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The St. Ralph Lecture Series

[ 501 ] September 8, 2012 |

As a bookend to Salon inexplicably publishing a ridiculous argument asserting that Mitt Romney is a harmless moderate who if anything is more liberal than Barack Obama, the man who made the Iraq War, massive upper-class tax cuts and Sam Alito possible is back to lecture us with arguments that make Stoller’s look rational (along with some of the same ones.) I always find Nader’s attempts to explain himself after he decided to ruin his admirable legacy by becoming a cat’s paw for the Republican Party entertaining. You might think that he would have some very sophisticated justifications that would fool you if you didn’t think about them too hard.  But in the same was that he was “the house radical of his own campaign” — denouncing followers who wanted to express dissatisfaction with the Democrats without throwing the election to Bush by encouraging vote-trades with voters in swing states — when explaining his unambiguous role in throwing the 2000 election to Bush he actually repeats the same transparently inane non-sequiturs of his most clueless defenders:

Nader points out that 250,000 Democrats in Florida also voted for George W. Bush

Well, yes, there are a lot of conservative registered Democrats who are in fact reliable Republican votes in national elections, especially in southern states in 2000. Your point being? Doesn’t this…well, we’ll return to this point in a second.

and that had Gore not lost his own state, Tennessee, he would’ve won the election.

Of course Gore lost Tennessee. This isn’t 1960. (Anybody think Romney is going to make Massachusetts competitive?) I guess you can’t expect Nader to understand this — after all, he doesn’t understand why registered Democrats in the Old Confederacy aren’t necessarily reliable Democratic votes for national elections in 2000 — but Tennessee was well on its way in transforming from a moderate southern state into Alabama with inferior NCAA football. In retrospect, Gore’s 4-point loss both reflects a clear home-cooking advantage and is sort of remarkable. Obama in 2008, doing about as well in the electoral college as it’s possible for a contemporary Democrat to do — winning North Carolina and Indiana — lost Tennessee by 15 points. The idea that there’s something unusual about Gore losing Tennessee represents remarkable ignorance about American politics.

But wait — it’s worse than that. These two non-sequiturs, in addition to making no sense on their face, completely destroy the logic of Nader’s criticisms of Gore. Remember, according to Nader and his followers Gore was no better than Bush because, although he ran the most progressive Democratic campaign since 1984, he was too much of a moderate and should have reached out to Nader’s small slice of the electorate by running further to the left, perhaps replicating the smashingly successful campaigns of Mondale and McGovern. But these two arguments imply that Gore should have tried to win by appealing to Southern Democrats and swing voters! So which is it? Nader can’t even keep his own narratives straight.

And there is the little matter of the Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 along party lines to grant Bush the win.

The other problem with the first two arguments is that even if they weren’t self-refuting they’re also beside the point. Yes, it’s true that Gore could have made Nader irrelevant by winning Tennessee, but then Nader would have made Tennessee irrelevant had he not thrown Florida and New Hampshire to Bush, forced Gore to waste resources in what otherwise would have been safe Democratic states, etc. And the same goes for the Supreme Court. Obviously Nader’s actions, while necessary to electing Bush, were not sufficient — in most elections, a third party spoiler can’t succeed in throwing an election, and things have to break just so. But the fact that Nader was necessary — there’s no Bush v. Gore without him — is enough to give him full responsibility. Nader, Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, and Antonin Scalia were all on the same side and they all needed each other.  And of course Democrats are more likely to focus on Nader — after all, the last three were acting in ways perfectly consistent with their stated goals.

Q: People still say you cost Gore the election in 2000.

A: If they couldn’t get a landslide against a bumbling governor from Texas who could barely put a sentence together with an incumbent vice-president in an era with a balanced budget…

What can you even say to this? To think of American presidential campaigns as something like an Oxford Debating Society where the smartest and most articulate candidate should be expected to win is to enter a land of fantasia. The idea that vice-presidents get the full benefits of incumbency isn’t much better supported.

But this nonsense is, in a way, instructive. It’s worth unpacking what Nader and his apologists mean when they say that Gore was a “bad candidate.” What this means is that the media — the mainstream media, not just or primarily the conservative — spent two years in a War on Gore. Bill Clinton was cast as the Biggest Liar in Known Human History, and once his tenure in office was complete the title had to be transferred to Al Gore. And since Gore hadn’t told any real lies, Rich, Dowd, Connolly et al. had to invent them, with two puddle-deep frauds (Bradley and Bush, the latter much worse of course) cast as Bluff Honest Guys You’d Love To Have a Beer With. And these lies about Gore dovetailed with the same Gush/Bore argument that Nader was making — wasn’t the election so bo-ring, and who could see any real difference between a moderate Democrat and a guy who governed to the right of the Texas legislature?  Let’s talk about Al Gore’s extremely troubling three-button suits instead.

You would think that any progressive worth her salt would find this kind of conduct by the press highly objectionable. But not only do Nader and a subsection of his followers persist in blaming the victim, Nader crucially abetted the War On Gore as it was happening by repeating the same idiotic narratives. Nader wants to wash his hands of this like he wants to wash the blood of hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis off his hands, but people who actually still care about American politics really shouldn’t forget.

…a couple additional points.   First, I remain amazed by discussions of the 2000 election that proceed as if Gore lost New York and California rather than Tennessee and Florida.   The fact that people who act under these assumptions then turn around and castigate Gore for not doing enough to appeal to conservative southern swing voters is just icing on the cake.

Second, as to the proposition that nobody can be held responsible for anything unless the event has a monocausal outcome, I’m going to vote “no.”  By the same logic that Nader bears no responsibility for the Iraq War, Bush bears no responsibility for the Iraq War.   I blame the Supreme Court for not ruling standing armies unconstitutional!

…Warren Terra FTW in comments:

Yes, a lot of factors came together to make it possible for Nader to be a spoiler. But what’s your point? Nader is still a spoiler, and it still remains the fact that:
1) Nader and his fans still falsely maintain he wasn’t a spoiler.
2) Nader and his fans still tendentiously claim he had no intent to be a spoiler.
3) Nader and his fans still falsely claim that it wouldn’t matter if he was a spoiler, that Dubya over Gore was no price at all or was a price worth paying.
4) Nader’s entire campaign was a fraud. Far from an attempt to promote a political organization or any particular policy ideas, it was exclusively an onanistic aggrandizement of Nader himself. It has left no useful legacy, nor any party organization because it was designed to leave neither. Nader solicited donations not for the party but for himself. and did not relinquish his supporter database to the party. And anyone who can claim to name a particular policy idea associated with Nader’s campaigns is either a truly dedicated follower of these issues or is engaging in projection – and likely both.

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  1. dilan esper says:

    Sorry Scott, Gore was way to the right in 2000. He repudiated the party’s commitment to national health care and ran as a war hawk, including on Iraq. He chose the right wing Joe Lieberman as his veep candidate.

    Nobody is ever entitled to the vote of their base. You can certainly argue that it was worse for the country for the left to turn to Nader, but they didn’t owe Gore anything. Gore had every chance to repudiate his conservativism, choose a leftist veep candidate, endorse single payer and oppose militarism, and get the left to vote for him. He didn’t want to earn their votes.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Gore was way to the right in 2000

      Way to the right of what? Certainly not Bill Clinton. He ran a much more economically populist campaign than 1992 or 1996.

      Gore is not a “conservative” in any sense relevant to American politics. Wishing that we had the same center of political gravity as Denmark does not make it so. What state does Gore win by running to the hard left?

    • commie atheist says:

      He was a hawk on the Iraq war before we even invaded? Awesome.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        But you’re ignoring the fact that running on a total opposition to American militarism would have been a huge electoral winner. Don’t kid yourself, the median voter in Florida and Tennessee is somewhere to the left of the median commenter of a liberal blog.

        • spencer says:

          Exactly, because we don’t have any military bases or military retirees in Florida.

        • Dilan Esper says:

          The issue isn’t whether repudiating American militarism is a correct electoral strategy. Rather, it’s that if you pursue an electoral strategy that involves rejecting the things your base believes in, your base can tell you to GFY. And that’s entirely right, because that’s the only way the party bases EVER get anything they want.

          Gore told his base to GFY. Not everyone in the base is impressed by rhetorical populism unrelated to any leftist policy proposals. Some are more concerned about the US murdering lots of foreigners and a dangerous religious right winger like Joe Lieberman getting within a heartbeat of the presidency. And they had every right to tell Gore to stuff it.

          Gore made NO attempt to make the sale to the left, and it turns out that you can pay a price by ignoring the left as well as the center.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            1)The Democratic base supported Gore.

            2)The idea that Lieberman was the reason Nader and his supporters threw the election to Gore is pure fantasy, a retrospective projection based on Lieberman’s behavior after Iraq. The Lieberman pick was completely irrelevant to the 2000 election, just like most VP picks.

            3)Even if we pretend that foreign policy was the main reason that Nader threw the election to Bush, boy did that work out well!

            • Dilan Esper says:

              You are confusing semantics with substance. My point does not depend on whether you label the left “the base” or not. You can just call them the left if you want.

              The point is, if the left is a necessary part of a coalition that Gore needs to win an election, he shouldn’t be picking right-wingers to be Vice President, and should generally be proposing more left wing POLICY (again, making “populist” speeches is not the same thing). An example: Gore was the first Democratic candidate since FDR to NOT campaign on national health insurance. Instead, he proposed only an expansion of S-CHIP. If you were an adult, and you were uninsured, you were screwed.

              You can make all sorts of political arguments about how after Hillarycare, that’s a move that he needs to make to reassure centrist voters. Fine. But it’s also a fine reason for a leftist who thinks health insurance is a right not to vote for him.

              Gore made political choices which offended left wingers. Whether you call them “the base” or not is not the point– they had no responsibility to vote for a candidate who gave them the finger.

            • Dilan Esper says:

              Scott, here’s a simple question. I asked it downthread. If the Democrats nominated a pro-lifer who nonetheless agreed with the party base on all the other major issues, and feminists refused to vote for the candidate causing his defeat, would you criticize the feminists or whatever feminist alternative candidate they voted for? I sure wouldn’t.

              • Digger says:

                I’m pretty sure they would.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                If they threw the election to Republicans who were far worse on every other issue? And the vote had no chance of advancing reproductive rights? Of course. Although this would never happen because support for reproductive rights has substantial support. Your view that the Democrats should stop trying to put together a majority coalition and appeal solely to the leftmost 5 or 10% or the electorate, conversely, is just a silly discussion.

                • Digger says:

                  See, exactly.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  I actually take no position on what the Democratic Party should do. That’s why we are talking past each other. I am talking about what people who DON’T AGREE WITH THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY ON MAJOR ISSUES BUT WHO ARE OSTENSIBLY, IN SOME SENSE, ON THE “LEFT” SHOULD DO.

                  Scott, the whole point is that people who are farther left than you are not obligated to elect Presidents they disagree with on major issues. That’s what the Nader candidacy is all about.

                  Now you can do what you want in response. You can urge Democratic candidates to try and get their votes. Or you can write those people off. But what makes no sense is to say “we will continue to do nothing for these people and their concerns because they are not popular enough, but they must vote for candidates they feel are immoral anyway”. And that is what you are saying when you blame Nader and his voters.

                  Everyone owns their own vote. The left owes you nothing. And they have the right to make their choices WHATEVER you think of their political strategies. All you can do is decide whether you think that your candidates should move to the left to accommodate them or not.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  By the way, to put a really fine point on it, your assumption that this could never happen on an issue where the left’s position was more popular is quite wrong. John Kerry was nominated in 2004 when the Iraq War was tremendously unpopular, and Hubert Humphrey was nominated in 1968 when Vietnam was tremendously unpopular. And both lost. Your position– that left wingers have an obligation to swallow the crap sandwich and vote for two muderers lest we get Bush or Nixon is not the only acceptable answer to this question. Some things may be more important than the result of the next election.

                  As I note downthread, by the way, one reason Obama is actually so important despite not being as liberal as some may have hoped is that he is black and from Chicago and was rewarded for criticizing a war (he couldn’t have become President otherwise). I would argue that the strategic choices of left wing voters were integral to Obama having a chance. Before Obama, there were plenty of people in the Democratic Party who were convinced that only right wing southerners like Clinton could get elected. They were wrong, but they said it.

                  In other words, unless the left wing bails on candidates who go too far right, you will never get anything other than Southern religious asshats as your Democratic presidents, with all the problems that this approach entails. Now are there costs to the left bailing? Sure. But if all you do is whine “Bush got elected in 2000”, you miss the point that politics is a very long term game.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  And one more question. Were conservative Republicans in Louisiana required to vote for David Duke to prevent a Democrat from winning the governorship? Is your position really that there can NEVER be a deal breaker?

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Everyone owns their own vote. The left owes you nothing. And they have the right to make their choices WHATEVER you think of their political strategies. All you can do is decide whether you think that your candidates should move to the left to accommodate them or not.

                  This is all a massive non-sequitur that ignores the obvious fact that Nader throwing the election to Bush did absolutely nothing to advance any left-wing cause, and was indeed massively counterproductive. “Owe” has nothing to do with it.
                  In supporting Nader, you’re not supporting any actual progressive cause, you’re supporting the Iraq War, massive upper-class tax cuts, and anti-Roe justices. (Seriously, being lectured about reproductive rights by a Nader supporter is farcical.)

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  Scott:

                  I answered that above. Nader’s challenge to Gore was a necessary condition in the election of a black President from liberal Chicago running on a partially anti-war platform, something that was considered impossible in 2000.

                  That’s a HUGE long term benefit.

                • Hogan says:

                  Before Obama, there were plenty of people in the Democratic Party who were convinced that only right wing southerners like Clinton could get elected.

                  And the election of 2000 did nothing to prove them wrong, any more than the election of 1980 did. Seriously, where do you get this stuff?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Nader’s challenge to Gore was a necessary condition in the election of a black President from liberal Chicago running on a partially anti-war platform,

                  Someone has either 1) never heard of Jesse Jackson, 2) never heard of George McGovern, or 3) is stupid enough to not look at trends.

                  There is no option 4.

                • MAJeff says:

                  Nader’s challenge to Gore was a necessary condition in the election of a black President from liberal Chicago running on a partially anti-war platform, something that was considered impossible in 2000.

                  We needed a war to elect an anti-war candidate.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  We needed a war to elect an anti-war candidate.

                  Luckily, Nader gave us two.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  Mala, is it really your contention that not only would Gore not invade Iraq but that he wouldn’t invade AFGHANISTAN? Are you that much of an idiot?

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Gore, unlike Naderites, knows the history of empires in Afghanistan.

                  Now go back to telling me how Quaker pacifists vote.

        • sam240 says:

          “But you’re ignoring the fact that running on a total opposition to American militarism would have been a huge electoral winner.” – Lemieux

          Uh, in 2000, Bush did run on a platform opposing American militarism. On October 11, during the presidential debate, he said, “If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us. If we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we have to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.”

          Furthermore, Bush later pledged to withdraw American troops from the Balkan peninsula if elected. Gore, on the other hand, argued that it was necessary to keep troops in the Balkans. Since Milosevic had left power by October 2000, what need was there to maintain forces there?

          Based on rhetoric from the campaign, Gore was more militaristic than Bush. Bush was lying through his teeth, but it would have been difficult to know that at the time, and the GOP had been opposed to American warfare in the Balkans during the late 1990s. I believe opposition to militarism helped put Bush over the top.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            it would have been difficult to know that at the time

            Jesus Christ, you’re walking blind without a cane, pal.

            • sam240 says:

              Except that, during the late 1990s, Republican leaders other than Bush had been criticizing the use of the military in the Balkans.

              “I still believe it was a mistake to get in the way we did,” [Dick] Armey, R-Irving, said Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I think we’ve caused (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic to be so much bolder in persecuting the Kosovo Albanians. We’ve got a million refugees out there I don’t think we would have had.”

              http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl/1999_3143925/war-in-the-balkans-republicans-blast-clinton-admin.html

              “The administration grossly miscalculated the [Yugoslav] response and the result was a humanitarian disaster,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Don Nickles (R-Okla.), in an assessment widely heard in GOP circles. “If the administration calls this ‘winning,’ then what we’re winning is that we get to occupy Kosovo at the cost of billions of dollars and we get to be in Kosovo for no telling how long,”

              http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/balkans/stories/gop061199.htm

              Here’s something with a whole lot of Republican criticism of American military intervention abroad:

              http://www.scribd.com/doc/192106/Democratic-National-Committee-Release-Republicans-Criticized-Clinton-During-Kosovo-Conflict

              Note that the sources included no less than seven different people who had declared their candidacy for the 2000 presidential election.

              Given that George H. W. Bush had refused to send American ground forces into Iraq after forces from that country had been driven from Kuwait, there was reason to believe that these Republicans were being honest, and that a significant section of the GOP was committed to avoiding intervention abroad.

              • Hogan says:

                Republicans criticized Clinton for wearing a blue tie. And when he wore a red one, they criticized him for that too.

                Of course, some specific Republicans also accused him of being insufficiently bellicose towards Iraq. One of them ended up on the national ticket in 2000, and was the one with all the national security cred. But I’m sure that’s just a bizarre coincidence.

                • sam240 says:

                  True, but one had to be extremely highly interested in politics to even know about PNAC. Since the mainstream media never mentioned the organization during the 2000 race, at least 99% of voters wouldn’t have been able to take the report into account.

                  The average voter would have heard of the criticisms of Clinton’s militarism by the GOP, and would have heard Bush’s call for a more humble foreign policy. At the time, a typical voter could reasonably have believed that Bush was opposed to American militarism. Since they couldn’t have heard of PNAC, and wouldn’t have had the time to discover it, it would have been difficult for them to know that Bush was lying through his teeth.

                • Hogan says:

                  The average voter would have heard of the criticisms of Clinton’s militarism by the GOP

                  [citations omitted]

      • Colin Day says:

        While the imposition of sanctions against Iraq wasn’t war, it did require some military action.

        • Dilan Esper says:

          The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 was basically a declaration of war, and Clinton sent Berger and Albright to Ohio State to propose war with Iraq, an action Gore supported.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            It was “basically a declaration of war” except for the whole lack of a war thing. By the way, what did Gore say when the actual war was being initiated?

            • Dilan Esper says:

              It was an act of war.

              I’m sorry, if you announce that the policy of the US government is to overthrow the government of a sovereign state that we are currently bombing, that’s war.

              We murdered a lot of innocent Iraqis under Clinton and Gore, and they proposed to murder many more. Left wingers were not required to ignore that.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Well, throwing the election to Bush in exchange for no benefits whatsoever sure improved the situation!

              • djw says:

                I still have no idea what your point is, since on every issue you’re frustrated with Gore about, Bush was demonstrably and obviously going to be worse.

                they had every right to tell Gore to stuff it.

                Cheerfully conceded! The question isn’t whether this temper-tantrum was a legally protected right, but whether it was a good idea; whether it makes a lick of sense as a political strategy. I can see why you’re avoiding that question.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  Whether “it was a good idea” is none of your business. People are not requires to do what YOU think is good political strategy.

                  Here’s another simple question. Were Republicans in Louisiana required to vote for David Duke?

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Here’s another simple question. Were Republicans in Louisiana required to vote for David Duke?

                  If they aren’t white supremacists, no, since presumably a conservative Democrat would be closer to their values.

                  Whether “it was a good idea” is none of your business.

                  What? Ralph Nader’s decision to throw the election to Bush is not something that can be subject to debate? This makes no sense, although I must admit that I wouldn’t want to actually defend the strategy on the merits either.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  So we’ve finally found your deal-breaker. White supremacism. Even though voting for a Democrat would help the other party, assist with liberal projects that conservatives don’t like, etc., a conservative can nonetheless do that (or vote 3rd party) because the Republican candidate is a white supremacist.

                  Do you not realize you just conceded the entire basis for Nader’s candidacy? White supremacism is YOUR deal-breaker. But for someone else, murdering Iraqis can be a deal-breaker too. Or murdering Afghans. Or signing free trade deals (and I say this as a free trade supporter). Or deregulating the financial system.

                  There are, again, things more important than the next election. To other voters. And sometimes to you (as with white supremacism).

                • Malaclypse says:

                  But for someone else, murdering Iraqis can be a deal-breaker too.

                  Then unless they are a complete fucking idiot, they will vote for the candidate that will murder fewer Iraqis.

                  Because fuck me like a walrus, you have the fucking temerity to use DEAD FUCKING IRAQIS to justify voting against the candidate who could have defeated Bush?

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  Mala, some people don’t want any murders done in their name. Murdering Kosovars or Pakistanis is not particularly superior to murdering Iraqis. And Clinton was murdering plenty of Iraqis anyway.

                  That’s why some leftists dissent from the system. Just redirecting the slaughter is not a difference between the parties. (Bear in mind, Obama and Clinton have BOTH murdered more people than Reagan or Ford did.)

                • nimh says:

                  Dilan, your comparison with Republicans voting against Duke does not make sense.

                  Confronted with a white supremacist candidate running on their own ticket, non-racist Republican voters could refuse to vote for him because they knew that his opponent, the Democrat would be less of a white supremacist.

                  OK, now try this with the anti-war voters you’re talking about, whose breaking point was Gore’s co-responsibility for the act of war against Iraq you talk about. “Confronted with a war-mongering candidate running on their own ticket, anti-war Democratic voters could refuse to vote for him because they knew that his opponent, the Republican, would be less of a warmongerer” … except, George W. Bush was obviously not. Which is where your comparison falls apart.

                  In the Duke example, the voters you talk about would be OK with letting the Democrat win because on their breaking point issue, the Democrat would actually be less bad. But pacifists deciding it was OK to let Bush win did the opposite: they allowed a candidate to win who was actually even worse on their breaking point issue.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  some people don’t want any murders done in their name

                  If you voted for Nader, countless deaths in Iraq happened in your name. They wouldn’t have happened without your candidate.

    • losgatosca says:

      “Nobody is ever entitled to the vote of their base” is very true at all times on both sides. Conservative Republican TeaBaggers express the exact same argument about libertarians.

      The person who cost Al Gore the election was the Palm Beach registrar who designed the local ballot so that Pat Buchanan got votes clearly intended for Al Gore. Without that specific act of incompetence, Bush is not able to bring a suit, etc.

