We’ve been conditioned by the mass media to believe there are only two political parties worthy of our attention. Because only the Republican Party and the Democratic Party receive significant coverage, especially during election cycles, it’s easy to forget that other parties do indeed exist. 

Case in point: While Democratic presidential-nominee Barack Obama filled the Kohl Center to an over-capacity crowd of over 17,000 during his trip to Madison in February prior to the Wisconsin presidential primaries, Independent candidate Ralph Nader, running for president for the fifth time, struggled to fill the small Orpheum Theatre this past Friday on State Street, which has a capacity that is only 10 percent of the Kohl Center at 1,700. 

Most students here probably didn’t even know Nader would be speaking at the Orpheum, and those who did know scoffed at the idea of him running for president again. The situation is shameful — because over the past eight years, the two mainstream parties have failed us and no one really seems to care, nor do they really want to do anything about it.   

With wars on two fronts both deemed failures by the general public and key congressional leaders involvement in Jack Abramoff’s money laundering scandal, the odds were rightfully stacked against the Republicans for the 2006 midterm elections. And indeed, they resulted in sweeping changes in the United States‘ political landscape from the local level all the way on up.    

Democrats gained 31 seats in the House of Representatives and five seats in the Senate, drastically altering the landscape of Congress. Democrats won these seats under the premise that Washington — under the leadership of the Republican Party — was broken, and a change in leadership was necessary to fix it. Two years later, looking at the voting records of the spineless Democrats, they have, by-and-large, failed us. 

So, that brings about an important question: What the hell is Congress doing?  In the midst of economic struggles, a floundering real estate market and skyrocketing gas prices, why do they continue to fund the war? And this was not just any war: It was a war of choice, not of necessity. It was an unprovoked war.  A war we entered under falsified intelligence. A war with covert and mysterious goals. And a war that was completely unrelated to the 9/11 attacks and those who perpetrated them. 

All this brings me back to my original point:  We have been swindled into believing there are only two political parties. And, as has been seen throughout the past eight years, these two political parties have failed us repeatedly. Rather than representing their constituencies responsibly, Congress has catered to special interests and lobbyists.  Rather than doing what is right, they do what is politically convenient. 

Therefore, it’s time to start thinking about alternative options. It’s time to stop electing officials who offer nothing more than broken promises and it’s time to start paying attention to what third party candidates have to say. As Nader said on Friday night, “Democracy should not be about picking the lesser of two evils.”   

When a man like Ron Paul fearlessly promises to work towards cutting exponentially-increasing federal spending and says he will do everything in his power to protect people from a “Big Brother” government, maybe we should listen to him and take him seriously.  When a man like Ralph Nader suggests the United States should open up presidential debates to third party candidates, maybe we should try it out. “Getting to the debates you can get to tens of millions of people and no other way can you reach that many people in our system rigged with a two party elected dictatorship,” Nader said on Friday.  What have the Democrats and the Republicans done for us as citizens now that they now possess such a stranglehold on us? 

People would rather distract themselves with the upcoming elections and forget that the campaigns will be nothing more than an exchange of empty rhetoric.

Aldous Huxley’s nightmare is coming true. His “Brave New World” has become reality. People have medicated themselves into bliss and voluntarily sacrificed their rights. They have become transfixed by the media, refusing even to acknowledge the existence of major policy problems, let alone a failure to mend these problems on both sides of the aisle. 

We can continue to be deceived by the rhetoric, or at last, as responsible and educated young citizens, we can start challenging the status quo two-party system and stop brainlessly consuming the empty dictates of the media. 

If we don’t, the American Empire may just come crashing down, just like its historical counterpart — the Roman Empire — did two millennia ago.

Steve Horn ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and legal studies.