A vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for a message, not the presidency.

The Nader campaign platform contains many good and attractive points. His focus on improving the conditions of Americans by way of better access to health care, jobs and education is inspirational. His calls for corporate responsibility, government accountability and workers' rights are desperately needed.

However, voters should realize that his entrance into the presidential race is not a bid for the presidency, but a tool to send his message of reform to Washington and to Americans. Therefore, citizens planning to cast their votes for Ralph Nader need to understand the difference, and its impact it may have on America's future.

Surely, Nader knows that he has little or no real chance of winning the election. He is running without the backing of a political party. He is entering during a time when our country desperately needs to get rid of a growing tyrannical threat in our nation's capital. He is running in a climate of fear that is fostering a division between those who desire the comforts of familiarity and those who understand the necessity of regime change in Washington.

Political power can shift overnight -- it is a possibility. However, our deeply entrenched two-party system and the terrorism scares from politicians and their puppet pundits have created a political atmosphere designed to prevent such a shift. The propaganda machine of political preservation is in full swing and attempting to scare the liberty out of the American people.

There is a desperate need for Nader's message and to change America for the better, but the presidential race is not the proper platform for promoting such change. The problem with Nader's approach is he seems to believe change happens from the top.

Social and political change must come from below and work its way up to the presidency. Change cannot land in the lap of the Oval Office without doing real work in the local and state levels. Progress will not happen without working deep within the system to change the nature of the system.

If the American people want real and lasting change, we must organize efforts to democratically take over the government on local and state levels before we can dream of taking back the presidency from the iron grips of corporate interests. An effective, well-organized and aggressive political third party must be supported and it must seek validation from the people by way of winning seats in city, county and state elections. Positions in the U.S. Congress and eventually the Oval Office can be pursued, but not before the groundwork for such change is laid.

This slow revolution is happening. The American people are disenfranchised by the failures of both major political parties and are growing more politically driven in their desire to affect change. Washington politicians -- with their million-dollar homes, thousand-dollar suits and tax-dollar-supported free healthcare -- live in a world far removed from the real world of hardworking Americans. The pigs have taken power and the White House has become the American Animal Farm.

While the need for change is evident, Nader's proposition of giving Americans an opportunity to cast votes for a message of change rather than a winning candidate is misplaced. His message is the message of many Americans, but his resources are better utilized with a structured political third party seeking to overthrow corruption by first developing a grassroots support base, and then -- and only then -- going after the powers-that-be.

The impact such a publicity device may have on America's future is uncertain. Democrats claim that Nader's bid for the presidency cost their candidate the election and are worried about Nader acting as a campaign spoiler against them in this upcoming election. Their concerns are valid and voters should weigh heavily the detrimental impact of four more years of the Bush administration before casting their votes.