Saturday, September 20, 2003

3rd Party Candidates

Brad DeLong has an interesting thread running on Nader over at his blog. I previously addresed this issue in "No Patience for the Ignorant."

I always feel suprised when I read naive commentary about the political system. There are lots of ways the 2004 election results could have had a different outcome. But the bottom line, in hard numbers, is that Nader took away enough votes from Gore that Bush was in a position to ascend to the presidency, if that phrase offends you less than saying he won.

I'm not talking about votes in California or NY or other blue states where 100,000 one way or another didn't matter. Nader voters created a tiny opening in Florida for James Baker & Co. to accomplish what they wanted. Without that, W is not Prez.

Nader voters can mea culpa all they want (i.e., RepentantNaderVoter.com).

We can discuss the what ifs forever:

-What if Gore ran a better campaign (his was awful);
- What if he didn't run away from Bubba;
- What if it rained more in Ohio, etc.;

All the issues raised about purged voter rolls, etc. are valid; They certainly had a decisive impact on the final outcome. But if you are looking for a proximate cause, the primary event that allowed those issues to be relevant, was that 5%+ of votes were siphoned off by a legitimate candidate with legitimate issues -- who had no chance of winning.

In a Parlimentary system, a 5% candidate can negotiate their votes to form an alliance government, so that their key issue gets supported/legislated/funded whatever

In a two party representaive electoral college system, a 3rd party candidate hurts the candidate they are closest to politically. Its simple math. Greg Palast ("Best Democracy Money Can Buy") raises many issues that helped W win. But here's a newsflash: Politics is a dirty, nasty, sharp elbowed affair that has a rich tradition of lying-cheating-stealing to win.

Don't make it right . . . but its reality none the less.

So the point that Nader shouldn't have mattered if only everyone played fair and by the rules is charming but naive.

3 conclusions:
1) Its ugly out there;
2) Actions have Consequences;
3) In the US, 3rd party candidates help their politcal opponents the most.

If you like W, thank Nader; if you don't like W, blame Nader.

Posted at 09:00 AM in Politics | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c52a953ef00d83420f5c753ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference 3rd Party Candidates:

Comments

not necessarily disagreeing with you, but what about the theory that the nader voters wouldn't have voted AT ALL, if nader hadn't run? in that case, the nader votes did no harm. (maybe you have stats on this...? i don't.)

Posted by: hetty | Sep 20, 2003 1:26:18 PM

>"...All the issues raised about purged voter rolls, etc. are valid; They certainly had a decisive impact on the final outcome...

>...Greg Palast ("Best Democracy Money Can Buy") raises many issues that helped W win. But here's a newsflash: Politics is a dirty, nasty, sharp elbowed affair that has a rich tradition of lying-cheating-stealing to win...

>...the point that Nader shouldn't have mattered if only everyonme played fair and by the rules is charming but naive...."

And yet, SOME of us still think it's worse than stupid to attack the mistakes of one's 'natural' political allies while making excuses for the crimes of one's political 'adversaries'. And some of us STILL don't have a lot of tolerance for liars, cheaters and thieves OR people who do.

Pretty weird. Hunh, Barry?

Personally, I'm inclined to doubt you'll ever understand it...

Mike

P.S. Oh, and add this:

"Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill"
By Jessica Stern
ECCO/HARPERCOLLINS; ISBN: 006050532X
(Reviewed: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi bin/article.cgi?f=/chronicle/archive/2003/08/24/RV299712.DTL )

and this

"Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq"
By Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
Tarcher/Penguin; ISBN: 1-58542-276-2
(Reviewed: http://eserver.org/bs/reviews/2003-8-13-11.24PM.html )

and this

"The Sorrows of Empire : Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic"
by Chalmers Johnson
Metropolitan Books; (January 2004) ISBN: 0805070044
(Previewed: http://www.antiwar.com/orig/johnson1.html )
to your 'nightstand'. Sweet dreams, Barry.

Posted by: Mike | Sep 21, 2003 11:43:31 AM

I don't disagree with you.  The election results were so close that almost anything seemingly could have swung it. 

But I see four additional points. 

First, the Green-Democratic infighting has been extremely destructive, and has helped Republicans win a number of seats they could not have otherwise won.  Democrats feel that Greens should just fall in line, even if their issues are slighted.  Not surprisingly, this doesn't work.   Democrats should try strategies that work. 

Second, the Greens won their votes fair and square.  The Republicans didn't.  As a simple matter of effective rhetoric, one should point to the crime, and let lesser things go.   But more to the point, if voters see that the Democratic leadership won't fight for basic justice, will they turn out to vote?  My answer is no, that until the Democratic leadership braces the GOP on vote fraud, turnout and participation will continue to fall. 

Third, about half the Nader vote represents people so alienated from the system that they would not vote at all were a Green not in the race.  So, the 5% you cite really represents about 2.5% persuadables. 

One cannot rally dispirited troops with the cry, "Kick the dog!"  In my view, kicking Ralph Nader will have as much effect as kicking the dog.  It may be good for a yelp or two, but the dog will either hide or wait for another chance to bite. 

Finally, in Florida, electoral fraud was so massive that it was probably greater than the Nader vote.  As his research has progressed, Palast has varied in his figures of how many people were denied the right to vote.  I think that he presently believes that 90,000 people were prevented from voting.  That alone is the size of the Nader vote. 

But on top of this are over 20,000 spoiled ballots in Duval county alone, with the evidence being in favor of this being a deliberate act.  Estimates vary widely, but mine was at the low end.  Data are not inconsistent with 100,000 votes having been stolen.  That's in line with what exit polls predicted.  The election only seemed close because they stole enough votes to make it close.

At any rate, in arguing the case on the bulleting boards, I would suggest looking at it as an exercise in rhetoric.  For which points is the evidence most well-developed?  Which  points are likely to persuade?  To which points has the opposition mustered a defense?  Which points could alienate some people?  In the end, dozens if not hundreds of factors could be advanced as causes of the election debacle.  One must pick and choose which are most powerful in arguing the case. 

Posted by: Charles Utwater II | Sep 22, 2003 11:51:38 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.