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June 23, 2024  
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Issue No. 1 - THE VOTE
C O N T E N T S :

Update » No Paper, No Trail: An Open Invitation to Electoral Fraud


A Vote That Counts

2002 Elections Underscore Imperative of Major Reform

Libertarian Solutions for Revitalizing Our Democracy

Spoiled? Ralph Nader and Voting Patterns in 2000

Post-Democracy: The Dystopian Future of Our Winner-Take-All Politics

Voter Turnout: How To Hit 90% by 2010

Vote, Organize, Vote, and Win - For a Progressive Society

SPECIAL: G&G Wellness

A Vote That Counts

Imagine casting a vote for a party you like rather than voting for the lesser of two evils. Imagine one of every 11 people doing the same. And then, just for kicks, imagine being recognized as a respected, legitimate member of society for doing so, rather than being called a naive radical spoiling the party for the big leaguers.

This is what life is like for Green voters in Germany. After raking in an astonishing 8.6 percent of the vote in the Sept. 22 election (up from 6.7 percent in 1998), the party that introduced itself with bouquets of flowers to the German parliament more than 20 years ago has now become an established player in German politics: After the latest election, no significant decision in Germany will be made without a Green stamp on it.

Licking the seal on this year's absentee ballot was by far the most empowering feeling in my young life as a member of a democratic society. As a German expatriate, it has been difficult to watch so many of my friends here at the voting booth check the name of someone whom they consider a spineless puppet. The alternative is to go with a candidate who speaks with integrity and get crucified by a mob accusing you of throwing away your vote.

So while my poor American compatriots' ballots for Ralph Nader and his ideas of social justice, peace and equality went straight to the waste basket, I was invited to cast a vote that not only has significant bearing on whether Germany will support President Bush's war in Iraq, but also strengthens the Green Party's position of power within the governing coalition. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Environmental Minister Juergen Trittin are just two of the prominent examples.

Earlier this month Californians chose between two gubernatorial candidates nobody liked. Honestly, did you meet anyone other than their campaign managers who touted the virtues of Gray Davis or Bill Simon? So how come we didn't hear more about Peter Camejo, the Green Party candidate for governor who addressed issues an average citizen can relate to, like universal health care and minimum wage?

The most obvious reason, of course, is that Davis' and Simon's campaign war chests were stuffed with donations from corporations, who drive the political agenda, drowning out many others. But more poignantly, it is the persisting image of third-party candidates as half-baked wing-nuts and tree-spikers that instills an irrational fear of the nonestablishment candidate in the American voter. Funny, whenever we actually got to hear Camejo, he sounded like the most levelheaded and knowledgeable kid on the block.

Germany uses a democratic system called Proportional Representation (PR), where the "winners" take only as much power as the people give them and the "losers" still get to work for their constituents. In this system, third parties are always at least allowed to state their case.

When the Greens first jumped the 5 percent hurdle in 1983, they were certainly a motley bunch of idealists, but given their chance, they stepped up to the plate and earned the people's trust. To put it in American terms: How do you ever find out if your rookie quarterback is a "gamer" if he never gets a snap?

Twenty years after being substituted into the game, the German Green Party has become an established playmaker. Many Germans vote Green, an act as ordinary as recycling or walking. Punks like myself actually get to participate in democracy, feeling like well-adjusted members of society and pushing voter turnout to over 80 percent. Now isn't that radical?

Sven Eberlein, a San Francisco-based freelance writer and musician, is a German citizen and legal resident of the United States.

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