On Ralph Nader and Third-Party Candidates

Hold on to your absentee ballots kids. He’s back!

Ralph Nader is once again officially pursuing the presidency of our modest little country. And I say God bless him.

He has no chance of winning, of course. You don’t have to be John Zogby to figure that one out.

We could start with the fact that this nation will never elevate a guy named Ralph to the title of ‘world’s most powerful man’. No, Ralph is a name more suited to Simpsons characters who say things like “I bent my wookie”, “My cat’s breath smells like cat food”, and the ever popular “Me fail English? Unpossible!”.

Then there’s Nader’s dismal performance in the 2000 race. So poor, in fact, that he failed to reach even the 5% threshhold necessary to receive federal matching funds in 2004. And that was with the Green Party behind him. This time Mr. Nader will be running as an independent. I would be surprised to see him garner more than 2% of the popular vote in November, if for no other reason than he is unlikely to qualify for the ballot in every state, let alone run a full-press nationwide campaign.

The most surprising thing about Nader’s announcement is the squeals of protest it has garnered from Democrats. It doesn’t seem very American to try and strongarm a person–especially an independent–out of the race before they even get into it. I thought we were trying to encourage as much participation in the political process as possible. Or does that only apply when you’re MTV trying to Rock the Vote with apathetic Gen Xers who support the guy with a (D) behind his name?

Many Democrats inexplicably blame Nader for Al Gore’s defeat in the 2000 election. Kind of perplexing, because I was under the impression that it was Bush’s fault for stealing the election. Come to think of it, they’ve blamed the Supreme Court, too. And Katherine Harris. And Karl Rove. And President Clinton.

It almost seems like the only person that hasn’t been scrutinized for Al Gore’s loss is Al Gore.

Even so, the vitriolic bitterness eminating from the Democratic Party toward Ralph Nader is understandable. Conventional wisdom holds that Nader draws most of his support from the Democrats, and with the 2000 election so close it seems logical that Nader “robbed” the Democrats of what they feel was rightfully theirs.

But even if he did cost Gore the election, so what? It swings both ways. In 1992, Ross Perot received 19% of the popular vote, and most of those votes came from the Republican ranks. Without Perot’s third-party candidacy, President Bush would have defeated Bill Clinton and won a second term. Even the pathetic drubbing Bob Dole received in 1996 would have been reversed by Perot’s 8.5% showing in 1996.

The point is this: third-party candidates are nothing new. They are a long established and vital part of American politics. None has gone on to win the brass ring–yet–but they often play a critical role in determining who does. And our political process is stronger for it. The donkey and elephant need other animals in the zoo to keep them honest.

Both sides of the aisle must be periodically reminded that voters have other choices, and when things reach the breaking point we won’t let sentimentality get in the way of making our own break toward a new political party. Third-party candidates also add fresh perspective, energize new demographics, and never cease to provide hours of entertainment for campaign-weary Americans.

So despite the fact that I don’t support Ralph Nader’s ideas, perhaps instead of castigating him for having the audacity to run for office, we should encourage third-party candidates, welcome their ideas, and save our hand-to-hand combat for the debate platform.

Just a thought.

  2 comments for “On Ralph Nader and Third-Party Candidates

  1. aunt betty
    February 23, 2004 at 7:12 am

    one has to give “ralph”credit for at least trying to change things. it takes a lot of gumption to keep hanging in, especially when he knows that he doesn’t have a chance.
    “aunt” betty

  2. Phil
    September 18, 2004 at 8:16 am

    Ralph Nader doesn’t expect to win because his strategy is one of sabotage, and that’s why I don’t respect him. He attempts to further his agenda by forcing the dems to take notice, or risk losing votes to him and ensuring a George W. Bush victory. If he can’t get his agenda on the ballot, he’d rather someone totally opposed to his views be in office. That’ll show those democrats, Ralph. You tell ’em.

Comments are closed.


Get the latest posts delivered to your mailbox: