Some easy things you can do to ensure that the country looks like you want it to look in 2005...
*note* It may seem like I'm harsh on possible Nader voters. It's because I am.
1. Look at the options. Look at them seriously. As it stands, there are four: Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, and Republican (note, this list is alphabetical to show indifference). If I've happened to glance over a possible presidential candidate, forgive me. I can't be everywhere at once.
Once you've identified the basic options, it's time to look at the candidates individually. You'll want to examine their policies, their voting history, their character, and the overall "presidential quality" (in whatever way you can interpret that phrase). Be sure you explore in many different avenues (conservative as well as liberal news sources, websites, pamphlets, tv commercials, etc). I've found that candidate websites are supremely crappy. Most of our candidates this year are very good with campaign rhetoric, and they surround themselves with similes, metaphors, and exaggeration. Be careful not to get caught in this web of nonsense. Look for facts. Things with numbers nearby are usually good.
2. Pick one. Yep. You can only pick one. You can't have two. We can only have one president. Wouldn't it be nicer if we could have one president for war, one for peace, one for domestic issues, one for foreign policy, etc... Whatever.
Think about your values. Think about what you think is going to be best for America. Some people think security is best, while others think that unrivaled freedom is best. Make a list of the values you cherish. Organize them. Find a candidate whose list is probably pretty close to yours.
Now, when we're picking a candidate, we have to be very careful. Neil Boortz, a libertarian thinker, once wrote that we ought to think in the long term when we're picking a candidate. Let's say, for example, you live in a country where a two-party system has basically dominated for as long as anyone in the country has been alive. This country has a staunch conservative leader at the moment and he is quickly drawing people to his side. Suddenly, along comes a really groovy independent candidate. He's nice, intelligent, compassionate, all the things that a president should be. But he just ain't popular.
Should we cast our vote for this guy because we really like him? We've seen, in the recent past, that our hero doesn't do too wonderfully at the polls. It seems as if many of our peers just don't seem to consider the independent candidate a possibility, so they vote for the "nearest neighbor," a candidate with many of the same ideas, a little more to the right, a little more "normal."
Small dilemma here. Do we vote for the guy we really want to be president, or do we vote for the more popular neighbor? Imagine that there was a war going on where innocent civilians were dying in scores. Think about what each of the "likely" candidates will do if they win the election. Continue the blunt war or begin to act tactically. Figure it out for yourself. Don't let anyone else influence your opinion here. Not even me. Be very careful with what the candidates have to say about this issue. Some candidates may say that the other candidates are all the same and that only he/she represents *your* values. Investigate that statement to see if it is correct. If you believe it is, so be it.
Think also about the future. Is America yet ready for an independent candidate? Will they be more ready after 4 years of a Republican president? A Democrat? Figure it out.
3. Spread the muthafuckin? word. It ain't no good having ideas unless you share them. No matter how right you may think you are, you are not doing anything productive until you bring someone to your side, whichever that is. But you must be careful. Do not waste your breath by preaching to the converted. Seek out people whose opinion differs from your own.
Find nice, cautious ways to introduce your opinion and to defend it to them. It wouldn't hurt to find out what they like about their candidate first, so you know what to expect. It will also be good to know what they don't like about your candidate. You should have all of this information from step one, anyway.
Here are some specific courses of action:
a. Talk to at least ten people per day about the election. That's right, ten. Ask them what they think. Tell them what you think. Iron out all differences as necessary. Don't be afraid of disagreement. Just treat it with respect.
b. Organize small groups of people with whom you can work together to spread the word about your candidate. Make flyers, write articles (and send them to cool internet magazines), organize political theatre events, whatever.
c. Don't let apathy get in your way. It's all too easy in these days to make a start, then to forget about it. Keep with it. This is important. Perhaps even more important than that Biology 120 test you have tomorrow. People's lives may be at stake (!).
d. Make sure you're friends are registered to vote. These days, they break people into three categories: those who are eligible to vote, those who are registered to vote, and those who are likely to vote. Try to get as many people as you can into the third category.
4. Vote. None of the previous steps means anything unless you get your ass out to the polls in November. Make it a party. Take the day off school and proclaim your personhood. Have your own little Patriot Day.
Hope this helps. If it doesn't, discard it.