2000 election: A reason to be optimistic? No.

With this special election 2000 issue of the Record Opinions section, as an editorial board we decided not to state our preference for Al Gore or George Bush. Instead we decided to examine how much of a leader either man would likely be in the Oval Office. On this account both Gore and Bush seem to be lacking.

As college students we are supposed to be idealistic, but increasingly it seems that we are becoming more and more cynical. We have grown up in an era where everything is produced and commodified, a situation in which the actual content of a product doesn’t seem to matter much. Such are the characteristics of the current election.

It could be argued that politics is no longer as relevant to our lives as it once was and that our lives will go one pretty much the same regardless of the outcome of next week’s election. However, independent from its actual direct power, the office of the president remains the most prominent position in our society.

Both Gore and Bush are parts of a much larger system that neither one seems comfortable confronting. Our nation continues to be governed by special interests and those who have the greatest ability to pay continue to have the strongest influence. Neither Gore nor Bush seems likely to do much about this.

Sure the Democrats and Republicans, and their respective candidates, continue to advocate two distinct sets of policies. Although it is reasonable to support a candidate on policy issues alone, we are looking for something higher.

The office of the president is not only about policy papers and 10-second soundbites- it is also about the opportunity to set the agenda for the country and the responsibility to lead. This leadership role has become increasingly important as the world that we live in becomes increasingly complex.

As a generation we do not need to figure out how best to save social security, but we do need to define just what kind of social contract workers are going to have with retirees. We don’t need to count how many prescription pills elderly citizens will have access to, but we will need to figure out how to provide adequate health care for those who can not afford it. We don’t need arguments about military preparedness, but we do need to define what kind of a role the U.S. is going to play in an increasingly interconnected world. Most importantly we shouldn’t be worried about our tax bill, but we should be worried about what it is that our tax dollars are going towards.

Instead of providing thoughtful long-term solutions to problems that our nation will face, candidates offer up short-term answers that will lead to their reelection. Given this state of affairs we should consider that maybe those running for the sole sake of getting elected shouldn’t be running at all.

This election also offers us the opportunity to vote for a third-party candidate, but the fact remains that the U.S. continues to be a two-party system. Since the U.S. government is designed to be a “winner-take-all” system, a vote for a third party candidate is often as important for the implications that it has on the Democratic and Republican candidates as it is for the candidate being directly supported.

This is not to say that a third-party candidate will never be elected in the U.S. and that therefore we should not support one. We only want to say that we all must realize the larger context that this election is being held in and act accordingly.

It is true that less than half of the people of voting age in the U.S. will actually vote, but that does not mean that the election does not matter. It does matter as a chance for us as a country to come together to support a real leader. Unfortunately we at the Record are not overly optimistic about such prospects.