Now that the latest Nader thread has neared the length of an Unfogged one, I guess it’s time for a new one! I think zuzu makes the point that is really the most important:
There’s a lot of talk about Nader on this blog, but I rarely ever see any of Nader’s defenders say exactly what they thought he was going to accomplish in 2000, or 2004, and god help us, 2008. Because I don’t think Ralph hisself knows once the cameras turn his way.
This is really the heart of the issue. Defenses of Nader at this late date always end up turning into attacks on the Democrats. And while I rarely agree with them tout court — they tend to ignore obvious facts like the structure of American institutions, the preferences of the median voter, etc. — they certainly have some merit. But the larger problem is that it’s all a non-sequitur because voting for Nader doesn’t accomplish anything positive. (Or, at least, doesn’t accomplish anything that just voting for Bush straight up wouldn’t accomplish, but in the wake of the hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, a deficit that will make progressive change much more difficult, the Alto-fied Court, etc. one rarely hears heighten-the-contradictions arguments that eight years of Bush will be worth it because the 2008 Democratic candidate may be slightly to the left of the previous ones. Especially since the frontrunner is less progressive than Gore or Kerry.) The Goldwaterite transformation of the Republican Party wasn’t accomplished by vanity third-party runs, and getting matching funds for the Greens would have done nothing but make it easier for the Republicans to hold office.
As Michael Tomasky pointed out, one only wishes that conservatives were as illogical and indifferent about the strategic ends of their actions as the minority of Greens still defending the man who used them for his own bizarre ends:
During the 2000 campaign, I used to go to bed wishing that the Christian Coalition were as strategically feebleminded, and as psychologically bent on disruption at any price, as the Greens. That way the CCers would have backed Gary Bauer, the laughably unelectable hard-right family values candidate. Then, once Bauer had been winnowed out of the nominating process, they would have claimed that his defeat showed just how corrupt the Republican Party had become from its incurable need to placate the secular humanists and “banking interests.” Then they would have run some nut of their own who’d have made Bauer look like Arthur Vandenburg. Finally, with a few million misguided souls behind them, including at least a couple thousand in Florida, they would have cost George W. Bush the election, no asterisks or question marks. What a wonderful world this would be.
But the Christians are far smarter than these left-wing lions of ideological chastity, and so we are where we are.
Christian conservatives could have formed a third party over, say, Reagan hanging Bork out to dry or Bush I tax increase. Alas, they didn’t, because they actually understand American politics. They understood that for all they were used the GOP was better for the than the Dems, those were the only two options, and they got the Roberts Court as a result. Anyway, to sum up, the costs and benefits of Nader’s 2000 candidacy:
- Costs: Nader’s goal of electing a very reactionary and exceptionally incompetent president was, alas, realized, with incredible domestic and foreign policy costs.
- Benefits: None. And, no, the fact that some people got to feel ideologically pure as they effectively voted for Bush (while assuring us that, despite having governed to the right of the Texas legislature, he was a harmless moderate not substantially different than Gore!) doesn’t count.
I’m not really seeing how the tradeoff works here.