The River

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nothing to fear but fear itself

As if there wasn't enough fear and loathing in America, now we have Ralph Nader's presidential run. This makes me very happy, because nothing illustrates the pathetic state of the Democratic party quite like its hatred of Ralph.

Ralph Nader presents something of a conundrum for partisan Democrats. I'm an independent, but I think I understand how this works. You have to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time: You concede that the two-party system is too limiting, but demand everyone fall in line behind it. You call Ralph a buffoon, but fear his ability to attract the votes you feel entitled to. You claim you have the same progressive goals, but concede important ground during the campaign. You blame Nader for Gore losing in 2000, but also acknowledge that the election was stolen. Finally, you condemn Ralph's run for President (the greatest venue for a voice to be heard), but revere the First Amendment and the marketplace of ideas.


Will Shetterly sheds some light here, commenting on a Making Light blogpost called "Why Does Nader Hate America?" [title is perfect illustration of my point, even if it is tongue-in-cheek -ed]:

One last useful look at Nader's 2000 campaign: Dispelling the Myth of Election 2000: Did Nader Cost Gore the Election?

Here's my favorite bit from it:

"Twelve percent of Florida Democrats (over 200,000) voted for Republican George Bush" -San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 9, 2000

Since there were 97,488 Green voters in Florida, that means the Democrats are objectively two times more responsible for the Florida results than the Greens.

We probably see the world in a similar light as Ralph does, and his points are dead-on from my perspective. It would even be fine if four more guys like him would run, so long as they represented various issues across parties. It typically does not--because of Perot, Clinton got into office on a plurality, and Perot's effects were much bigger than Nader's ever were. Democrats have a 3rd-party run to thank for their last White House turn.

The structural deficiencies in the existing two-party procedures add a dysfunctional wrinkle to Presidential campaigns, where votes for third-party candidates simply go into a black hole. If Ralph could throw his votes one way or another in return for concessions, as in most vote-based systems in the world, that would be very different. He'd accrue actual power. As would Ron Paul in a third-party run. Right now, however, it's just an exercise in vote subtraction, and invites gaming a campaign by the most cynical means.

The rules really do determine the game, in this case creating situations in which it makes sense for Republicans to finance an Al Sharpton campaign (again). Whereas the Democrats lack the organization or ruthlessness to prop up Ron Paul. The seams are broken, and nobody acknowledges it.
Actually, I posted a long post here earlier, and something apparently went wrong.

Anyway, here's how the clintons' deal w/ free speech and truthers:
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