One of the various pitfalls of a two-party system is the lack of recognition or equal chance third parties can receive as their Republican or Democratic counterparts.
Last week’s headlines were fixed on the Democratic National Convention and the historic nomination of Senator Barack Obama to become the first African American to represent a major party in the 2008 presidential elections. This week, the Republican convention will most likely command the media and national attention.
One of the various pitfalls of a two-party system is the lack of recognition or equal chance third parties can receive as their Republican or Democratic counterparts. While the campaigns led by Senator Obama and Senator John McCain have both touted “change” as their respective theme, for Arab Americans and Muslims that change has been difficult to come by. The most pressing matters to the community range from the Iraq war to health care and education. The Republican and Democratic nominees have both failed immensely in reaching out to the Muslim community in the United States, which is estimated to be around seven million strong. The beauty of democracy is that it offers choices; whilst this article is in no way or form an endorsement of any candidate, its purpose is to instead highlight the fact there are alternative candidates for the community to pick from.
There are at least 14 candidates running for president, the more notable names ones being Ralph Nader, Bob Barr, and Cynthia McKinney.
Representative Cynthia McKinney is representing the Green Party. In a 2005 article on CounterPunch.org, McKinney termed the Iraq war an “illegal and immoral war.” According to the Washington Post, in 2006 she introduced articles of impeachment against President Bush for three offenses: manipulating intelligence, lying to defend the Iraq war, and failing to uphold and regulate accountability within the domestic spying program. McKinney was also among only a handful of members of Congress to oppose the Patriot Act. She also voted to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry in House Resolution 255 following September 11, 2001. According to her official website, McKinney opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and decreasing the waiting period after purchasing a gun from three days to one day. With regards to the ever-pressing issue of healthcare, McKinney has the following to say: “In Congress, I was a co-sponsor of every bill to create a national system for universal access to health care under a single payer model.”
Bob Barr is representing the Libertarian Party in the ’08 presidential elections. In a press release dated June 2008, Barr supported an immediate but unannounced withdrawal from Iraq in order to protect the security of the US. Barr believes the healthcare system needs reform, in addition to the fact that Medicare and Medicaid have become financially unsustainable and must be rehabilitated to highlight patient choice. According to Barr, the solution is not socialized medicine but rather consumer-oriented healthcare. Barr is also a very vocal advocate of the Second Amendment; he opposes any law requiring the regulation or placing restriction on the ownership or sale of firearms or ammunition. On the topic of education, Barr addresses the matter on his official campaign website and states that the education system will be more effective if it occurs within a competitive private system rather than a government system. The solution presented by Barr is to abolish the Department of Education, eliminate federal grants and regulations, and hand over control to back to the States and local communities.
Ralph Nader is running as an independent candidate this election. The U.S Elections Atlas lists Nader as having had received 2.7 percent of the popular vote in the 2000 presidential elections. Nader supports repealing the Patriot Act and has urged the Justice Department to take actions against civil rights violations against Arab Americans and Muslims. In a February 2008 article in the Wall Street Journal, Nader voiced his support for universal health care, stating that healthcare should be provided by a national, single-payer health insurance program funded by the federal government. He also stresses that education is a vital issue and that the government must instantaneously provide full funding for Head Start and ensure that all children receive pre-school education. Nader is also in favor of reversing US policy in the Middle East and cutting what he deems on his campaign website a wasteful military budget.
While this article did not touch on the many other candidates also taking part in the election, the imitative for the reader to do so is very important. Being aware of the candidates taking part in the elections helps the voter make an educated decision when deciding who to cast their ballot for. Enough of the belief that Muslims must always choose between “the lesser of two evils”; this notion has kept our community politically handicapped for too long now. Where there is choice, there is also power.
Huda Jawad is an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. She is a new member of the Islamic Insights team and hopes to write about politics and history.