On Nader running and third parties


I've been reading a number of pieces, both before and after, on the evil of Ralph Nader running for office. The arguments for the harm that could come to Nader's cause if
he "spoils" the election are possibly quite valid. I doubt Nader is
unaware of them; perhaps is he more aware of them than anybody.

But I continue to find great dismay in those who tell him not to
run. Perhaps it is my perspective as a non-citizen of this fine
country, since in my country, and many others, strong third parties
are common, and it is common for them to change the outcome of
an election.

The argument to Nader seems to say, "You should not run because you
might make a difference." In this case a difference other than the
one he wants to make.

But with this philosophy, that third voices may only be heard in
U.S. politics when hearing them won't actually make a difference, the
U.S. will never hear more than 2 voices, and indeed 2 similar voices.
(There was a nice paper on Dave's mailing list not too long ago which
demonstrated how a 2 party system pushes both candidates to the middle.)

Exercise your political will, you tell Nader, only when it can make
no difference. If you ever get popular enough to actually alter the course of
an election, back off.In this circumstance a third party can never rise, for it seems impossible
to move from "fringe" to "having a chance at winning" without moving
through that middle ground of "spoiler."

Why do people run who never have a chance? Because every party that
eventually became credible had to start without a chance, or adapt an
existing power base.

As the few percent who cast their votes Green or Libertarian or Natural
Law or whatever actually grow, it doesn't cause those parties to win.
It causes the other parties to move their own platorms. Casting hard
votes has a message no ad campaign, no poll can match.

Of course, there is another solution, namely preferential balloting.
This does not require any federal change. States control their own
voting systems. Florida could (though it's unlikely) decide to use it
to assign their electoral votes. Vote-splitting is extremely difficult in
a preferential ballot. Of course, in every close race there is some
powerful force who got their power because there _wasn't_ a preferential
ballot. Right now it's Bush. Not long ago it was Clinton, who was
elected as we'll recall with a far lower percentage of the electorate
than "W" was. Did those asking Nader not to run ask Perot not to run?

That's the thing to push for. Saying "now that you make a difference,
butt out" says we will never let you make a difference.


"now that you make a difference, butt out" i don't think is an accurate assessment of what people mean when they ask Nader not to run. in this case what's meant that there are bigger, more important things at stake right now than Nader being afforded a spot in the presidential race. I and most people who want Nader not to run are concerned primarily because the individual currently occupying the executive branch is in danger of setting the U.S. back a century in terms of war, poverty and repression of human rights. maybe as an outsider you don't realize how backward a nation we really are, but simply put, we all stand to lose too much if nader runs this time for any potential long-term benefits to ever materialize. just a few of many possible examples, allowing bush to be re-elected would probably directly cause more immigrants to be detained indefinitely without counsel, cause more potentially disastrous environmental hazards, and would almost certainly reverse the majority on the supreme court upholding the legalization of abortion to terminate pregnancy. the real message to nader is, "now that you make a difference, for god's sake pay attention to what that difference is!" the way for him to make a useful difference would be to pick a state and run for representative or senator. in the future he can do whatever he wants, but right now we have a madman to get rid of. baby steps.

What this country really needs is a minor tweak to its election process that forces a "none of the above" (NOTA) option onto every ballot question. NOTA votes would be counted and reported but treated like they weren't actually cast. (So, for example, if candidate A gets 30% of the vote, candidate B gets 20% and NOTA gets 50%, candidate A still wins because he got the majority of the "real" votes.) Reporting the NOTAs would give a much better picture of how much confidence the nation actually has in the winning candidate.

Turnout might increase if people could use their votes to send a message to the politicians that none of them are acceptable. Neither Bush or Kerry is acceptable to me, nor am I sure any of the third-party candidates would make a good President. As things stand now, I have no way of making my dissenting voice heard other than voting for a third-party candidate.

The extreme end of this would invalidate an election where NOTAs were in the majority. I don't even want to begin contemplating the constitutional changes it would take to make that happen.

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