Articles of interest and breaking news events can be text messaged to cell phones. Several services of television shows, radio programs or other media outlets — including newspapers — provide such conveniences for their customers. One breaking news article this week was startling.

The article was about Jade Simmons and over a thousand different people. Jade and all of the others share one thing in common. Most Americans have no idea who Jade is, or the insurmountable odds that each of these individuals are attempting to defeat. Most of us would never even imagine doing what these individuals are attempting to do.

As of Oct. 9, Jade and 1,215 others have filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president. Unless you are really into politics, you may be aware that a Republican and a Democrat are vying for the office. Some years we are aware that an independent candidate has thrown a hat into the ring — like the election Ross Perot attempted to win the presidency.

If your years and memory go back far enough, you may be aware that environmental activist Ralph Nader ran for president several times. You may even be aware that he was a candidate for the Green political party several times, and ran in other elections as an independent choice in a total of six elections. In the 2000 election, Nader actually garnished almost 3 million of the votes cast.

You may have taken notice in 1968 of a dead-pan comedian on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour running a campaign using obvious lies, tongue-in-cheek responses, and a response to every criticism with the phrase “Picky, picky, picky.” What you may not know is that the name of that comic, Pat Paulsen, actually did appear on the ballots of some states in several elections. In 1996, for example, Paulsen finished second to President Bill Clinton in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, gathering 76,754 votes. Four years earlier, he came in second to George H.W. Bush in the North Dakota Republican primary.

But most of us are only aware of two major parties and two candidates. We see them spar with each other during the campaign, we hear generic statements making their espoused policies difficult to determine, and by November we are simply glad the process is over.

You may not know that Psychology senior lecturer at Clemson University, Jo Jorgensen, is the nominee for the Libertarian party. Jorgensen was the party’s Vice Presidential nominee in 1996. She will be the party’s first female nominee for the nation’s top office. Like many in her party, Jorgensen believes in the free rights of the individual and favors reducing the role that government should play in everyday life.

Howie Hawkins is the Green Party’s presidential candidate. Hawkins is a former construction worker and UPS staffer. He has been involved in party politics for decades. He ran unsuccessfully to unseat New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018. He sees himself as a labor activist, a socialist and an environmentalist.

The names of the other candidates run from Kanye West to Jade Simmons, whose name and biography paragraph gave pause to the reading of the list. Simmons is a former beauty queen, a concert pianist, motivational speaker, rapper, mother and ordained pastor. In her own words, she is an unconventional candidate, but, she adds, “These are unconventional times.”

It is in that spirit that she is trying to run the least-expensive campaign in the history of our nation. “It is abominable that it costs now almost a billion dollars to run for president when the qualifications are that you are 35 years old, a U.S.-born resident, and have lived here for 14 years.” In light of candidates attempting to “buy an election,” it is hard to argue with her logic.

Time and energy prohibit the mentioning of all the other candidates. The point boils down to the same resonating truth. Voters have choices. Time after time, voters are tempted to look at the coming election and ponder the “lesser of two evils” or “there really aren’t any choices.” A thousand individuals would affirm you are incorrect.

Imagine this for a moment. You enter the voting booth on Election Day and two options appear before you. There is only one issue that is facing the public. The positions of the candidates are clearly opposite. One candidate is for the issue; the other is opposed to it. Voting would be simple then, wouldn’t it?

When people begin thinking, “I will just pick the lesser of two evils,” two really problematic concepts influence our thinking. The first is the idea of two — there are really only two parties and voting for someone other than these two is just throwing away the vote. While there is truth that a person like Jade Simmons has little chance to win this election, your vote for her speaks volumes to many who listen to the sounds of politics.

By voting for someone other than the top two choices, you are saying you are displeased with the system as it dominates the stage today. You are more interested in one of the other 1,214. It also speaks to how informed you are about the issues and the process.

Arm yourself with knowledge of the issues and the stances that people take on the issues. What is most important to you? Is it health care? Is it the right-to-life movement? Could it be judicial appointments, gun control, drug policies, Social Security, minimum wage, government spending, veterans’ affairs, education, the environment, prison reform, NATO, U.N., NSA, PDA or any number of other abbreviations? Find out where the candidates stand on your issue and vote with your mind, your heart and your conscious.

From the Catbird Seat, the campaign slogan for Pat Paulsen for years was “United We Sit.” Perhaps we all have been doing that too long. Let’s take a stand this year and let your voice be heard.

Tom May is a freelance writer and educator, and a columnist for the News and Tribune. Reach him at tgmay001@gmail.com.

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