Ralph Nader, an independent citizen for president, has been under much heat since he announced his candidacy for president in 2004. A frequent criticism from the Left: Nader cost Gore the election to Bush in 2000, and he’s going to do the same to Kerry in 2004. Furthermore, if Nader really does care about our country, then why does he help the Republican candidate win? Is he just egocentric? These are interesting criticisms and questions. Ralph Nader didn’t actually spoil Gore’s 2000 run for president. Al Gore won in 2000, and that has nothing to do with the popular vote. That is to say that Gore would have won had people who tried to vote had their vote counted for the person they intended to vote for. Deceptive “butterfly” ballots in Florida approved by Democrats cost Gore the election. In Florida, illegal voter roll purging of 57,000 black constituents by Katherine Harris (Jeb Bush’s Secretary of State in Florida at the time) and a company named DBT Online (now ChoicePoint) cost Gore the election. A close Supreme Court decision to stop the recount in Florida cost Gore the election. George Bush spoiled Gore’s run when 250,000 self-identified Democrats voted for Bush in Florida. Moreover, exit polls showed that 25% of Nader votes came from self-identified Republicans, 38% from Democrats, and the majority from the pool of millions of Americans who wouldn’t have voted otherwise. What many people don’t see is that Nader largely appeals to independents, nonvoters, and the disenfranchised, so he mostly “steals” votes from no one. And in New Hampshire, Republicans voted for Nader more than Democrats at a ratio of two to one. Unfortunately the media and especially the Democratic Party have concentrated on Ralph Nader as a scapegoat instead of looking at these factors. Why criticize a person who is participating legally in the democratic process when illegal and racist voter purging, like that in Florida, is undermining democracy?
The notion of stolen votes and spoilers is strange. This logic assumes that the two major parties own votes. A democracy functions at its best when citizens can analyze candidates’ platforms and find a representative who most closely holds their ideals and agendas. This would be more easily accomplished if we had instant run-off ballots (an issue that Bush and Kerry won’t talk about). If one, however, does accept the notion that Democrats and Republicans own votes that can be stolen by candidates on their respective Lefts and Rights, then Buchanan spoiled four states for Bush in 2000, including Wisconsin.
It is a lamentable situation that the media and the political Left have no respect for the man responsible for actively protecting the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans through his consumer advocacy. He has quite literally defended the lives of Americans time and time again. If any candidates are worried about Ralph Nader earning votes, then they should examine Nader’s platform, decide which of his issues appeal to voters, and take on those issues. I recommend starting with the following issues: single-payer health care, serious electoral reform, fair trade agreements, a new energy paradigm, concrete plans to crack down on corporate crime, rejection of preemptive war, peace as the standard for international relations, equal pay for women, and truly progressive taxes. Neither of the major parties’ candidates have yet to take these issues under their banners.
That being said, this editorialist is an undecided voter who hopes that John Kerry will increase his appeal. Until November 2nd, please respect an independent citizen running for president, whether or not you agree with his platform. Meanwhile, if you want to blame someone for “spoiling,” talk to the people who cast votes.