May 27, 2004
"The Nader Factor"

I keep hearing this phrase, almost always from a Democrat terrified by the thought of a close election, in which Kerry (or whoever the Democratic Party ends up nominating) loses by a margin smaller than the number of votes garnered by Nader. They, of course, will assume that a) all of these votes should be for the Democratic Party candidate, b) that these voters would vote if Nader were not in the race, and c) that the other minor parties don't make a difference. All three of these are false.

a) All these votes should be for the Democratic candidate

Why? The Democratic Party does not support several of Nader's positions, such as wholesale government takeover of industries and unrestricted Gay marriage. Similarly, Libertarians don't support Bush's social conservatism and spending sprees. Nobody "deserves" any votes; they have to earn them through support of issues that matter to voters. A majority of voters support Bush's position on gay marriage, but few voters are going to vote for him on that issue.

b) These voters would vote for the Democrats if Nader doesn't run

One of the important factors in recent elections with a large third party vote (1992 and 2000 presidential races, 1998 Minnesota governor's race, 2003 California recall vote), is the significant number of voters who had not voted often (or at all) previously. Turnout in that election was about 10% higher than predicted, and it is estimated that almost all of those addtional votes were for Ventura, who was trailing in the polls the week before the election.

c)that the other minor parties don't make a difference

Au coutraire. Here in Washington State, the 2002 Libertarian senatorial candidate collected 3% of the vote, 64000 votes, which was 28 times the margin of victory for Cantwell. Under the (A) premise above, Gorton should have won, since most of Jeff Jared's votes would have gone to Gorton rather than to Cantwell. They were the only three candidates on the ballot, so there was no "balancing" vote for other minor party candidates.

I'm sure there are other examples (such as the 1992 Fowler/Coverdell senate contest in Georgia), but I'm not going to provide an exhaustive list.

To those who accuse Nader of being a spoiler, I would ask them this:

So you were all opposed to Ross Perot's campaigns, even though he single-handedly delivered the White House to Clinton in 1992? Or is that different, since he helped sink a Republican?

Remember, when Perot dropped out (before he reentered; sounds like a Kerry thing), he was running ahead of Clinton, with about 29% of the vote. As it was, Clinton won with only 43% of the vote, the lowest percentage in the 20th century. The elections of 1912, 1948, 1968, 1992, and 1996 were all plurality votes, and all except 1968 were won by Democrats.

It's only natural to be upset when your candidate loses, but don't blame another candidate for getting votes; look to your own campaign first. It is a poor worker blames his tools, and a poor candidate who blames voters who don't support his campaign. Attacking the people who you are asking to support you is not a recipe for electoral success.

As an aside, why is it that only Nader is attracting the hysteria of the Democrats? After all, the Greens will be on the ballot in at least 30 states, whereas Nader is still struggling to get on the ballot in Texas, among other states. Is it a typical fixation on style over substance?

posted on May 27, 2004 05:57 PM


You've got very valid points there, but the bottom line is that for those of us that reject the notion that the GOP stole the election in Florida, Gore lost by 538 votes. Nader took much more than that in that state and even if you factor out the amount of people that would not have voted at all in that election and the people that would have voted for a different candidate, it becomes very difficult to believe that Gore would not have gained the 538 votes he needed (and then some).

Even though I agree that the DP (or more accurately, the part of the electorate likely to vote for a DP presidential candidate) does not share a lot in common with Mr. Nader, my impression is that other factors are in play here. I think that the fact that he was the head of the 'Green' party and had a recognizable name were the driving forces behind the more liberal fringe voting for him instead of Mr. Gore. There is a sizable element of the electorate (not double-digits in percentile, but more than a few) who think that voting for the most far-left candidate they can will send a message to the DNC that they should be catered to more than they are now. This explains Mr. Nader's popularity in 2000 as well as Mr. Kucinich's popularity in liberal enclaves (like my state-level district, the most liberal in the Washington) now. There is a larger segment I think that instead of voting for the most far-left candidate they can, votes for the most far-left candidate they can get away with, which helps explain the popularity of Dr. Dean with people that really should have been voting for Mr. Kucinich (nutball that he is).

That all being said, I don't think that Mr. Nader will have the pull he had in 2000. Many will attribute that to the fact that the liberals feel burned about the results in Florida. I think that while that's true, he would have been able to pull a lot more votes from Kerry had he run as a Green rather than as an independant.

Thanks for the support on the other post. I was once a left-leaning Republican, but as I get older, I become more of a right-leaning Democrat. I try to write that way at polstate.

posted by Chad Johnson on May 30, 2004 11:14 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?

Back to Horologium