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Nader: Threw The Election To Bush

[ 94 ] January 31, 2008 |

I hate to go through this again, but we have a commenter trying to claim that Nader didn’t throw the election to Bush:

*All votes that Nader received in Florida would have gone to Gore instead;

*The appearance of Nader did not lead to people registering in Florida in order to vote for Gore;

*That Gore would have had the same positions without Nader in the race that he had with Nader in the race, thus meaning that no voters would have shifted from Bush to Gore in the absence of Nader; and

*That the Republicans would not have found a way to steal the Florida election.

The first, and most important, claim is of course transparently wrong; not every single Nader voter would have had to vote for Gore, just enough to throw Florida to Bush. And according to Nader’s own data, this was the case:

Nader is at his slipperiest on the issue of whether his campaign tipped the election to George W. Bush. The evidence that he did so is unambiguous. First, by repeating his charge that there was no significant ideological distance between the two major-party candidates, Nader helped bolster the message of Bush, who sought to blur unpopular Republican positions on key issues. Second, by peeling off substantial blocks of liberals in states such as Oregon, Minnesota and Wisconsin, he forced Al Gore to devote precious time and money to shoring up states that would (if not for Nader) have been safely Democratic, leaving him fewer resources for swing states such as Ohio, Tennessee and Florida. Third, and most directly, Nader won 97,488 votes in Florida. Appearing on a talk show after the election, Nader cited polls that showed that, had he not run, only 38 percent of his voters would have backed Gore versus 25 percent for Bush. Strangely, Nader held up these numbers as a defense against the spoiler charge. Yet the very data cited by Nader, if applied to Florida, shows that he took a net 12,000 votes from Gore — more than enough to hand the state, and the electoral college, to Bush.

So it’s clear that Nader fulfilled the only significant goal of his campaign and threw the election to Bush. The other points made in Nader’s defense are no more persuasive. On #2, if anyone has evidence that Nader’s relentless vilification of Gore and claims that which candidate was elected didn’t matter caused a net positive number of people to register and vote for Gore let’s see it. On #3, 1)again there’s no evidence whatsoever for this having an effect, 2)the states in which an alleged hard turn to the left in Gore’s rhetoric which no Naderite noticed at the time would have been likely to have a net benefit were states Gore won so overwhelmingly minor shifts in rhetoric would have made little difference, and 3)the rhetorical point cuts both ways; how many people did Nader dissuade from voting for Gore with his nonsensical claims that he was indistinguishable from Bush? And on #4, this cannot be known for certain, but we do know that Republicans didn’t steal any other state in which the Dems won a narrow victory. If the Democrats came out ahead in the initial vote count they almost certainly would have held on, especially since the nature of electoral system means that recounts would work in the Democrats’ favor. GOP malfeasance doesn’t let Nader off the hook. And finally, to pre-empt this coming up in comments, the fact that Nader wouldn’t have been able to throw the election to Bush under a more rational electoral system is completely irrelevant to anything.

If Nader doesn’t run, no Bush. It really is that simple.

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