While viewers around the country focused on Fridays presidential debate, some voters at Indiana Universitygathered to support a less popular candidate: Ralph Nader.
Their membership remains small, and efforts to grow have been relatively unsuccessful. While the IU Students for Barack Obama Facebook group shows more than 900 members and IU Students for John McCain maintains almost 300 people, the Nader Facebook group includes less than 30.
Hoosiers for Nader met to watch a documentary and stimulate support Thursday in Ballantine Hall for a candidate who is currently on the ballot in only 45 states. Indiana is one of the five that does not list Nader as a potential candidate.
Next month, the group plans to coordinate a four-way debate with Indiana Public Interest Research Group. Representatives from Obama and McCain groups will participate, as well as students for Libertarian candidate Bob Barr.
Barry Donnelly, IU co-coordinator for the group, blamed political illiteracy and a lack of understanding for the split in votes. He said because voters are not aware of the specific policy changes at stake, they are not able to choose the candidate most in line with their personal beliefs.
It becomes a popularity contest no more intellectually valuable than the sort of popularity contest you get in high school where a cheerleader will run against a nerd, Donnelly said. People will vote their cultures.
Student group co-coordinator and second-year graduate student Aaron Hamlin blamed a lack of media attention on third-party candidates for Naders relative obscurity.
When you ask people whos running in the race, they recall McCain or Obama, Hamlin said. Their names and faces are splashed in the media complete opposite effect in the Nader campaign.
Donnelly said Naders unpopularity stems from his refusal to run a campaign based on emotion and prejudice in favor of genuine public concerns. He referenced both Obamas change and McCains country first platforms as examples of slogans that tug at the heartstrings of voters but not at their heads.
They use this cult of personality, Donnelly said. We really have Stalin and Lenin running for president this year.
Freshman Lucas Smith discovered the group from a flier. While most students label themselves as liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, Smith said the current two-party stronghold creates a shallow voting environment.
I dont like the canned speeches, the vague rhetoric, Smith said. When youre in a general election people start to moderate their tone and move toward the center.
He said while traditional debates are opposed to third-party candidates, the end goal for the group is to inform.
Its not necessarily votes were after, Donnelly said. We just want people to listen to the issues.