Ralph Nader, the far left, and how both might affect the outcome of the 2016 Presidential race.
“Somebody must challenge from the left, because, I mean, Hillary Clinton, who started out as a progressive out of Yale Law School and Wellesley, she’s become almost the poster child for the military-industrial complex.”
-Ralph Nader, consumer advocate, former Presidential candidate, and master of hyperbole
n February 2000, Ralph Nader announced his candidacy for President. In a nearly 4000-word statement of purpose, Nader touched on many topics—everything from his overarching vision for the country to his micro-level views on policy questions. Invoking figures like Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR, Nader signaled a campaign that would be populist in tone, his focus a concern for the average American in the face of the growing power of vague elites.
As the 2000 race evolved, Nader’s key rationale became clearer, crystallized in the forms of his two main opponents, George W. Bush and Al Gore. Nader’s contention was that Bush and Gore were two of a kind—a couple of conservative corporate politicians, neither with the average person’s best interests at heart. This mantra, that there was no difference between Bush and Gore, was one Nader would continue reciting until election day, hopeful that the country’s complacency over its comparative good fortune had led to a national notion of invincibility, the feeling that anyone could lead America. If Bush and Gore were the same, why not take a chance on Nader?
In retrospect, we can see what a terrible misrepresentation this was, how the world might have been different had Gore been President instead of Bush. We hear the echoes even today as the Obama Administration struggles to deal with climate change, multiple misguided wars, a shaky economy, and a government burdened by growing debt. But we hear other echoes, a distant drumbeat developing on the left once again—a steady, martial cadence Republicans must, at this point, greet as a lullaby.
Ask a former Nader supporter how they feel about Bush’s presidency, and they’ll decry it as the worst thing that could have happened, a titanic failure for America, one from which we may never recover. “Military-industrial complex,” they sputter. “Fascism,” they spit. “Corporatism,” they cry.
But ask them about how Bush got to be President, and they’ll go mum. Push them, and they’ll disavow any responsibility, claiming they were simply voting their conscience in 2000. This answer leaves you wondering what exactly they mean by “conscience,” because their definition doesn’t appear to involve taking responsibility for the effects of their actions.
They’ll tell you it was the Supreme Court’s fault for its partisan decision in Bush v. Gore, that it was Gore’s fault for running a bad campaign, or the State of Florida’s fault for the many and varied flaws in its voting system. And let’s be clear: All these things are true.
But the other incontrovertible truth is that Nader’s supporters were wrong, and their collective choice did make a huge difference in the election. If just a fraction of Nader’s votes had gone to Gore, the Vice President would have won Florida and New Hampshire. A victory in either state would have seen Gore inaugurated instead of Bush.
This isn’t just about labeling a failure, or about calling someone or a group of someones to account. It’s about making sure we on the left don’t make the same collective mistake again, that we don’t pursue our dreams of perfection all the way to the Apocalypse. Because the left may well have another, similar decision to make in 2016, and from that standpoint, it’s important to understand why Nader’s supporters did what they did.
In spite of what Fox News will tell you, the American Dream doesn’t just belong to the right. Nor does the idea of American exceptionalism, or any other national myths we learned as children.
Left, right, and center, we’re given our national origin stories from a young age, sold them in the sort of multi-colored cartoon forms that we can’t help but absorb—coloring books and TV shows, action figures and parades. They’re a little like the foundational stories for religions, these national myths, the tales of miracles that prove someone a prophet or a savior: Jefferson locked in a sweltering room writing the Declaration of Independence, Washington willing his troops through the winter in Valley Forge, Paul Revere riding at superhuman speed to warn the colonists of the coming redcoats.
But in the same way that tales of arks and angels become harder to take as we get older, so too our national myths grow more difficult to accept, or at least harder to see as infallible. Sure, America might be a nice place but is it really that much better than everywhere else? More important, does American exceptionalism confer some magical power that allows us to do whatever we want and never be at fault? Is it a national get out of jail free card, an eternal “minesie” for who gets to wear the white hat?
