OBLIGATORY LONG POST ON NADER
ranting, raving, and one simpsons reference
Today, The Facts Machine announces its full endorsement of Ralph Nader for President.
It seems that there is something in the air, or at least in the Berkeley blogosphere's
air, and that something seems to involve long posts explaining both one's 2000 vote for Nader, and one's desire not to
make the same mistake
vote for him again in 2004. If you want to read this as a partial response to those entries, sure, but this is inspired more by a phone convo I had last night than anything else.
As a registered (though sometimes disgruntled) Democrat and a proud Gore voter in 2000, I was on to George W Bush before he was selected. The stakes in the election over 3 years ago were much, much higher than many people were led to believe. Hardcore Republicans didn't just want to beat Clinton-Gore, they wanted a complete repudiation of everything they felt Bill and Al stood for. Even if their man, Dubya, won the White House by the slimmest of margins (and he did, by negative five hundred thousand votes), he would serve as a conduit for the right to reverse all things Clinton. And they started right away: They cut funding for family planning programs overseas, walked away from Kyoto, let the mideast peace process atrophy, sped up SDI, begin to roll back abortion, reversed environmental standards for water/air/etc, obliterated the Clinton surpluses with reverse-robinhood tax cuts, and so on, and so on . . . and this was all before
9/11. "Restore honor and integrity to the White House" meant more than just a no-BJ policy; it meant an absolute repudiation. Gore Democrats like myself knew it was coming. We didn't hear the phrase "compassionate conservative", and decide that it meant there wasn't a very measurable difference between the parties, and that so little was at stake in the 2000 election that we could feel free to fuck it up for Gore and the Democrats in New Hampshire and Florida.
Of course, Nader supported the impeachment of Clinton
, so maybe this all makes sense somehow. I wonder how many Greens knew that in 2000?
In truth, I agree with most of the other policy stances held by Ralph Nader. But my concern, as a voter, is much more about the chances of my desired policies being accepted to the greatest extent possible, and not about one man's supposed purity. (of course, there is the matter of his stock portfolio
, I'm sure Halliburton is way up lately). Mathematically in 2000, let's say I'm someone with Ralph Nader's political views (which is pretty close). If I vote for Gore, I'd get 60-80% of what I want advocated, if not more. If I vote for Bush, I'd get 10-15% of what I want advocated, tops. But if I vote for Nader, who can't win and hasn't polled in double digits anywhere, I'd get either 10-15% because
of my vote, or 60-80% in spite of it.
And even if Ralph were elected, did people think that the Republican congress would lay down for him? They'd oppose him with all their might. If they called Gore a "liar", they wouldn't hesitate to red-bait Nader to death. And the media would run with it.
Then there's the unavoidable contradiction of Ralph Nader's rhetoric. He says (or hints, whatever) that there is little difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. Subsequently, in a 2002 interview (in which he explained why he couldn't even support Paul Wellstone
), he mentioned the need for America to go through the "cold shower" of a Bush presidency before moving left. So, if the parties are so similar, why would a leader from one party constitute a cold shower while one from the other wouldn't? Does . . . not . . . compute!
If Ralph Nader were serious about changing electoral politics, he would have made the following items be the fundamental planks of his campaign: Instant runoff voting, a federal election holiday, a Diebold paper-trail, and heck, how about proportional representation and a second-ballot system (I'm for all of those things). That way, the road to a multi-party system would not have had to go through Dubya's "compassionate conservatism".
And why run? Remember the old days, the Nader's Raiders days? When Ralph would lobby for something... he'd get it! Ralph, I wear my seatbelt every time I get into my decent American car. Thank you.
However, now we have a fall-down drunk at the wheel (Bush) who is liable, at any time, to fly this country through the windshield. Ralphie's decision to play Green spoiler in 2000 is a reflection of two things: 1) his failure to understand Duverger's Law
, and 2) his significant quantity of self-love. No one is accusing Ralph Nader of stealing anything. However, Ralph Nader was the one man on the face of the Earth who, in October and early November 2000, could have saved us from Dubya by dropping out, something that such corporate whores as The Sierra Club
urged him to do. Well, he didn’t do that, but at least he kept his promise not to campaign in swing states in the final weeks of the 2000 campaign. Right?
