While Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain dominated headlines with pigs and lipstick last Wednesday, third-party candidates united behind libertarian gadfly Ron Paul, a registered Republican, during a news conference urging Americans to vote third-party. Paul âÄî who drew an audience of 10,000 at the Target Center during the Republican National Convention âÄî appropriately called for deeper dialogue in U.S. politics. PaulâÄôs conference showcased an unlikely amalgam of ideology, including Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney, consumer activist Ralph Nader and Constitution Party nominee Chuck Baldwin âÄî who joined forces to highlight the myriad obstacles set before the non-mainstream candidates and to attempt to expose perpetuated âÄúfraud on the American voter.âÄù Harking back to the good olâÄô days of presidential debates sponsored by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters (pre-1988), he reminded Americans how the two parties now collude to ensure soft questions and the absence of third-party perspective in debates. Paul then mocked Obama and McCain for promising change, arguing that candidates who agree so often with mainstream views and each other inevitably embody âÄúmore of the same.âÄù Later on CNNâÄôs âÄúSituation Room,âÄù Paul defended his call for third-party inclusion in debates. âÄúThereâÄôs no debate going on,âÄù he said. âÄúThis is a ritual. This is a charade.âÄù Indeed, the minor-party quartet claimed the majority of Americans supported them because, they reasoned, 60 percent of people who do not vote or who admittedly vote for the âÄúlesser of two evilsâÄù fall in their camp. Yet equally as tenuous as labeling third-party nominees spoilers âÄî both arguments assume voter intent âÄî was PaulâÄôs use of the alleged backing when proposing a four-point platform that all four agreed on: protect civil liberties, stop deficit spending, end the Iraq War and audit the Federal Reserve. While NaderâÄôs claim that the conference marked âÄúthe beginning of the realignment of American politicsâÄù was a stretch, consolidating third-party power to one single platform was undeniably a shrewd way to inject 15 minutes of substance into what often degenerates into a two-party pander-fest.