Staff editorial: Debating the debates

About 150 students gathered at a rally Thursday to support presidential candidate Ralph Nader’s bid to be included in the presidential debates. The event, attended by many GW students, took place in front of the offices of the Commission on Presidential Debates, the organization that stages and regulates debates between presidential candidates.

While many students favor Nader as their choice for the 2000 election, the fact that Nader has garnered so little support in national polls indicates he is a marginal candidate and should not be included in the debates.

Nader’s presence in the debates would only serve to muddy the issues. Without a realistic chance of winning office – as painful as that fact may be to his supporters – Nader’s message would merely draw attention away from the two major candidates, one of whom will be voted president in a few short weeks. Americans need to hear what their future president thinks, the policies he will implement, the positions he takes. Americans do not need their already short, sound bite-oriented attention spans distracted by a candidate without a hope of succeeding.

The argument that allowing Nader to debate would get his message across to more people, giving him a better shot at the presidency, rests on shaky ground. Voters, for the most part, have already made up their minds about which way they will vote. Political parties, past voting patterns, parents’ political leanings- all of those traditionally strong influences – line up against Nader, no matter what he says during a debate.

Students are presented with a wealth of opportunities to get involved with events of national importance. Friday’s event showed GW students taking advantage of their unique position in D.C. to get involved in the political process and attempt to make a difference.

The debate over the debates is just one more example of GW students getting involved in their surroundings and using their proximity to the center of political power as a weapon to affect social change. While including Nader in the debates would be unwise, this sort of responsible activism can only improve students’ experiences at GW.

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