      But even AFTER all the votes were counted, Gore conceded too quickly without knowing the score in Florida and was always in the predicament of being in the position of asking the ‘replay judge’ to overturn his own decision.

      Nader has evolved to be a public moron it’s true, but he’s way down the list of perps in the 2000 debacle well behind Gore himself and the butterfly ballot designer. Lieberman was a terrible choice, his debate with Cheney was embarrassing, and his subsequent recount antics and post-2000 priorities bore that out.

      • djw says:

        The person who cost Al Gore the election was the Palm Beach registrar who designed the local ballot so that Pat Buchanan got votes clearly intended for Al Gore.

        It’s perfectly obvious that when one states that Nader cost Gore the election, the ceteris paribus condition is implied. The outcome of an incredibly close election probably has many ceteris paribus causes, and certainly does in this case. There’s no coherent sense in which some of them are more “real” than others.

        • Bill Murray says:

          It wouldn’t have been an incredibly close election without the huge efforts of the Republicans to steal the election and 16% of the 1996 Florida voters for Clinton voting for Bush. So yeah, I guess if we ignore the vote stealing and the Clinton supporters that voted for Bush, then Nader had an effect. Just like Buchanon who cost Bush many votes.

          Also, why is it not assumed that the Republicans were committed to stealing the number of votes needed to win?

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            Congratulations for repeating every one of Nader’s dumb non-sequiturs. Again, 1)the fact that there are lots of conservative Democrats undermines Nader’s position rather than supporting it, and 2)the idea that unless events are monocausal nobody can be held responsible for them is transparently wrong. It’s very simple: if Nader doesn’t run, Gore wins. That other factors had to fall into place for Nader to succeed doesn’t absolve him of responsibility. (By the same logic, we aren’t allowed to criticize Harris because her actions wouldn’t have mattered had Gore more successfully appealed to conservative Democrats.)

            • Bill Murray says:

              no the point is you never blame anyone but Nader. I guess you deserve some points for consistency, but consistently wrong is no way for anyone to go through life.

              Nader is a jackass that is undoubtedly true. you trying to make him some how the most uniquely evil person in American politics is stupider than a Mitt Romney policy.

              the fact that Gore couldn’t maintain Clinton’s voters (I make no presumption they were conservatives, although many were quite likely so) destroys your argument that Nader had much to do with Gore losing. This cost Gore 15-20 times the number of votes that Nader did.

              My question is do you ever criticize anyone but Nader? The Republicans stole up to 100,000 votes, losing Clinton voters cost Gore 150,000+ votes, but nigh exclusively talk about Nader and the ~10,000 votes he cost Gore. Nader probably isn’t even a bigger jerk than the Republicans. But at least you have people to exult in your hippie bashing. if you keep this up long enough I’m sure someday you’ll weave that straw into gold, though.

              If Gore had won by a similar amount, would you be giving big kudos to Pat Buchanan for costing Bush the election? or Harry Browne? or Howard Phillips? or John Hagelin?

              • djw says:

                you never blame anyone but Nader.

                I suggest you search the archives for the war on Gore or Bush v Gore, you won’t go away empty handed.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  I wouldn’t say he never blames anyone but Nader. But I would say that the basic alleged “sin” of Nader– offering the left an alternative to a candidate who was unacceptable to many leftists– is very low on the totem pole of political sins. (Nader’s smug ex post facto self-justifications are another matter.)

                  Basically, whenever a politician loses his or her base and loses a close election, the correct lesson is “take care of your base” or “figure out a way to appeal to centrists that does not involve screwing over your base on issues they care about”, not “blame the guy who offered the base an alternative”.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              no the point is you never blame anyone but Nader.

              Completely, utterly false. It’s not even true of this post.

              the fact that Gore couldn’t maintain Clinton’s voters (I make no presumption they were conservatives, although many were quite likely so) destroys your argument that Nader had much to do with Gore losing. This cost Gore 15-20 times the number of votes that Nader did.

              Re-stating this argument doesn’t make it less of a foolish non-sequitur. Southern Democrats were moving Republican. Nothing Gore could have done could have changed that. And yet, if Nader doesn’t run, he wins.

              My question is do you ever criticize anyone but Nader?

              Yes, as a simple archive search would have quickly revealed.

            • sam240 says:

              “It’s very simple: if Nader doesn’t run, Gore wins.” – Lemieux

              Wrong, wrong, wrong. According to Solon Simmons’ “One Man in Ten Thousand”, if Nader didn’t run, not only would have Gore still lost Florida and New Hampshire, but he would have lost Iowa and Wisconsin as well.

              Mike Hersh notes that the exit polls in Florida showed Gore would have lost the state by 1% had Nader not won. However, the exit polls also showed Gore winning Florida by 2%, and Hersh doesn’t mention it.

              What’s the major difference between Simmons’ analysis and Hersh’? Simple. Simmons notes that, had Nader not been in the race, some Gore voters would have stayed at home. Hersh does not hold this to be true.

              I know that Nader’s entrance in the race caused some people to vote for Gore. I know this because I knew some of them, and observed their behavior.

              STEP ONE: Begin with a low-information adult who believes that Gore and Bush are basically the same. This person doesn’t plan on voting.

              STEP TWO: With Nader in the race, our low-information adult sees someone who is different. Thus, the person becomes interested in politics.

              STEP THREE: During the course of the 2000 campaign, the low-information voter becomes a high-information voter. As part of this process, she or he discovers that there is a difference between Bush and Gore.

              STEP FOUR: Because the voter now realizes that there is a difference, he or she considers that voting for Gore would produce a better outcome than voting for Nader and increasing the risk of a Bush presidency.

              Lemieux, over the past few years, has repeatedly insisted there is no way step three could happen, and that a low-information voter who believes that both parties are the same could not get more interested in politics and change her or his mind. Regarding this specific point, Lemieux has ceased to be a thinker and changed himself into a closed-minded blockhead. Hersh, on his part, ignored this type of voter in his analysis, which means that there is a flaw in his argument.

              Does Lemieux think that it was impossible for anybody to have gone through this process? If that were the case, then Hersh’ argument would have some weight.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        The person who cost Al Gore the election was the Palm Beach registrar who designed the local ballot so that Pat Buchanan got votes clearly intended for Al Gore. Without that specific act of incompetence, Bush is not able to bring a suit, etc.

        And without Nader, the incompetent registrar is irrelevant. Again, you can’t exonerate Nader because in an alternative sequence of events he wouldn’t have succeeded in throwing the election to Bush. What happened happened.

        Lieberman was a terrible choice

        Evidence, please. As with most VP choices there’s no evidence whatsoever that Lieberman affected the election — remember, this is pre-Iraq War — and I’d also note that Gore, who didn’t like Lieberman, picked him for a good reason — it resulted in pretty much the only positive media coverage he received in the entire campaign. Anyway, the idea that Lieberman was the reason Nader and his supporters hated Gore is just retrospective projection.

        • Bill Murray says:

          And without Nader, the incompetent registrar is irrelevant. Again, you can’t exonerate Nader because in an alternative sequence of events he wouldn’t have succeeded in throwing the election to Bush. What happened happened.

          I think you mean with Katherine Harris, with easily hacked voting machines, with county registrars helping Republicans (but not Democrats) correct incorrectly done registrations, with the 16% of 1996 Clinton voters that voted in 2000 voting for Bush, with the butterfly ballot, then Nader becomes relevant and throws the election (along the way there is a whole nother set of with’s, like the Brooks Brothers riot) to the Supreme Court. Thus, we should excoriate Nader and his voters rather than the several groups that were much larger factors in the issue? even if you really think this is the right thing to do, how is it not doing the same thing you accuse the firebaggers of?

          • malraux says:

            The difference is that arguably Nader and more clearly his supporters claim to be fighting for the liberal/progressive side. Its not particularly notable that conservatives do things to further the goals of conservatives. It is notable when supposed liberals do.

            The argument here is that pretty clearly Nader worked to elect Bush. He couldn’t (or at least didn’t) have done it on his own but regardless his goals and actions were based on getting Bush elected.

          • Warren Terra says:

            Yes, a lot of factors came together to make it possible for Nader to be a spoiler. But what’s your point? Nader is still a spoiler, and it still remains the fact that:
            1) Nader and his fans still falsely maintain he wasn’t a spoiler.
            2) Nader and his fans still tendentiously claim he had no intent to be a spoiler.
            3) Nader and his fans still falsely claim that it wouldn’t matter if he was a spoiler, that Dubya over Gore was no price at all or was a price worth paying.
            4) Nader’s entire campaign was a fraud. Far from an attempt to promote a political organization or any particular policy ideas, it was exclusively an onanistic aggrandizement of Nader himself. It has left no useful legacy, nor any party organization because it was designed to leave neither. Nader solicited donations not for the party but for himself. and did not relinquish his supporter database to the party. And anyone who can claim to name a particular policy idea associated with Nader’s campaigns is either a truly dedicated follower of these issues or is engaging in projection – and likely both.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              Correct on all counts.

              • Bill Murray says:

                well except the first, if spoiler is meant to mean cost the election in any meaningful sense. 10,000 << 200,000+.

                The Republicans were committed to stealing the election full stop. probably Nader made it 1% easier. But boy do you guys obsess over the little bit and ignore the huge elephant in the room.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  And you continue to ignore the fact that Republicans were pursing their interests, and Nader (ostensibly) wasn’t. And you also ignore that the fact that multiple parties were responsible can’t eliminate the responsibility of anyone whose role was necessary.

                  And, more importantly, you continue not to understand that this whole line of argument is mind-blowingly stupid. Are Clinton and Obama incompetent because they lost huge chunks of Jimmy Carter’s votes in Mississippi, or might their be ineluctable historical trends happening? How can you square the idea that Gore screwed up by not doing more to appeal to conservative Southern Democrats with the actual Naderite argument (represented well here by Dilan) that it’s immoral for Gore not to run as a socialist?

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  Why does Nader’s interest have to be your interest, Scott?

                  Hasn’t it occurred to you that Nader may actually disagree with you on many issues? For instance, that while you may generally oppose war you don’t think that it is so immoral and unacceptable that the political system must be reconfigured to destroy American imperialism in the future?

                  Those are actually different views on war than your average liberal war skeptic holds. And they imply different political strategies.

                  The more you want to actually overthrow the system, the more long term you must think. The next election is sometimes almost irrelevant to long term changes.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  The more you want to actually overthrow the system, the more long term you must think. The next election is sometimes almost irrelevant to long term changes.

                  Ah, yes, heighten the contradictions. Which, as I said the other day, is exactly why Naderism is a movement comprised almost entirely of privileged white people. Oddly, the people upon whom the contradictions will be heightened don’t believe in making things much worse in order to advance implausible fantasies about how this well make things better after we’re all dead. Hence Nader getting 0% of the vote from African-American women.

                  By the way, Nader succeeded in his strategy of throwing the election to Bush. So the military-industrial complex must be dismantled by now, right>

                • Malaclypse says:

                  For instance, that while you may generally oppose war you don’t think that it is so immoral and unacceptable that the political system must be reconfigured to destroy American imperialism in the future?

                  And since voting for Nader caused two wars, how did your purity work out for you?

            • Anna in PDX says:

              Yes, as a nader voter I am mostly saddened by (4). We still have no third party that is in any way competitive or useful, and no grass roots organization that could some day be one. And I am sort of like Michael Moore in that I am sorry Nader ended up being an ass about Florida, but I really did believe the “safe state” stuff and voted for him ONLY because i was in Oregon, a safe blue state.

              • mpowell says:

                Nobody here is going to criticize an Oregon voter for voting for Nader. The problem is that so many of them get butt hurt when people complain about the obvious problems with Nader’s campaign in Florida (where he was pouring funds). At least one lesson to learn here is that you have to be careful who you support. Nader, in theory, had a bunch of great policy positions. But politics is about what you get done. And the only possible impact of his actions on american politics was negative.

                • Bill Murray says:

                  I think you are assuming facts not in evidence. i totally think Scott would do this

                • Jameson Quinn says:

                  I’d like to first tell my own story, then split some hairs.

                  I voted for Nader, in WA; I was 24. In fact, the Halloween before the election, I got together with my friend from Food Not Bombs (actually, all my friends were from FNB; this one was the intellectual anarchist) and dressed up as “Zombies for Gore”, a joke which was funnier at the time than in retrospect. Then, after election, as I watched the aftermath from Chiapas (I was working with the Zapatistas because my Peace Corps assignment in Sierra Leone had come with a State Department briefing that smelled too much of The Man), I hoped Gore would win, but still fantasized that the obvious unfairness of the whole thing would lend strength to the movement for Instant Runoff Voting.

                  So, now that I’ve established my leftist poseur cred, I’d like to unpack the various points about Nader in this post. To begin with, there’s a couple of things which are obviously true:

                  1. Bush’s (s)election was an utter disaster for the country and indeed the species and the planet.
                  2. Ralph Nader is a self-absorbed twit, and his attempts to avoid his sizable share of guilt for (1) are laughable and contradictory.

                  But I don’t think it’s fair to go from there to:

                  3. Anyone who voted for Ralph Nader should have known better…
                  3a) …anywhere in the country.
                  3b) …in Florida at least.

                  The truth is, when you’re voting for president, self-absorbed twits are pretty much the only choices. And the scale of the Bush disaster couldn’t really have been anticipated. I mean that both in terms of the ideal subject, but especially in terms of people like my 24-year-old self, who thought he was appropriately cynical about the media, but who still osmotically absorbed a bit of the specious “robotic Gore” and “moderate Bush” messages that (incredible as it seems) permeated the environment back then.

                  And anyway, the point of arguing about this in general is to try to keep a disaster like that from ever happening again. And in that regard, beating the dead Nader-is-an-asshole horse can easily turn into beating the drum against anyone who dreams of possibilities outside the two parties. Yes, plurality voting often ties our hands when it gets to the ballot box, but we shouldn’t let it tie our minds. Instead, we should agree to work together for a voting system like approval voting, one that doesn’t set us at each others’ throats.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  I will note only that if you look at the post, my blame is exclusively on Nader, not Nader voters. That’s my focus.

                • Jameson Quinn says:

                  I can’t believe it. Not that anyone cares, but my peace corps assignment was supposed to be Ivory Coast, not Sierra Leone.

                  And while I’m posting again, I’ll clarify that, while I supported IRV in 2000, I now realize that it’s the weakest of the possible voting reforms. I’d take Approval, or Majority Judgment, or SODA, or Condorcet, or Range, before I’d settle for IRV. Still better than plurality, though.

              • JL says:

                This system, unfortunately, is set up to make it hard for third parties to be successful. It’s a great argument for political activity outside national-office electoral politics (state and local are different, there are state legislative districts where a Green or similar could probably actually win). Which goes back to my argument with TK the other day – there, I was saying that protest and direct action aren’t enough, but also (as I am here) that they’re an important complement to national-level establishment politics.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  I don’t see any difference between voting for third parties who can win and voting for third parties who can’t, in terms of both being forms of political protest and activism. The more votes the third party candidate gets, the more his or her concerns get paid attention to. E.g., Ross Perot very much made the deficit a live issue in the 1990’s.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Ross Perot very much made the deficit a live issue in the 1990′s.

                  In the sense that it was pretty much exactly as salient a topic as when Reagan ran on that issue in 1980, yes. In the sense that something changed, then no.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  How about in the sense that he created the perception that there were large numbers of people who were concerned about deficit reduction, thereby forcing the issue in a manner that resulted in the 1993 Clinton tax increases and the Clinton-Gingrich budget deals? Does that count?

                  To the extent that people voted for Perot because he said the deficit was really important, they got what they wanted.

            • efgoldman says:

              “…onanistic aggrandizement…”
              Warren Terra FTW!

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              Hi Warren.

              I’m not a Nader fan (though I admit to supporting him for a while in 2000…I voted Gore though).

              But I hope I’m not being tendentious when I challenge some variants of the intent thesis. Indeed, you made a couple of points in that thread that I couldn’t verify (e.g., the campaign challenge to naders traders, your claim that Moore said they were targeting swing states).

              The Burden paper is the key one to dispute if you want to establish that the Nader campaign targeted swing states. Now, whether Nader had personal fantasies and comfort with spoiling, I don’t know. He’s a kooky guy. But the evidence, afaict, is that the campaign didn’t make an effort to spoil (in the sense of targeting swing states with appearances or ad buys). This doesn’t get him off the hook, of course!

              (I will say that in my comments below I’ve probably overstated the lack of foreseeability. It’s certainly impossible to have foreseen the particular outcome (i.e., the FL outcome per se), but that some such thing would happen, given the closeness of the race, was certainly possible and probably likely.)

              • Warren Terra says:

                Some of this, I’m going on memory – in 2000 to 2004, I listened to a lot of Pacifica’s Democracy Now, so I remember hearing from Michael Moore how he had personally pressed Nader to stay out of swing states, to no effect. Whether Nader was “focusing” on swing states, I can’t say – but he was definitely refusing to avoid them.

                Likewise with the “Nader Trader” I’m going on memory; but I am quite certain that it was the Nader campaign that sued to block websites trying to establish personal connections between voters for this purpose.

                For other aspects of this – and especially for Nader’s own words on the subject – I recommend a Michael Berube post that Scott Lemieux linked to somewhere in these comments.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  I’ll keep looking for the Nader-Trader suits. But my preliminary search only found the Sec of State of CA on somewhat reasonable (ultimately not upheld) grounds.

                  I do urge you to read the Burden paper. It’s quite interesting. I found it when I was looking for evidence for the claim that Nader deliberately targeted swing states and indeed amped up that targeting as the election neared. That seems false both based on the appearance schedule and on the testimony of the campaign manager.

                  It does seem to be the case that they didn’t particular avoid swing states. This seems to support the indifference hypothesis. (Burden’s best explanation for the schedule is seeking 5% vote share.)

                  I’ve dealt with Berube’s article before. It’s not really very persuasive, esp. given the multitude of Nader statements all over the place, including a lot of denial and a claim that Chait documents that Nader was sure that Gore was going to win by twenty points. I find the campaign structure evidence more compelling. I’d find the opposition to trading a bit of strong evidence if I could get hold of it. But then that’s evidence, in concert with Burden’s stuff, of a conflicted or confused campaign.

                  (Again, disclaimer, none of this gets Ralph off the hook!)

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  From Hogan’s link:

                  This latest site offers a two-fer: You can vote for Gore, and then cast a “virtual vote” for Nader. The hitch is that as a condition of casting the virtual vote, the person must pledge to vote for Gore and then, get this, supply his or her driver’s license number or state ID.

                  There is no indication how this data will be used or to whom it will be transferred. But on the surface, it looks like a bald-faced ploy for gathering info on Nader backers for Gore supporters. The Nader campaign is protesting the site to the California attorney general’s office.

                  C’mon, Scott! If this is the only instigation by Nader, it’s hardly evidence of being against vote swapping per se, much less dispositive evidence. Moore’s near election article wherein he said (weirdly) that he wouldn’t vote trade, but he’d understand if people did is closer, but hardly a smoking gun.

                  If there’s other evidence of anti-trading activity by the Nader campaign, I’d welcome it. This is the first I recall hearing it on LGM (it used to be the shift to campaigning in swing states + Berube and Chait; then it shifted a bit more to Berube and Chait; then Warren mention the trader thing…but it’s just a recollection).

                  I think DJW’s line is more plausible, but, I’ll address it below.

              • djw says:

                I still don’t understand how continuing the campaign through October and rejecting any vote-swapping arrangement or other measures to address the swing state problem can be inferred as anything other than an intent to throw the election. I haven’t read the Burden paper; I’ll concede for the sake of argument that his campaign didn’t aggressively prioritize swing states, but he obviously didn’t avoid them either. The bar you’re setting for establishing ‘intent’ seems absurdly high.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  The vote-swapping thing really is dispostive.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  So, the argument is:

                  1) Nader didn’t suspend his campaign (compatible with indifference to spoil)

                  2) Rejecting any vote swapping measures…er…I can’t establish this as true. I do think this would be some evidence, but that would need to be balanced against the campaign appearance strategy)

                  The latter, even if true, doesn’t seem dispositive to me, given the rest of the evidence, though it’d certainly be strong.

                  I haven’t read the Burden paper; I’ll concede for the sake of argument that his campaign didn’t aggressively prioritize swing states, but he obviously didn’t avoid them either. The bar you’re setting for establishing ‘intent’ seems absurdly high.

                  I presume by “intent” we mean that it was an explicit goal such that Nader and the campaign would try to maximize the chances of success of that goal. This is why, I take it, people originally appealed to the swing state focus hypothesis.

                  My take on Nader (in 2000) is that he’s a moody wack job and bomb thrower. I could see him, for example, getting enraged by a “Nader trader” site one week because they used his name and another week because they were trying to help Gore and being fine with it another week. Now, I don’t know if he was that erratic by any means, and I still don’t know if he opposed vote swapping per se. For all I know, throwing the election was Nader’s goal, and the campaign staff just didn’t support it and subverted his intent. That’s inconsistent with Burden’s interview with the campaign manager, though.

                  I guess I wonder why it’s significant that he intended it rather than was criminally indifferent to it and sometime intending-it curious (or, at least, willing to seem that way because he thought it was cool, or scary, or got him press). I presume we all agree that that indifference rather than intent doesn’t exculpate him at all. Indeed, it doesn’t excuse the heartfelt, well meaning Greens who supported his campaign. It doesn’t excuse me at all (though I didn’t vote for him) because I gave money to his campaign. I definitely bear, to my great shame, more responsibility for the Bush regime than people who either just voted for Gore, or who voted for and gave money to Gore.

                  (Now, it was like $200, so I’m not exactly feeling massive guilt or anything, don’t get me wrong.)

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Sigh. More late night blockquote closing fail. I’m so sorry.

            • sam240 says:

              “1) Nader and his fans still falsely maintain he wasn’t a spoiler.”

              — Please read Solon Simmons’ “One Man in Ten Thousand,” and look at the Florida exit polls which had Gore losing in a race without Nader but winning a race with Nader.

              If Nader were a spoiler, then wouldn’t the Florida exit polls have showed Gore winning in both cases, and winning by a larger margin in a Naderless race than in one with Nader? Obviously, yes. But the exit polls indicated otherwise.

