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Why Nader Again?

By Douglas C. Smyth  Posted by Douglas C. Smyth (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   4 comments

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Why would Nader consider running again, and what are the Greens trying to do?

 

Since 1860, the US has had a stable two-party system, two parties competing for power. The last third party to gain power was the Republicans, led by Lincoln, in 1860.

 

Ironically, the candidates who have gotten farthest running outside the two parties did not have party organizations of much substance, like Perot, Anderson and George Wallace. Bloomberg, if he ran, would fit into the same non-party category.

 

On the other hand, third parties have played important agenda-setting roles in US politics. I remember hearing Norman Thomas boasting in 1964 that every plank of his 1928 Socialist platform (he ran as Socialist candidate for President 6 times in the 1920's, 30's and 40's) had by then been enacted into law. What he didn't point out was that it was Democrats, not Socialists, who had enacted it, in the New Deal, Fair Deal and New Frontier.

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Third parties are good for floating ideas and trying them out on the public, ideas like single payer health care, women's suffrage, and prohibition. Some are good ideas, some bad, but all had to be stolen by one of the major parties before they could be enacted.

 

Did any Democrat or Republican steal Perot's rhetoric about "a giant sucking sound" of jobs leaving the US because of NAFTA? Some have tried.

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For all their positive effects, third parties can have paradoxical, even anti-democratic effects in a two-party system. This is because the two-party system has electoral and representative structures designed to keep it that way, like single-member districts at all levels, elected by plurality and the electoral college winner take all system in most states. Because of this structure, third parties can be spoilers. How?

 

In 2000, Nader won 2.7% of the vote, but in Florida it might have been critical; Gore probably carried Florida, but because of the Nader vote (97,488)--and substantial voter suppression by Republicans--Bush was able to carry Florida, perhaps with some vote manipulation at the margins, by 543 votes. With Florida, Bush carried the nation.

 

Now, despite Nader's rhetoric of there being not "a dime's worth of difference" between the two parties, we know now that Gore's positions, and what he would have done if elected, would have been much closer to Nader's, or those voting for him, than to Bush's. Gore would not have attacked Iraq, would not have cut taxes on the wealthy, and would have signed on to the Kyoto Protocol; the US would have been well on the way to addressing the problem of global warming. And that's just for starters.

 

The point is, the active Nader campaign in states that were close, tilted the election to the two-party candidate who was most unlike Nader and his followers, or putting it another way, a majority of voters voted to the left of center, but the right-wing candidate won, with less than a majority.

 

So, why would Nader run again? Can he still claim that there is not a dime's worth of difference between the two parties? He claims, rightly, that the Democrats have not fulfilled their 2006 mandate. It's true: the Congressional Democrats have been timid and ineffectual so far as a majority, but their agenda, their legislative platform, was quite different from Bush's. They have not succeeded in their attempts to enact most of it, because of fear that cutting off war-funds would make them vulnerable to attacks impugning their patriotism, and because the majority in the Senate is small enough to be easily blocked by the President and the minority Republicans.

 

But this is not a logical argument for Nader to run. If Nader ran, he would only make it more likely that a stalemate would continue, or that the Republicans would regain full power. A Green Party running in safe states is one thing; it could bring forth positive initiatives. But Nader pulling progressive votes from Democrats in closely contested states would make it even less likely that a progressive agenda could be enacted. He could again siphon off progressive votes so that the election would be close enough to steal--by the Republicans.

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Republicans are probably hoping that he, or Bloomberg, or anyone to their left, will run a third party campaign so that they can hold onto power, even with only the minority support they are likely to get. Behind the scenes they may even be encouraging Nader and Bloomberg.

 

Nader should bury his over-sized ego and decline to run; Bloomberg as well; a Green should run in safe states for Democrats or Republicans (New York, Vermont, Texas), but stay out of closely contested states like Florida or Ohio--unless Greens want the corporations and the war party to again control both Congress and the White House.

 

Third parties cannot "save the country." The discontents need spend their energy to influence or take over the party nearest to their preferences: progressives should focus on the Democrats, as flawed as they are.

 

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I am a writer and retired college teacher. I taught college courses in Economics and Political Science (I've a Ph.D) and I've written as a free-lancer for various publications.

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