Someone needs to step forward for ’08

george.hunt and george.hunt

The presidential election in 2008 is one of historical importance. It will be the first election since 1928 in which no incumbent president or vice president runs for office. There will be a significant chance that one of the major candidates will be a woman or an African-American and furthermore, the nation will presumably be entangled in an increasingly unpopular war.
One might suspect this wide-open race would lead to an explosion of political activity in the general population, and among young people in particular. Instead, apathy seems to remain the ideology of choice for most students. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the most important reason is the lack of a real choice of candidates.
The pool of candidates includes 45 options, but unfortunately, the major media outlets have already instructed the public that only a handful of candidates have a real chance to win. By the spring of this year, the Washington Post had already settled on Clinton, Obama and Edwards. At the same time, MSNBC selected McCain and Giuliani.
The media has incredible influence over public support of candidates. A study published in the British Journal of Political Science found the news media’s influence in candidate selection was due more to face time an coverage than to overt bias.
This is troubling, considering that the major news outlets represent some of the country’s largest corporations. These outlets receive most of their advertising dollars from other major corporations. The people who control these companies are not a cross-section of American society – they are mainly wealthy white males. In a democratic society, it’s important that everyone is given an equal voice on Capitol Hill. The people should have the ability to vote for candidates who truly represent them. This requires a great deal of variety among candidates.
Unfortunately, the major candidates don’t seem to differ very much. This means that little choice exists for voters – no wonder they don’t care about the election. Only Edwards and Obama have made any real discussion of ending the occupation of Iraq, despite rising levels of discontent. Voters are feeling that even if their candidate wins, their vote will have no effect on policy.
Little choice exists among the issues most important to the American public. A voter who opposes both abortion and the death penalty has no major candidates who represent their views. This despite the fact that these views are held by many Catholics, who make up nearly a quarter of the population. Is it any wonder that voters feel that their politicians don’t represent them?
Many people feel that supporting minor candidates or third party candidates is a waste of time and votes. However, there is cause to be hopeful. It seemed in 2004 that Howard Dean’s media clout would guarantee his primary victory, but his poor showing in Iowa and an infamous shriek cost him dearly.
While it’s unlikely that the word “Byaaah!” will dash the presidential hopes of another candidate, politics is a volatile field. Until the primaries are over, no one needs to settle for mainstream candidates unless they actually like them. Activism and candidate support can be effective, but only when people organize. If everyday Americans don’t take the reigns of their government, the elites will.
So who cares about 2008? Halliburton, Monsanto, and Exxon do. Maybe the rest of us should too.