              If you’re going to analyze Nader’s effect on the election, you need to consider three sets of people.

              SET ONE: Those who voted for Nader, but would have voted for Gore if Nader had sat out the race.

              SET TWO: Those who voted for Nader, but would have voted for Bush if Nader had sat out the race.

              SET THREE: Those who voted for Gore, but would have stayed home if Nader had sat out the race.

              I know people in set three exist, and I even know some of them personally.

              If the combined number of people in sets two and three are greater than the number of people in set one, then Nader’s entry into the race helped Gore.

              Simmons estimated the number of people in set three, and concluded that it was large enough to give Gore wins in Iowa and New Mexico. In Florida and New Hampshire, the combined people in sets two and three narrowed Bush’s victory margin; without Nader in the race, Gore would have lost Florida by some 30,000 votes. On the other hand, while Nader’s run ended up helping Gore in those states, it narrowed Gore’s margin of victory in Oregon.

              Hersh doesn’t consider set three at all, and Lemieux considers the number of people in set three to be zero. Simmons’ analysis is the only one I know of to attempt to measure the size of set three. If you want me to consider Nader a spoiler, show me that set three isn’t as large as Simmons claims. Merely asserting that there’s nobody in set three isn’t acceptable.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                I think the number of people in #3 is trivial, and while we;re speculating it’s equally plausible that Nader turned off many more voters by echoing media nonsense about Gush and Bore. (If turnout in 2000 was unusually high I might lend some credence to that, but in fact it was unusually low.) The best exit poll data, cited below as well as by Nader himself, makes it clear that Nader threw the election to Bush, as he intended.

                • djw says:

                  The “method” that Simmons uses (elsewhere, I haven’t seen the specific article cited) to determine that certain Gore voters would not have voted but for Nader in the race is utterly speculative, but he treats it as definitive.

                • sam240 says:

                  “I think the number of people in #3 is trivial,” – Lemieux

                  What evidence do you have to support this belief?

                  Let’s assume that, of every ten new voters Nader brought into the race, just three of them went completed the four-step process mentioned above.

                  We’ll also use Nader’s claims that he took 38000 votes from Gore and 25000 from Bush. This leaves 34000 people who were otherwise non-voters that voted for Nader.

                  But, if three out of every ten people whom Nader drew into the race ended up voting for Gore, then Nader was responsible for bringing Gore an additional 14,500 votes in Florida, which is more than the net 13,000 votes he took away from Gore.

                  If we assume that 40% of people who first became interested in politics because of Nader decided to vote for Gore as a result of becoming more informed by following politics for the first time , then Nader provided Gore with 22,000 voters who would otherwise have stayed home.

                  “The best exit poll data, cited below as well as by Nader himself, makes it clear that Nader threw the election to Bush,” – Lemieux

                  The best exit poll data, cited by Hersh as well, indicate that Gore had more support than Bush in the actual race, but would have lost to Bush had Nader not been in the race. If Nader had thrown the election, the exit poll should have shown Gore winning in a Nader-less race, since the polls had Gore ahead in Florida.

                • Warren Terra says:

                  Sam, if you really want to persist in your delusion that by denouncing Gore at every opportunity and loudly insisting that Gore was no better than Bush, Nader mobilized previously disenchanted voters to come out and vote for Gore … well, I believe the term of art is that I should recommend you keep on fncking that chicken. I mean, as an outcome it makes no sense whatsoever, and it is completely at odds with Nader’s stated goals and the direct meaning of his campaign rhetoric, but if you’re convinced that it was only Nader’s execration of Gore that moved people to vote for Gore, no-one is going to change your mind.

                • sam240 says:

                  “Sam, if you really want to persist in your delusion that by denouncing Gore at every opportunity and loudly insisting that Gore was no better than Bush,” — Warren Terra

                  I believe Gore was better than Bush. The step-by-step process of how Nader managed to produce votes for Gore involves people realizing the fact that Gore was better than Bush.

                  It wasn’t Nader’s attacks on Gore that caused those people to move from being non-voters to being Gore voters. I know some of those people personally, and I saw the process that caused them to vote for Gore.

                  Here’s the whole process, and each step in it is feasible.

                  STEP ONE: Begin with X, who doesn’t care much for politics and doesn’t plan on voting. X believes (falsely) that there’s no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.

                  STEP TWO: Bring Nader into the race, and X believes that here is a candidate who isn’t the same. This causes X to become interested in politics, and, for the first time ever, X follows what the government and the political parties are doing.

                  This happened with Perot, too: he caused some previously apathetic non-voters to become interested in politics.

                  STEP THREE: If X starts to follow politics, isn’t X going to notice that there is, in fact, a difference between the Democrats and the Republicans? Most likely, yes.

                  STEP FOUR: Now that X realizes there’s a difference, he or she has to make a decision. If X believes that this difference is large enough to warrant voting for Gore (and helping him win) instead of Nader (and possibly putting Bush in), wouldn’t X vote for Gore?

                  In this case, Nader encouraged X to start paying attention to politics, and, once he or she started to pay attention, X realized that Nader was actually wrong about the two parties being basically the same. As a result of this realization, X, who would have stayed home had Nader not been in the race, voted for Gore as a result of Nader’s candidacy.

                  It’s counterintuitive, but I did observe it happening with some people.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  I;m sorry, but again, when you’re engaging in speculation, you can’t just look at the factors that favor your thesis. What about the voters Nader may have discouraged by perpetuating the Gush/Bore myth? What if Gore didn’t have to waste resources in states that would have been safely blue without Nader? It is implausible in the extreme that this set of factors favored Gore on balance.

                • Warren Terra says:

                  Ah, all those people inspired to become politically active by Nader who quite rapidly discovered the man that had inspired them was full of sh!t and they should ignore everything he said, but rather than having their previous state of discouragement and disinterest reinforced, these people decided they should nonetheless remain politically active, in opposition to the central thesis of the man that inspired them to become so. They are the voters you’re resting your case on.

                  Both of them.

                • sam240 says:

                  “I’m sorry, but again, when you’re engaging in speculation, you can’t just look at the factors that favor your thesis.”-Lemieux

                  Solon Simmons’ analysis considers how many people engaged in this behavior.

                  According to Simmons, this effect was enough for Nader’s race to increase Gore’s vote totals in Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, and New Mexico. However, this effect wasn’t large enough in Oregon. In that state, the Nader candidacy cost Gore votes.

                  If Simmons’ analysis had shown that this effect wasn’t large enough to counterbalance Nader’s drawing away Gore voters, then I would admit that Gore was a spoiler. But it didn’t, so I don’t.

                  “What about the voters Nader may have discouraged by perpetuating the Gush/Bore myth?”

                  The mainstream media did a very good job on its own of discouraging people with the Gush/Bore myth.

                  Furthermore, who are these would-be voters that were discouraged? If these are people who already thought that voting was useless because Bush and Gore were the same, they weren’t going to vote anyway, and Nader didn’t make a difference. If they are people who already figured out that there was a difference between Gore and Bush, why would they accept Nader’s claim?

                  Now, if the Democrats had been running someone with the charisma and rhetorical skills of Clinton, Lemieux might have a point. Clinton was able to draw people into having an interest in politics, and, if those newbies listened to someone who claimed he was lying, well, the claim of someone like Nader or Perot might draw people away.

                  However, Gore was no Clinton. The joke was that Gore was so wooden that, when he was younger, he needed to be vaccinated for Dutch elm disease. He certainly wasn’t drawing people into the political scene.

                  What process would have drawn these otherwise discouraged voters to the polls in the first place, and how did Nader interfere with this process?

                  “but rather than having their previous state of discouragement and disinterest reinforced, these people decided they should nonetheless remain politically active, in opposition to the central thesis of the man that inspired them to become so.” – Warren Terra

                  These people were discouraged because they felt that both parties were basically the same. If they realized Nader was wrong when he claimed Bush and Gore were virtually identical, then they must have felt that there was a difference between the two parties.

                  This discovery was in direct opposition to the belief that caused them to be discouraged in the first place — it tells them that they don’t have a reason to be discouraged anymore! Since the candidates are different, voting does make a difference!

                  I know three of these cases myself, so Warren Terra is vastly underestimating the number of such voters when he holds there were just two of them nationwide.

                  Simmons’ study is the only one I know of that attempts to measure this effect. If you can show me other such studies, I can look at them, and perhaps they could lead me to conclude that Nader was a spoiler. I should emphasize that they do need to take this effect into account to be convincing.

            • Halloween Jack says:

              See, this comment is why LGM’s comment system needs favorites.

  2. Daragh McDowell says:

    I’m off for a short jog. I look forward to 250 comments largely replicating the same 250 comments the last time Scott felt compelled to remind us that Nader is history’s greatest monster. While I will admit to growing somewhat more sympathetic to Scott’s basic argument, the notion that Nader has “the blood of hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis” on his hands is insane. In fact its Jonah Goldberg level intellectual laziness coupled with Erick Erickson level offensive stupidity (y’know, if the thought of dead Iraqis didn’t give them erections.)

    You can do better Scott.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Why? No Nader, no Iraq War. Sorry, but it’s true. You intentionally (or, for that matter, unintentionally but foreseeably) throw the election to Bush you take responsibility for the consequences, the end.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        Scott, I really wish you’d refine the “intentionally” claim. We went round this a while back and I thought you were a bit too quick to dismiss Burden’s argument.

        I think the claim with the best evidence is that Nader and the Nader campaign were negligent about a Bush victory. That is, they took no steps to avoid being a spoiler. Burden shows, I believe, that they didn’t try to be a spoiler, but also that they didn’t try not to be.

        I don’t know how foreseeable it was, given how close FL was. There were a lot of surprising things which made it that close (e.g., ballot design), so I could see a campaign team reasonably not thinking it was an issue.

        Of course, regardless of whether Nader intended or foresaw spoiling Florida, the fact does seem to be that he did spoil FL. The minimal response to this is to acknowledge and apologize. (Not that that would atone.) More reasonably, he should have tried to atone (e.g., by working against the Republicans). He didn’t.

        • djw says:

          The question of whether and how much he targeted swing states specifically is secondary. He ran–he tried to persuade people in general, from all states, to vote for him, in what was obviously likely to be a close election. At any point in September/October, he could have announced that the election was too close and the danger of a Bush presidency was too great, and ended his campaign. He chose not too. That’s good enough for intentionality.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            The question of whether and how much he targeted swing states specifically is secondary.

            It’s secondary to whether he intended to spoil? Well, when you have claims like:

            It is on the record that Nader targeted his campaign in the closing weeks in order most effectively to harm Gore (to Michael Moore’s disgust, to name one prominent example)

            Or Scott’s own:

            Even more importantly, his strategy leading up to the election only makes sense if throwing the election to Bush was his central strategy.

            Clearly not, if Burden is correct.

            But you seem to be conflating intentionality with responsibility. If by “intentionally” we mean, “deliberately, with the explicit goal of doing so”, then thats not established by the fact that he was causally responsible and even that it was a close election. All that’s compatible with a sincere belief, for example, that the campaign would not affect the outcome. Indeed, even a reasonable belief to that effect. I don’t think it was predictable that FL would be that close.

            (This is where the appeal to the various other factors is reasonable. The more unlikely the other factor, the less foreseeable the spoiling, within reason. Thus the butterfly ballot effect seems very hard to have anticipated and yet necessary for Nader to spoil. That doesn’t mean Nader didn’t spoil…he clearly did. But it’s some prima facie evidence agains the forseeability of that particular spoilage.)

            I think it’s clear that he was more or less indifferent to spoiling. Certainly the campaign made no explicit efforts to avoid spoiling. If that’s sufficient for intentionality, well, ok. That’s a vast cry from the bending his efforts to ensure line, though.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              If Nader was merely indifferent to spoiling the election, how can you explain his explicit hostility to the vote switching idea? You can’t.

              • Daragh McDowell says:

                How about a genuine belief in the idea that a citizen engaging with their government through the act of voting should use the opportunity to positively affirm a set of political ideas rather than engaging in lesser-evilism?

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  That seems wrong. Vote trading doesn’t diminish the voters engagement…it prevents them from helping achieve an outcome they don’t want. It seems more of a positive affirmation.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  I think the problem is saying “they don’t want that outcome”. A lot of leftists did not want a Gore presidency, and certainly did not want it to become common and accepted theory that only Southern right-wingers like Clinton and Gore could run for President as Democrats, and that religious narcissist jerks like Joe Lieberman should be rewarded with key appointments. We would have never gotten Obama if Gore had been elected– a black liberal from Chicago can’t get elected nationally!

                • djw says:

                  Such citizens have, of course, a right to do so, but in doing so they are not “engaging with their government” in any meaningful sense following your prescription. It’s one thing to advocate for a change to the rules. But behaving as if the system operated under the rules you wish it did will not contribute to bringing about those rules, and will do a lot of harm along the way.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  Sure they are engaging in their government!

                  Again, the political desires of mushy centrists do not define “engaging in their government”. The American Revolution was also “engagement in the government”. There are lots of ways to engage, including by doing things that make centrists less able to shift the governance of the country very slightly to the left or the right.

                • djw says:

                  The American Revolution was also “engagement in the government”.

                  Indeed it was! I certainly never denied that violent rebellions are a failure to engage government. How could I? I suggested that using one’s ballot to express your own purity/outrage/frustration rather try to influence who actually has power is not a meaningful way of engaging the government. That has, state the blindingly obvious, nothing to do with a conducting a war against the incumbent government with the intention of overthrowing it.

                  Why on earth would you associate third party voting and revolution? Are you so delusional as to think they have anything in common?

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  A lot of leftists did not want a Gore presidency

                  Dilan, at least, is completely candid: like Nader, he wanted Bush to win. Most Naderites deny this, because it’s strategically delusional and grotesquely immoral, but Dilan is at least completely straightforward about the goals and implications of the Nader campaign.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  DJW:

                  Nader voting and revolution are both acts of dissent from the system, acts that say that the political system is incapable of implementing the things one believes to be important.

                  Scott:

                  I wouldn’t say that Nader was “trying” to elect Bush, but he definitely was trying to prevent the election of Gore. You may reject this distinction, but I think it does have a slight bit of content. In other words, I don’t think the typical Nader voter cared whether it was Bush or Dole or Quayle or Romney or Huckabee or anyone else on the Republican ticket. But they did care that Gore represented a form of Southern religious corporatist imperialist centrist-conservativism that they refused to support. And objectively, sure, a vote for Nader in a swing state was 1/2 of a vote for Bush.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  By the way, I did not vote for Nader. But I think leftists have every right to try to tear down a system that they believe is fundamentally immoral and owe me nothing.

                • Hogan says:

                  By the way, I did not vote for Nader. But I think leftists have every right to try to tear down a system that they believe is fundamentally immoral and owe me nothing.

                  Of course, voting for Nader doesn’t actually do that, but it’s really still the same as using armed force to seize state power! Because dissent!

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  Hogan:

                  Given I actually believe in the American system, I would much rather that, yeah, leftists vote against candidates I vote for than plot a revolution. Your mileage may vary.

                  I just think they have the right to do this and the rest of us should either try to earn their votes or shut up about it.

                • Hogan says:

                  I just think they have the right to do this and the rest of us should either try to earn their votes or shut up about it.

                  So you get to criticize my tactics, but I don’t get to criticize yours. I guess that’s one version of the American system.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  You may reject this distinction

                  And of course I do, since it’s exactly the kind of dishonest evasion Nader and his supporters have been engaging in for more than a decade.

                  One thing worth noting here, however, is that your candor that Nader was pursuing a heighten-the-contradictions strategy — that he was deliberately inflicting immense amounts of pain on vulnerable people here and abroad because of a belief that his would fulfill some long-term fantasies about future revolution — is very unusual. The kind of washing of hands reflected by the “we weren’t electing Bush, we just didn’t want to elect Gore” non-sequitur is much more typical. jeer9’s “nobody could have predicted that George W. Bush would have been the president that his stated positions, record, and constituencies reflected” is another variant.

              • Bijan Parsia says:

                I’m still not able to track that incident down. Pointer please?

                • Hogan says:

                  This indicates that he supported it in 2004 (but the link goes nowhere).

                  This says that in 2000 he complained to the California secretary of state about a particular vote-swapping website, but not about vote swapping as such.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  I still don’t understand how continuing the campaign through October and rejecting any vote-swapping arrangement or other measures to address the swing state problem can be inferred as anything other than an intent to throw the election.

                  Thanks Hogan! That’s more than I had gotten.

            • Ralph Nader’s travel schedule in October and early November makes a slam-dunk case that he did intentionally tip the election.

              He focused his money and time on those states, like Florida, where he had the best chance of causing Gore to lose, not those states where he had the best chance of maximizing the Green vote.

              • Bijan Parsia says:

                Er…not according to Burden’s paper. It shows exactly the opposite, for that matter.

                I don’t know why you think Burden is wrong on this or where you’re getting your idea of the schedule from, but I really think this line is wrong. If you think there’s a flaw in Burden’s methodology or data, I’d be happy to hear it. But he tested it a lot of different ways and they all align against the targeting swing states and for targeting total vote share.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Well, I think the best evidence is his own words. And the fact that he didn’t try to avoid being a spoiler is also enough to draw the inference. And the general fact that vanity campaigns like Nader are all downside and no upside. To say that Nader was just recklessly indifferent to Bush winning isn’t any kind of defense, and I think even that is too charitable.

          But, again, his intent doesn’t matter. The consequences of his actions were certainly foreseeable. This was always going to be a close election, and I note that ballot design issues being resolved wouldn’t have stopped Florida from being close — Florida just would have been a close race Gore won.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            Those words happen to be fairly weak evidence, at best, as we’ve discussed before. (After all, we also have Nader’s words saying that he was, e.g., focused on the 5% target.)

            And the general fact that vanity campaigns like Nader are all downside and no upside.

            Well, I agree with that.

            To say that Nader was just recklessly indifferent to Bush winning isn’t any kind of defense, and I think even that is too charitable.

            It’s not meant as a defence, as I hope I’ve made clear. I’m trying to acertain what’s the case.

            But, again, his intent doesn’t matter.

            It certainly doesn’t matter to whether he was a spoiler (he was). It also doesn’t matter as to his culpability to being a spoiler (he is culpable; he put himself, voluntarily, in the position).

            The consequences of his actions were certainly foreseeable. This was always going to be a close election, and I note that ballot design issues being resolved wouldn’t have stopped Florida from being close — Florida just would have been a close race Gore won.

            Isn’t that my point? If the ballot design wasn’t messed up then Nader wouldn’t have spoiled FL. How does that make his spoiling more foreseeable?!? If you mean that he couldn’t reliably foresee not spoiling, well, then, I agree. That’s the recklessness. Which, given the knowability of the huge badness of a Bush win, was very wrong.

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              Let me retract the forseeability bit. As I wrote above…it was probably impossible to foresee the particular outcome, but you’re right that the closeness of the race made it probable enough that there’d be some such outcome. I don’t know what polling the Nader campaign was using, though.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                In addition, I don’t know how you can say that Nader thought he couldn’t gotten any more votes than he did in Floria. If that’s what he thought, it’s hard to square that with a “he wanted 5%” defense.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  In addition, I don’t know how you can say that Nader thought he couldn’t gotten any more votes than he did in Floria.

                  Ok, I didn’t say that, right? Or did I have a brain fart?!

                  If that’s what he thought, it’s hard to square that with a “he wanted 5%” defense.

                  The argument of Burden is that a 5% seeking campaign targets the areas that yield the most votes for the effort. Since the gross national percentage matter, it doesn’t make sense to target areas that wouldn’t yield as many votes. So it’s not whether FL has votes that Nader could get, but whether FL has more votes than some other campaign move. To quote Burden:

                  . After controlling for a host of other explanatory variables that might have influenced Nader’s appearance strategy, I find clear evidence in multivariate models that his goal was maximizing votes, not throwing the election. Gore, on the other hand, pursued both votes and victory by targeting high-population centers and the most competitive areas of the country simultaneously.

                  Also:

                  Some descriptive statistics provide a sense of these data. Between September 1 and election day, Nader made a total of 83 DMA campaign stops, or 73 state appearances. New York and Washington appear to be especially prone to Nader visits, despite the attempt to exclude travel not intended for public appearances. Beyond those cities, Nader spent most time in the San Francisco–Oakland–San Jose, Boston–Manchester, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Cleveland–Akron markets. Gore, in contrast, made some 99 DMA campaign appearances and 71 state appearances during the same period. His slightly greater frequency of travel is probably the result of Nader’s limited campaign budget. Gore’s appearances range more widely and seem to center more often on states where the outcome was most in doubt. The Gore campaign spent the greatest number of days in the Philadelphia, Tampa–St. Petersburg, Wilkes-Barre–Scranton, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh markets. Gore and Nader appearances correlate at a mere .50 at the state level and .32 at the media market level, well below the .85 correlation reported between Bush and Gore state appearances (Althaus et al., 2002; see also Strömberg, 2002).

                  You seem to be suggesting that regardless of whether the campaign was aiming to spoil or to get 5% that they should have targeted FL. But they didn’t target FL.

                  FL is expensive, but also vote rich, obviously, so one might expect a campaign to target it regardless, if they had the funds. But the Nader campaign was rather poor.

                  Regardless of the intent issue per se, it seems clear that there was no big swing state push by the Nader campaign. So could we at least kill that? From Burden’s conclusion:

                  It is certainly possible that Nader’s mere appearance on the ballot in some 44 states allowed Bush to win an election that Gore would have taken otherwise, but this would be an unintentional effect, or at least one that resulted from entrance into the race on February 21, 2000, rather than campaign strategy in the months that followed. The travel schedule and television ad buys show no evidence of a purposeful attempt to throw the election. Although it is true that a more benevolent (and somewhat more strategic) Nader might have actually focused his efforts on less competitive markets, neither his travel schedule nor his limited television advertisement decisions point to an active attempt to target the Democrats

                  I rather suspect that Nader’s narcissism (which was well revealed by his post election behavior and 2004 campaign) dovetailed with Green party building goals (which were strongly held within the party) kept withdrawing from being seriously considered (there was a lot of rationalization going on, including the idea that 4 years of Bush were survivable esp. with a democratic congress; this was bad reasoning, of course). There was no attempt (afaik) by the Dems to co-opt the Greens. Lots of Green’s and Green leaning voters (e.g., me!) defected for fear of a Bush victory, it doesn’t seem infeasible that offering something to the non-Nader party honchos might have produced some internal pressure to withdrawal. I recall a lot of stick and very little carrot.

