Thursday, August 12, 2004

Spoiler Sport

My biggest hope for this year (even surpassing my hope that "Ocean's Twelve" doesn't suck) is that John Kerry wins the Presidential election. Given that, I'm going to say something very contrary to what most liberals are saying these days: I have no problem with Ralph Nader running again.

You see, even though his ego has seemed to surpass his ideals lately, I still like Ralph. He has been a champion for the common good for a long time now, and he has rightly earned his place in history. I also think he would be dandy as president (though his current foreign policy experience roughly equals Dubya's when he moved into the White House). Do I think he has a snowball's chance in Hell of winning? No. This is not the year for a third party candidate to run and win. That year may not even come in our lifetime. That doesn't mean, however, he shouldn't run. Democrats have been saying that he could repeat the debacle in 2000 by siphoning enough votes from their candidate to make the election too close for comfort.

First off, I don't think that will happen. One of Gore's biggest problems in 2000 was that he agreed too much with Bush, particularly in the debates. Voters who wanted someone different went to Nader. This year, such a comparison is not easily made with Kerry and Bush, and Nader is having trouble getting on the ballot in as many states as before. Nader will make a dent, but nearly as big as in 2000.

Second of all, the Democrats really have no place to complain. Why? Two words: Ross Perot. Let's look at the numbers:

1992 Election Results
Clinton - %42.93
Bush - %37.38
Perot - %18.87

1996 Election Results
Clinton - %49.24
Dole - %40.71
Perot - %8.40
As I much as I liked Clinton, it needs to be recognized that the man owes a great deal to Perot for throwing a wrench into the works. He probably would not have been elected were it not for Ross, and I'm sure that the name of Perot has become pariah within the Bush family.

I mentioned above that Nader would not make as big a dent the second time around. The Perot analogy bears that out. One could guess that half of those who voted for Perot the first time had come down from the dizzying excitement of third party revolution and conceded that their votes would be wasted on Perot a second time. This, combined with four charismatic years of Clinton, drew to the incumbent enough support that, even if Dole could count Perot's votes as his, Clinton would still (conceivably) win.

If we see a comparable exodus with Nader this time around, then odds are they will go to Kerry. Michael Moore, who has been Nader's most vocal supporter, has even gotten onto the Kerry bandwagon.

(Side note: I was going to make a crude joke about Moore being Nader's biggest fan...literally! Seriously, Nader has said as much in interviews that he's worried about Moore's weight and so am I. First of all, it's unhealthy. Second of all, it makes him look freakish at times when he's photographed, which is just that much more ammo for those who hate him. Finally, how does he expect to run down these GOP geezers for interviews in his next documentary if even eighty year olds can outpace him?)

There is one last point to make. It's been noted in numerous articles that Bush supporters with deep pockets have been throwing a lot of money into the Nader campaign for the purpose of repeating 2000. Republicans have also been submitting signatures in order to get him on the ballot in several states. Obviously, he cannot help who signs his petitions. But he can reject the money for what it represents. If his running has the effect of repeating 2000, then so be it. That is how the system works, for better or for worse. However, for him to take money from those who have no desire to see him win is wrong on an ethical level, and Nader should clearly see that.

Nader used to run on ideals and it was THAT Nader I was referring to when I said he'd make a great president. The man I see today, however, is more cryptic. Has power corrupted him to the point where he'll take any money that's offered and accept any publicity he can get? It looks that way. If that's the case, then a win for Kerry will be doubly as sweet come November, for he will have defeated not one but two opponents with shady motives and ruthless ambition.

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