Saturday, March 01, 2008

What Makes Ralph Run?

Hostilities have commenced between Ralph “The Spoiler” Nader and U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who put his presidential campaign to rest recently having garnered about 1% of his party’s vote in reliable Democrat presidential primary polls.

Commenting on Ralph Nader’s entrée into the presidential race, Dodd offered, “Eight years ago, obviously he cost Al Gore the election, in my view, no question about it. We've paid an awful price the last eight years because of one man's ego."

This caused an unamused Nader to respond, “Why are they so keen on denying voters the free choice of their candidates? Why don't they pick up these progressive issues? Running for office is free speech. It's the consummate expression of the First Amendment. I'm to blame for Kerry's loss?"

The notion that Nader lost the election for Gore is something of a red herring. Florida may have slipped away due to Nader, but Gore was unable to win his own state, Tennessee, Bill Clinton's state, Arkansas, or West Virginia, usually reliably Democratic. A win in any of these states might have put Gore in the White House.

The way to neuter spoilers, Nader said, is simple. Had Democrats favored the elimination of the electoral college, Gore today would have been president, because he led in the popular vote. And if the Democrats were concerned with spoilers, they could adopt an instant runoff system. Voters in such a system could rank their preferences; in the absence of a majority win, the second choice scheme would eliminate the possibility of spoilers.

In neither case would the reforms Nader favors have prevented a Nader candidacy. Spoilers generally enter the race at the primary level, and Nader has not yet suggested eliminating the practice by eliminating primaries, however “simple” such a reform may be.

This is classic Nader: Propose a “possibility” that has little chance of being adopted and then, when the tug of resistance sets in, you may accuse party leaders of being far less progressive than yourself.

"The Democrats,” Nader said, “have got to stop whining, stop scapegoating and look in the mirror and ask how they've continually lost instead of landsliding in election after election against the worst Republican Party in history.”

In fact, it is Nader’s bete noir, the two party system, that is the real spoiler, said the spoiler. "The two parties are so indentured to corporate power that they have turned corporations into our masters."

Should we eliminate corporations to eliminate their political influence? Ralph may have a simple way to do it. In the meantime, we might work at providing real competition in the market place by eliminating the grosser forms of political interference that causes corporations to hire lobbyists to insure their interests in a congress that has used regulations and burdensome taxes as campaign financing bargaining chips. If you get congressional politics out of the board room, you won't have so many paid corporate lobbiests in the political kitchen.
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