                  (BTW, I remember reacting to the Lieberman selection as a slap in the face to the progressive wing which was reinforced by his horrid showing in the VP debate. Now it may still have been the right choice, all things considered. And, I was relatively high information thus atypical.)

                  That being said, that doesn’t alleviate the responsibility. They could have withdrawn, or tried to negotiate. Risking spoiling for the 5% goal isn’t hugely better than trying to spoil for the sake of heightening the contradictions. If these worked it might have been (scarily) worth it. But they didn’t. They failed. They traded definite harms for gains that were never realized.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Ok, I didn’t say that, right? Or did I have a brain fart?!

                  You didn’t say this in so many words, but you suggest that Nader couldn’t have been trying to throw the election because he didn’t know Florida was going to be that close. But my point is that Florida had to be that close only because Nader’s support was weaker than he was expecting. A Nader who got 5% of the popular vote — which you say was his goal — not only unquestionably would have thrown the election to Bush, but would have thrown an election in which Gore was further ahead to Bush. So your alternative isn’t a defense.

                  On the rest, we’ve been through this, but to prove intent you don’t have to show that he specifically targeted Florida, only that he didn’t avoid it when it was clear that campaigning there could swing the election to Bush.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  You didn’t say this in so many words, but you suggest that Nader couldn’t have been trying to throw the election because he didn’t know Florida was going to be that close.

                  I don’t think I was trying to suggest this, but there’s been so many comments…who knows. I was suggesting that Nader didn’t necessarily foresee spoiling (in the sense of affirmatively predicting), and esp. spoiling FL per se. I agree that the risk of spoiling was foreseeable and high enough. But Nader varyingly said that spoiling wasn’t going to happen (Gore will win by 20%) or that it wouldn’t matter if it did (because of the backlash against Bush by progressives).

                  But my point is that Florida had to be that close only because Nader’s support was weaker than he was expecting. A Nader who got 5% of the popular vote — which you say was his goal — not only unquestionably would have thrown the election to Bush, but would have thrown an election in which Gore was further ahead to Bush. So your alternative isn’t a defense.

                  Only if he drew much more from FL (or other swing states), right? And Nader (and the Nader campaign) can (probably wrong) believe that they are expanding the francise rather than stealing votes.

                  On the rest, we’ve been through this, but to prove intent you don’t have to show that he specifically targeted Florida, only that he didn’t avoid it when it was clear that campaigning there could swing the election to Bush.

                  Why? I mean, if he made 1 out of 90 appearances in FL and that was in Sept, surely that’s not enough to prove intent, right? (I’m just trying to establish the parameters.)

                  I was looking for tracking polls at the time, and I found this article from October 26, 2000:

                  Among registered voters in Florida, the poll found Mr. Gore favored by 44 percent, Mr. Bush by 42 percent, Ralph Nader by 3 percent and Patrick J. Buchanan by 1 percent. Among those expected to vote, Mr. Gore was ahead of Mr. Bush 46 percent to 42 percent, with 3 percent for Mr. Nader and 1 percent for Mr. Buchanan.

                  The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points, meaning that the race is essentially a dead heat.

                  Recognizing the closeness of the race here, Mr. Bush has visited Florida about once a week since Labor Day and was here again today, campaigning with Senator John McCain of Arizona and Jeb Bush.

                  Now, clearly, Nader should have pulled from FL around then. (However, his final vote share was 1.6%, compare with 6.5 in Mass.) (I’ll try again to get Burden’s data to see when exactly Nader went to FL.)

                  We probably won’t make any progress unless we separate out the different claims and this thread is unwieldy at best, so perhaps worth deferring for a bit.

            • Warren Terra says:

              Do you really want to claim you believe in the “5% target” story? You do know what that 5% target meant, right? It meant the Green party nominee would have received federal public funding for the next Presidential campaign, scaled down to a sort of major-third-party status, to the tune of … wait for it … five million dollars.

              That’s right: one vote, one dollar. As I recall, that really was about the only tangible reward on offer if Nader had been able to clear the 5% boundary. Anyone convinced to cast their vote for Nader on the basis of achieving this 5% target was effectively saying that they’d rather do so than send the Greens a buck.

              For comparison, in 2008 Obama got 70 million votes, and received $650 million in donations from 2 million donors.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                A lot of Greens did seem to believe this, in fairness. Of course, it’s not actually a defense — first of all, if Nader got 5% of the vote he would inevitably have thrown any remotely close election to Bush, and second it would make it more likely that Greens would throw elections to Republicans in the future. (Although, granted, not really in practice, since as we’ve seen once you throw one election to Republicans all but a tiny rump faction of the left will justifiably hold you in contempt.)

              • Bijan Parsia says:

                To be more precise, I am fairly convinced by Burden’s argument that the schedule of campaign appearances is much more compatible with a pure 5% strategy than a spoiler or spoiler+5% strategy. I also believe that Nader and the Greens explicitly said that this was their goal, any number of times. (And, while I don’t think “their own words” is dispositive precisely because Nader, at least, is very unreliable, it’s at least on the table and, as I recall, you were a bit more convinced by some of St Ralph’s words ;)).

                I remember believing that that was the goal and lots of Green’s I knew strongly professing it.

                Matching funds was part of it, but I also recall that it was symbolic. A key milestone to growing the party. It would make it easier to get on the ballot on some states, get into debates, persuade the Dems to be more left leaning, etc.

                It may be that that’s mostly pollyannaish; indeed, it almost certainly is. But I don’t see it was so out of bounds as to be prima facie ridiculous. Getting votes matters.

                There are at least some scenarios where pulling 5% wouldn’t have thrown even a close election, but that would have required a different strategy (e.g., only being on the ballot in hugely blue states, etc.) which clearly the Nader campaign didn’t pursue. Which was, at best, criminally negligent.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Since a 5% strategy is also a spoiler strategy, your attempt to draw a distinction collapses. Assuming for the sake of argument that there’s a difference, given Nader’s rejection of the vote swap idea and the fact that he didn’t avoid swing states even when it was clear how close the election was going to be, it’s clear that he was running a 5%+spoiler campaign at a minimum.

                  The fact that Nader didn’t care in the slightest about the Green Party also seems relevant here.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Since a 5% strategy is also a spoiler strategy, your attempt to draw a distinction collapses.

                  ?? Surely it makes a difference whether you are trying to maximize your chances of spoiling or trying to maximize your chance to get 5%. A campaign that only was on the ballot in very safe states etc. wouldn’t necessarily be a spoiling campaign even in a close one, right? I mean, this is way too strong.

                  But I’m happy to back away from the intent question and first just see if we can agree what the campaign appearance strategy was. Do you still think the Nader campaign was targeting swing states with campaign appearances and ad grabs?

                  Assuming for the sake of argument that there’s a difference, given Nader’s rejection of the vote swap idea

                  Still looking for evidence of that rejection. It certainly wasn’t a major part of the campaign, judging from the lack of press about it. The thing Warren remembered almost certainly is the CA case against a specific site that was trying to gather driver license numbers.

                  and the fact that he didn’t avoid swing states even when it was clear how close the election was going to be, it’s clear that he was running a 5%+spoiler campaign at a minimum.

                  Well, here’s Burden’s operationalization of a duel strategy:

                  HYPOTHESIS 3 (BOTH 5% AND SPOILER)

                  This hypothesis is the union of Hypotheses 1 and 2. Nader might have very well pursued both goals simultaneously. Campaign activities often serve multiple purposes (Bartels, 1985; West, 1983). Nader’s travel schedule could have been devised to both maximize his vote and affect the outcome with careful use of media markets. A trip to Boston, for example, should help the Green vote in lopsided and populous Massachusetts but is also covered by the media in southern New Hampshire, where the race was close. Appearances in places such as Philadelphia and nearly anywhere in Florida would also be consistent with this dual strategy.

                  But the correlation of Nader campaign appearance with closeness of race is very very low (regardless of whether you go by state or by media market…a very interesting bit of the paper, IMHO).

                  I’m not sure what else to say. It seems to be that there’s a difference between targeting swing states, targeting something else without being particularly cautious about swing states, and seriously avoiding swing states.

                  I call the first one evidence of trying to spoil, the second being indifferent to spoiling, and the third trying not to spoil. The Nader campaign schedule fits best with the middle one.

                  Bad enough eh?

                  I agree that Nader’s treatment of the Green Party is relevant, but again the Nader campaign was more than Nader. Perhaps he was concealing his real goals in order to keep people on board. Perhaps he was trying to maintain plausible deniability overall. He seems pretty consistent post-election in denying actively trying to spoil and I’m not sure why he would be. It’s not like his stock can fall any further, and he certainly dumped (and was dumped by) the Greens, so no need to placate there.

                  This is partly why I think it’s more likely he was more erratic, varying indifferent and gleeful, and reactive than having a systematic goal of spoiling.

        • Jamie says:

          Is this an argument that Nader was too dumb to understand the consequences of his actions, and thus should be given a pass?

          That would be a very… sophisticated argument, with some very interesting implications.

      • losgatosca says:

        The stupid people who voted for Nader are way fewer in number than the number of apathetic Democrats who did not bither to vote at all. To blame Nader and Nader voters is over looking a lot of other larger and mire direct causes of Gore’s non-win. Your assumption is that Nader voters would not have stayed home, or voted for some other protest candidate, or left the presidential line blank, etc but would have voted for Gore in numbers large enough to make Gore the winner.

        I don’t think most of those voters could honestly have told you what they would have done alternatively without Nader on the ballot.

        Using the same rationale you use to dismiss Southern Democrats voting Republican, one could say ‘stupid, uninformed voters vote for crazy candidate when there is a smarter, more effective possibly winning candidate that will benefit them more’ is not news in any national election.

        • djw says:

          Some number of “pathetic Democrats who did not bither to vote at all” are a permanent feature of American electoral politics. Whatever other causes there may be, Nader’s campaign was sufficient. That’s all that matters.

          • Anonymous says:

            Exactly. Gore had to contend with TWO challengers not one. Twice the negative rhetoric was hurled at him for two years. The depressed Dem turnout was a direct result of that. How many times (2010) does that have to happen before the left figures that out?

            • Kal says:

              So you can’t use “negative rhetoric” about the Democratic candidate, no matter how accurate, for two years in advance of the election, as long as the Republican is worse? Jeez, there’s a recipe for advancing progressive politics.

              Also, you make it sound like Nader’s public voice was approximately as loud as Bush’s (“twice the negative rhetoric”). Which is, uh…

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                You really don’t see there being a difference between criticism of Democrats from a spoiler campaign and anybody else?

                Anyway, the problem is that Nader tried to and did throw the election to Bush, not that he criticized him. His criticisms of Nader are relevant only to the extent that 1)they were wrong, or 2)when Naderites ridiculously try to claim that he mobilized lots of Democratic voters.

                • Kal says:

                  A third party presidential campaign will amplify the criticism a little, sure – that’s one of the points of running. But I wasn’t responding to the argument about whether Nader was a spoiler. The anonymous poster I replied to specifically mentioned 2010 (presumably the Democratic congressional losses) as an example of the same phenomenon of “negative rhetoric” which “the left” apparently needs to learn to avoid directing towards Democrats.

            • Anna in PDX says:

              So this puts left wing dems in a bind. When and how is it OK to criticize our party?

              • Bruce Baugh says:

                Pretty much all the time. It’s the terms that matter.

                Throughout a term, we should be pressing for more than we can expect to get, appreciating what we do get but not settling for it. Before primaries begin, we should be supporting better candidates. (ActBlue is handy here.) During primaries, we should support the best candidates we can who seem to have any slight chance whatever. And then after primaries are over, we should support all the nominees who are better than their Republican rivals, which is pretty much all of them.

                • Jameson Quinn says:

                  And all the time, we should be talking up systems like approval voting, which would open up our options even further and thereby increase our leverage on the Democrats.

              • LeMoyne says:

                Anytime it can be safely ignored.

            • Bill Murray says:

              Well Bush had to contend with 4 contenders at least in Florida

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          o blame Nader and Nader voters is over looking a lot of other larger and mire direct causes of Gore’s non-win.

          How the hell are these causes more “direct?” There are apathetic voters in every election. But every election has a concerted third-party spoiler campaign.

        • losgatosca says:

          In the most direct counterfactual, consider how many Nader voters would have just considered Nader a sell-out if he had withdrawn and actually endorsed Gore?

          My guess is probably most. And they would not have moved to Gore en masse, because basically people voting for third parties are protesting, not voting for a candidate who can win.

          Lots of ways Gore could have won 2000 without even addressing Nader voters. He should only blame himself and Lieberman.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            Lots of ways Gore could have won 2000

            No, there aren’t. And the remedies proposed by Naderites would have made it substantially less likely to win.

            • Malaclypse says:

              Are you claiming that Gore’s failure to name Bob Akavian as VP had no impact?

              • N__B says:

                Gore could have gone wild and named the mayor of a small town in Alaska – name of Plain or something – as his VP. He’d have surprised the national media, appealed to the PUMA vote, and attracted the political fappers, all at once.

            • Bill Murray says:

              well Gore could have persuaded 0.1% of Clinton voters to not vote for Bush. Wait that doesn’t count because it’s not Nader’s fault. I’m guessing not agreeing with Bush 23 times in a debate would have helped this and might have got some of Nader’s votes.

              Gore could have fought at least as hard as the Republicans in the court cases. Well that wouldn’t work because the SCOTUS was acting in a partisan fashion.

              So yeah, it’s all Nader’s fault

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                I’m guessing not agreeing with Bush 23 times in a debate would have helped this and might have got some of Nader’s votes.

                This shit again. Yes, Gore reacted logically when the media savaged him after the first debate. (Hilariously, you have argued that the second debate reflected an actual lack of differences between Gore and Bush.) Anyway, can you cite some evidence that this affected the election?

          • Eli Rabett says:

            Well fuck them with a toilet brush

          • WhatDragon says:

            I don’t understand this.

            It is my understanding that Nader got around 90k votes in Florida.

            Bush won Florida by 500ish votes.

            If even 1 percent of Nader voters in Florida had voted for Gore, Gore wins Florida.

            Thanks Ralph.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              Amazingly enough, based on the percentages Nader himself cites, Nader threw the election to Bush.

              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.

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              Technically, you need more of Nader voters to break for Gore than for Bush. If 1% of Nader voters vote Gore while a counterbalancing 1% vote for Bush, then (assuming the same counts), Bush still wins.

              That’s not what happened in 2000th, of course! But that seems to be more the standard mode of 3rd parties (like Perot).

            • sam240 says:

              On the other hand, there were between 40,000 and 45,000 people who voted for Gore who would have stayed at home had Nader not run in the race. They were mainly low-information, previously apathetic people who didn’t become interested in politics until Nader ran. Due to their developing interest, they started studying the issues, and decided that, while Gore’s positions weren’t as good as Nader’s, they were better than Bush’s, and therefore decided to cast a vote for Gore.

              Let’s say Nader took 38,000 votes away from Gore and 25,000 votes away from Bush, but added (due to the above effect) 20,000 votes for Gore. Without Nader, Bush gains 25,000 votes, while Gore gains just 13,000. The net result? Instead of a 547-vote victory, Bush has a win of about 12500 votes, and Gore isn’t even in a position to argue for a recount that may flip the tally by, at most, 1000 votes.

      • Bill Murray says:

        Well I agree that Gore winning would have meant no Iraq war. I would say even odds on Afghanistan — it depends on when and how the 9-11 plot gets foiled. But the economic crisis was very likely to happen regardless of who was president and still likely before the election, so 2008-2012 could easily have been probably Jeb Bush as president, so no PPACA (no way Gore would have pushed health care), a pseudo-CFPB written by Republicans and a raft of other crappy legislation.

        • spencer says:

          But the economic crisis was very likely to happen regardless of who was president and still likely before the election, so 2008-2012 could easily have been probably Jeb Bush as president, so no PPACA (no way Gore would have pushed health care), a pseudo-CFPB written by Republicans and a raft of other crappy legislation.

          Swapping the PPACA and the Obama presidency for no Iraq war and no massively-destructive upper-class tax cuts?

          I would take that trade in a heartbeat. Of course, I do have health insurance, so that may color my perception a bit.

          • spencer says:

            One reason why this economic clusterfuck has persisted as long as it has is because those fucking tax cuts have tied the federal government’s hands to a pretty significant extent. Though the collapse would probably have happened anyway, the recovery would have been much different if Bush had never been president.

          • Bill Murray says:

            I would too, depending upon how bad a Jeb Bush presidency would be — but he really couldn’t be and worse than his brother. it’s just that Nader is a very minor cause of this. Scott is perfectly willing to hang all Bush’s crap on Nader, but won’t follow his logic through to Obama resulting from the same root.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              1)Again, this counterfactual is not nearly as certain as you’re making it out to be. 8 years of actual competent governance changes things.

              2)And again, it’s not a defense available to 99.99999% of Naderites, since it would amount to saying that “we deserve credit for electing someone who’s as bad as Paul Ryan!”

        • I would say even odds on Afghanistan — it depends on when and how the 9-11 plot gets foiled.

          And even if we assume Gore going after al Qaeda and toppling the Taliban, it’s still unlikely that he turned into a decade-long quagmire.

          But the economic crisis was very likely to happen regardless of who was president and still likely before the election

          I’m not willing to forgive Chris Cox that easily. I haven’t forgotten the Bush administration bully states out of trying to regulate mortgages and derivatives more heavily.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            Right. It’s possible that the same collapse would have happened, but it’s not certain.

            Anyway, this defense is really not available to Nader and most of his apologists, since they also believe Obama’s accomplishments to be worthless. “You should give us credit for Obama being elected to do things that make him no different than Paul Ryan” is just a stupid argument coming and going.

    • djw says:

      I think we’d all be perfectly happy to grant that a more direct and moral responsibility for the Iraq war to George Bush, if that helps. Responsibility comes in many different forms.

      But the notion that you can do your best to unleash a “President George W. Bush” on the world, succeed, and then pretend you bear no responsibility of any sort for the havoc subsequently unleashed isn’t remotely defensible, which is probably why you don’t bother to try.

      • Daragh McDowell says:

        I don’t bother to try because there really isn’t a whole lot of convincing that’s going to happen either way on this thread.

        Having said all of that, Scott is making direct claims about Nader’s responsibility and moral culpability for the worst aspects of the Iraq War and War on Terror generally. None of that would have happened without 9/11. If you’re going to make the case that Nader should have brought into his calculations that there might be a massive and totally unexpected terrorist attack that would massively shift the parameters of the Bush presidency, and therefore done the decent thing and withdraw in September, that’s certainly your right, but it still puts you on the ‘Goldberg’ level of political thinkers.

        Nader’s bag was economics and economic justice. In 2000 his argument was that the neo-liberal consensus was so entrenched in the two parties that there were very few differences between them worth talking about. Given that the financial cataclysm of 2008 is at least partially rooted in Clinton-era financial deregulation, and the New Democrat/New Labour embrace of laissez faire finance capitalism more generally, he had more of a point than Scott is willing to concede.

        Does that absolve him entirely of responsibility? No. But of the many, many, many factors that made both the Bush presidency, and the horrors of the GWOT possible, Nader is a distinctly minor one.

        • Malaclypse says:

          Anybody who didn’t think Bush was more likely to use the military in stupid/evil ways than Gore was not paying attention.

          • JMP says:

            Hell, The Onion managed to predict that, in what turned out to be an eerily prescient article:

            http://www.theonion.com/articles/bush-our-long-national-nightmare-of-peace-and-pros,464/

            During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

            “You better believe we’re going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration,” said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. “Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?”

        • malraux says:

          As you say, Nader was arguing that on the issues that he considered important, he saw very little difference between the two parties. The fact that 9-11 and the reaction to it showed that either there major difference on those issues or that Nader has woefully misjudged the entirety of what was important shows that he was wrong. IE either the two parties are a bit more different on economic policy (especially the neo-liberal consensus) or choosing that economic policy as the sole metric to judged the two parties. Regardless, Nader was clearly wrong.

        • burritoboy says:

          Well, if true, this is one of the major problems that Nader had and still has. It’s certainly true that the Democrats and Republicans in 2000 had fundamentally similar economic theories. However, the Democrats were always more open to heterodoxy in their economic theories, even in 2000 and the period immediately preceding it. Republicans (and, in particular, the Republicans under Bush) were exceptionally strongly opposed to any economic heterodoxy whatsoever from the then-current Chicago School orthodoxy.

          This has held true to this day, with the Democrats quickly adopting a rather mild and mushy Keynesianism after the 2008 crisis, while the Republicans have clung even more ferociously to Chicago School orthodoxy.

          It’s likely true that, without an economic crisis, the two parties would have had reasonably similar economic policies. But, since Nader was predicting an eventual major economic crisis anyway (even back in 2000), it’s easy to make a case that a Democratic politician would respond better to that crisis than a Republican one, simply because the Democratic politician had a more flexible approach and more policy tools she might be willing to use.

          Finally, it’s not at all clear that Nader (even at this point 12 years later) has a particularly sophisticated understanding of economic justice or economics in general. He’s always been comparatively weak in supporting labor unions, for instance. I don’t find he has any particularly deep thoughts on the subject in general.

        • Warren Terra says:

          Nader’s bag was economics and economic justice. In 2000 his argument was that the neo-liberal consensus was so entrenched in the two parties that there were very few differences between them worth talking about.

          This contains elements of truth, but even it is disconnected from reality in important ways.

          Yes, the Democratic party of 2000 was committed to unleashing the financial sector in ways that later proved disastrous, as some realized at the time they would. Yes, even today the Democratic party hasn’t learned this lesson much. And strictly on this issue, the Republicans were probably worse in 2000 (and definitely worse now), but maybe not so very much so.

          But “economics and economic justice” isn’t just about letting Enron and Citibank run riot. It’s also about the safety net, and the tax burden.

