Tuesday, February 24, 2004

As expected, Ralph Nader's introduction to the presidential field has been met with fury, primarily from establishment Democrats. They trot out the tired old line that Nader "stole" the election from Al Gore in 2000. They imply that Gore had and every Democrat has a God-given right to every left-of-center vote in the country.

If Nader hadn't run, Gore might've won. And he might not have. If Buchanan hadn't run, that would've affect the vote totals too. If Gore hadn't stopped campaigning in Ohio (a state he lost by a small margin) several weeks before the vote, he might've won. If Gore had won his own state, he would've won. (The fact that the people who knew him best didn't vote for him isn't exactly a great vote of confidence)

Of course Nader's campaign had an effect on the race. That's one of the reasons you run a campaign. Ralph Nader didn't run for the purpose of electing Al Gore. Though ironically, it's been reported that Al From, chair of the Democratic Leadership Council, wrote in Blueprint Magazine (1-24-01) that according to their own exit polls, Bush would have beat Gore by one percentage point if Nader hadn’t run in 2000.

Who knows? And who cares? Every second that's spent on the fact of someone's candidacy is a second not being spent on the issues that candidate is trying to raise. The Nader smearing is a smokescreen. Yes, Democrats don't like his candidacy. They shouldn't. He's going to point out all the ways elected Democrats have been delinquent in their duties.

I'm quite certain that Al Gore's presence took far more votes away from Ralph Nader than vice versa. If all the people who thought Nader was the guy actually voted for him, his vote total would've been a lot higher. But again, why should anyone care? The reason you should care is because such scenarios are not inevitable.

The Green Party has a lot of artists and other free sprits. Soaring sentiments usually trump concrete plans. The Green platform is more like a 3rd grader's wishlist to Santa or a declaration from a UN Conference than a serious plan for action. They have the vision but the intellectual rigor is something they need to work on.

One of their excellent ideas, though, is something called instant runoff voting (IRV). According to the Center for Voting and Democracy, IRV works as follows:

Instead of just casting one vote for one candidate, voters rank the candidates: 1,2,3, etc. (hence, the motto, "it's as easy as 1-2-3."). If no candidate receives a majority of the #1 votes, the candidate with the least total of #1 votes is eliminated. The second choice votes from these ballots are then transferred to the other candidates. The ballots are recounted, and candidates are eliminated in this fashion until 1 winner emerges with a majority of the vote.

Although voting your conscience should always be the first option, IRV would all but eradicate the demonic 'lesser of two evils' argument so complicit in the explosion of political apathy in America.

Other benefits, according to the Center include:

When there are more than 2 candidates, it ensures the winner has a majority. It will decrease negative campaigning. IRV saves money.

IRV would have the inadvertant benefit of making life difficult for the pollsters, the punditocracy and others who make it their job to tell us how to think.

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