Like a church full of off-pitch Pentecostals singing “Hallelujah,” the answer to these questions on the right is a refrain of joyful, eardrum-abusing yeses. On the left, things aren’t so clear. With Blue Dogs parroting the Republican chorus, non-interventionists filibustering about imperialism, and liberal humanitarians eager to intervene anywhere and anytime as long as we stand a high likelihood of failure, if you’re middle left like me, you start to feel a little like a chaperon at some lunatic mixer.
Eventually, in the Democratic Party, most of these conflicts work themselves out. Labor and teachers, lawyers and minorities—all the various constituencies come together, recognizing that the prospect of Republican rule with its stacked Supreme Court, military-industrial-fun complex, and feudal tax system isn’t the way to go. Still, in Democratic politics in the 21st century, there’s one group that rarely seems happy and when they do it’s not for long. In much the way the minister’s kid rebels against faith, becoming an atheist more devout than Papa ever was a preacher, so the far left clings subconsciously to the magical notion of American exceptionalism. They’re looking for that perfect candidate, that left wing Messiah who’s going to give them everything they want. As a result, they reject the notion of differences between the Republicans and Democrats so vehemently, so nonsensically at times, that they seem a little like fallen fundamentalists, eternally pissed that Jesus turned out to be a fairy tale. “But you promised,” they say, crying big, salty tears year after year, election after election. “You said it would be perfect. You said it would be like a dream, an American dream.”
From Al Gore to Barack Obama and now to Hillary Clinton, the far left has found imperfection in the Democratic Party’s leaders, and used that as an excuse to convince themselves that the Republicans and the Democrats are the same, that we need a third party, a “true” Democrat, a legitimate liberal. Even now, names like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are deployed as trial balloons on the far left. And like a high priest of political chaos, Ralph Nader begins his electoral dance, the antics that some mistake for legitimate political discourse.
early a decade and a half in, the most important event of the 21st Century is still the election of George W. Bush as the 43rd President of the United States. Ultimately, Bush would preside over America’s executive branch from 2001 through 2009. In that time we’d see an acceleration in the effects of global warming, tax cuts for the rich and for corporations, the decline of the American and world economies, dizzying deficit spending, a war of choice against Iraq, and a decline in civil liberties born of the War on Terror.
By the time Bush left the Presidency, he carried the support of only one in three Americans. A sitting two-term President, he was asked not to speak at his own party’s convention. He was, by many accounts, an abject failure. But things could have turned out very differently. Not so much for Bush—his brand of cowboy Christianity and dingbat capitalism seems doomed to have failed in any era other than the Middle Ages (or maybe the 1950s)—but for America. Save so many wicked twists of fate, Al Gore might have been inaugurated as President on January 20, 2001. And had that happened, can anyone doubt the world would be far different today?
Would Gore, a future Nobel laureate for his environmental work, have neglected the environment the way W. did, deregulating the energy industry as climate change accelerated? Would the guy who railed against going into Iraq have pushed the same shoddy intelligence the Bush Administration did, using that war of choice as an excuse to forget about Afghanistan and 9/11 and expending trillions of dollars in the process? Would he have advocated changing our tax code, the other key trigger for deficits that had topped a trillion dollars a year before Bush left office? Would Gore, who argued for putting the Social Security trust fund in a “lock box,” have altered the Clinton Administration’s successful tax and fiscal policies in favor of tax relief for high earners and corporations?
When we look back on the Bush years and assess how the world and America have changed, we can’t help but see our failure as a nation. And that applies to all of us from Bush and Gore supporters to non-voters. But if we’re looking for who should have supported Gore but didn’t, who should have seen the differences between the two major candidates, who should have understood what was really at stake, it was Ralph Nader and all those who voted for him. And perhaps even more troubling about the Naderite faction is that they replicated their mistake in 2004 and to some extent in 2008. More than that, they snipe at President Obama from the far left even today, taking no responsibility for the Bush legacy they own as much as—if not more than—the rest of us on the left.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Dubya, how could the left (even the far left) not rally around Obama? With his youth, intelligence, and incredible speaking ability, Obama seemed poised to be a transformational figure. And he has been in many ways.