          Prominently in the 2000 campaign, Dubya wanted to take the surplus Clinton/Gore had acquired through a combination of progressive taxation and economic boom/bubble, and to squander that surplus and far, far more besides on huge tax cuts to the wealthy.

          In contrast, Gore wanted most of that surplus to go to paying down the debt – in effect, towards ensuring the viability of Social Security and Medicare, which were funding the surplus through their regressive tax base and which rely for their trust fund on the value of Treasury Bonds – i.e., rely on the ability of the US to handle its debt burden.

          So: there were grave and valid complaints against Gore on his economic vision. But only a fool or a knave could claim there was no difference between Gore and Dubya regarding economic justice.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          And even of you exonerate Nader on military policy — which you obviously shouldn’t- he still bears responsibility for Alito and two rounds of massive upper-class tax cuts, both of which he explicitly campaigned on and don’t happen with Al Gore in the White House.

          • sam240 says:

            Alito and Roberts weren’t nominated until the second Bush term.

            Let’s say that Gore took office in 2001. By January 2005, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have named any Supreme Court justices.

            I don’t see Gore being able to win a second term after 9/11. With McCain in the White House, the Republicans would be able to get two reactionaries on the Supreme court in 2005/06.

            As for foreign wars? It’s a mixed bag. Gore might not have invaded Iraq after 9/11, but I’m not too sure that McCain would have refrained after winning in 2004. I’m having a hard time seeing McCain refraining from bombing Iran after his foreign policy team linked it to anti-American resistance in Iraq. And if McCain were to have won a second term in 2008 — well, that’s two supreme court seats which would have gone to reactionaries instead of centrists.

            Realistically? Even if we were to assume that Nader threw the election to Bush (a point refuted by the Florida exit poll and Simmons’ study), at best we get a four-year delay in everything Bush managed to implemented. And that needs to be balanced with the probability that the United States would be at war with Iran right now and that the Supreme Court would have a 7-2 reactionary majority.

            Which set of election wins would have been better for the country?
            A) Gore-Lieberman in 2000, and McCain-Lieberman in 2004 and 2008, or
            B) Bush-Cheney in 2000 and 2004, and Obama-Biden in 2008?

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              I don’t see Gore being able to win a second term after 9/11.

              This is absurd. Wartime incumbents in a decent economy have a very high probability of being re-elected, not to mention the fact that with Gore in the White House 9/11 may not have happened.

              • sam240 says:

                At the start of 1968, LBJ was a wartime president, and the economy was doing pretty well.

                Here’s what Time magazine said in their December 27, 1968 issue:

                “When Richard Nixon becomes President next month, he will take charge of an economy that has been growing fast for years, and lately has been expanding too rapidly for its own good. Business has been on the up swing for 95 months — since February 1961, the month after John Kennedy took office at the tail end of a recession. Though the Democratic policymakers certainly cannot claim all the credit for the longest advance in the nation’s history, they have done a conspicuous amount of managing and masterminding through their Keynesian New Economics….”

                Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,900466,00.html#ixzz267o1xVIc

                As I recall, LBJ didn’t even get as far as the general election.

                Over the past century, what’s the sample size of wartime incumbents? Since WWII, we have Truman (Korea), LBJ (Vietnam), Nixon (Vietnam), and Bush II (Iraq, Afghanistan). Only two won re-election, and the two Democrats in the sample didn’t even make it past the primaries. 50% is not a very high probability.

                If you go back to the start of the 20th century, the only one who gets added to the list would be FDR, and, between the Great Depression and wartime rationing, he was never in what we would call a decent economy.

                Furthermore, the Gore 2004 campaign would have faced something no other wartime campaign faced. There are a bunch of conservatives who blame Clinton for the events of 9/11. I don’t see the GOP supporting any of Gore’s plans after 9/11; it’s much more likely that they would have hammered him for incompetence for the next three years, and cast him as un-American no matter what he did. How well could Gore do when half of the politicians around declare him to be a traitor, and the media simply reports what those conservatives are saying?

        • djw says:

          I’m not sure what your point is here. I’m pretty sure I can concede that the precise contours of the horrors of Bush weren’t exactly knowable. That they would exist in some considerable quality seems exceedingly likely.

          To put it another way: the guy who lets the fox into the henhouse bears some responsibility for the carnage that ensues, and this holds even if we cannot predict which or how many hens the fox will consume.

          • Daragh McDowell says:

            Oh c’mon – as much as the election of Bush disgusted me in 2000 I didn’t think that he’d end up an honest to god war criminal overseeing an international network of secret torture sites. Yes it happened. Was it predictable – of course not.

            • djw says:

              I would say the way things turned out were on the more disastrous side of my range of plausible outcomes of a Bush presidency, but they were certainly well within the range. It’s unfortunate many people couldn’t or wouldn’t confront the dangers this administration presented, but it’s not an excuse.

              • Daragh McDowell says:

                Fine – I’ll concede that any GOP administration is likely to be more militaristic than any Democratic one. But to go from there to Gitmo in November 2000 is just nuts. It was not within the realm of rational prediction because the events that enabled such radical policy preferences had not occurred. This is my main problem with Scott’s post, and his contributions to the Nader debate generally. He’s one of my favourite posters here and his contributions are generally excellent. But on the Nader issue some form of red mist descends and he ends up making ridiculously nonsensical arguments like the one you now appear to be defending ie that Nader bears personal responsibility for the commission of war crimes on an industrial scale that were in no way foreseeable in November 2000.

                • Rarely Posts says:

                  +++
                  Exactly this.

                • djw says:

                  Did you consider a major terrorist attack against the United States to be impossible in 2000? I didn’t. Bill Clinton certainly didn’t. I didn’t ‘predict’ it but it was within certainly within the range of reasonable possibilities one should consider when considering the dangers of giving someone like Bush power.

                  Everything that followed from 9/11 should surprise no one who was paying attention.

      • jeer9 says:

        Imagine an international war crimes tribunal with Bush and Cheney in the dock. Lemieux is the guy at the back of the courtroom madly screaming about Nader. He does not leave quietly.

        • J. Otto Pohl says:

          This would be very funny. Do you have a script? I am thinking block buster movie.

        • Murc says:

          No offense, jeer, but that’s bullshit.

          If Bush and Cheney were to appear in an international war crimes tribunal, Scott would fucking stand up and cheer.

          Also, while I disagree with him to the extent to which Nader bears moral culpability for the Iraq War, even if you accept the argument at face value it’s just that: an argument for moral culpability, not legal culpability. I don’t think Scott advocates throwing Republicans in prison because of the heinous (but legal) things they bear responsibility for, for example.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Actually, by the logic that is used to deny any responsibility to Nader, Bush and Cheney can’t be held responsible for anything either. They didn’t act entirely alone, after all.

          • jeer9 says:

            to deny any sole responsibility to Nader

            Fixed that for ya.

            I really think we need to look forward, and the wallowing in Nader hatred doesn’t actually help us avoid the Grand Bargain. Fortunately, the Dems are as progressive as they’ve ever been and I feel confident we’ll escape that fate.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              I concede the point — anyone holding Nader solely responsible for the Iraq War would be wrong! Granted, no such person has ever existed or ever will exist. But they would be wrong.

              • jeer9 says:

                Sole responsibility for the election defeat. Good to know he’s equally responsible for all the depravities of the war.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  I concede the point — anyone saying that Nader bears sole responsibility for the defeat of Gore would be wrong. Granted, no such person has ever existed or ever will exist. But they would be wrong.

                • jeer9 says:

                  You earlier in the thread:

                  It’s very simple: if Nader doesn’t run, Gore wins. That other factors had to fall into place for Nader to succeed doesn’t absolve him of responsibility.

                • Murc says:

                  I don’t understand the relevance of your quote, jeer. It in no way, shape, or form says that Nader bears sole responsibility for Bush being elected.

                • That is so totally not what “sole responsibility” means.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Jesus, this isn’t so much a misreading as a non-reading. Pretty much any sentence of the OP contradicts your willful misinterpretation, but for example:

                  Nader, Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, and Antonin Scalia were all on the same side and they all needed each other. And of course Democrats are more likely to focus on Nader — after all, the last three were acting in ways perfectly consistent with their stated goals.

                  “Sole responsibility” generally does not apply to situations in which multiple people are responsible. Of course, the very argument you quote makes the same point, which is pretty embarrassing for you.

                  Anyway, you seem to playing the same ridiculous game as Joe Paterno apologists — responsibility is apparently a zero-sum game, and if there’s joint responsibility than there’s no responsibility. Sadly, no.

                • jeer9 says:

                  But the fact that Nader was necessary — there’s no Bush v. Gore without him — is enough to give him full responsibility.

                  It’s very simple: if Nader doesn’t run, Gore wins. = Nader is only partially responsible for the defeat.

                  Glad that’s now been clarified. I’ll try to get over my embarrassment.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  No. Like Joe Paterno, he’s fully responsible, because his (in)actions were necessary for the relevant crimes to have occurred. But, like Joe Paterno, he’s not solely responsible, because other things had to happen for the consequences of the indefensible (in)action to be realized. In cases where multiple actions are necessary but not sufficient for something bad to happen, it is entirely possible for multiple people to be fully responsible. See? I’m sorry this concept is so difficult for you to grasp.

                • jeer9 says:

                  Sorry, but the analogy is terrible. Running a political campaign which results in the Republicans winning and then blaming that person for the crime spree subsequently engaged in (as if the person possessed omniscience) is not remotely similar to covering up for a known child molester (even if I like the Republican/child molester equation); and I’m not terribly surprised to learn that you believe third party candidacies are indefensible and on a par with sexual abuse.

                  But the fact that Nader was necessary — there’s no Bush v. Gore without him — is enough to give him full responsibility = it is entirely possible for multiple people to be fully responsible …, however, is much better phrasing.

                • Bill Murray says:

                  Like Joe Paterno, he’s fully responsible, because his (in)actions were necessary for the relevant crimes to have occurred.

                  Even if I grant you that Nader cost Gore the election. Nader’s candidacy was still not necessary for the Republicans to steal. The Republicans were prepared to do what was necessary to win. Nader does not change that.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  as if the person possessed omniscience

                  The idea that it would require “omniscience” to foresee that throwing the election to a guy who governed to the right of the Texas legislature would have bad consequences is absurd. And even knowing what Bush was, Nader ran again in 2004.

                • Rarely Posts says:

                  Like Joe Paterno, he’s fully responsible, because his (in)actions were necessary for the relevant crimes to have occurred.

                  I don’t understand what you mean by fully responsible here. It’s certainly not a given that being a necessary cause of an event makes you fully responsible for an event. This is particularly true when we include inaction as a potential cause.

                • jeer9 says:

                  Yes, like 9/11, the Iraq war, the implementation of torture and security state surveillance were all easily foreseeable bad consequences of a Bush election and were clearly predicated upon his record as governor.

                  Why haven’t you won the lottery? Will someone please escort that deranged man out of the courtroom? And take with him all those multiple people who are fully responsible.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Yes, like 9/11, the Iraq war, the implementation of torture and security state surveillance were all easily foreseeable bad consequences of a Bush election and were clearly predicated upon his record as governor.

                  Yes, who could possibly have predicted that a ticket with Dick Cheney on it would have an insane foreign policy. What a shock.

                • jeer9 says:

                  Lieberman was irrelevant to the Gore campaign. Cheney was clearly going to have a major impact. Good stuff. No hindsight used there at all.

                • Warren Terra says:

                  jeer9,
                  It is obvious that it would be useless to expect logic from you – but you are conflating two different ideas about the veep. Scott is saying that the selection of Lieberman had little impact on the electoral outcome among the casual voters, against your claim that Gore should have chosen a liberal running mate in order to help his chances in November, and that the selection of Cheney as Veep nominee offered the cognoscenti clear and frightening warning signs about the nature of his administration.

                • jeer9 says:

                  Thanks, Malapropse. Without a bit more brown-nosing from you, this thread would not be complete. I wait with bated breath for your next Lemieuxian quip about Avakian as Veep.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  I hadn’t commented on this sub-thread, but glad to see you’re annoyed.

              • jeer9 says:

                Thanks for taking the time to converse with those of us who are less prescient. The idea that Cheney’s selection clearly revealed the depths to which this country would sink after 2000 still remains a fantasy founded upon hindsight, though a common enough one practiced by the hippie-punching set.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Well, granted, George W. Bush himself was more than sufficient to make clear that a Republican administration would be extremely bad. The fact that one of the most reactionary members of Congress got himself nominated as the VP of the ticket — making it clear he would have more influence than the typical VP — was just icing on the cake.

                  I do find it amusing, however, that allegedly tough-minded leftists evaluated the 2000 race in the same way as the most dumbshit centrist pundits, ignoring the records and stated policies of the Republican ticket and focusing instead on…frankly, I have no idea.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  The idea that Cheney’s selection clearly revealed the depths to which this country would sink after 2000 still remains a fantasy founded upon hindsight

                  Shorter jeer9: I paid no attention at all to either Watergate or Iran-Contra, and I will persist in mocking those who did.

                • jeer9 says:

                  More displays of psychic prowess from the cognoscenti.

                  The attempt to move the Dems left in 2000 was an abject failure whose responsibility (full, sole, or partial) certainly lies with both the tough-minded and the delusional. (I might even consider it the worst sort of fantasy except for the blood on my hands which I can’t wash off.) But then Clintonian neo-liberalism had a way of driving those of us mad who saw so much untapped potential in his ability. Obama is similarly disappointing.

                  Still, the desperation to move the Dems left remains, and strategies useful to such a transformation are in short supply. (Perhaps the Dem leadership even now is searching for progressives to primary and unseat conservadems in red states so that the filibuster can be reformed?)

                  Meanwhile, we have dumbshit centrists consoling us that a managed decline is the best we can do, the crap sandwich is actually pretty tasty, or trying to persuade us that the Dems are actually moving left and not right because of some obscure provision in a 1978 bankruptcy bill. Why someone would consider that a productive use of their time … I have no idea.

    • Kal says:

      This.

      The idea that a person’s level of responsibility for a war that they explicitly oppose, but using a (for the sake of argument at least) totally stupid and counterproductive strategy, is anything approaching their level of responsibility if they support the war, let alone if they actually implement it from a position of power, is unsustainable.

      There’s a sense in which the blood of a few hundred thousand Iraqis is on the hands of every American – the majority who supported the war at one time or another, and those of us who opposed it ineffectively. (Note that anyone who supported various Democrats on antiwar grounds in 2000, 2002 or even 2004 ended up failing just as completely in that respect as any Nader supporter.) But unless you’re just interested in feeling bad, or tendentiously trying to make others feel worse than you, talking about guilt at this level is pointless.

      • Daragh McDowell says:

        Precisely. I would also note that its a bit rich to claim Nader has ‘blood on his hands’ over a war that he opposed, because he (arguably) prevented the election of a Democratic politicians from the establishment wing of the party that explicitly and enthusiastically supported said same war.

        • jeer9 says:

          As long as Nader has more blood on his hands than Obama from his drone strikes, we’re okay. Lemieux’s probably got that quantified. The results will be out soon.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          I would also note that its a bit rich to claim Nader has ‘blood on his hands’ over a war that he opposed, because he (arguably) prevented the election of a Democratic politicians from the establishment wing of the party that explicitly and enthusiastically supported said same war.

          1)It’s perfectly logical, since Nader could have prevented the war and Senate Democrats could not have. And anti-war protestors, who have no power at all, bear no responsibility whatsoever. Are you seriously arguing that power is irrelevant to the level of moral responsibility?

          2)He didn’t prevent “the establishment wing of the Democratic Party” from being elected, he prevented Al Gore from being elected. Since Gore spoke out against the Iraq War in real time against his political interests, we can have a pretty good idea what he would have done as president.

          • Dilan Esper says:

            Actually, Gore spoke out against the Iraq War after he was no longer running for President. As a politician, he never dissented ONCE from the murder of foreigners.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              As a president, he would have to have initiated the war. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that he would have done so.

              • Dilan Esper says:

                Sure there is. The Democratic Party in the 1990’s was completely craven and unwilling to oppose any war for fear of not looking “tough”. Most prominent ELECTED Democrats with national ambitions supported the war. What Gore did as a private citizen has nothing to do with what he would have done as President. Remember, Clinton murdered innocent Iraqis needlessly for eight years even though we had no national interest whatsoever in overthrowing Saddam (which was what Gore recognized after leaving politics).

                • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

                  And the Democratic leadership in both houses of Congress (including a majority of the Democratic Senate caucus, then in a narrow majority) supported the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. Even if we believe that Gore might have personally drawn the same conclusions in the White House as out of it, the history of Gitmo closure in the last four years suggests the limits of such presidential preferences in the face of massive, bipartisan pressure the other way. Neoconservatives had very effectively pressured Clinton on Iraq during the 1990s. The Iraq War would have been less likely had Gore won, but it would have been far from unthinkable.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  What Incontinetia said.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  The Iraq War was not the result of congressional pressure; that’s absurd. It was the administration’s baby all the way. Afghanistan is a different story, but I’ve never suggested Gore wouldn’t have pursued that war.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  Scott, Clinton proposed going to war with Iraq in 1998. Look up Berger’s and Albright’s appearance at Ohio State University if you don’t believe me.

                  BOTH parties supported toppling Saddam Hussein. They all believed the WMD crap, and they all believe in American imperialism.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  The fact that Clinton didn’t actually go to war with Iraq seems more relevant than tendentious misreadings of speeches and symbolic legislation to me. And, at any rate, we know Gore strongly opposed the war, which is the best evidence.

                • Apparently, Congress can “pressure” the President into going to war, but a President who wants to go to war can “propose” it, but not end up getting his way.

                  There needs to be a certain reality-based rigor to counter-factuals that are rebutted by existing evidence, and I’m not seeing that rigor in the Gore Would Have Started An Iraq War arguments.

  3. I wonder if the idea of home state advantage is less ideological, and more a function of local organization. Someone’s home state would presumably be a place where there is already an infrastructure which will bring out (or suppress) the vote, distribute literature, litigate polling disputes and all the rest. Of course, after 8 years out of office (and after a lifetime lived outside of Tennessee) Gore didn’t really have these things available. Mittens doesn’t have them so much in the Bay State– or in Michigan either. (I suspect that he is already conceding Michigan.) I suppose it is impossible to parse out the differences between ideology and electoral success based on organization– they are not quite two sides of the same coin, since a candidate who is grossly out-of-step with a local electorate isn’t going to be elected or have an a organization to begin with.

    • Murc says:

      This is more-or-less true, with the addition that the idea of a home state advantage is also a holdover from the days when politics were much more local and much more about machines.

      People used to be a lot more willing to vote for a favorite son, and that favorite son would exercise a massive amount of control over state political institutions at every level.

      It’s not like that anymore, and becoming less like that every day. Incumbency advantages still exist, but in national elections people are increasingly unwilling to vote for their Governor over their ideologically aligned party just because he’s their Governor.

    • rea says:

      I suspect that he is already conceding Michigan.

      Yup. Cancelled their ad buy. Very encouraging.

  4. Cautious Man says:

    Never mind Mr. Nader’s continued revisiting of the 200 election.

    The article starts out with a compliment, that he was against electing President Obama because people would be disappointed.

    Is Mr. Nader disappointed with the Supreme Court justices he nominated? Disappointed with health care reform (it ain’t perfect, but it’s a start)? Disappointed with getting rid of “Don’t ask don’t tell”? Disappointed with pulling support for DOMA in the courts? Disappointed with trying to get money to the states to maintain public worker employement? I could go on, but I won’t.

    “St. Ralph”, indeed. Although, he’s more like St. Simeon Stylites, taking to his pillare and telling us how we should live. Sure, things could be better, but they sure aren’t as bad as it would have been if Mr. Obama had lost the 2008 election.

  5. Mark f says:

    Ugh, I’m on my phone and can’t hit the reply button.

    But I wanted to reply to Dilan Esper’s comment about the “base.” Gore never lost any such thing; the base is made up of the Democrats who showed up on primary days to nominate him. Gore lost a smallish group of myopic and naive whiners — and I admit I was one, though in my defense it was my first election and I reside in a safe state — who steadfastly refuse to do the things that might make them the base.

    • DocAmazing says:

      who steadfastly refuse to do the things that might make them the base

      Sorry, we’re too fucking retarded to do the things that the DLC demands of us. We’re busy with voter registration, GOTV, and organizing.

    • Bill Murray says:

      you do know that 1 in 6 (16%) Floridians (somewhere in the 150,000 to 300,000 people) that voted for Clinton in 1996 voted for Bush in 2000. that sounds like a non-smallish number and should be quite a bit of a base and one that would contain very few of the people you disparage

    • Dilan Esper says:

      If you don’t want to label these voters “the base”, that is fine. You certainly have the right to feel smug and superior to any human beings you want to.

      The point is, the claim is being made that Gore lost the votes of these people because of Nader. Instead of Gore losing the votes of these people because he rejected their concerns. Which is what actually happened.

      • Sanctimonious Toolbag, Esq. says:

        You certainly have the right to feel smug and superior to any human beings you want to.

        wisdom from a master

        • Dilan Esper says:

          I don’t feel superior to anyone. I DISAGREE with centrists. I think centrists are really wrong on some pretty fundamental issues, war being one of them. I don’t think drone strikes on Pakistan are any better than invading Iraq. They are both murder. It’s like arguing the superiority of chicken dung to cow dung.

          The only people feeling superior here are the Gore supporters. They feel that they are entitled to the votes of people who think their political positions are too far right. And that they know the left’s interests better than actual leftists do.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            By the way, I’m not a “centrist.” I’m far to Obama’s left. I just realize that as a strategy for producing left-wing outcomes, throwing presidential to Republicans is transparently idiotic. The fact that Nader succeeded in 2000 makes that particularly obvious.

            • Dilan Esper says:

              You are a centrist in the sense that your outlook is that America is a good country that could be a better country if we moved it incrementally to the left.

              A lot of Nader voters may or may not believe in some idealized America, but they also are going to tend to believe that America as it stands now is fundamentally an immoral imperialist capitalist plutocracy that is not worth incrementally improving.

              That’s a different mindset. The fundamentals are different. And it actually is sort of the dividing line between “liberalism” and “leftism”.

