In the United States, voter interest has been declining steadily with every election for the past several decades. By and large, they're convinced that their individual votes don't make a difference; that political polls accurately describe who's going to win an election before the votes are even cast; that the Republican and Democratic parties are equally corrupt and fundamentally interchangeable; that in a country as large as ours is, it's impossible to effect real change through the election process anymore.
Good news! They're wrong.
The U.S. is one of the few Western democracies still ruled by a strongly bipartisian government. Great Britain and Germany, just to name two, are strongly influenced by multiple political parties, each one having to fight a political war on multiple fronts every election year. Most U.S. voters think this is never going to happen here. But the truth is that it's already started.
In 1992, the Reform Party made headlines in the U.S. Presidential election with a strong push by Ross Perot for the position. He didn't win; he didn't, numerically speaking, come anywhere close. But he did make it into the nationally televised debates against the other two candidates, Bill Clinton and George Bush. His effect, in the post-election analysis, was to split the Republican vote between Bush and himself. The fact that he was able to take that many necessary votes away from the Republican candidate is amazing in and of itself.
In 1998, the state of Minnesota held an election for governor, and the victor was an independent candidate, former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura. News investigations following Ventura's victory credited his upfront honesty and directness with his constituents; voters were tired of feeling like they were being doubletalked by the "big two" parties. And this time, they won out. The highest office in the state was won by a man with no party affiliations whatsoever.
Now, it's 2000, and another presidential election is rolling around. Voters are still disgruntled with the perception of ongoing Republican and Democratic hypocrisy. But there are plenty of other political parties making the news this year. The Reform Party has split in half, one side nominating Pat Buchanan and the other Dr. John Hagelin. The Green Party is making a pull for discouraged Democratic voters with Ralph Nader. The Libertarian Party and Natural Law Party are working as hard as they can to make themselves known. And these are the parties where your votes can really make a difference.
If you're apathetic toward the Republican/Democratic race, you have a choice! Several other candidates are vying for your attention. And even if they don't win, every vote that these parties receive is a vote the newspapers will report on after the election. Those votes will help carry the independent parties into the next election. They will let the entire country know that bipartisian politics are coming to an end in the United States. And this will encourage other independent parties to form, to push for votes, to maintain themselves year after year and to make themeselves known to voters across the country.
So if you're an American and you're going to be eighteen or older by the start of November, then for God's sake go register to vote! Cast a ballot this year for one of the little guys. Tell your friends to do the same. Take an interest in the issues. Watch the news to see the results. Send a financial contribution to the independent party of your choice, if you like them enough.
It's still possible to make a difference in American politics. There just aren't enough people who believe it yet.