When it comes to pragmatic arguments about Nader, I basically don’t see the point. That Gore would have won had Nader not run in 2000 is indisputable; trying to argue the point is like arguing with creationists. It’s also true that this outcome was not inevitable, and that any number of other factors might have made Nader irrelevant. This is all well-established.
Another reason to move past this argument, however, is that it essentially accepts the premise that Nader is a dream candidate, and one must only reluctantly and pragmatically vote for an electable Democratic candidate. The thing is, though, that Nader isn’t a good candidate. His priorities are extremely clunky for someone essentially unconstrained by pragmatic considerations, and he’d be a terrible president. This point is made effectively by Michael Berube:
As his open letter reminds us, Nader is a terrible candidate. Yes, he’s “on the left,” but he belongs to a nasty, authoritarian, crypto-conservative left that wants people to stop playing those violent video games and stop looking at sexually explicit images. He’s not too concerned about women’s reproductive rights, as we all know, but he is very worried about the decline of parental authority in Today’s Modern World. Hence his “appeal” to conservatives. (And look again at his praise for the Texas GOP– that’s right, the same Texas GOP that gave you that outrageous mid-term redistricting!) But back in the real world, conservatives are far too politically savvy to fall for “appeals” like this; unlike their counterparts on the left, they didn’t break ranks in 2000 in favor of Pat Buchanan or an “independent” Alan Keyes/Gary Bauer candidacy, and they’re not going to break ranks now. They’re not going to punish Bush for supporting amnesty for illegal Hispanic immigrants from Mars, or for running up a $500 billion deficit and lying about Medicare. They know what side their bread is oiled on. Nader’s open letter to them is just another of Ralph’s exercises in self-delusion. Which brings me to . . .
Nader would be a terrible President. He has no experience in elected office and nothing but disdain for people with that experience. He wouldn’t be able to get a budgetÂ or a single damn piece of legislationÂ through this Congress. He’d be able to declaim, yes, and personally, even I would thrill to a couple of his denunciations of this or that, as I did in 2000 when he spoke of the insanity of our drug laws and the disgraceful fact that we have two million prisoners behind bars, many of whom have been incarcerated for casual drug use not far removed from that of the youthful Bush or Gore. But he wouldn’t be able to do a blessed thing about any of it.
Now, I will occasionally support a third-party candidate on principle, and I have done so in the past. But not Ralph. My opposition to him is not the opposition of some craven ex-indie-leftist who’s decided to come in from the cold, sign with Sony-Columbia Records and put out a “crossover” record with Tom Petty. My opposition to Ralph is based both on his form and his substance, neither of which I like.
I have many misgivings about John Kerry. But he’s a better candidate and would make a better president than Ralph Nader, and the same was true of Al Gore.