              These people fundamentally disagree with you (and me, by the way) on issues just like conservatives do. They are not part of your coalition– you have to earn their votes if you decide it is worth it to do so.

          • mark f says:

            Like I said, I didn’t vote for Gore. Even self-righteous 19-year-old Rage Against the Machine superfan Mark F recognized that Bush was likely to be far more dangerous than Gore, though, and probably wouldn’t have voted for Nader if I didn’t live in Massachusetts.

            But that’s not my point, and I said nothing about anyone being “entitled” to votes. My point is that calling the leftmost voters one can find the “base” of the Democratic party on the basis of those voters being leftists is absurd. The base of the Democratic Party is obviously made up of . . . Democrats. You want the party to shift to your positions? Join it, participate in it, and work for it. If that’s not your thing, fine, but in that case you’re just a different kind of swing voter.

          • That is the least convincing protest of one’s lack of superiority I’ve ever seen.

            “You people don’t even care if you bear responsibility for murder, but my hands are clean. Not that I feel superior or anything.”

  6. RedSquareBear says:

    I am truly sorry I cannot offer as well crafted and well written a response as many of my colleagues on this board.

    I can only say:

    Fuck Ralph Nadir.

  7. Robert Farley says:

    Cue the army of narcissistic dumbfucks who still can’t grapple with the fact that they helped put George W. Bush in the White House. Frankly, I think I’ll sit this one out.

  8. Since we love sports analogies here: Arguing that Nader is not to blame for Bush’s election is like arguing that Grady Little should get no blame for the 2003 ALCS because Pedro should have been able to pitch better in the 8th inning.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Excellent. By Naderite logic, Posada’s bloop double could have been an out given slightly different circumstances, so you can’t blame Little at all.

      • Bill Murray says:

        you still need a bunch of umpires that only call things one way and an official scorer that miscounts the score. further much like your equivocation about Nader having full vs. sole responsibility, I (and I can only speak for myself here) have never said Nader has zero blame as you endorse from the comment you are responding to.

        What i say is you blame Nader every or almost every time you bring this up and never/almost never blame the people/groups with orders of magnitude more responsibility. To me this indicates that you aren’t interested in causes or facts, you just want to yell at Nader supporters (of which I am not one, I just get tired of people that really should know better focusing on minor issues) for a reason I can’t really determine. My guess is you are a centrist apologist and like to punch hippies, but that is probably unfair to you.

  9. J. Otto Pohl says:

    I love ideological splinter fights among leftists. The Sino-Soviet split, the thousands of Trotskyite factions, and the Goristas against the Naderites are all great fun. I think the Goristas need to stage some sort of international blow out like when the Chinese went after the Soviets full force at the 1965 AAPSO Conference in Winneba in 1965. Come on don’t let Mao and Chou show you up. I know that you can prove yourselves as more radical revolutionary socialists than those guys.

    • Malaclypse says:

      If you honestly think Gore is a “leftist,” then you are every bit as stupid as a Teabagger.

    • Tehanu says:

      Rightists don’t have “ideological splinter fights”? Ha. Of course they do, but they disguise them as Two-Minute Hate fests after which the offender (whose offence was probably actually looking at reality for a moment) is read out of the party. Cf. David Frum and a truckload of others.

      And really — trying to insult commenters here by comparing them to Dirty Commies? That’s so 1953, dude.

      • J. Otto Pohl says:

        They do, but they are not nearly as fun. The terms “running dog imperialist” and “left-wing deviationist” never get used. The Sino-Soviet split was much later than 1953. It really only emerges in the international realm in 1965. The AAPSO conference that year being the most entertaining forum. Trotskyite and Post-Trotskyite splits continued on a regular basis up until the 1990s when all of them except the SWP had been reduced to three members or less.

      • DrDick says:

        Frankly, as one of the minority of actual commies here, I personally take it as a compliment to be called one. It demonstrates that I believe in a moral and equitable social system which benefits everyone and does not allow a small minority to grotesquely exploit the majority and provides the majority of benefits to the workers who create all value rather than to parasitic rentier capitalists.

        • J. Otto Pohl says:

          Did you not read Milovan Djilas’ New Class on how communist parties actually rule in practice? There was nothing equitable about it. How is equality going in North Korea, the last true communist state left now that even Cuba has introduced some capitalist reforms.

          • Hogan says:

            I thought Djilas’s book was about how a particular Communist party, and other parties forced to model themselves after that one, ruled in practice.

            • J. Otto Pohl says:

              It was primarily about how the ruling party in the most successful socialist state in terms of economic and social development ruled. So yes it focused on the USSR. But, it also deals a lot with Djilas’s own country, Yugoslavia where the communists came to power independently and were not forced to model themselves after the USSR. The fact is in practice from the point of view of the masses socialism has looked a lot like very authoritarian state capitalism complete with its own ruling class and economic inequalities. On top of that they compressed industrialization and therefore magnified its misery through the use of extreme state violence. I agree with Alec Nove that it is unfair to criticize the USSR for not achieving the impossible utopian socialism that western intellectuals keep talking about. The USSR was as good as it was possible to make socialism.

              • DocAmazing says:

                The fact is in practice from the point of view of the masses socialism has looked a lot like very authoritarian state capitalism complete with its own ruling class and economic inequalities.

                Name one socialist country with economic inequality that even approached that of the modern US.

                • J. Otto Pohl says:

                  Well you have changed the goal posts now. I was arguing that economic inequalities continued to exist in socialist countries because of state policies. Your claim is something totally different. You are not denying that there were economic inequalities in the USSR or North Korea, but that they were greater in the US. As a general rule this is true. But, I think the difference between the material standard of living of Kim Jong Il and the poorest peasants in North Korea probably qualifies as approaching economic inequality in the modern US. The only national leader in modern times to ever take a vow of poverty was Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso and he was murdered after only four years in power at the age of 37.

          • Murc says:

            Well, let’s be fair, Otto.

            If I recall correctly, DrDick is a syndicalist. Not even an anarcho-syndicalist, just a syndicalist. I don’t think that’s ever actually been tried as a model for governance in the post-industrial world.

            And I’d make the argument that functionally speaking, this is different from communism. Yes, it fits the technical definition, but I’m not sure that’s a useful descriptor. When you say “communist” most people think “authoritarian or totalitarian state socialism with a huge amount of hypocrisy” because that’s how all the communists who actually seized power and were relevant governed.

            It’s sort of like how “conservative” used to mean something other than “combination of Randian economics and Christianism.” Technically, it is true. Practically, describing yourself as conservative means people are gonna view you as falling within that rubric.

            • Heron says:

              Syndicalists predate communism, coincidentally. They might not have named themselves such, but movements with similar aims made up of agricultural workers were active in Eastern Europe as early as the 1700s. These movements would gradually become the Polish workers movements that would become the first Syndicalists.

          • DrDick says:

            Which is sort of like my saying that have you ever read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich about how conservatives actually govern in practice.

            • J. Otto Pohl says:

              I am pretty sure there is a difference in practice between conservatism and National Socialism. There was no Auschwitz in the US under Reagan. This would be like confusing the Social Democrats ruling capitalist states like Sweden and Germany with actual Marxist-Leninists ruling places like North Korea or the USSR under Stalin.

              • DrDick says:

                You are rather confused aren’t you? What part of (as several people have pointed out) “there are socialists outside of the former Soviet Bloc” don’t you understand? And yes, those “Social Democrats” in Scandinavia are socialists and the Nazis were and are conservatives.

                • MAJeff says:

                  Ya know, the more he posts, the more he proves how lucky American schools are to not have Pohl.

                • djw says:

                  Don’t you understand? Everyone two or more clicks to the left of Bill Clinton is an unreconstructed Stalinist, working together to deny him employment because we fear the truth that he alone bravely tells–the truth we cannot allow: Stalin was a bad person.

                • J. Otto Pohl says:

                  If you honestly think Reagan was the exact same as Hitler or that Sweden has an economy with no significant role for private capital or private ownership of property than you are a lot more confused than I am.

                • Warren Terra says:

                  Otto, you’re the one who said that the only way the political Left can be understood is by reference to Maoists and Trotskyists and other extremists and vandals nominally on the Left. This same argument was turned about on you, and here you are indignant in high dudgeon that anyone would suggest a connection between the Right and the extremists of the Right.

                  Kettle, meet Pot. Pot, Kettle.

              • Jameson Quinn says:

                And there was no Siberia in Guatemala under Arbenz. Or… ah, forget it. Against Poe’s Law, even sarcasm struggles in vain.

      • firefall says:

        Rightists don’t have “ideological splinter fights”

        Sure they do, like this years election, Republican vs Democratic

    • Heron says:

      I wonder if you realize the Republican party has been consciously emulating the Bolsheviks since the 1980s. Go read What’s the Matter with Kansas and The Wrecking Crew, or you can get it straight from the horses mouth via the Cato Institute’s Achieving a Leninists Strategy.

      The American left isn’t the heir to the Communists; it can draw a straight line between it and the various social reform movements that have always been a part of US political life, and made up a significant chuck of the Republican base pre-Garfield. Did the Dems team up with Unions in the waning days of the last Gilded Age? Sure, but the connection between unions and communism was never as strong or clear in the US as in Europe. While the academic left may have been staunchly pro-Communist this didn’t mean anything for the political Left represented by the civil reformers, the Grange, and the bimetalists. The Academic left was part of an international community, one wherein the real and necessary struggles of Communists against first Metternich’s oppressions and later Fascism were seen as heroic in Harvard as they were in Austria. US social movements generally didn’t give two shakes for any of that which is why US communists were generally little more than allies of opportunity. What the US Left wanted regarding labor was a fair wage, dignity in work, and safe working conditions, not world revolution.

      On the flip side, the Republicans have consciously and deliberately used the tactics and propaganda methods of the Bolsheviks and Mao for almost 40 years now. The College Republicans of the 70s began adopting them, they began using them in national races in the 80s, and now we live in the era of their full maturity, where Republican pundits and writers live as much in a impenetrable bubble of delusional fantasy as any Stalinist “social Realist” ever did. I won’t even get into the stunning continuity between American Trotskyites and the Neo-con movement. The Republicans are the true inheritors of the Communist mentality in US politics, and until 1990, they weren’t even really that shy about admitting it.

  10. BJ says:

    It’s not just that he didn’t try to avoid being the spoiler. He actively campaigned in swing states right to th’s end, even though he’d promised many liberals privately that he wouldn’t and the votes were harder to get in Madison than they would have been in Berkeley. That’s when we knew it was intentional.

    The odds of any particular vote affecting the outcome is low, but together everyone’s actions create the outcome, and everyone is responsible for what they do. So yes, of course Nader, his campaign workers, and his swing state voters bear responsibility for Bush and what he caused.

    I can’t believe this is still debated. There’s no getting around it Ralph.

  11. Eli Rabett says:

    There is a very simple argument about such things: Necessary vs. sufficient.

    Nader Narcissism was not necessary. Gore could have lost without it, although it would be improbable, but it was sufficient.

    Thank you Ralph.

  12. Chad says:

    Speaking of Matt Stoler and “spoiler” candidates:

    Earlier in the campaign cycle, he strongly advocated (i.e., had righteous wetdreams contemplating the possibility of) a primary challenge to President Obama from the left. The guy is an idiot. It pisses me off that he gets the press that he does.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Actually, a primary challenge to Obama from the left might have served a positive purpose.

      The idea that we aren’t supposed to criticize the party from the left is absurd and flies in the face of how the base has taken over the Republican Party.

      • Chad says:

        Criticize from the left, yes. Condition support (financial and otherwise) on moving to the left, fine. But running a primary challenge? Against this president? Suicidal.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          Suicidal to who?

          Forcing the president to move left on issues? That seems potentially good.

          Moreover, it’s highly unlikely such a primary challenge would be well-funded. It’s not like it would win. But it would give voice within the process to those angry about the weaknesses of the Administration.

          Voting for the Green Party, now that’s suicidal.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            In 2012, suicidal to what remains of the left of the Democratic Party.

            I don’t think that a primary challenge to Obama would have been a bad thing in principle. But I think it would have been terrible in practice. There was simply no available, plausible challenger to Obama’s left. Any challenge would have made no impact whatsoever and would have made the progressive wing of the party look even weaker than it actually is.

            What progressives in the party should have spent the primary season doing (and should be doing now) is worrying about 2016. The leading candidates seem to be Andrew Cuomo and Hillary Clinton. Progressive Democrats ought to be working to make sure that there are some better choices available.

          • Suicidal to who?

            To whom? To the challenger, at a minimum, and possibly to the movement or faction she represents.

            Forcing the president to move left on issues?

            Yeah, right. More like, six months of beating up on Sistah Souljah.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          In other words, the time to be good Democratic Party soldiers is in the general election, but criticism from the left and primary challenges from the left should be encouraged by those who would like to see the party move to the left.

          • DocAmazing says:

            Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.

          • Chad says:

            I’m not so sure, for two reasons.

            (1) Dems are already going to be outspent by Reps by a substantial margin in this election. Presumably there is a relatively fixed amount of Dem dollar floating around. Every dollar donated to a hypothetical Obama primary challenger would be one less dollar that the Obama campaign could use for its campaign operation.

            (2) This election, we are told, is one about base mobilization. Dividing the Dem base–a base (purportedly) already demoralized–immediately before the general election would not, it seems to me, be a particularly good idea.

            Also, the tenor of the primary challenge could also make a big difference. Substantive criticism of Obama from the left is one thing, but dirty attacks are something else.

            Anyway, maybe “suicidal” wasn’t the most apt term. But a primary challenge certainly would have been electoral Russian roulette.

            • DocAmazing says:

              Dividing the Dem base–a base (purportedly) already demoralized–immediately before the general election would not, it seems to me, be a particularly good idea.

              Rahm Emmanuel, white courtesy telephone…

            • Murc says:

              The idea that contentious primaries divide and demoralize the base is dubious at best.

              A party that is genuinely riven, as the Republicans were in 1964, between wings that don’t want to have anything to do with each other, can divide and demoralize the base, because it means that no matter who wins, he’s going to be not just “second choice” but “actually repugnant” to a lot of the base.

              But the contentious primary is the symptom, not the disease. Obama and Clinton had a contentious primary, and the Clinton voters basically all voted for Obama. The number of actual PUMAs was so small as to be a rounding error.

              More to the point, without effective internal challenges, there’s no real way to move the Democratic Party to the left. The Republicans have been running a playbook for a long time now where they’ll do everything they can to knife RINOs during primaries but will vote for them in generals. I see no reason we shouldn’t steal that plan.

              • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

                I’m just amazed that nobody has brought up 1980 yet. FWIW, I don’t think Kennedy cost Carter the election. But that’s usually the argument.

                • Warren Terra says:

                  See also Buchanan in 1992, for a similar narrative (though it is perhaps more likely that it was the airtime at the National Convenction given to his Primary Challenger that damaged HW Bush in 1992, not the Primary Challenge itself).

                • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

                  Also the Republicans in 1976…though I think this one doesn’t come up because history is written by the winners, which is what Reagan and his followers became four years later. The 1976 primary campaign, to the extent that it gets mentioned by Republicans is, like the 1964 presidential campaign, an object of positive nostalgia.

                • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

                  In general, I think that primary challenges of sitting presidents tend less to harm the incumbent’s reelection campaign than to act as canaries in the coal mine. Literally every incumbent who’s lost (or, in LBJ’s case, chosen not to run) since WWII faced a serious primary challenge; not a single incumbent who won reelection did.

                • JMP says:

                  Or Reagan challenging Ford in 1976. Every incumbent president that has faced a primary challenge in recent decades has lost reelection, and every one that has not has won.

                  Now of course correlation does not equal causation, and that may be the case at least in part because presidents in a weaker position are more likely to attract primary challengers.

            • djw says:

              The problem with the idea of a primary challenge isn’t that it would be too divisive, but that it wouldn’t be divisive enough to accomplish anything.

              Basically, there are two reasons to primary an incumbent president:

              1) the incumbent is weak and you think you can win (Kennedy 80).

              2) the primary has enough support behind it that it looks to be sufficiently annoying to the incumbent to make concessions to whatever the incumbents signature issue(s) is/are to siphon off support and get on with things.

              Obviously, there was never any hope of (1). Obama’s popularity amongst self-identified Democrats was around 80%. So it would have to be (2). But: who would primary Obama when he’s at 80% approval amongst Democrats, and it’s not like the 20% are likely to be unified critics from the left? No one who hopes to continue to have the career

              • djw says:

                hit enter accidently.

                …to have a career in the party going forward. Any primary would be a joke by a minor figure, who Obama would ignore. There are legitimate criticisms of Obama from the left, but a primary based on those criticisms in this context would turn them into a joke.

              • djw says:

                Also worth noting is that if the goal is to move the center of gravity of American politics to the left, Obama is a weird place to start. Even in 2008-2010, he was well to the left of the median vote in Congress, and he obviously will be for the rest of his tenure if reelected. Congress is a much more logical place for that energy.

                This is another situation in which Kennedy’s challenge seems justifiable at the time even if it didn’t really work out well; Carter was the only modern Democrat governing to the right of the median vote in Congress.

          • Eli Rabett says:

            Need to build up a challenger to Debbie W-S. She needs to have her mind concentrated.

          • criticism from the left and primary challenges from the left should be encouraged by those who would like to see the party move to the left.

            In a situation, like 2012, in which the incumbent Democrat is, in point of fact, wildly popular among the Democratic base, as well as to the left of the median Democratic voter and Congressman, is the worst possible time to attempt this strategy.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        We really shouldn’t conflate “criticism” and “primary campaigns against incumbent presidents.” The former — good! The latter, at least in 2012? Makes no sense at all!

        • Murc says:

          Well, yes, in 2012 a primary challenger who was both willing and viable as a national candidate wasn’t available.

          I don’t think that undercuts the basic idea, though, just those specific circumstances. I’d like the option to vote for my political standard-bearer more than once every eight years please.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Actually, this President did get a Primary Challenge – but from the Right. Or, more accurately, from the White. Hence Obama’s poor showing in some primary contests in Appalachia.

      But, yeah, just as Bill McKibben was perfectly right to mobilize heavy pressure on Obama to make him do the right thing, a primary challenge serving noble ideals could have had a thoroughly salutory effect – if nothing else, it could have helped to shape the playing field for the 2016 primaries. It’s the serving as a spoiler in the General, and the lying about it, that upsets many of us.

  13. Scott S. says:

    I just wanna say that Nader isn’t even much of a progressive. He busted unions in his organizations, abused workers for the sake of amassing wealth, and his more recent campaigns were openly funded by conservatives — he got paid very well by Republicans and seemed entirely happy with the idea that he was running solely to split votes on the leftward side of the aisle.

  14. Matthew says:

    Of all the places I expected to see dumb, nonstarters like this, this is the last place…

    I didn’t vote for Gore because he is not liberal enough and too “estblishment.” I will not vote for Obama for the same reasons. Go ahead and write up your blame pieces for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson in case Romney wins I guess.

    “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.”
    -Gene Debs

    • Erik Loomis says:

      So you don’t want abortion to stay legal?

      • Matthew says:

        I do, and I want equal rights for gays, and lots of other things that Obama supports and Romney opposes. I don’t want to get into it too much, because I get this shit from all my Obama-supporter friends about every day, but there are lots of things that are very important to me that Obama does not support (e.g. ending the drug war, criminal justice reform, less interventionist foreign policy, inter alia).

        • Erik Loomis says:

          You will NEVER EVER EVER have a candidate that you support on all these issues. It just isn’t going to happen. In 2012, you have a very clear choice. You can support the candidate, even if by “support” you just mean pulling the voting lever that you support on some issues. Or you can not vote and potentially have the candidate who will destroy everything you hold dear.

          I support your position on almost all these issues. But I also recognize the nature of political change in the United States. It has always been this way and it always will be. Not voting for the strongest candidate that can win on your positions in a general election is a terrible, horrible idea. Make the change happen where you can–in the primaries, in local elections, in the school boards, wherever. But in general elections, you either vote for the least bad candidate or you de facto give a vote to the worst candidate.

          • Matthew says:

            I agree with you. But I would rather take my ball and go home than play in a system where there is only a handful of small differences between the only two plausible choices. Maybe it is selfish, but I would rather wash my hands of this government so that when we murder Afghan women/children, etc., it isn’t on my conscience any more than it needs to be as a taxpayer and citizen of the USA.

            • Erik Loomis says:

              The difference between women dying in back-alley abortions and women living through abortions is a small difference to you?

              • Matthew says:

                I guess ultimately I see it as the candidate’s fault, and not my own, but perhaps this is a cop out (as you’re pointing out). Shouldn’t we blame spineless/fake liberals in all the state legislatures and Congress for the erosion of equal rights and not individual voters? I get what you’re saying, but we just aren’t going to see eye to eye on this. I work with marginalized people, and the amount of contempt I have for the people in power who ignore them is immeasurable.

                • Erik Loomis says:

                  I think the problem you face is this–the people of the United States do not support the positions you support, or at least not enough to vote in the people who would enact them, even on the relatively easy level of state legislature or more minor state and local offices.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Actually, a surprising number do–remember that Obama won in 2008 by running well to the left of the way he governed. Once you get past the tribal identifiers, people frequently do vote for their own economic self-interest, mirabile dictu.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  Eric:

                  Part of the problem that Gore supporters never accept is preference ordering.

                  Let’s create a hypothetical Quaker pacifist voter. This voter is a left winger because he or she opposes the murder of foreigners in the name of American imperialism. However, this voter, while pro-choice, does not care nearly as much about abortion rights as he or she does about military policy.

                  Your argument doesn’t respond to this voter, because even though you are both ostensibly on the “left”, you actually DON’T AGREE ON SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES. He or she thinks an issue is really important, a deal-breaker, which you don’t think to be one.

                  Let’s put it this way. Imagine if the Democrats nominated a pro-lifer. Would all the folks in this thread saying you have to vote for Democrats still say that? Or do you folks have your own deal-breakers.

                  You have to accept that some people feel as strongly about the murders of foreigners in America’s name as other people feel about abortion rights.

                • djw says:

                  Again, by voting for Nader over Gore, she makes outcomes worse on the only issue she hypothetically cares about.