Health care reform. Financial industry reform. Saving the auto industry. Ending the Iraq War. Winding down Afghanistan. Consulting with our allies. Actually communicating with our adversaries. President Obama’s accomplishments are impressive, yet somehow he’s not progressive enough for the far left.
Most of the critiques from the far left concern national security—the Snowden case, the Manning case, Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo Bay, his continued use of drones, and large-scale data mining by the NSA. These are fair criticisms, some more salient than others. But the far left misses (or perhaps wants to miss) the ground situation Obama had to deal with—the foreign policy mess that included hot wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an abysmal national image, all clearly the result of Bush’s eight years in office.
Is there, on some level, a bit of self-defensiveness in the way the far left has come to treat President Obama? Do they feel guilt, perhaps even subconsciously, for the situation he’s dealt with? And does that guilt cause them to double down on the insistence that he’s not one of them? Just like with Al Gore, they believe they don’t really have a choice, that nothing they do matters.
Conservatives hate Obama, and they always will. He’s a Democratic President. Add to that the fact that he is black and you have cause for the sort of inauguration eve meeting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell convened to make sure Obama wouldn’t be re-elected. Sadly, for McConnell and conservatives, President Obama was re-elected.
But conservatives don’t hate Obama just because he’s black or a Democrat. They hate him because they understand that Obama simply isn’t the conservative the far left suggests he is. Which is also true of Obama’s probable successor (at least as the Democratic nominee), Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Republicans may have lauded her at times as Secretary of State but that was only to sew dissension in the Administration. Once she left office they attacked Clinton like a pack of Ben Ghazi-crazed jackals. And make no mistake: They’re not trying to reach their base. They’ve already done that. The Clintons have been in the public eye for more than 20 years. Conservatives don’t need to be convinced to hate Hillary.
he truth is that the Republicans also have a dream, a bitter hope that the far left will come to see Clinton just as they saw Gore and much as they’ve seen Obama. With Ralph Nader to lend a helping hand, the Republicans hope to convince the far left that Clinton is just another Republican in disguise.
“She hugs Kissinger. She hobnobs with Bob Rubin and the Wall Street crowd. I mean it’s almost a caricature. But you know on social issues, like pro-choice, children’s issues, you know she keeps that liberal sheen.”
When Nader speaks, the gods of demagoguery must smile. Hillary Clinton has spent her adult life working for women’s and children’s rights. To reduce her to a joke and to belillte her accomplishments or the importance of her views on social issues to “that liberal sheen” is precisely the sort of self-serving sound bite we should expect from Nader at this point.
With the most recent Supreme Court session drawing to an end, does anyone doubt that our next President’s stance on social issues may determine the fate of our country for the next half-century? With another seat or two on the Supreme Court, the conservative majority will be unassailable. They will be able to tear down everything from Roe v. Wade to the separation of church and state, and to make great strides toward the establishment of the “Christian nation” they long for. Hillary Clinton is the only person standing between us and the soft theocracy that Justices like Scalia, Alito, and Thomas seem to covet.
Former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State—it’s not necessary to go beyond that in terms of assessing such an impressive resume. What is vital is to look at the way Nader is attacking Clinton before she’s even declared her candidacy. And it’s important to compare that with the way Nader and his followers treated Obama, and especially Gore.
Back in 2000, the consensus was that Al Gore and George W. Bush were the same, a pair of Republicans, more or less. Bush’s advantages were his perceived morality and his reputation as a “compassionate conservative.” Gore, on the other hand, seemed a little dirty, tainted by his connection to the scandal-filled Clinton Administration. Americans wanted to restore integrity to the White House. And after all, practically anyone could manage the great economy, the comparatively warless world, and the surplus trajectory. Experience didn’t matter, really. We could choose anyone we liked, even a relatively untested governor from Texas or a consumer advocate from Massachusetts.
Negativity prevailed in the primaries and particularly in the general election. There was the story about Gore fundraising at the Buddhist temple and the story about Gore claiming to have invented the Internet. There were whispers about how President Clinton didn’t like Gore and whispers that even some elements of the “liberal media” didn’t care for him. Chris Matthews, for one, did a bit more than whisper, using his personal megaphone to wonder aloud about Gore night after night while praising Bush as a compassionate conservative, a different sort of Republican. Matthews never came out and endorsed W. but the implications were clear. Maybe America should take a chance. Maybe America would take a chance.
