Anyone who has strolled across campus in the last two weeks or so has likely been asked to register to vote. With the election fast approaching, and the deadline for registration in Ohio coming up Oct. 6, Bowling Green State University students need to consider who they will be casting their vote for on Nov. 4.
Buzz on campus, whether it be in the form of flyers, advertisements posted by the College Democrats or College Republicans, or even in the pages of the newspaper you are reading, tends to favor either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. John McCain.
But they are not the only options.
While it is highly improbable that anyone other than Obama or McCain is going to get the seat in the Oval Office, the other contenders vying for the spot should not be taken lightly. Votes for third parties are often called "wasted votes" or "spoiler votes," with the most notable and recent example being Ralph Nader's alleged spoiling of Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000.
Ironically, one of the few Democrats to not blame Nader for Bush's entry into office in 2001 is Al Gore. Though he lost Florida by a meager 537 votes, and Nader received nearly 100,000, exit polls showed that, were Nader not in the election, his votes would have dispersed almost evenly between Bush and Gore, with about a third abstaining. Also of note is the fact all third party candidates on the Florida ballot won more than Gore's necessary 538 votes.
Democrats have long rallied against Nader and work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep him from the debates. Many do so because they are convinced it is somehow his fault Bush is in office. They need to recognize their own inability to gather the necessary votes and work to earn those votes, rather than blame Nader for somehow stealing them.
Now, suppose their argument is valid and all blame can be placed on Nader for costing Gore the election. The pressure then moves to the Democrats (or the Republicans) to adopt stances which more closely-resemble those of Nader. We suffer a pretty severe deficit of democracy when third party candidates are criticized for taking away votes from parties which are largely unresponsive to popular opinion.
This election cycle, Nader is running as an independent, former Congressman Bob Barr is representing the Libertarian Party, Cynthia McKinney is representing the Green Party and Chuck Baldwin is representing the Constitution Party. Recently, Nader, along with Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, appeared on Wolf Blizter's CNN program "The Situation Room" to discuss third party presence in the election.
Nader argued that the four independent candidates are all more worthwhile than the major party candidates, because of their stance on four critical issues: foreign policy (getting the troops out of Iraq), privacy (repeal the PATRIOT Act), the national debt (which is only growing and is funding the occupation of Iraq) and the Federal Reserve being, as Nader described it, "a government within a government," autonomous and without any democratic influence.
On those issues, the third party candidates are generally much more in line with the American people than McCain or Obama. Though the senators may argue passionately over their own policy differences, most of the debate is over different approaches to the same non-solution.
A question on many people's minds is what the value in voting for a third party candidate is if the candidates themselves confess they have nearly insurmountable odds in actually getting to the White House. Cast your minds back, though you may have been very young, to the rhetoric of the mainstream when Bush took office.
Recall that he won, remarkably, on a policy of non-interventionism. Talk of removin corporate strangleholds on society and talk of cleaning up the environment was prevalent until Sept. 11, and this is at least partly due to Nader's influence. He may not have won the election, but the demonstration of support for him (about 2.5 percent of the popular vote) encouraged discourse on issues of importance.
Ordinarily, I have a cynical attitude with regard to voting, but I care very deeply about policies of peace and taking care of the environment. No major party candidate in my lifetime has genuinely held attitudes akin to mine and most of the American public. So when someone asks you to register, do so proudly. Rather than wasting your vote on a lesser of two evils, use it wisely to force attention to the issues that really matter and are better represented by the largely ignored third party candidates.