Middle Tennessee residents and students watched six third party candidates debate to help ensure they make the best decision when voting in the upcoming presidential election.
Representatives from the Boston Tea Party, U.S. Pacifist Party, New American Independence Party, Socialist Party, Constitutionalist Party and Party for Socialism and Liberation attended Monday's debate held at Vanderbilt University.
"I came out to make sure that I am hearing all the view points and making the best possible decision," said Trey Ray, a Middle Tennessee resident.
Bruce Barry, professor of management and sociology, moderated the debate. Barry said he agreed to moderate the debate because of his love for political discourse and the need for third party views to be heard.
"I think that as vibrant as our political system seems some time that alternative views just simply don't permeate the conventional wisdom often enough," Barry said. "However realistic their candidacies might be, what they have to say is important."
The debate format allowed a two-minute introductory period for each candidate, followed by questions regarding policies and issues in which each candidate received a chance to respond.
The Boston Tea Party Presidential candidate Charles Jay began the period of introductions and opening statements, applauding all of the third party candidates that were participating.
"With everything candidates have to get through a campaign and execute the various parts of a campaign, really need to be appreciated," Jay said. " These people take out a lot of time and effort to do this."
Barry asked the candidates a variety of questions of interest to Americans today. The questions covered issues such as the economy, the federal budget, foreign policy, the war in Iraq, and whether or not the federal government should have restricted or non-restricted powers.
Each candidate had their own reasons for running for president; most of their reasons revolved around getting their message out the public.
The Pacifist Party candidate Bradford Lyttle is running for the fourth time since 1984. Lyttle continues to run because he said that it is the best way to alert people about non-violent resistance, or by going out and demonstrating.
In the 1960s, Lyttle worked on the San Francisco to Moscow walk for peace, in which participants walked in the United States, Western and Eastern Europe, and White Russia, all the way to Moscow distributing leaflets and talking with people about abandoning military programs and the use of non-violent resistance.
"We reached millions of people doing that," Lyttle said. "That was when I was in my early 30s, and I am now in 80 years-old, and it is not as easy to walk from San Francisco to Moscow, but I take advantage of the opportunities that exist, and this [debate] is one of them.
Frank McEnulty, the presidential candidate for the New American Independence party said that said that he was an average American and wanted to run because he wanted to make his country better.
"The reason I started running for president because I was totally fed up and disgusted with the fact that the two major political parties really seem to ignore the vast majority of Americans," McEnulty said.
A lot of Middle Tennessee residents came to the debate with a similar attitude to McEnulty, "fed up with the two major political parties."
"I am completely and utterly disgusted by the two party system in this country that is basically why I am here," said Allyn Cosey II, a Middle Tennessee resident. "I am ready for a change and not the change that Barack Obama or John McCain aretalking about, but a real fundamental change in this country."
Running as a third party candidate lets the public know that there are alternatives and what's being sold to them by the Democrats and Republicans is not the only answer, McEnulty said.
"In our travels across the country, we are finding many people who think like us but never knew that there was an organization or a way to get involved," said Gloria La Riva, presidential candidate for the Party for Socialism and Liberation. "I think that we are providing the answers and the way for people to get involved,"
McEnulty believes that students can play a vital role to the efforts of third parties.
"Students are important to the efforts of the third party candidates. They are a force we really need," McEnulty said. "They can be a lightning rod for political change."
The debate was sponsored by the Coalition for October Debate Alternatives.
Information on the participating candidates can be found at each of their Web sites.