Students: `Let Ralph Debate’

Emily Brink

Big Corporation, represented by a man in a monstrous mask and a navy blue suit, took on Grass Roots, a man with a green-painted head, to protest Wednesday the exclusion of Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader from the national presidential debates.

Members of Students for Nader and the Ames/ISU Greens joined forces in the free-speech zone to make students aware of Nader’s beliefs.

“We are upset with Nader being excluded from the debates,” said Jeremy Varner, president of Students for Nader.

The Commission on Presidential Debates has ruled that only candidates with at least 15 percent of voter support in five national polls prior to the debate are able to participate. Because Nader does not meet that requirement, he is not allowed to participate.

Before the new criteria were implemented, Ross Perot participated in the 1996 election with only 5 percent of support in five national polls. Varner said Perot scared the two mainstream parties by taking votes from each party, so the commission, formed primarily of Democrats and Republicans, changed the standards.

Gerry McKiernan, treasurer of the Ames/ISU Greens, said the nation has a history that shows third-party candidates take votes from Democratic and Republican candidates.

McKiernan, library associate professor, said he thinks the nation cannot continue to think the two-party system is the only way to go.

“This election should not have to be the lesser of two evils,” he said.

Members of the two groups in support of Nader said they believe corporations have bought both parties.

“It’s important that we reclaim democracy that has been bought by corporate money,” McKiernan said. “Ralph Nader recognizes grass-roots and that government should not be run by corporations.”

Derrick Hochstatter, who played the grass roots character at the protest, said a vote for Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush or Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore is a vote for the same person.

The mainstream candidates each would vote in the interests of corporations in order to keep their financial support, said Hochstatter, senior in liberal studies.

McKiernan said Nader’s exclusion from the debate will prevent the public from becoming aware of certain key issues that Gore and Bush will not discuss.

“Third-party candidates present views that tend to be ignored,” he said.

Certain issues, such as minimum wage, the environment and universal health care, will not be discussed, said Varner, senior in history.

“Nader has the potential to revitalize democracy and force the system to change,” he said.