The sad truth is that America (especially its far left) did take a chance in 2000. They bet on Ralph Nader and in so doing ensured the election of George W. Bush. Now, years later, Nader wants us to take another chance. Clinton is too conservative, he says. We need a challenger, he says—a “true” Democrat, a legitimate liberal.
The far left will have a choice come 2016. That choice will be between the nominees of our two primary political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. Any other action—a non-vote or a vote for a fringe candidate like Nader—is really a non-action, a useless protest, the pursuit of the same sort of twisted American perfectionism many progressives laugh at when it comes from the right.
What will the far left tell themselves, let alone the nation and the world, if they choose wrong again, if they choose Nader or someone like him? Will they nod and smile, laugh at the policy failures of a President Jindal or Ryan, Santorum or Gingrich? Will they insist there was no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, that Hillary Clinton would have kept denying the science of global warming, or that she would have continued stacking the Supreme Court with conservatives? Will they say this over the screams of women dying in back alley abortions and soldiers maimed in another war of choice? Will they stand beneath a sky of oily gray singing those same self-righteous songs of conscience, telling us there was nothing they could have done?
Here’s one of the problematic ideas I took from this piece: essentially, Mr Baumeister is arguing for a continuation of the dominating two-party political structure in the US. While I certainly agree there are vast differences between Democrats and Republicans (especially these days), they are not 100% capable of representing 100% of the voting public’s desires when it comes to a political party. This gives rise to third-party movements like Nader’s Green Party, or Ross Perot’s Reform Party, or John Anderson’s Independent Party.
For whatever reason, each of these third-party candidates speak to a specific electorate. Perhaps not a large enough one to win, but a significant number of voters. By saying these votes “take away” votes from a Democratic or Republican candidate is dismissive, and that’s a problem. When we criticize and chastise voters who vote for a independent candidate, it smothers the potential growth of that party. No third party is going to become as large as the Dems or GOP overnight. It’s probably going to take quite a few election cycles, as a matter of fact. But in the end, third parties are healthy for the US, since at minimum they force candidates from the Dems or GOP to at least be a bit more honest in addressing major issues. It also reduces your average voter’s political cynicsim (if that’s possible) by offering something besides the evil of two lessers.
I’m not trying to make this argument sound like some long-winded strawman, so if it’s not the case that you’re arguing for the continued domination of the two-party system, I apologize. But if it’s true that you’re encouraging third-party growth (which would be great!), then I think you need to take a long hard look at how such parties grow and evolve and affect the voting base, and either accept that they will *always* “take votes away” from the two major parties. Furthermore, you may need to start taking your fellow voters seriously when they say they are “voting their conscience.”
Thank you for your comments, Shaun. I do not think the two-party system necessarily has advantages over a three-, four-, or more-party system. But American politics function on a two-party structure. That’s the reality of the situation. A lot of what you say is true in terms of smaller parties addressing different constituencies. My point is that voters need to be realistic in their decisions and consider the consequences of their votes. That is part of “voting one’s conscience.” Conscience should include an assessment of the outcome of your actions. If, in the ’16 cycle, the far left deserts Clinton, creating a situation a la 2000, and a Republican wins, this will likely mean another one or two votes for the conservative wing of the Supreme Court. This will almost certainly mean the end of Roe among other, even less savory, social consequences. Bottom line: especially in the general election, it is important for voters to be realistic. To dismiss, Gore and Bush (for example), as “the same” was clearly a massive misrepresentation. History bears this out. I am hoping that if faced with a similar choice, the far left will not make another bad decision.
It would be beneficial to have third party candidates at the local level, especially a Green Party. Over time, some Green Candidates might win House seats, especially in states like Vermont. What is unrealistic is the expectation that some Green candidate can win a national race overnight. It will take decades of organization and determination to elect Greens to office. In the meantime, we must support the better of the two parties we have. As Bush put it, Fool me once, shame on me– he forgot the rest of it.