                  If you really, really care about an issue, you should care about actual outcomes more than chasing illusions of moral purity.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  DJW:

                  I don’t know what you mean by “worse”. Clinton murdered thousands of foreigners. So did Bush. So has Obama.

                  If you are really really anti-war, you have to be working to ovethrow the entire structure of American imperialism.

                  That’s the point. Leftists actually disagree with you on these issues. They are smarter than you are and are thinking more long term. But because you think THEY don’t like war on the same more milquetoast level that YOU don’t like war, or maybe because you actually don’t have any objection to war at all and just argue about justifications, you can’t see that point.

                • Hogan says:

                  If you are really really anti-war, you have to be working to ovethrow the entire structure of American imperialism.

                  And has repeatedly running protest candidates for president advanced that goal any? Has it helped to build any kind of anti-imperialist mass movement?

                • djw says:

                  So you HATE WAR so much you can’t be bothered to pay attention to any details about its scope and damage under different administrations. Duly noted.

                  I’m sure your brilliant, secret strategies to overthrow the American Government are progressing nicely. Carry on.

                • MAJeff says:

                  Let’s put it this way. Imagine if the Democrats nominated a pro-lifer. Would all the folks in this thread saying you have to vote for Democrats still say that?

                  We’ll I’m holding my nose and voting for Bob Casey for my Senator. Not Prez, obviously, but there it is.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Let’s create a hypothetical Quaker pacifist voter.

                  I’m not hypothetical. You don’t need to create me.


                  This voter is a left winger because he or she opposes the murder of foreigners in the name of American imperialism.

                  I’m a left-winger because without egalitarianism, there can be no peace. Pacifism is far more than “don’t murder foreigners.” Pacifism is “work to change the structures that abet the murder of foreigners.” You have confused a symptom with a cause. I’ve never known any actual Quakers who make this sort of mistake.


                  However, this voter, while pro-choice, does not care nearly as much about abortion rights as he or she does about military policy.

                  Actually, this Quaker pacifist is aware of the fact that weakening human rights in one sphere weakens them in other spheres as well. This Quaker pacifist does not trivialize women’s rights.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  They are smarter than you are

                  In context, this is perhaps the most pathetic thing ever written.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  Again, Scott, why do you assume that leftist revolutionary types have the same goals that you do? They DISAGREE with you. They think your positions are centrist and moderate and immoral. They are NOT on your side.

                  And they vote for Nader BECAUSE of that.

                  What you are doing is treating them like idiots because you don’t understand their actual goals, and you think that these people are people whose votes you own rather than a separate coalition that you have to make deals with and play coalition politics with.

                  That’s your fundamental problem with the left. And as long as centrists view the left that way, they are going to have a very hard time getting their votes.

                • MAJeff says:

                  If they’re revolutionary, why are they voting in the first place?

                  The “revolutionary left” is not the left, and I’m guessing a large chunk of Nader voters aren’t revolutionaries either.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  Again, Scott, why do you assume that leftist revolutionary types have the same goals that you do?

                  Oh, fuck me, that’s even funnier than your imaginary Quaker that bore no semblance at all to real Quakers.

                  Fucking poseurs on internet boards are not actual revolutionaries.

              • Bill Murray says:

                this argument is straight out of the why people should vote for Carter over Reagan file.

            • Ian says:

              I find it strange that you think apathy leaves you with cleaner hands than participation would.

              • Eli Rabett says:

                It takes a village, but there are lots of arsonists available for piecework.

              • Matthew says:

                I find it hard to characterize my actions as apathy. I work in public service, volunteer helping children and noncitizens, and work in political campaigns. Changing our society and the world is pretty much what I do for a living, but because I vote for a candidate who I actually believe in, I have abdicated my responsibilities as a citizen… Not everyone is like me, but I would say, from my experience, that the people who voted for Nader have done way more in the name of progress than many people who check the Team Red or Team Blue box every election.

                • L2P says:

                  This is the most frustrating sort of thing to read.

                  Your volunteer work? I’m sure the thousands of kids that will never see college because their families can’t afford will be thrilled you fell awesome about your clear conscience.

                  Your public interest job? I’m sure the millions of people without health care will be ecstatic you’re doing whatever the hell it is while they go to bed hoping they/their spouse/their kid doesn’t die of heart failure/pneumonia/kidney failure.

                  Voting in the presidential election is more important than anything else you will ever do to help another person. Especially this year. The government gave you a $10,000 check to give to the working poor. And you’re pissing it away by not voting for Obama.

                  To quote Dick Cheney: “Go fuck yourself.”

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Take a breath. Thanks to the Electoral College, we Californians can vote Mickey Mouse or not at all; we’re safely blue, thankyewverymuch, and the votes of droolers in Wyoming and Arizona cancel us out.

                  Take your outrage outdoors and put it to good use.

              • Digger says:

                You won’t convince the Emperor to close down the Colosseum, but at least you can stop attending the games.

            • UserGoogol says:

              It is selfish.

              Worrying about getting “blood on your hands” is simply irrational. We live in a complicated and interconnected society where our actions regularly impact the lives of others whether we want it to or not. Declining from acting to increase the likelihood that policies shall be implemented which will kill fewer people doesn’t mean you’re washing your hands of the murder, it means you are encouraging the murder in the first place.

              Plus, ultimately, being a citizen and a taxpayer is kind of a big deal. If you really want to wash your hands of it, simply declining from voting is a rather easy way out.

              • Matthew says:

                How is voting for an antiwar candidate instead of a prowar candidate “encouraging murder in the first place?” Also, war is one of a vast number of reasons I do not support Obama – it is just one of the easier-to-casually-mention and visceral examples.

                • Matthew says:

                  I also served in the US military when I was a younger, more naive person (semi-relevant to this discussion).

                • UserGoogol says:

                  Well, voting for Nader per se isn’t so much what encourages murder, but failing to vote according to an optimal strategy. A vote for Nader increases the expected “murderness” of the winner than a vote for Gore, even though Nader is less murdery than Gore is, because the first past the post voting system is stupid and horrible.

                • I have trouble believing it is possible for someone to be more naive than a commenter who doesn’t understand how throwing an election to someone like a George Bush or a Mitt Romney is “encouraging murder.”

          • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

            Doesn’t it matter, Erik, whether or not you live in a swing state? Given the workings of the electoral college, consequentialist arguments like this really only make sense for the minority of voters who live in states that are actually in play. The rest of us are free to cast our purely symbolic presidential votes however we want, as they’ll have no impact on the outcome.

            (In the interest of full disclosure: I vote in Oklahoma, which in addition to being a deeply red state has the worst ballot access laws in the country and no write-ins. As a result, the only choices I’m likely to have are Obama and Romney. Under these circumstances, I’m voting for Obama. But if Jill Stein were on the ballot in Oklahoma, I’d probably vote for her. On the other hand, if I lived in OH, NV, FL, NC, WI, CO or any other swing state, I’d unhesitatingly pull the lever for Obama.)

            • UserGoogol says:

              I suppose as a general thing, if you get sufficiently annoyed at Ralph Nader for acting as a spoiler in swing states, then he stops being a particularly good symbol. Casting a symbolic vote for a candidate doesn’t just symbolize that you support their policies, it also symbolizes that you support them personally as candidates.

              In principle you can personally interpret as symbolizing just the issues, (it’s a secret ballot, after all) but if you’re going to be completely self-indulgent in your voting, you might as well just write your own name in.

              • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

                Agreed. I was active in the Green Party in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I supported a safe-states strategy (emphasizing non-battleground states) and voted as a delegate for David Cobb, who beat Nader for our nomination in 2004. The problem is that the Nader people were right aboit one thing: a candidate _does_ lose relevance if s/he’s acoiding battleground states. Ultimately, I came to feel that, for the moment at least, there is no effective path for progressive third party politics at the national level to have a really positive impact. (Not that I’m any more convinced that there’s a path for progressive politics within the Democratic Party.)

    • Matthew says:

      The reason this country (and the world) is so fucked is because people buy in to the false dichotomy/illusion of choice that you are buying into here.

      • malraux says:

        Is it really an illusion of choice? It seems to me that I’m stuck with a weirdly configured first past the post voting system. My voting strategies would be rather different if I were voting in a parliamentary system. But voting for a third party in a system wherein third parties are not viable is also not voting for your preferred choice.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Nice Debs quote. Debs was a great and a good man. Thing is, though, he was also an utter failure, leaving as a legacy little more than an ability to inspire principled irrelevance in people like yourself.

      Debs’s near-precise contemporary Samuel Gompers was neither so great nor so good a man. Gompers was far more compromised, indeed positively sold out the Left. But Gompers worked within the system, and it is arguably because of Gompers that we have the 40 hour week, overtime, and the like. It certainly isn’t because of Debs.

      • Matthew says:

        The thing that I love about Debs and the reason I admire him is because he didn’t compromise, even when it resulted in imprisonment, etc. Debs is probably the one person who has inspired me more than anyone else.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          Debs has inspired you to the point where you would rather risk a president who will appoint justices who would overturn Roe than Obama?

          • Matthew says:

            Well, in that respect, the President doesn’t run the show. Congress has to confirm nominees. I gathered signatures for Planned Parenthood and NARAL to petition Dems to filibuster Samuel Alito, and the Democrats caved… Maybe they should be blamed for not standing up for us instead of people who voted for third parties (or the candidates themselves).

            • Matthew says:

              To his credit (IIRC), then Senator Obama voted against cloture. Just thought I would throw that in in case someone was going to come back with that.

            • Erik Loomis says:

              You can’t absolve yourself on these issues by saying that politics is complicated. Either you participate (and I definitely respect the work for PP and NARAL) and make it better or you don’t. And, to bring it back, voting for a candidate in 2000 that placed George W. Bush in the White House is how we got Alito.

              • Bill Murray says:

                since Nader didn’t place Bush in the White House in any meaningful sense, of whom are you speaking — I guess GW Bush

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  since Nader didn’t place Bush in the White House in any meaningful sense

                  Except in the sense that if he didn’t succeed in his plan to throw the election to Bush Bush wouldn’t have won. Actually, that seems very meaningful indeed.

              • sam240 says:

                Erik,

                For that argument to work, you have to assume that Gore would have won a second term. He couldn’t have nominated a pro-choice candidate during his first term because there were no vacancies then. It wasn’t until 2005 that O’Connor retired and Rehnquist died.

                Since I don’t see how Gore would have been able to obtain a second term following 9/11, a Republican president would have chosen someone to replace O’Connor. If it hadn’t been Alito, rest assured that McCain would have picked someone just as repulsive.

                If one believes that Nader’s presence caused Bush to win the 2000 election (the Florida exit polls and Simmons’ analysis of swing states leads me to believe otherwise), then one can claim that Nader was indirectly responsible for the Iraq war. But I don’t see any way that we don’t get Alito or someone like him nominated in 2005, and thus it’s unfair to blame Nader for Alito.

    • Murc says:

      I’d just like to chime in and note that while I don’t really agree with Matthew on his specific Obama decision, I can’t find fault with his logic in the general sense.

      Voting is an affirmative choice. Assuming you have a reasonably good idea of the policies of the candidate and what they’ll implement once in office, you are morally sanctioning those policies, and receiving a certain effect of moral culpability for them, by pulling the lever.

      And there comes a point where even if you’re voting for the lesser evil, a person just can’t bring themselves to sanction what they stand for. In a hypothetical election between George Wallace and Barry Goldwater, I would stay home or vote third-party, because even though Wallace would probably be better than Goldwater (he was much more economically populist) I would not be able to sanction him.

      I worked for, and voted for, Obama in 2008. I will vote for him in 2012. But it’s hard. It means putting my stamp on targeted killings. On no prosecutions of banksters or war criminals. On no justice for Mahar Arar and others. On a whole bunch of policies I find not just disagreeable, but morally monstrous.

      I do it anyway because I find the alternative worse. But one day maybe I won’t be able to force that justification down my craw, and I don’t think that will make me either an idiot or irresponsible.

      • Anna in PDX says:

        Ditto on everything you said. I’ve even donated, quite a lot considering my income level, to the Obama campaign. Makes me feel bad that he does these things. But I am so sure that the Republicans will be a whole hell of a lot worse that I keep doing it.

        • Matthew says:

          Full disclosure: I donated to both Obama and Nader in 2008 (voted for Nader) and have donated to both Obama and other candidates this year(will be voting third party).

          • Warren Terra says:

            You voted for Nader in 2008? I mean, obviously I’m not a fan of third-party voting in general, but leaving that aside and assuming a decision to vote third-party I’m flabbergasted to think that someone who claims the positions and interests you do would think that in 2008 the third-party protest candidate of choice would be Ralph Nader. Union-busting, womens-issues-indifferent Ralph Nader? The guy who deliberately screwed the Green Party, and explicitly stated that he was just as happy to empower the worst in our politics in the hope that a slumbering electorate would finally rise up? What were you thinking?

            • DocAmazing says:

              Got another non-Dem running in 2008 who is going to rack up significant numbers? When you pull to the left from a blue state, you pull to maximize your leverage.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                Leverage?

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Yeah. The rhetoric of the 2008 campaign didn’t arise out of nowhere. “Si, se puede” in English? That’s not pitching to the Reagan Democrats.

              • Malaclypse says:

                who is going to rack up significant numbers?

                Nader did, admittedly, beat out certifiable lunatic Alan Keyes in popular votes on 2008. I’m not sure what that proves, however.

                • djw says:

                  Yeah, if I’m going the moral purity route, I’m not going to vote for a union busting asshole because he’s going to .3 % of the vote rather than .1 % or something. Kinda defeats the purpose.

                  One good thing Nader did succeed in doing is kill the 3rd party protest candidate from the left strategy for while. No one’s going to get enough votes to get anyone to notice any time soon.

                • Barry Freed says:

                  Damn shame we can’t vote for Gus Hall anymore.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Beat out all of the third-party candidates, in fact.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  if I’m going the moral purity route

                  then you would do what’s morally purs. If you’re trying to force the Dems to deal with the issues and stop shitting on their left flank, then you’d collect as many votes in one spot as possible. Again, note that Obama campaigned well to the left–and won handily–in 2008. Note that, despite the actual policies of the administration, we’re back to left/populist rhetoric again.

                  Leverage.

                • Murc says:

                  … you think Obama ran to the LEFT in 2008?

                  I’d like some examples, please. His positions in the primary were indistinguishable from Hillary’s, his positions in the general were pretty generically centrist.

                • djw says:

                  You can tell the Obama 08 campaign was brilliant by all the people who saw what they wanted to see in it.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  The guy who told us he’d be walking picket lines wasn’t running to the left? “Yes, we can” and “we’re the people we’ve been waiting for” wasn’t running to the left?

                  Shit, Shepard Fairey is probably asking for his poster back.

                • Murc says:

                  “Yes, we can” and “we are the people we’ve been waiting for” are empty, meaningless slogans.

                  They just are. Your position on the left/right spectrum is determined by your policy positions, not your sloganeering.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  The portion of the electorate you’re trying to appeal to is the point of your sloganeering. Your policy positions (like support of labor) are mostly of interest to political bugs.

                  Obama ran to the left. It worked.

      • WhatDragon says:

        I don’t understand this either.

        If you vote for someone, you are somehow a moral monster because you don’t agree with everything that person does.

        Yet, if you don’t vote for them, and that results in their opponent getting elected, who does even greater harms to a wider group, you are not a moral monster?

        I want to eat my cake…

        • Murc says:

          So, you don’t think casting a vote for someone means you take on some measure of responsibility for the policies you knew they were going to enact before you did so?

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            If one of two people are going to become president and one is clearly worse than the other, directly voting for the worst candidate and refusing to vote for the better one is a distinction without the slightest meaningful difference.

            • Murc says:

              Er… this is true, Scott, but I’m not sure how its germane to this sub-thread.

              I am not and do not advocate directly voting for the worse evil, ever. I’m not sure where you’re pulling that from.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                It’s relevant to the claim that affirmatively voting for the worse evil and just refusing to vote for the lesser evil are different. They’re not.

                • Murc says:

                  … wait, what?

                  That seems sort of insane to me. In my hypothetical George Wallace/Barry Goldwater, for example, following your logic, my refusing to vote for EITHER of them is the same as voting affirmatively for Goldwater.

                  And that’s just ludicrous.

                • djw says:

                  They’re quantitatively different (half a vote or a whole one). The case that they’re qualitatively different seems to me to rely on some airy and dubious philosophical distinctions.

            • Malaclypse says:

              directly voting for the worst candidate and refusing to vote for the better one is a distinction without the slightest meaningful difference.

              Pedantic point – statistically, refusing to vote for the lesser evil has 1/2 the electoral impact of voting for the greater evil. But yes, the impact is in the same direction either way.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Go ahead and write up your blame pieces for Jill Stein and Gary Johnson in case Romney wins I guess.

      Gary Johnson has a real chance of doing to Romney what Nader did to Gore. Hell, I’m tempted to donate to his campaign.

      • Murc says:

        Wait, he does? In what state?

        Because I too will give money if this is the case.

        • rkd says:

          Virginia, I believe

        • LeMoyne says:

          New Mexico hasn’t been listed as a swing state despite extremely close margins this century. Former Gov. Johnson is personable and remembered frequently for balancing the budget by vetoing hundreds of bills (1/3 of which were R sponsored). His campaign vans have been in in ‘little Texas’ – the oil patch in SE NM that is heavily Republican+Blue Dog. Also, Johnson proactively worked to settle the Indian gaming compacts that brought alot of revenue to Native Americans.
          The main reason I think Rmoney is toast here in NM is that one-percenter smugness in his smile and manner of speech that just won’t play well here in any of the important constituencies or cultures.

      • Matthew says:

        I’d just like to say that among the late 20s/early 30s crowd I run in, many ’08 Obama voters have told me they are voting Johnson because of the drug war, the wars, etc. I don’t agree with a lot of Johnson’s policies (abolishing the IRS, etc.), but I understand their point of view. We are in a swing state.

        • Murc says:

          Okay, this is just batshit.

          Johnson is worse than Obama. Period. There are a few metrics in which he’s better, and they do tend to be in areas the President has direct control over, but overall he’s a crazy libertarian and the only thing that separates him from Ron Paul is that he’s better at hiding it.

          In many ways Johnson would probably be worse than ROMNEY.

  15. Jim Lynch says:

    Quite simply, Ralph Nader does not have a politic bone in his body. If he did, he would have parleyed his 2000 candidacy into real power in a Gore administration. A smart politician would have cut a pre-election deal with the VP, in return for his endorsement.

    Nader is a bomb thrower and shit disturber, and that’s OK. The guy is true to himself, but he’s no politician.

    • Warren Terra says:

      So very, very close. Closer to the truth would be to say that Nader doesn’t have a policy bone in his body. He couldn’t make the deal you describe, because the deal assumes Ralph had a policy goal for which he would subordinate his ego – when in fact it’s become entirely too apparent that Ralph’s ego is the central fact of his campaigns, that it is more important to him than any policy results that might happen because of his actions.

      Yes, a Nader with a principled commitment to some policy goal might have sold his support to Gore in return for power to effect progress on that goal. But such a Nader would have left behind an institution dedicating to advancing such goals; Nader left nothing. Such a Nader might have leveraged the 2000 result into meaningful efforts to promote runoff voting and honest elections; Nader did neither.

  16. UserGoogol says:

    I think a fundamental problem is that attributing responsibility to specific individuals is a deeply flawed way of thinking about the world. Especially at the level of national politics, it takes a confluence of many different factors for anything to happen. Nobody is ever absolutely to blame for anything, and nobody is ever absolutely excluded from blame. A lot of things had to come together for Bush to become president, but Nader was one of those things. And trying to evade responsibility for United States government policy by doing things like voting for Nader is impossible. You are partially responsible, just like everyone else. All we can do is try to optimize the expected outcome of our actions.

  17. frustrated_prog says:

    Ceteris parabis, Nader cost the election. That point has to be conceded. This obsession, however, with attacking Nader seems like a way to silence and discredit future left-wing challenges to the national Democratic Party. Bush’s election and subsequent misdeeds, as pointed out, required several other events and circumstances. Where is the similar focus on these other factors, e.g., Gore’s lackluster campaign, electoral fraud, complete Democratic capitulation to the Bush administration in the months and years following 9/11, etc?

    And fundamentally, how are progressive voters to move the Democrats in the medium and long run even an inch to the left unless they threaten to support candidates (either third party or primary challengers) closer to their preferences? This is how conservatives over decades changed the Republican Party from a party of John Lindsay and George Romney to the party of Jim DeMint and Paul Ryan. Without some credible pressure from the left, the Democrats will continue to be the party of neoliberalism and militarism. They will remain marginally better on economics and foreign policy and significantly better on social issues than the Republicans but they will still hardly be a “progressive” party.

    • Jim Lynch says:

      “Ceteris parabis”.

      When I finally assume command of the planet Earth:

      Any writer communicating in English who utilizes Latin, or French, or any other language other than English, without providing a translation in English, will be summarily executed. I regret the need to post this edict, but there it is.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      This is how conservatives over decades changed the Republican Party from a party of John Lindsay and George Romney to the party of Jim DeMint and Paul Ryan.

      What? Can you please cite these third-party vanity presidential campaigns right-wingers supported? Jesus, I wish wingnuts had the same tactical savvy as Naderites.

      • Warren Terra says:

        Too easy: Strom Thurmond, and George Wallace.

        Granted, they were third-party candidates targeting the Democrats, but they won the Republicans around eventually, more or less.

        • frustrated_prog says:

          The Goldwater campaign in 1964 should be seen in a similar light. It was one of the first major intra-party victories of the far right over the Rockefeller Republicans, who had, more or less, come to accept the New Deal. Sure, this right-wing faction and their candidate lost in a landslide to LBJ but they helped move the country to the right in the 1970s and 1980s.

          • Warren Terra says:

            Not sure it qualifies: yes, it was an ideologically extreme insurgency in the Primary, but (so far as I know) it wasn’t a threat to decamp to support a third-party candidate in the General.

    • This obsession, however, with attacking Nader seems like a way to silence and discredit future left-wing challenges to the national Democratic Party

      “Left-wing challenges to the Democratic Party” that, like Nader’s, throw elections to the Republicans should be silenced and discredited.

