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A revolutionary idea

Sun, Oct 8th, 2000
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Monday, October 9, 2000

"Are you going to watch the debates tonight?" someone asked me last Tuesday.

"No, I don't have a dog in that fight," I responded, using a George Bush, Sr. analogy for "No, I'm not going to watch the debates."

I made up my mind back in April that I would not support either of the two major candidates for president: Republican George Bush, Jr. or Democrat Al Gore.

In fact, I am so disgusted with the process of picking presidential candidates that I am beginning to understand why over 50% of the registered voters in America don't cast ballots in most elections.

Call it the disenfranchising of the franchised. Somehow, the process of picking candidates has been reduced to a corporate strategy to get market share on a candidate, just like any product being sold in the marketplace. The presidency is out there to be bought and sold just like a tube of toothpaste.

As of Labor Day, the money spent on the presidential and congressional campaigns in this election year had reached $2 billion - more than the Gross National Product of more than a few developing countries.

While the presidential campaigns of 1992 and 1996 focused on the economy (remember "it's the economy, stupid"), this year's campaign is about "character". After eight years of Bill Clinton, what else could it be about.

Character is why both John McCain and Bill Bradley, while representing two ends of the political spectrum, did so well with their respective campaigns in the primaries. Regardless of their views on the issues, both men evoked the priniciples of honesty, trust and good character.

In fact, both the Republican and Democrat parties have brought in "character heavyweights" as vice-presidential running-mates to beef up the "character quotient" of their respective tickets.

Former Congressman Dick Cheney, who served as Secretary of Defense under George Bush, Sr., has been added because of his conservative views and stalwart values. He is also loyal to the Bush clan and the conservative movement.

On the other side of the vice-presidential aisle is Al Lieberman, a liberal senator from Connecticut. An Orthodox Jew, Lieberman has been a public critic of Bill Clinton's behavioral lapses and is known for his strong views on moral issues.

It's almost as if both parties have decided to assign chaperones to their presidential candidates to assure the American public that their candidate will remain morally upright as our president.

A few weekends ago, I attended a dinner party where the conversation turned to politics.

One person, who thought that the Republicans really had to lower the bar to pick George Bush, Jr., said that he had had enough of the whole political process and was going to vote for Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate.

"Nader is a man of character; a person who will smooth out the rough edges of America's corporate greed and protect the environment; a person who will look out for the little guy," the man said.

But another person challenged this by saying the man's vote for Nader was in reality a defacto vote for George Bush, Jr., the very candidate the man disliked the most, because Nader didn't have a chance of being elected president. Afterall, a vote for Nader would take a vote away from Gore and, thus, indirectly help the Bush cause.

This led to further debate about the so-called "political realities" that challenge our individual electoral instincts.

An activist friend of mine from Rochester, said to me, "Whatever happened to the revolutionary concept of voting your conscience; voting for the person who best represents your values and interests?"

He went on to say that this was how Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota. "People refused to accept the status quo of the two parties and looked for a candidate that they could relate to and trust," he said. "Maybe this is the only message that the two parties will listen to - disenchanted voters taking their support to alternative candidates."

I often wonder to myself how our national heroes would fair in the electoral process today. Would we elect a Thomas Jefferson, or a George Washington, or an Abraham Lincoln? Something tells me it would be difficult for all three of these great men to get elected president today.

This is why I am remaining steadfast in my resolve not to vote for George Bush, Jr. or Al Gore, even though the polls suggest that Gore should win Minnesota handily. I am quite simply going to take back ownership of my vote this year. Call it a revolutionary idea.

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