To me, this makes sense as a starting point, Jack. Good idea.
Let’s talk about the electoral college: your examples are New Hampshire and Florida. From that perspective, I can see your argument holding some veracity, but how does it apply to other voters in other states? What if I’m a voter in Texas and I voted for Nader? Am I still culpable for Gore losing the WH? I don’t see how you could make such an argument quite honestly. We can debate whether or not the electoral college is a good or bad thing, that’s true. But I don’t see how it applies to your arguments.
Thanks for your comment. In my opinion, everyone on the left who voted for Nader made a poor choice. As far as Texas is concerned, obviously that wasn’t going to go to Gore. Now, you could make an argument that Nader’s very presence in a state like Texas (and his sound bites about how Gore and Bush were the same) had an impact in persuading people to vote for him and in depressing turnout. You can’t confine Nader’s impact to just the ballot box.
I’ll start off by saying I am left of left on MOST issues (other times, I’m just left of center) but I haven’t listened to what Ralph Nader has says in years. I wholeheartedly agreed with your article and I think the same can be said for the Republicans when former candidates jump ship and head to the Libertarian and Tea Parties, at least that’s what I took from your article. Although, honestly I don’t think the Democrats have much to worry about no matter who runs on any of the conservative tickets…at least I hope, I’m even willing to pray to a deity just in case;-)
Thanks for you comment, Colette. You know, this is what I always think at the beginning of the Presidential cycle: there’s nothing to worry about because most of the GOP candidates are wretched and the ones that aren’t manage to convince me that they’re sane, at least at first. (Romney at the beginning of the ’12 primaries.) But things have an odd way of getting close and the GOP has an odd way of scaring the stuffing out of me once we hit the general, even if the candidate seemed semi-sane at the beginning of the process.
True, but the conservatives just keep climbing further and further from the average American. But you are right, crazier things in politics have happened. So then, looks like I’m looking for a deity:-)
What you say is true in a way. It’s really interesting how the money wing of the GOP is able to con the socially conservative members of the proletariat to ally with them. From an economic standpoint, the cause of the poor is served by the Dems, not any member of the GOP. But, dreamers that all Americans are, the social conservatives are convinced to vote against their real world interests in favor of some “reward” they expect to derive in the afterlife.
Very good point. I look forward to more of your articles.
Thank you for this article. As a sincerely left person who is also a realist, I wholeheartedly agree with your analysis. Supporting a candidate whose ideological purity renders him or her unelectable is bestowing the victory on the GOP. The results of that as played out from 2000 to 2008 should give pause to anyone who contemplates supporting either a third party candidate or an extreme Democrat.
Thanks for your comment!
While I regret the election of G. W. Bush as much as anyone, I am not persuaded by your analysis or arguments that Ralph Nader or those who voted for him are to blame. In fact, I find much of your article rests on flawed, or at least debatable, assumptions. I also find your attitude towards Nader supporters to be both dismissive and patronizing.
You imply that Nader “stole” the election from Gore, that a vote for Nader was a vote that otherwise would have gone to Gore. By that logic, every vote for Bush was also “stolen” from Gore. But many Nader voters would never have voted for Gore’s refusal to renounce the death penalty, his support of increased incarceration and prison expansion, his coziness with pharmaceutical and telecommunications lobbies, etc.
And, what of at least nine OTHER third party candidates who received votes? What about the more than 48 % of eligible voters who DID NOT vote? Or the twelve percent of DEMOCRATS in FLORIDA who voted for Bush?
You also conveniently argue from a seriously distorting hindsight. In 2000, literally no one had any idea of the events that would unfold on September 11th and after. To blame Nader voters in particular for a universal human inability to know the future is disingenuous at best. Yes, the Bush years were bad. Yes, we are still dealing with messes created then, and so on. But to sigh longingly and suggest that if only Gore had won things would all magically be better is nothing more than wishful thinking. Given our aforementioned and well-documented inability to know the future, your argument seems both naive and philosophically untenable.
