked three of them - a concert pianist and motivational speaker, a Native American IT technician, and a crypto billionaire - what they stand for, and why they deserve the votes of Americans.
Jade Simmons is a multi-hyphenated woman. A former beauty queen, professional concert pianist, motivational speaker, rapper, mother, and ordained pastor.
As she puts it, she is an unconventional candidate, "but these are unconventional times".
"This seemed to me to be a time when we couldn't afford to do business as usual," she says. "I'm the daughter of a civil rights activist, and the way my father raised me was that if you see voids, if you see injustices, you need to ask yourself if that might be you that needs to be leaning in."
She says her goal is to create equal access to opportunity, through economic, educational and criminal justice reform. And in that spirit, she's aiming to run "the least expensive campaign in the history of our nation".
"We think it's abominable that it costs now almost a billion dollars to run for president when the qualifications are that you are 35 years old, a US-born resident, and have lived here 14 years," says Ms Simmons. "We'd rather spend that money on helping people."
So is she a liberal or a conservative?
"It depends on who you ask!" she says. "Everything from disgruntled Bernie bros to conservative Christian pastors are liking our policy."
Her background as a minister and a person of faith does not automatically denote conservatism, she says.
"I think Jesus is one of the most radical figures we have in history. And I think if you look at how he operated you might end up calling him progressive."
The coronavirus pandemic has upended this year's White House race, curtailing mass gatherings, pushing party conventions online and dominating news headlines. But for Jade, the major challenge of her campaign has been simply letting people know she exists.
"Even in a time where black lives supposedly matter, and black voices matter, and we saw statements of solidarity coming from the media and corporations, those same media outlets - including black media outlets - have refused to tell the story that I'm here.
"You have maybe a celebrity like a Kanye West who didn't even file his papers, and on the Fourth of July when he announced, within 30 minutes he was covered by every major network. So we were a little bit shocked that the narrative of democracy is not carried out as much as American voters think when you look behind the scenes."
While the Republican and Democratic nominees will be on the ballot in all states, independents must meet an array of state deadlines and access requirements.
Ms Simmons' name will appear on the ballot in Oklahoma and Louisiana, but in 31 other states she's registered as a write-in candidate - meaning that if voters physically write her name down, their vote will count. She acknowledges the odds are absolutely against her, but still believes she can make it to the Oval Office - and if not this year, then at some point.
"I know it sounds wild, given the history of independents! We believe that if we stay standing long enough, there's still some more disruption coming in - that most Americans are going to see that the current two options are not the choice.
"[…] We've been saying from day one, that we must restore the fabric of the nation. That's a spiritual fabric, that's a cultural fabric, a social and a racial fabric, and we feel that's been ripped to shreds - primarily and intentionally by both political parties.
"So if I were to close my eyes and envision a nation… This can't be just a flip-flop of power and revenge - 'We get to get back at you.' I see a palate-cleansing season where we can take a deep breath and say, 'Where do we go from here?'"
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