February 22, 2004

Ralph Nader Arguments

Ralph Nader is running for US president, as an Independent candidate. I've found the reaction to be degenerating quickly into an endless repetition of a few key arguments (I'll describe them with my stance being evident).

1) Just One Straw

A large part of the discussion is people repeating the One Straw On The Camel's Back argument in various forms. Either directly ("How could Ralph Nader cause such problems?"), or in a kind of contrapositive form ("If Ralph Nader made the difference, Gore was too weak to win anyway") or in terms of deflections ("What about this? And that? And the other thing? Gore's home state? Internet! Mistaken denial of voters as felons?" etc etc.)

2) I'm Being Censored!

Ralph Nader claimed censorship by his critics. Allegedly, those opposed to his candidacy are violating the liberal virtues of debate, pluralism, open-mindedness, and general freedom. Let a thousand flowers bloom, and a dozen vote-splitters run.

This also comes in the ever-popular Tolerating-Intolerance variation, where anyone who criticizes (what they argue to be) stupidity is thus being intolerant. Supposedly, liberals are somehow obligated to be so open-minded that their brains fall out (this may explain some of the problems in winning elections ...).

3) Fix The Bug (Ignore The Crash)!

The mathematics of voting systems teaches us that in a simple plurality system, it is very easy for opposition forces to split the vote in terms of reformist and radical candidates, leading to the triumph of a status-quo candidate opposed by both camps.

Some people consider this a bug, while others consider it a feature. In either case, though, it is a fact. The question is then what to do in the face of this fact. Repeated saying It's Broken, It's Wrong, It's Not The Right Way, may be true, but don't let Ralph Nader off the hook.

Re-engineering the voting system is a laudable goal. However, it won't happen by the 2004 election. We can't say "Buggy system! We won't use it now!". It's like a legacy choice imposed by management.

The options within this framework may not be pretty. But ignoring how Ralph Nader is likely splitting the vote simply denies what will happen in terms of probable effect.

90% of the punditry seems to be these three items, pro or con. As usual, nobody's mind is changed.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on February 22, 2004 10:08 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
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4) We do not need another scumbag in the race.

Ralph Nader claims there is no clear distinction between BushCo and his opponents. He has slandered Vice President Al Gore.

We have devolved from electing principled-but-human presidents (Reagan, Bush I, Clinton) to electing a liar of unparalleled audacity (Bush II). If you have to think back a century to find counter-examples, it proves the point. Even Nixon had outstanding redeeming qualities.

President Bush assumed Nixonian executive privilege airs long before there was any serious suspicion of foul play. If Nixon is the tragic lover in our theater of democracy, Bush is the poison bearing dunce who claims an abandon crown, and Nader is gunning for the role of Iago.

America needs a president who will promote bygone standards of honest discourse (think Post-Depression, but Pre-Nixon). We may not deserve someone as seemingly honest as Gov. Dean, but the closer-the-better.

Posted by: sean broderick at February 24, 2004 01:01 AM

Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton are "principled-but-human"? How old are you, Sean? Ronald Reagan made George Bush Jr. look like a goddamn genius, and his surrender of the presidency to evil swine is documented fact. We wouldn't have a Bush Sr. or a Bush Jr. without Reagan.

George W. Bush wishes he could be as incompetent and submissive as Ronald Reagan. He doesn't deserve to hold Reagan's coat. I knew Ronald Reagan, I hated Ronald Reagan, and George, you are no Ronald Reagan.

Crap, man, this just makes me mad. George W. Bush is not Satan. He's a really bad and illegitimate president and a stupid man who's been used by various factions to execute stupendously destructive wars, undermine civil liberties, and destroy the environment.

But that's nothing new. That's business as usual in the American presidency. With the possible exception of Jimmy Carter, whose hands were occasionally soiled but who at least had a fucking brain and some glimmer of decency, no president in recent memory has been a human being worth shaking hands with.

George W. Bush is no watershed.

Posted by: Evan Prodromou at March 20, 2004 04:12 PM