      The people who are inclined to engage in such irresponsible behavior should have their noses rubbed in the consequences of Nader’s run until they come to their senses.

    • Bill Murray says:

      I don’t think there’s any certeris in this paribus. Bush stole the election, Nader made it easier, Buchanan and the other right wing 3rd partiers made it harder. these effects probably are close to balancing out but likely slightly more Nader effected. Clinton voters supporting Bush over Gore made an order of magnitude more difference than Nader, but in the end the Republicans were committed to stealing the election and were going to get there regardless

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Republicans were committed to stealing the election and were going to get there regardless

        Yes, who can forget that infamous Supreme Court decision Dole v. Clinton. I’m still pissed off about it.

    • JL says:

      And fundamentally, how are progressive voters to move the Democrats in the medium and long run even an inch to the left unless they threaten to support candidates (either third party or primary challengers) closer to their preferences?

      Build a constituency for their positions through non-electoral work so that lefty candidates are electable. Make enough noise in the streets that mainstream politicians start feeling pressure and adopting parts of their framing and rhetoric (this is part of what Occupy did). If they live in liberal areas that can support the election of lefties, push for lefty candidates there – at the national or state legislator levels.

  18. Grant says:

    Holy fuck, still with the Nader?

  19. scottredscottulysses@gmail.com says:

    Good Lord. Are we still arguing unknowable things about whether Nader cost Gore the election, reducing almost infinitely multi-causal events to Bad Ralph? Jesus Christ, I don’t like him either, but give it a rest. I mean, if I was (stupidly) to reduce the election result to one thing I wish had gone differently, it would be that Our Liberal Media hadn’t put their thumbs on the scale and collectively told us for 20 months before the election that Gore was a Big Fat Liar (also strange because he wore brown, 3 button suits, etc.) Take a deep cleansing breath, dude.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Yes, if only my post had discussed that point.

      Anyway, if there’s anyone who is utterly scrupulous about ignoring the media’s War on Gore, it’s Naderites, not least because they were collaborators. Nader and his apologists don’t care about the media at all. They argue that Gore lost because he was a Terrible Candidate, so terrible he didn’t run the kind of socialist campaign that would appeal to southern conservatives.

      • scott says:

        “…his unambiguous role in throwing the 2000 election to Bush.” Hmmmm, seems a bit emphatic to me, but if you want to back away from that I’d certainly applaud it as a welcome sign of perspective. Hyperventilation isn’t good for you on any subject.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          What hyperventilation? His role is, in fact, completely unambiguous. He said he wanted Bush to win, his strategy was entirely consistent with that goal, and data he himself cites proves that he did. There’s no second verse here.

  20. Unserious says:

    Watching people exculpate Nader for 2000 is almost as sad as watching progressives defend their strategy of pretending to hold the bumbling, neo-liberal Democratic party accountable to “the base,” when all involved that no such thing will occur. Nader has become a tool, but as he correctly points out in that interview, things like universal healthcare and the expansion of the safety net are actually what a majority of Americans want. They are, nevertheless, politically impossible within the current structure. That can only mean serious problems with our “democratic” system. For progressivism, then, the root of the problem is in the unquestioned assumption that electoral “democracy” is a good thing that will eventually yield good results, if we try hard enough to play the party’s game. Even if democracy is a good thing in the abstract, it is fundamentally a losing game for the 99% under the present circumstances and in its present form. The Republicans and their plutocrat backers know that democracy in 2012 is a joke and treat it as such–and thus voter suppression and Citizen’s United and etc. They just stopped pretending they care about the popular will or the public wellbeing. As usual, we may be able to learn a few things from them. Unless we can really orchestrate a takeover from within the party (as the Moral Majority and Teabaggers have done), the left needs to stop pretending it holds any sway with the Democratic party and take the fight to the streets. Counter the Mob of Money that controls the right with an actual mob of pissed off, unemployed, indebted people. Unionize everywhere. Strike the debt. Hack Wall Street. Bomb the fucking banks. We will never do away with the New Robber Barons through electoral means. Not in 2012.

    • Warren Terra says:

      things like universal healthcare … are, nevertheless, politically impossible within the current structure

      Even with all its failings and shortcomings, I’ve got a friend I’d like you to meet.

      • Super Serious says:

        Oh, you mean that genius bit of insurance industry welfare that still leaves millions without coverage and is already being used as a pretext to increase premiums on students?

        • Warren Terra says:

          1) I’m assuming you’re the same person as “Unserious”. My working assumption is that anyone who does not adopt and consistently adhere to a chosen pseudonym (except perhaps for the occasional parody comment in the name of a long-dead historical figure or the like) is not interested in having a conversation.
          2) That being said, I invite you to read your own bloody link. Even the people making that claim are saying that the PPACA is responsible for 12% of the fee increase; it’s unclear where even this much is coming from, given that the UNC student health care system already includes the most important and expensive parts of the PPACA (Shall-Issue and Community Rating), along with a Mandate.

          Basically, you’re whining that people who charge premiums for health insurance, and who are given to imposing swingeing rate hikes, are of late using the PPACA for political cover, blaming it for the steep price increases they announce. That they do so doesn’t mean they’re honest when they do, and this is an instance where it’s almost ludicrously obvious they’re lying.

          • Unserious says:

            That’s what the word “pretext” is for. Whether Obama makes a stern face at the insurers is irrelevant, since the fact that the insurance companies CAN increase premiums suggests major flaws with the law itself, no?

            Let me take one last stab at diagnosis, just, you know, for the amusement of all:

            Back in the good old days, the U.S. and the global north extracted wealth from the rest of the world and grew fat on it, but the capitalists were made to “share the prosperity” with U.S. workers (except, you know, if you weren’t male and white). Today, of course, the model looks much different, with tiny islands of obscene wealth spread across the globe, floating on a vast sea of misery and ecological disaster.

            The problem with the Democratic Party is that it openly (and without irony) pines for the good old days without a critique of imperialism, and without acknowledging that they were primary agents in constructing this “new normal.”

            The problem with Progressives is that we allow the Democrats to get away with this, because we dare not contradict the bullshit narrative of prosperity for all and the American Dream and all that. Prosperity for all in a capitalist system is a lie, and it always has been. The sooner we jettison that narrative, the better.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          insurance industry welfare

          Somebody really should inform them what a better deal this was for them than the status quo, since the actually existing industry bitterly opposed the bill and nearly got it ruled unconstitutional.

        • “Insurance industry welfare” has reduced the percentage of children in my state without health care coverage to zero (0).

          How many of them should we deny health care coverage to so that your strategy to someday cover them, which has failed every single time it’s been attempted, can try to pull a rabbit out of Bullwinkle’s hat?

          • TK421 says:

            And a lot of those “insured” have useless junk insurance which the law did nothing to address. Your country is fucked beyond repair when it can’t pass what the rest of the western world has had for over 50 years. Gotta use that money for drones instead of healthcare, I guess.

            • The pre-existing conditions ban and the requirement to cover preventive care “did nothing” to improve the quality of coverage people get for their insurance payment?

              ORLY?

              Anyway, who paid for your last doctor’s visit?

              Yeah, that’s what I thought. It’s good enough for you, but it’s terrible that anyone else has it, and you’d prefer it if they didn’t have it.

              Your country is fucked beyond repair when it can’t pass what the rest of the western world has had for over 50 years.

              My country is fucked beyond repair. Some of want to get working with the baling wire, and some want to stand back and proclaim how much better they are than the people doing actual work.

              • TK421 says:

                The Canadian government paid for my last doctor’s visit.

                You don’t have a democracy anymore, but inverted totalitarianism in the USA, so electoral politics will not fix your country. The system is fixed.

                • Lucky you.

                  Why do you want to use the kids in my classroom as hostages?

                  inverted totalitarianism

                  This is such a cool term that it took me hours to realize that it doesn’t mean anything.

                • TK421 says:

                  There’s an entire book written about it called America Inc as well as a wikipedia entry. Try reading them much? Or is it too complicated for you? Maybe you should stick to sports instead of politics.

                  Your elites use things like The War on Terror (fear) and media entertainment (distraction) and rigging the system (citizens united) so that its not really a democracy anymore.

                • Speaking of distractions, have you noticed that you scampered away from your argument about health insurance and lapsed into meaningless slogans and self-gratification the moment I pointed out the hole in your position?

                  Because I’m pretty sure everyone else reading the thread did.

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                I’m sure TK421 is appalled by the Canadian health care system too, since it redistributes wealth from the young and healthy to the old and sick, just like the rest of the odious New Deal. Paul/Calhoun ’12!

                I hear all the time about “junk insurance,” but I don’t know anybody who would trade in their health insurance for a higher salary. I sure as hell wouldn’t.

            • Hogan says:

              Your country is fucked beyond repair

              If it’s beyond repair, then shut the fuck up already. You have nothing useful to offer.

  21. Davis X. Machina says:

    It’s been a hundred years, and here we are, still basically trying to figure out whether it’s permissible to support M. Millerand’s appointment to the Waldeck-Rousseau cabinet without selling out the Revolution…

    Some times the mutatis don’t even mutandis.

  22. Eli Rabett says:

    What you do is what the Club for Growth does. Round up a pile of $$ and people and go after the fringe candidates of your party in primaries. Then you tell them you are going to continue doing it

    Some of the blogs on the left are organizing to do this. In a couple of election cycles either

    a) the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party wins some and leverages the wins or

    b) the assumption that Democrats are to the left of the Democratic Party fails.

  23. Scott,

    What’s your problem with Bill Bradley?

  24. Marc Reichardt says:

    If you actually believe this tripe, Scott, you’re a coward and one of the legion of people directly responsible for why we have two right-wing parties dominating this country. If you actually believe in progressive values, then you fight for them. You don’t accept war-mongers like Gore (Remember the Minuteman program that the Air Force didn’t want? Remember the only Democrat advocating for the first Gulf War in the Senate?), deregulators like Gore (not a peep from him during the 2000 campaign about the economic path of this country which Clinton initiated in the late 90s), and “reformers” like Gore (Remember Reinventing Government?) and call it “victory”. You call it what it is: slow death, rather than a quick one. Given that Obama has overseen the third term of GWBush (targeted assassinations, expanding the Patriot Act, following the economic policy of Summers and Geithner, ignoring the continued corruption of big finance), I guess you must think it’s a whole new world out there. Was this what you were hoping for with a Gore presidency? If so, you’re no more progressive than he is and even more intellectually dishonest to be accusing Nader of enabling the perfidy of everything that Republicans and Democrats have engineered for the past decade. Do you keep bringing this up because Nader’s very presence somehow makes your hypocrisy apparent? Trouble with the mirror in the morning?

  25. Rarely Posts says:

    Your dichotomy of “full responsibility” versus “no responsibility” is bizarre. It proves too much—not everyone who intentionally causes or enables an event bears equal responsibility, particularly when you’re talking about governance. It also doesn’t allocate blame or responsibility correctly. It gets even more problematic when we’re talking whether Nader has “the blood of hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis” on his hands. I agree that Nader deserves a lot of criticism and got a lot wrong, but you’ve managed to stake out such an extreme position that I have to object. In particular, Bush II and the Republicans are the most responsible for Bush II’s election and it’s governance—suggesting that Nader bears “full responsibility” lets them off way too easy.

    Does Nader bear a significant amount of responsibility and blame for Bush II’s victory? Absolutely. Does he deserve some of the blame for the consequences? Absolutely. Is he fully responsible or deserve most of the blame? No. Is he responsible for all of the consequences? Absolutely not.

    The people most responsible for Bush II’s election and presidency are Bush II and his electoral team, followed by the Republican politicians and establishment, followed by the right-wing media and mainstream media. Nader comes after that, and it’s not even clear that he’s that close after that: Is he more responsible for Bush II’s election than a voter who voted for Bush II? Moreover, don’t those of us who failed to donate money to Gore or volunteer for him bear some responsibility? Not everyone who helps cause an event bears equal blame, even if we limit the discussion to those who did or could have foreseen the consequences. If we start spreading responsibility and blame evenly across all responsible parties, it starts losing its bite.

    Moreover, it was foreseeable that Nader’s campaign might swing the election to Bush II, but the sheer magnitude of Bush II’s evil and disastrous presidency was not foreseeable. An intelligent and knowledgeable person could see that Bush II was much more conservative than Gore, but it was not at all obvious that Bush II would govern much, much more incompetently than Bush I or even Reagan. His foreign policy, in particular, was atrocious. It was made possible by 9/11 (not foreseeable), and then he decided to attack Iraq (completely unrelated to 9/11). It was clear in the 1990s that the Republican party was moving right, but it wasn’t clear that it had become completely insane and malevolent. It also wasn’t clear that their insanity (which had mostly focused on domestic politics) would spill over into their foreign policy so completely. If Bush II’s team had governed like Bush I’s team (not an entirely crazy assumption), our country would be in much better shape than it is.

    I’m in favor of criticizing Nader because it’s important to learn from the mistakes of the past, but I just can’t see giving him “full responsibility” for Bush II’s election, much less all its consequences. He simply wasn’t that powerful, and his arrogant campaign was not nearly as pervasive and repetitive as the evil acts that Bush II’s administration committed day after day for eight years.

    • scott says:

      For a guy who clearly sees one of his pundit roles as refuting maximalist claims, Scott has an odd weakness for making maximalist claims himself. I agree that he stretches the concepts of causation and responsibility so far here that they become meaningless as he applies them. If he just wanted to say that he thinks St. Ralph is a self-aggrandizing jerk whose sanctimony he dislikes intensely, most would agree with that and mission accomplished, with no resort to dubious and overwrought historical or moral claims.

      • Cody says:

        I’m confused where you are all getting that Scott says it was ALL Nader’s fault. It seems to read to me that it is Nader’s fault, and many other actors played a role.

        It’s like lighting a stick of dynamite, it’s your fault is blew up even if you couldn’t have done anything without someone supplying you dynamite and a lighter.

  26. bobbyp says:

    I’m with RarelyPosts.

    I have voted straight party ticket Dem since ’72. I’ve been a PCO and party activist. And I have watched a party work assiduously to move away from its New Deal roots.

    It is to despair, but what’s a person gonna’ do?

  27. […] It must be conceded that electing Romney would advance the very, very smart plan Naderite dead-enders have to overthrow the American state.  This plan…well, it must remain secret, but trust me, if […]

  28. sam240 says:

    “Of course Gore lost Tennessee.”

    In 1992 and 1996, who did Tennessee vote for?

    Bill Clinton. He won by 2.5% in 1996. One might say that Ross Perot spoiled things, but if you were to take Perot’s votes in Tennessee, and give 70% of them to Bob Dole while giving Clinton the remaining 30%, Clinton still would have won.

    Clinton won by 4.7% in 1992, so there was some slippage over four years. However, if you were to give 70% of the Perot vote to Clinton, and 30% to Bush, Clinton would still have won Tennessee.

    Well, there still would have been some slippage in Tennessee’s Democratic base between 1996 and 2000, but Gore had won four statewide elections — two for senator, two for vice-president — and that should have counted for something positive. (Romney may not make Massachusetts competitive, but remember that he had only won term as governor, and he didn’t run for re-election because he knew he couldn’t win.)

    Based on trends to that point, Gore should have been able to win in Tennessee.

    Also note that, had Gore won all the states that voted for Dukakis in 1988, he would have won the election. Clinton won West Virginia by 14.7% in 1996; he won more votes than Dole and Perot combined. Dukakis had won West Virginia by 4.7% in 1988, and he didn’t do very well in the rest of the country. So how did Gore manage to lose a Dukakis state?

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      This is exceptionally unpersuasive. When you consider that in 1996 there was a Democratic incumbent running against the last of the midwestern moderates rather than a southern conservative, Gore did better than could have been reasonably expected. Romney won statewide office in Massachusetts more recently than Gore won in Tennessee. You have not remotely established that losing Tennessee makes Gore a uniquely weak candidate, because it’s simply not true.

      how did Gore manage to lose a Dukakis state?

      The white conservative state Obama lost by 13 points in the midst of a Democratic landslide? Yes, that sure is a mystery! Obama is clearly the worst Democratic candidate in history.

      And not only is your argument wrong on its face, it’s non-responsive to the bigger problem: arguing that Gore failed by not doing more to appeal to Southern and border state conservatives completely destroys the rationale of Nader’s candidacy.

      • sam240 says:

        “Romney won statewide office in Massachusetts more recently than Gore won in Tennessee.”

        Romney’s last win in a statewide race was in 2002, ten years ago. Gore’s last win in a senatorial race was in 1990, ten years before his presidential race. The last time I checked, ten years was not greater than ten years.

        Gore couldn’t win a senate race in 1996 because he had been elected vice-president in 1992, and was running for vice-president again. As noted, Tennessee voted for the Clinton-Gore ticket both times, so Gore did win in the state twice since his last senatorial election. If Gore had run for the Senate in 1996, he probably would have won in Tennessee.

        By contrast, Romney didn’t run for governor in 2006 because, with all the people he had alienated, there was no way he could have won a statewide election.

        As for West Virginia? I noted that, as Clinton won the state by 14.7% in 1996, and that Dukakis had managed to win the state back in 1988. At the very least, Gore should have been competitive in 2000.

        You also refer to West Virginia as a “white conservative state.” It’s similar to Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, which was the only district in the country to vote for Kerry in 2004 and McCain in 2008. I have relatives living there, and, from my experience, there’s a lot of racism, both conscious and unconscious. Gore, who has white skin, shouldn’t have lost votes due to this racism.

        While West Virginia is socially conservative, it is also twelfth in the nation in percentage of workers who belong in a union, and it has experienced union growth recently. An appeal to economic populism should help a candidate there, provided that the candidate has white skin. If there’s no such appeal by a Democrat, the race will come down to social issues, and the Republican will win the state.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Yes, you’re right — it has been an equal length of time since Romney won statewide office. Which doesn’t actually help you, since you don’t think Romney will make Massachusetts competitive. In addition, your point also collapses on itself. “Gore was an enormously popular figure and effective campaigned in Tennessee who lost Tennessee not because of inexorable trends but because he was too inept to win Tennessee.” What?

          An appeal to economic populism should help a candidate there

          Like Gore’s, who ran the most economically populist economic campaign since 1984, and did much better than Kerry or Obama but, not surprisingly, while he was “competitive” not well enough to win since it’s a Republican state in national elections? What’s your point exactly?

          • sam240 says:

            Look at how corrupt the Clinton administration was. According to the 2000 exit polls, 68% of voters thought history would remember Clinton primarily for his corruption. What did Gore do to address this problem? Did he ever promise to find out who the crooks were and throw them out?

            What, exactly, was Gore’s populist message? Was it the call for “fiscal discipline”? Or was it the praise of free trade? Perhaps it was the nomination of Joe Lieberman, who, in his two previous Senate races, had received the endorsement of the National Review ?

  29. Anderson says:

    It looks like every Nader voter who threw the election to Bush has shown up in this thread … the ones who didn’t drink Lysol by now, anyway.

  30. […] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}Why should Scott have all the “trolling Naderite deadenders” fun? From Kurt Eichenwald: I have read excerpts from many of them, along with other […]

  31. Lit3Bolt says:

    Voting for Nader 1) punished the Democrats and made themselves feel self-righteous. It also 2) led to Bush being elected and a liberal dystopia of American governance that continues today.

    Naderites gleefully claim responsibility for 1 and disavow 2.

    Thus, they are truly feckless and liberals, progressives, and Democrats are better off without them.

  32. […] and of course in 2000 I’m voting Nader all the way; Bush wasn’t quite the moderate Joe Klein, Frank Rich, and Nader assured me he was, but I […]

  33. Lucas says:

    I was 18 in 2000. I voted for Nader and wouldn’t have voted for anyone else. Gore ran an atrocious campaign and if you were under 25 and didn’t really remember what it was like to live under Republicans, it was nigh impossible to recognize the differences between W and Gore, especially in a time of such stability.

    I don’t buy that a vote for Nader was a lost vote for Gore for one second. Gore knew what to expect from the media and, eventually, the Court, and he didn’t do a damn thing about it. Mind you, I’m much older now and wouldn’t vote third party today, but I completely understand the logic of what I did at the time. Gore’s lazy, inarticulate campaign gave us W, nothing more and nothing less.

    Now if you voted Nader in ’04, you were just being an asshole.

  34. […] = [];}I’ve mostly sat out the recent rehashing of the Nader Wars here. Like Rob and Scott, I have grown deeply critical of Ralph Nader and his 2000 presidential campaign. But I come from a […]

  35. […] than because it attracted large numbers of adherents, and to the extent that Nader’s largely empty, self-congratulatory rhetoric had any content at all it was focused almost exclusively on economic issues, not civil liberties […]

  36. survivor says:

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  37. […] in the pundit belief that elections come down to campaign strategy and will. (Cf. also “Al Gore would have totally won Tennessee if he wasn’t such a sellout!”) It’s so obviously false that it doesn’t even […]

  38. […] man who made Iraq, massive upper-class tax cuts and Sam Alito possible, while reassuring us all the while that a man who governed to the right of the Texas legislature […]

  39. […] a bonus, Ralph is still happy to repeat the most idiotic non-sequiturs of his most pathetic apologists: “I have a hundred answers to 2000,” he cuts in. “The first one is, why don’t you ask […]

  40. […] amazed that people keep repeating such abject nonsense with a straight face. I’ll take it seriously as soon as someone can point to anyone making […]

  41. […] is necessary but not sufficient it therefore can’t be said to have had any impact at all is egregiously stupid.) What was the impact of this? Well, my opinion is that the Democratic Party has shifted modestly […]

  42. David Atkins says:

    Yeah, well, Salon prints Digby’s word salad on a regular basis so “Romney the Moderate” is really not much of a stretch there.

  43. […] is all the more compelling coming from someone whose previous inability to distinguish between a moderate liberal and a contemporary conservative Republican led to trillions of dollars […]

  44. […] comedy gold, the man who gave us Iraq and Alito has a voicemail arguing in the course of one of his favorite non-sequiturs that the word “spoiler” is a “politically bigoted” term.  To briefly […]

  45. […] for people to internalize the consequences of realignment and entrenched partisanship — my favorite dumb argument about the 2000 election, “Durr, Al Gore was so bad he couldn’t even win his own state, durr [drools],” […]

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