Editorial from the Editor: Jesse Pittsley
Are We Winning Yet?
"ASEP, like an independent candidate, does not answer to the public
or to other organizations. It answers only to the conceptual frameworks
it exists under.”
What Are They Thinking?
Another presidential election year is in full swing and the strategic
photo shoots, clever sound bites, and stumping are upon us. This
year’s election is focused around the Republican Party working to keep
George W. Bush and his administration in the White House while the Democratic
Party is working to find the best candidates to unseat the incumbents.
Like nearly all presidential elections in the United State, this race is
primarily between these two mainstream political parties. In fact,
it is rare that an outside party or candidate has a direct influence on
the outcome of a presidential election.
Four years ago, representing the Green Party, the long-time consumer
advocate Ralph Nader actually did have an effect on the outcome of the
national election. Although he only received approximately 2.5 percent
of the popular vote, Nader did well enough in the state of Florida to offset
the results and theoretically allow George W. Bush to beat Al Gore by 517
votes in that state. Regardless of this rather dramatic example,
which may have been exaggerated by the very close results, outside parties
rarely present a significant statistical influence in large elections.
Despite this, Ralph Nader has once again announced his candidacy for president.
As a result, one may ask one simple question. Why?
Why does one run for President of the United States (or any public
office) without a realistic chance of winning? Why would one seemingly
waste his own time (and the time of others) and money on a numerically
futile cause? Are these people suffering delusions of grandeur?
Are they surrounded by “yes” men that spend their days planting seeds of
greatness in their overly-receptive minds? Or, possibly, are these candidates
just habitually successful individuals who can always conceptualize a chance
of victory despite the obvious odds? All of these statements may
be true, but the actual answer may originate from a deeper and, potentially
There are a variety of political parties that put forth a presidential
candidate every four years. Parties such as the Socialist Party,
the Constitutional Party, the Communist party and several other organizations
contribute candidates for public offices. Furthermore, individuals
may run as independents and are, therefore, not representing a specific
organization (i.e., Ross Perot). Despite this, a very high percentage
of these candidates has little chance of winning the big race. Interestingly,
though, these organizations exist with active memberships, well-maintained
Web sites, and significant financial support. Why is this the case?
The Continuum of Thought
To understand the answer to these questions, one must appreciate a
fundamental concept of political thought. This concept is that all
political beliefs or establishments exist on a continuum. For example,
a government may choose to tax the population a certain degree. This
degree may range from having very little taxes or by completely taking
all the money earned by the public. As a result, there are countries
in the world with rather high taxation levels and there are countries with
low taxes. In the United States, income taxes range from 30 to 35
percent depending upon the state. Thus, our federal and state governments
have chosen a compromise between the two extremes of very high and very
There are many examples of political issues, the continuum of
issues, and the balances governments find between the two polar extremes.
These issues range from immigration regulation, the role of religion in
government, affirmative action, the government regulations of business,
and many social issues including abortion and gay marriage. In the
United States, the elected representatives examine and debate these issues
until a majority reaches a conclusion within the frameworks of the Constitution.
By its nature this is a complicated and long process, and it involves a
consistent reexamining of the issues. Regardless, the large, slow
wheels of democracy do turn until a public policy is reached for the current
state of the society.
Where Do Ideas Start?
Right now, you may be asking, “So if a majority finally decides what
policies are made, what do the small political parties and independent
candidates contribute to this process?” This is a valid question.
For if very few vote for these parties and/or candidates, what power do
they have? The answer is a somewhat complex so I’ll try to use a little
metaphor. Think of political policy making as a question and answer
process. The society asks a question and the majority creates an
answer. Thus, in this situation, small political parties probably
do not have a lot to say about the answer but they do influence the question.
When viewed from the perspective of a large population, most political
positions fall into a bell-shaped curve. For example, some would
accept higher taxes to fund more government organizations while others
want less taxes to allow more freedom in individual spending. Overall,
the population has reached its compromise between the two conceptual poles.
Therefore, since most people fall in the middle of issues, the popular
political parties have more centralized positions. Just think, most
presidential candidates are white, Christian males, from the upper-middle
class who are moderate on taxes, corporate regulations, and the environment.
To find the extremes of political viewpoints, one must examine the positions
of the smaller political parties and the independent candidates.
For example, it is possible to find one organization that supports the
complete government funding of all health care, while another organization
seeks the complete privatization of this service. Currently, neither
side would earn a majority of the votes. But, interestingly, the
public debate of such issues often originates from the efforts of these
Political concepts often originate from these sources because such organizations
have very little to lose. Activist organizations discussing issues
ranging from the environment to religion generally have a strong, but relatively
small core base of very motivated members. These members understand
that the size and popularity of the organization is not necessarily the
primary determinant of the organization’s success. Instead, these
organizations primarily look to “get the word out” or to "educate the society"
on their particular viewpoint. In other words, these organizations
are not in a popularity contest. They are more concerned with the
dissemination of information.
Imagine the freedom an organization gains when it does not have to constantly
worry about the number of votes it will receive, but is instead more concerned
with the spread of a perceived truth. Imagine what statements can
be made when one is not constantly burdened with trying to play both sides
of the field. As one may guess, the statements become direct, purposeful,
and passionate. There is no game playing, double speak, or grey.
It is simply inspired people pleading their side of a case.
Eventually, as these organizations work to inform the public, information
and opinions trickle into the society. Some of these perspectives
catch fire and become part of the mainstream discourse, while other viewpoints
fail to make it through the filters. Ultimately, mainstream organizations
assimilate the evolved versions of the viewpoints and public policy is
formed or modified. This is a gradual process that is often full
of dilution and compromise, but it represents democracy at its best.
Is Nader going to win?
Ralph Nader is not going to win a majority of support in the popular
vote next presidential election. In fact, Mr. Nader will have to
work very hard just to be on the ballot on all 50 states. This is not the
point of Nader’s campaign. Like many other independent and small-party
candidates, the purpose of Nader’s campaign is to expose the country to
topics of discussion that mainstream candidates would not touch or speak
about. Therefore, the “win” comes in the form of exposure and the
potential analysis in the form of a public forum and not from the actual
obtaining of office.
ASEP: A Small Political Party?
In many ways, ASEP is like a small political party. Unlike many
of the larger healthcare organizations, ASEP has the freedom to pursue
its perception of truth without the pressure of significantly hindering
its popularity or cash flow. The sole purpose of ASEP is to work
towards the professionalization of exercise physiology. Any activities
or interests brought forth by its members can be dropped if they do not
pertain to the overall mission of the organization. As a result,
ASEP, like an independent candidate, does not answer to the public or other
organizations. It answers only to the conceptual frameworks it exists under.
Presently, the success of ASEP is not judged by having a large membership
base or a large number of board certified Exercise Physiologists or accredited
programs. Although what has been done in both areas since 2000 is
a wonderful achievement, the purpose of ASEP is the dissemination of information.
ASEP must make exercise physiologists aware of the unfortunate contradictions
and paradoxes that exist inside the field. For example, the paradox
that sports medicine allows individuals from all healthcare profession
gain certifications in exercise physiology needs immediately analysis and
correction. Or, that there are countless fitness certification exams
all claiming to be the best, thus confusing young college students.
And, finally, that colleges and universities continue to enroll students
and produce graduates despite the obvious employment barriers set forth
from other healthcare professions is grossly misleading.
Therefore, the current purpose of ASEP may not be to win the arguments
(at least not all of them right now). Rather, its purpose for now
may may come from simply starting them. Or, in other words, the current
answer is actually the question!