Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb spoke at the Memorial Union’s Great Hall Friday, focusing on the influence large corporations and the current voting system exercise over Americans.

The former construction-worker-turned-attorney grew up in a Texan home with no flushing toilet. His running mate, vice-presidential candidate Pat LaMarche, spent her childhood in the Chad Brown Housing Project in Providence, Rhode Island. LaMarche is currently without health insurance.

Sally Stix, who is challenging Brian Blanchard for the District Attorney office, introduced LaMarche as the “only candidate who did not grow up in privilege.”

With an enthusiastic voice, Cobb described the current state of the nation as a “crisis of democracy,” saying the social, political and economic system created a racist and sexist environment in America.

Cobb added that corporations and the government make many decisions in secret, keeping them from the American public.

“Unelected, unaccountable corporate CEOs are not just exercising power over us, they are literally ruling us,” Cobb said. He used the United States’ involvement in Iraq as an example of this ruling.

Cobb urged young adults to “watch out, because both George W. Bush and John Kerry had plans to reinstate a draft in this country.”

Cobb suggested the money spent for military purposes should go elsewhere. He proposed a raise of the minimum wage to a “living wage” that would better meet the needs of the economically disadvantaged. He also said Americans should have access to universal health care.

In a question and answer session that followed, Cobb commented on the setup of the presidential debates.

“This could be a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit if it wasn’t so serious,” said Cobb of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Instead of adhering to the current political structure, citizens should opt for a voting system that most empowers the individual, such as Instant Runoff Voting, Cobb said. IRV allows a person to rank all presidential candidates. If a person’s number one choice receives the least amount of votes and is eliminated from the race, the votes that would’ve gone to the candidate are transferred to the second choice.

As he wrapped up his speech, Cobb said, although the current political establishment’s “elite” reject the IRV system, he would make sure the Green Party continues to grow and champion their agenda.

UW Junior Joseph Buttery said he thinks third parties have always been instrumental in enacting change.

“Not everything is black and white,” said Buttery, referring to the Democratic and Republican point if views. “It’s the gray that makes change happen.”

While most audience members met Cobb’s words with applause and agreeable nods, some compared him to Ralph Nader, who many Democrats hold accountable for taking away critical votes from Al Gore in the 2000 election.

Others did not think Cobb’s message would make much of a difference in the November 2004 elections.

“He doesn’t have enough money to put his name out there enough,” said Madison resident Josh Quisling. “He also doesn’t have the support behind him to make a real impact.”