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10/19/00 nader.C.Thalken

  Volume 101, No. 40   Thursday, October 27, 2000  

Bush, Gore causing snores

Candidate dullness, not apathy will cause low voter turnout at the polls Nov. 7


By Travis Metcalfe
Daily Texan Columnist

In his book If the Gods had meant us to vote they would have given us Candidates , Jim Hightower quotes former Vice-President Dan Quayle saying, "A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls."

Low turnout is particularly serious among younger people, with only 32 percent of 18 to 24 year olds voting in the 1996 election, and similar numbers are expected this year. Politicians take this to be a sign of apathy, but maybe the two major presidential candidates are so incredibly dull that we would rather stay home than cast a meaningless vote for someone who doesn't address issues that matter to us.

Ralph Nader was right when he predicted that voters would "fall asleep in front of their TV sets" if they were forced to watch "the drab debate the dreary." The three 90-minute campaign advertisements, sponsored by the private bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates and paid for by corporations, were tedious at best. The non-debates hit their lowest point during the October 11th show when Gush and Bore used a variant of the phrase "I agree with you" 12 times and expressed some form of agreement an additional 28 times.

Moderator Jim Lehrer pleaded desperately with the candidates to succinctly outline their differences in policy. This only encouraged them to detail exhaustively the minutia of their competing visions, which was the only place differences could be found. "Is there any difference?" Lehrer asked. "I haven't heard a big difference right in the last few exchanges," said Gore. "Well, I think it's hard to tell," Bush replied. No kidding.

The third show on October 17th was the closest thing to a debate that happened this year, largely because the "Town Hall" style allowed real voters to ask real questions. Someone asked the candidates why they thought young people weren't more interested in politics. Gore responded first: "Sometimes people who are very idealistic and have great dreams, as young people do, are apt to stay at arm's length from the political process, because they think their good hearts might be brittle, and if they invest their hopes and allow themselves to believe, then they're going to be let down and disappointed." Which is to say, because their expectations are too high.

And Bush replied: "A lot of people are sick and tired of the bitterness in Washington, D.C., and therefore they don't want any part of politics. They look at Washington and see people pointing fingers and casting blame and saying one thing and doing another. There's a lot of young folks saying, you know, 'Why do I want to be involved with this mess?'" In other words, because they have low expectations. Finally, they disagreed on something.

The most maddening aspect of the entire charade was that it could have been really interesting had Ralph Nader been there, which is precisely why he was excluded by the two-party duopoly despite the fact that the majority of Americans wanted to see him participate. He could have brought up issues that really matter to young people. But they were never discussed because the major candidates both agree on the death penalty, genetically altered foods, the flawed missile defense system, corporate globalization, a living wage, and the failed war on drugs to name a few. Even worse, no independent debates between Gore and Nader are possible because Gore's agreement with Bush stipulates that he can only participate in the three official debates, and no more.

So we are condemned until November 7th to listen to Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber talk about nothing of consequence. It could be worse. At least in the end we can cast a vote for Ralph Nader and hope that he builds the Green Party enough by 2004 to save us from having to suffer through another election like this one.

Metcalfe is a doctoral student in the Department of Astronomy