Don’t surrender vote to bipartisan politics

Well, my friends, as I’m sure you are all aware, election day is nearly upon us. On our televisions, our radios and in our newspapers, the campaign rhetoric abounds. If your media hasn’t been saturated with political hoopla, you need better reception in the cave you live in.
Commercials run constantly for Senate elections and the presidential race. Some portray the positive aspects of a candidate on specific issues while others exemplify their negative points. It seems as though all candidates are only as good or as evil as the pre-bought commercials portray them.
In a society that encourages free thought and the right to choose, our government has been dominated by persons representing one of the two major parties since they were created. The Democrats and the Republicans have come to represent seemingly everything political. If the issue has merit, then these parties have an opinion on it, and usually it is the opposite of their counterpart’s.
In a way, it should make voting simplistic. Analyze your opinions and match them with the candidates’ platforms, opt for the one with which you most closely align and vote for that person.
But more and more Americans find their ideals lying somewhere in between the two parties. Independent candidates are beginning to take a more prominent role in American politics. Most notable was Ross Perot in 1992, a Texas businessman who came with the promise of cutting the national debt and boosting the economy, an issue of somewhat less importance today. After all, in the last eight years, the high-tech industry has proven it can bolster the economy no matter who is in the White House.
But a trend is sweeping over us, and independent candidates have begun grabbing more and more of the political spotlight. Sometimes it’s because of their off-center beliefs, sometimes because of their unorthodox personalities — “The Body” comes to mind — and sometimes because their voice is one seemingly untouched by the all-encompassing Republican and Democratic parties.
Ralph Nader is one of these types of people. The endorsed candidate of the Green Party is turning some heads in this election year. While he might not yet have enough power to win an election, he does carry with him enough political clout to provide a face and a leader for independent voters across the nation. And his following, along with support for independent candidates across the country, is growing. As people get sick of bipartisan, they are spreading out and looking at other possible options. After all, this is America, and we always like to have choices.
The fluctuation in the national political scene is nothing new to Minnesotans. The election of Jesse Ventura has put us in a position where we lead rather than follow in third-party recognition. Jesse Ventura simply represents something that Minnesotans and people across the country have been craving. He was something new and he provides an alternative to succumbing to the two-party system.
Ralph Nader represents the similar ideal on the national scene. While his values align more closely with Al Gore than George W. Bush, Nader is his own person and an individual candidate with his own ideas — not some disillusioned individual who sought out the nomination of a third-party chair after he couldn’t achieve such status in his party. Sorry, Pat Buchanan, but somebody had to say it.
And he is getting voter recognition and support. A recent poll states that Ralph Nader currently holds roughly 8 percent of the Minnesota vote. While that is in no way a large enough percentage to win, it is enough for Mr. Nader to get recognized.
This swing of “Nader favor” has caused alarm inside the Democratic party. George W. Bush has pulled ahead of Al Gore in the state of Minnesota, a state that has been a guaranteed Democrat safe-haven for several consecutive elections. Democrats blame their misfortune solely on Nader and the 8 percent that, if not in his hands, would likely go to Gore. They warn that a vote for Nader is in a sense really just another vote for Bush.
When the constitution garnered us the right to vote all those years ago, it was meant to give us the right to vote for someone, not merely vote against someone. People should exercise their right to vote and make the choice they feel is right, rather than listen to the scare tactics put forth by endorsers of another candidate.
This is your vote and the only person to whom you have to answer is yourself. You should vote and walk away knowing that you chose the candidate you wanted and didn’t adhere to outside social bullying.
This logic holds special merit for Minnesotans. Who would be our governor today if those of us who voted for Jesse Ventura had decided that voting third party was in fact throwing our vote away. Who cares, because it didn’t happen. Instead, Minnesotans went to the polls and voted for who they really supported instead of against who they didn’t. In return, the majority of Minnesotans got who they wanted, and even some of those who voted by partisan lines because they felt Jesse couldn’t win got what they wanted anyway.
Can Ralph Nader win this election? No, probably not, but that doesn’t mean voting for him is a wasted vote. If you truly wish to step outside of the two party system and have your voice heard, then voting independent is the best thing you can do. Even if Nader doesn’t win on Nov.7, a vote for him is still helpful.
The more votes an independent candidate receives, the more power they obtain. Federal law states that a candidate need only receive 5 percent of the national vote for the party to receive federal matching funds in future elections. A strong showing for Nader on Nov.7 brings with it the possibility of a more powerful independent candidate in four years — one who might be allowed into the formal debates, one who might have a chance at the presidency.
The chances of strong independent candidates and possible victories rely solely on us as voters. It is up to us to vote for who we really want and walk away knowing we did the right thing, or to sell out and bow down to the two-party system. The choice is each and every one of yours, and on Nov. 7, I hope you make the right one.

Chris Schafer’s column appears alternate Wednesdays. He welcomes comments to [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]