You also seem to think that voting is a purely pragmatic act, and that voting one’s conscience is some sort of pretense. But what really galls in your analysis is that some voters are simply “wrong” if they are further to the left than you. You appear to have no faith in the voters themselves and little respect for the right of every citizen to vote as he or she will.
Your depiction of the far left’s ongoing disappointment with mainstream pragmatic politicians is fair enough. I would also agree that Nader has become tiresome, and suffers from an overly rigid worldview. But to scapegoat Nader is in my opinion an insidious form of intellectual laziness.
Thank you for your comments, Carl. You certainly raise some interesting points. I would draw your attention to two excerpts from the piece. I believe they answer your charges, but I’ll expand a bit on why I think so.
“They’ll tell you it was the Supreme Court’s fault for its partisan decision in Bush v. Gore, that it was Gore’s fault for running a bad campaign, or the State of Florida’s fault for the many and varied flaws in its voting system. And let’s be clear: All these things are true.
But the other incontrovertible truth is that Nader’s supporters were wrong, and their collective choice did make a huge difference in the election. If just a fraction of Nader’s votes had gone to Gore, the Vice President would have won Florida and New Hampshire. A victory in either state would have seen Gore inaugurated instead of Bush.”
“When we look back on the Bush years and assess how the world and America have changed, we can’t help but see our failure as a nation. And that applies to all of us from Bush and Gore supporters to non-voters. But if we’re looking for who should have supported Gore but didn’t, who should have seen the differences between the two major candidates, who should have understood what was really at stake, it was Ralph Nader and all those who voted for him.”
Your charge that I said Nader “stole” the election from Gore is false in more than one way. I did not use the words “stole” or “stolen.” I object to you putting the words in quotes as though I did. Further, I was quite clear in stating that there were many factors at play including Gore’s failings as a candidate, the voting irregularities in Florida, and the actions of SCOTUS in Bush v. Gore. I’d add President Clinton’s behavior in office, which made Gore seem ethically suspect in a way he would not otherwise have. This piece was not designed to be a detailed, exhaustive ranking of who or what was most at fault for the outcome in 2000. I have looked at the academic studies done regarding the election. The data clearly support the notion that the Nader votes (even the percentage that might have gone to Gore) would have been more than enough to turn the election. This is the case even when all the other third party results are factored in. Given the fact that Nader was a left wing candidate and Gore was more liberal than Bush, this would make perfect sense even if there weren’t data to support it. For Nader supporters to suggest that their three million votes (or the 60% or so that would have gone to Gore had Nader supporters been required to choose between Gore and Bush) were an insignificant factor is extremely disingenuous in its own right. What are Nader supporters arguing here? Are they really suggesting that a Gore presidency wouldn’t have been way more in line with their thinking than what W. gave us. I suppose they have a right to their opinion. But, again, that one seems incredibly dishonest, and designed to relieve themselves of any responsibility for how things turned out. That is the thing most galling for me coming up on fourteen years later, the way many Nader supporters continue to take absolutely no responsibility for the 2000 election and what has happened to our country as a result. Though, come to think of it, that may only be the second-most galling thing. The most galling thing may well be that based on their unwillingness to engage with the facts, they seem as though they’d be more than happy to do it again. “Voting your conscience” should include an assessment of the potential consequences of your actions. Perhaps that’s just a more pragmatic view than the one you hold, but there it is.
Thank you for your thoughtful reply Kurt. Apparently we will have to agree to disagree. I apologize if my use of quotation marks was misleading or confusing. I never said that you said Nader stole the election; I said you implied it. I used quotation marks to emphasize words, and clearly should have used italics instead.
I am still not convinced that Nader’s supporters bear the blame you assign. You wrote that “. . . if we’re looking for who should have supported Gore but didn’t, who should have seen the differences between the two major candidates, who should have understood what was really at stake, it was Ralph Nader and ALL (emphasis mine) those who voted for him.” You still fail to address why these voters are more to blame than the roughly 200,000 registered Democrats in Florida who voted for Bush and to whom you give a free pass. And, why am I any more guilty for the Bush presidency than my neighbor who ACTUALLY voted FOR Bush?
