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By James Proescholdt
Student Columnist
Friday, November 10, 2000

I went to the Democrat Rally on Saturday night. Now, I do not consider myself a Democrat, nor do I intend to vote for Al Gore. Maybe that was why I found it so offensive.

Or maybe it was something else, like the fact that they (like most politicians) were doing their best to get the audience to buy into party lines. There were a series of chants, like "One, two three four, Who you gonna vote for? Gore!" and "Al!" "Gore!" shouted by alternating halves of the audience. That wasn't too bad. But then one of the emcees began reading a set of "rhetorical" questions, such as: "If we want a president who is going to do the best for the environment, who do we want more?" (The answer, he said, was supposed to rhyme with "more.") I don't think I was the only one who shouted out "Nader!".

What really bothered me, however, was when one of the rally leaders, the mayor of Minneapolis no less, singled out those in the audience who were not participating in the chants and tried to intimidate them into doing so. This shows a common lack of respect for dissenting opinions in American politics. Presumably those not chanting had a better reason than shyness or a sore throat.

In the course of the rally, the speakers also managed to imply that an election of Bush would mean the abolition of abortion, a Supreme Court without respect for human rights, and, if Bush succeeds in implementing his missile defense plan, an arms race with possibilities of nuclear war.

Is this all politics is—a scare game of, "Look what will happen if the other guy wins?" With the proliferation of negative advertisements and giant bulls with insults splashed across their rumps, it certainly seems so. I keep hoping to hear a real debate on the role of government, instead of narrowly focused "issues" hand-selected for dissention by the two major parties. Many European countries sustain four or five major parties and a score of minor ones, but in the U.S., third parties are seen as precocious children—cutely ambitious at best, and a threat that "trivializes" politics when they become too strong. I think one of the speakers at the rally said it best with: "For any of you who are flirting with the thought of voting for Ralph Nader." Obviously, any vote for Nader is just a "flirtation"—no one could possibly be serious about a minor candidate. (The people holding up a giant "Nader/LaDuke" sign at the back of the crowd certainly were.)

Gore's campaign to dissuade possible Green Party voters with, "A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush" is an example of politics at its worst, actually encouraging voters to see him as the lesser of two evils. Voting shouldn't be about keeping the devil out of office—it should be about trying to pick the best person for the job. I wish that the people who deem themselves capable of running the country were mature enough to refrain from alarmist mudslinging and secure enough to listen to open debate.

Maybe we'll do better next time.

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