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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Any U.S. government textbook will tell you that America is the greatest democracy in the world, that our government is “of the People, by the People, and for the people.” I’m always skeptical of these claims. If elected officials truly represent “the people,” why do two giant corporatized parties control the election process?

I am a vocal supporter of independent candidate Ralph Nader and his running mate Matt Gonzalez—even though I am too young to vote. Contrast Nader’s platform with that of Barack Obama, who is in my opinion a superior candidate to John McCain. Obama nevertheless wants to leave thousands of troops in Iraq. Nader, on the other hand wants to withdraw from Iraq, allowing Muslim nations, to which Iraqis would be more receptive, to maintain peace in Iraq. Nader supports impeaching Bush and Cheney. Obama does not. Nader supports government funded healthcare; Obama’s health plan tries to work through the existing system of profit driven insurance companies. Nader is against the Patriot Act and FISA, which granted immunity to telephone eavesdroppers. Obama voted for FISA and to reauthorize the Patriot Act. As for the current economic crisis, Nader warned that the FDIC fund may be too small to pay for the banking failures. He was ridiculed in Congress. Now, with major bankruptcies, the Associated Press runs stories like “Federal bank insurance fund dwindling.”

Nader supports a renewable energy policy that does not include dangerous nuclear power or irresponsibly reducing the food supply by planting corn for ethanol. He supports decreasing the military budget. The Democrats and Republicans are not only silent about recent escalations in the military budget, but want to increase it even more. Nader calls for a straightforward carbon tax as opposed to a carbon credit system, which would favor heavy polluters that haven’t already reduced their greenhouse gas emissions.

When people learn that I support Nader, their response is almost always something like: “I like Nader, but I don’t want him to run for President because he doesn’t have a chance of being elected, and he steals votes from the Democrats.” Since when are votes private property that can be “stolen”? It is important to keep in mind that, historically, third party candidates like Eugene Debs and James Barney were the ones to push forward women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery—issues that the major candidates at the time didn’t support.

Should people have voted for the major, “electable” candidate instead of voting for those who actually took a principled stand on important issues?

The mainstream media gives little coverage to Nader, and when they do mention him, they discuss whether he could “spoil” the election and never talk about his platform. In addition, the two major candidates refuse to debate him. Recently, Google and YouTube announced that they would be hosting their own debate in New Orleans, and had a lower poll threshold for participation. Obama prevented the debate from taking place by stating that he will participate in only the debates organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD)—a private organization controlled by the two major parties.

Even has been going against the principles of the free internet by deleting comments on their website in support of Nader or other independent candidates. After Nader supporters organized street protests against MySpace’s exclusion of third party candidates on its Decision08 page, it finally added Nader and other candidates.

Voting for Nader shows the Democratic Party that you want real “change,” and you aren’t going to settle for less than you deserve. If the Democratic Party doesn’t want to change its stance, and doesn’t want to split its votes with Nader, it should push to replace the electoral college system with direct instant runoff voting, which would count people’s second choices if their first choice didn’t get enough votes. That would end election “spoiling” once and for all. Why should Nader be blamed for the deficiencies of a system that perpetuates the status quo?

Nader is now on the ballot in 45 states, including California. He has a higher poll now rating than he did during the same time period in previous elections. Recently, Ron Paul gave an endorsement of third party candidates including Nader, with whom he appeared on CNN: “I’ve come to the conclusion, after having spent many years in politics, that our presidential elections turn out to be more of a charade than anything else, and I think that is true today. It is a charade.” Paul brought up four major issues that the major party candidates and the mainstream media largely ignore, but which he and Nader agree upon: withdrawing all troops from Iraq;repealing the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the recent FISA legislation; balancing the budget and ending deficit spending; and reforming the Federal Reserve to prevent future banking crises.

As citizens, we must demand that the debates be more meaningful and open, and that media coverage should be fair, unbiased, and inclusive of all candidates.

Ummon Karpe is a homeschooled 12th grader living in Walnut Creek, Calif. Email

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