With California a solid Gore state in 2000 (he won by 12 percent), certainly I could have voted for Nader without contributing to the downfall of western society. Actually, no, I couldn’t have done that. It’s called Martin Prince Syndrome
. Remember when Bart ran for class president against Martin, and prematurely declared victory by shouting “Victory party under the slide!” His supporters failed to remember to vote, while Martin and his best friend won the election, 2-0. Voting for Nader, and advertising my intention to do so, could have been the equivalent of having that victory party: Enough Californians could have voted for Nader because they thought it was “safe” to in this state, that Dubya could’ve come mighty close to stealing those 54 electoral votes. And now we have a Republican governor, and there’s even less margin for error.
So with this in mind, I tried to warn every Green within earshot of the dangers of Dubya. I even did this on a blind date! I left away messages like “Vote for Gore: It’s your uterus”. (if you think they’re gonna stop at late-term, dream on) I even convinced my best friend in the whole world (a Berkeley grad who’s now in Togo with the Peace Corps, a program started by a Democratic president) to vote for Gore. She even left an away message that read “selling my soul to satan” when she went to the local precinct. I later found out that she told other friends she voted for Nader. Hmm.
Lastly, let’s look at Nader’s objectives, stated or not (beyond his “I’m just building my party” stuff). Is he responsible for the Democratic Party moving to the left? And even before asking that question, have the Dems moved at all in either direction? I mean, if you looked at the midterms in 2002, it would seem, based on the Iraq vote certainly, that the Democrats moved to the right
, with a big chunk of them sucking up to Bush and his unnecessary, unilateral war. Then, if you look at the time after that, have the Dems moved back to the left again, criticizing Bush strongly on Iraq, the economy, environmental policy, energy policy?
and his Medicare bill?
(oops) With possible lurches to both the right and the left since the 2000 election, it’s not easy to draw a straight line from Ralph’s candidacy to a leftward Democratic shift. It reminds me of how Republicans claim that Reagan’s early 80’s tax policies set the stage for the Clinton-era economic boom. At best, it’s an unverifiable hypothesis, and at worst, it’s grade-A bullplop.
Also, the candidacies of Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich have a lot to do with a perceived leftward movement in the Democratic Party. Again, you can’t draw a straight line from Nader to those guys. Maybe, maybe
to Kucinich, but I’d counter that his candidacy has a lot more to do with specific foreign policy choices made by Bush than with anything Nader did.
Speaking of Dennis Kucinich, here’s something I can’t wait to see. Eventually, he will have to drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination. He’s a good guy (saw him speak
back in May), and I agree with him in many respects. But he is not going to win this time around. So eventually, he’s going to have to make a concession speech. He’ll be around a while, Kerry Lieberman and Gephardt will all probably quit before he does (perhaps everyone but Dean and Clark). Here’s what I want to see: Dennis Kucinich, Democrat, urging his supporters to unite behind the nominee. My sense is that he’ll do that, otherwise he wouldn’t have run as a Democrat. I hope this will sufficiently undercut a Nader candidacy, as many 2000 Nader supporters back the energetic vegan from Ohio.
As for Nader, my suggestion: Get your ass to San Francisco (watch out for pies, of course), and campaign for Matt Gonzalez. Even though he’s running against a Democrat (SF’s mayoral race is technically non-partisan), if Gonzalez wins I will celebrate with you. I want a more diverse party system in America. But nationally, as long as the electoral system is structured the way it is, then the only practical effect of a Nader candidacy – just as it was in 2000 – is to hand victory to George W. Bush.
p.s. Gore + Nader > Bush + Buchanan by about 2-3 percent.
(links via this useful-but-dead mwo link