I am a reckless vote-waster.
Thinking me incapable of comprehending the effects my actions may have on the future of this country, people seem to be coming out of the woodwork lately to tell me what a menace to society I have become.
All this because I want to vote for a third-party candidate.
I cannot begin to estimate how many times I have heard in the past week that a vote for Ralph Nader is equal to a vote for George Bush. Political pundits, Democratic loyalists, even the Star Tribune editorial cartoonist have gotten into the act, driving this message home.
To show how widespread this problem has become, Paul Wellstone, a senator I greatly respect for his independent thoughts and willingness to fight the status quo, proved the other day that his time in Washington has turned him from a free-spirited firebrand into a Washington politician. On the steps of the State Capitol, he urged me to abandon my designs on free thought. He said that if I help to get Al Gore elected, Gore will further the issues that Ralph Nader has raised.
Funny. If that is his plan, why won't he address any of the issues before Election Day? I generally don't trust a great deal of campaign rhetoric because I understand it to be just that. What scares me is a politician who is unwilling even to roll out a new line of campaign rhetoric to help win over the bloc of voters that all the pundits believe may be his undoing.
But what really galls me is the hypocrisy of these people who tell me I am reckless for getting behind a candidate who is not a Republican or a Democrat. These are the very same people who use the ever-shrinking political off-season to bemoan the lack of involvement in the political process by today's Americans.
Here I am, a self-described Generation X political junkie who wants desperately to get involved in the political process, and these people tell me that I am not savvy enough to participate since I apparently don't understand the ramifications of my proposed actions.
The beauty of the representative democracy we have created in this country is that, in its purest sense, it leaves us free to select the person who best represents our thoughts and beliefs. Much like the NRA, the Democratic and Republican parties have become powerful institutions in the political game. No one asked for them, we don't need them, but a great number of jobs rely on their existence. Without the party system, politicians could decide issues on the simple basis of what is best for the people, rather than how the caucus has decided that they will vote.
I long for a democracy in which people choose the candidate who best matches their political idealism, regardless of political party affiliation, and the candidate is then free to carry out his or her duties free of a prescribed agenda provided by the parties.
But what do I know?
I'm just a reckless vote-waster.
Nate Dybvig, St. Paul, is a public relations account executive.
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