The Nader Factor

The conventional wisdom says that if Ralph Nader hadn’t run in 2000, we’d have a President Al Gore (ugh!). But because Nader acted as a “spoiler” Gore lost Florida, and thus the election. Oliver Willis seems to think this is the case, and he’s hoping Nader is a complete failure this time.

Yet at the same time I’m not so sure. Yes, if all the Nader voters voted for Gore, Gore would have won Florida. For that matter, if all the Gore voters had voted for Bush there wouldn’t have been a mess in Florida – but that wasn’t going to happen. It all depends on how fungible support was between Gore and Nader. (And yes, fungible is such a great word…) Would Nader voters have voted for Gore had Ralphie not decided to run?

I doubt it. The kind of people who would vote for Nader wouldn’t have voted for Gore or any other "mainstream" candidate. They’re the far fringe of the political spectrum, the type of people who think that Skull and Bones are hiding the secrets alien bodies from Roswell in their secret base in Atlantis. We’re talking about people who think Chomsky was a sell-out. We’re not talking about rational people here.

It’s also harder to guess how many people went into the voting booth intending to vote for Nader and ending up biting the bullet and pulling the level (or punching the chad) for Gore. Based on the decline in Nader supporters it could have been quite a few – perhaps enough to have kept Gore viable in some close states.

Mitch Berg thinks that a Nader run will make Kerry look centrist, which is entirely possible. However, with the disillusionment of the Deaniacs, there is a pool of potential Nader voters out there who don’t particularly care for Kerry precisely because they few him as too “centrist” (as laughable as that may be). As tempting as it is to think that Kerry might have had something to do with this, it would be a bit too dangerous for someone who hasn’t yet secured the nomination and will be running a very tight race against a powerful incumbant.

In the end, will Nader matter? It’s anyone’s guess at this point. I’m disinclined to believe Nader will be a “spoiler” in this race – the people he attracts wouldn’t vote otherwise, and if anything he may help the Democrats in some tight races through last-minute switches. By now it’s clear that Nader’s either a narcissist or incredibly naive, or perhaps both – which means that this Nader run is unlikely to be even as lukewarm as the last one.

3 thoughts on “The Nader Factor

  1. You have to wonder whether Nader’s showing in 2000 really was attributed to people who vote swapped with others.

    That site tends to think that is the case, but I have to wonder whether some of the more ferverous actually went through with their swap.

    I can’t wait for them to do it again though; maybe I’ll get in on it just to mess with them 🙂

  2. “Would Nader voters have voted for Gore had Ralphie not decided to run?

    I doubt it.”

    Gore didn’t need them all, Jay. He hardly needed any. In Florida, Nader took 96,896 votes. Wanna bet the margin of Nader-to-Gore versus Nader-to-Bush in a two candidate scenario is higher than 2:1? Let’s assume just 1% of Naderites would have voted without Ralphie running. And let’s assume Gore takes just 60% of those. That’s 581 in the State of Florida alone, more than the margin. A more realistic breakdown would have a lot more of Nader’s voters staying around to vote, and a higher proportion going to Gore.

    But Nader wasn’t the spoiler in 2000. He’s nowhere near as responsible as Katherine Harris, and NOWHERE near as responsible as Al Gore himself.

  3. You also seemed to miss the point of the Dean candidacy’s rise. It wasn’t because we liked the guy’s winning smile–it was because we strongly dislike the Bush Administration, to put it mildly. If 5% of Dean voters go to Nader, I’ll be surprised. The battle cry is ABB, and I think that’ll be the message the Deaniacs send. It’s certatinly the one Dean himself has put forth.

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