Sunday, July 11, 2004

Ralph Nader: What the hell is that guy's problem?

Spurred on by this post at Crooked Timber and this one at Pandagon, I've been thinking about Ralph Nader a lot lately.

First off, I have always liked and respected Ralph Nader, I like the Green party (of which he's no longer a representative), I think building alternatives to the two-party system is a good thing, and I agree 100% with Nader that the Democratic party is too much in thrall to corporate interests. My problem is, I don't see how supporting Nader's bid (either this year or in 2000) does much to help any of these problems. I believe that the chief (although not sole) barrier to strong third-parties in the US is that our system is set up to discourage them. Therefore, as I posted in Pandagon's comments, I'm just absolutely mystified as to why Nader doesn't offer Kerry a deal like "look, I'll drop out right now and tell all of my supporters to vote for you, and in return, I'd like you to come out strongly in favor of Instant Runoff Voting."

The thing is, IRV is good for the Dems, because it means no more spoiler bullshit, IRV is good for the Greens, because it means that everyone who actually wants to vote for them can do so without feeling like they're drinking lye, I can't imagine that endorsing it would lose Kerry any supporters, and it might well gain him some new ones. Nader doesn't pull away enough of Kerry's vote to demand huge concessions, really, but something relatively minor like this, I would think would be well within the realm of possibility.

Perhaps most important, Kerry could do it without looking like he's caving in to Nader, and Nader could do it without looking like he's selling out to Kerry. It's a win for everybody.

Sure, if Nader did this, it would mean that he'd be out of the race this go-around, but so what? I mean, HE'S the one who keeps telling us that we have to think long term, right? Well: Think long-term, bucko!

Now, I'm not one of those people who will infer from the fact that Nader hasn't done this yet that he's not serious about building the possibility for third-party involvement in US politics . . . after all, 'not doing what I say' isn't a decent metric for serious commitment. I do, however, infer that Nader's not serious about building the possibility for third-party involvement in US politics from the fact that he hasn't done a goddamn thing since the year 2000 that would actually advance his stated goal. It's okay if he doesn't favor IRV for whatever reason, but to just repeat over and over "they're the same . . . they're the same . . . bzzzt . . . they're all the same" is not helpful.

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