You also rely on a laughable straw man argument when you ask whether Nader supporters are “. . . really suggesting that a Gore presidency wouldn’t have been way more in line with their thinking than what W. gave us.” I, for one, have never claimed this, nor has any other progressive leaning voter I have ever met. Nor have I claimed that the Nader campaign was insignificant. I merely object to your portrayal of Nader support as the single most important factor.
You also continue to argue from a philosophically unsound position of informed hindsight. Would I have voted differently had I KNOWN how close the election actually was? Who knows. Would I have voted differently had I KNOWN of 9/11, preemptive war in Iraq and so on? Who knows? Would 9/11 have happened in a Gore presidency? NO ONE KNOWS. Would the Yellowstone super volcano have erupted during the State of the Union address? To belabor a point, NO ONE KNOWS. Should we all have stuck with Hillary in the 2008 primaries given what we know of the Obama presidency? Reading history as an unbroken string of avoidable inevitabilities, as you seem to do, is to indulge in grave methodological error
You also fall victim to a more basic logical flaw, the either/or fallacy. You continue to assume that if Nader was not on the ballot my only alternative was to vote for Gore. Probably true for some, maybe even many, but certainly not for me. Unlike you, I don’t advocate voting for the lesser of two evils, when given a chance to vote for least of three evils.
Finally, your suggestion that Nader voters failed to assess the potential consequences of their actions would be laughable if it were not so full of self righteous condescension. Sorry, silly me, I just completely forgot to think about what I was doing. Not having the excellent view from atop a high horse, I certainly wasn’t aware that in 2000 very plausible potential consequences of my vote were the increased viability of a third voice, further legitimation of political alternatives, or the very pragmatic possibility that a good national showing would encourage more local third party candidates to run, and thus effectively help drive change from the bottom up, and so on.
But, I might be wrong. Next time, instead of fourteen years too late, please let me know how to vote before election day. Please let me know, too, what the state of affairs in Ukraine and Gaza will be in November so I can make good choices in the Congressional elections.
Correction: “avoidable inevitabilities” should be “somehow avoidable events.”
Much of what you’re doing, Carl, is restating your own erroneous assumptions about the piece. This is a free country. You can read the piece any way you see fit but I won’t keep responding to the same misguided conclusions ad infinitum. One more time…this piece was not designed to be a statistical analysis of who was more at fault. If you want this: “Are Nader voters who were liberals 79.4% at fault whereas Nader voters who were conservatives 86.2% at fault?” you’ll need to go someplace else. AGAIN, we are all responsible for the election and what has happened to the country since. I have stated elsewhere, Nader and his voters should have exercised a bit more restraint, a bit more adult judgment, in their choice (never mind the way they absorbed their candidate’s careless, constant lies about how Bush and Gore were the same). In terms of analyzing what sort of President Gore might have been, you or I are not required to know everything that would happen. The correct assessment could have been made at the time (and was by many millions of people). There is no either/or fallacy employed, Carl. Nor is there a straw man argument employed. Sorry, I won’t be giving you advice on election day. But I am giving you advice now, two years before the ’16 election. Your focus on 2000 skirts my discussion of the current situation and my look ahead at 2016. At any rate, you’ll have to make up your own mind come election day. And you’ll have to accept responsibility if you make the wrong choice.
After re-reading the piece and our exchanges, I concede that I have perhaps let my own indignation at perceived accusation cloud my perception of the larger purpose. I understand your concern for the upcoming presidential elections and your use of the 2000 election as a cautionary tale, and I actually applaud your efforts. And, for what it’s worth, I have voted for Democrats in the last three presidential elections, and am cautiously optimistic about a presumed Clinton run. I guess I just haven’t gotten over my (perhaps naive) belief that symbolic acts can have meaning; that a vote cast against the perversity of the prevailing machinery was not a vote merely thrown away.
OK. I will shut up now.
Thanks for your comments, Carl. You made a lot of good general points.
Nader did cost Gore the election. That’s the fact Jack. Very well written article Kurt!
Thanks, Robert! Appreciate the comment.
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