Letters to the Editor

What every voter needs to know

Most of you have already decided who you’re voting for on Nov. 4. You’ve sat on the sidelines and watched your presidential hopeful, rooted for them in the debates, criticized the angled positions of the media and combed YouTube for the best outtakes of the whole political orgy. By now, you’d be stupid not to have picked a side, or at least a color. You’re ready to cast your ballot, and by doing so, you will be taking part in the most vital function of a democracy: the electing of ideas. In the process of talking about compromise, the two parties have polarized the American people to a near split. It’s either a vote for change or a vote for reform. Is it just me, or are these words synonymous? Both parties are playing to the same ideals while being equally vague in answering some of the real questions. What we need are new ideas brought to the democratic discussion and voters need to know that there’s an alternative to just trying to tip the scale of the same political system.

I’m going to tell you what every American citizen ought to know: If any minor party gets five percent of the popular vote, that party becomes major and is officially integrated into our democratic system. In other words, five percent is enough to bring a third podium to the debate table. And who’s to say that three heads aren’t better than two? A three-party system introduces competition, and gives the minority opinion a chance to answer the questions that the other two have avoided. Especially as young voters, we need to be aware of how easily we can bring these alternative ideas to the forefront.

Third parties have always functioned as platforms that introduce new ideas to the political current. Issues like the environment were considered fundamental to the Green Party long before Al Gore realized it was “Inconvenient,” and now the issue is considered prevalent enough to be recognized as a major political subject. So what new benefits would there be to a three-party system? One benefit would be obligating the media to do what it’s actually supposed to do: inform. We’ve been beaten over the head with all the red-blue political banter this year, and if there’s anything we’ve learned in this election, it’s that the media has its own motives. The media may not be telling us what to think, (although they often do,) but they are telling us what to think about. The only way to alter this cycle of “agenda-setting” is for the public to act independently of the media and create a demand for new information. If a third party were to get an unexpected amount of electoral votes, that story would be considered newsworthy. Right now, third-party ideas get zero coverage by the mainstream media. But if voters started paying more attention to third parties, it would force the news organizations to diversify their constant news stream and provide coverage of different ideologies to the American people.

Democracy is healthier if the currency of ideas flows in a free market. Our country has functioned as a bi-partisan game for too long, and I believe the world is becoming too complex to narrow ourselves to only two options for the future. America was founded on declaring independence, and on election day that’s exactly what I plan to do. It’s probably too late to have convinced you this year. But I want people to understand how plausible five percent really is. Our generation has the potential to sway this amount of electoral votes, and we can change the face of politics to reflect the nature of 21st century concerns. Do your own research. Get informed. Vote on the basis of an idea rather than political celebrity, and let’s demand a real democratic discussion.

–Luke Beekman

Junior

October 22, 2008

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