Dear Ralph

by Eszter Hargittai on June 30, 2004

Please get out of the presidential race.

Visit the site to support one of Nader’s causes if he leaves the race. If he doesn’t, the contributions will be diverted to organizations working directly to defeat Bush (you choose from five options).



Motoko Kusanagi 06.30.04 at 11:42 am

It would be a real crisis for democracy if an actual anti-war candidate runs for president at a time of war!


Fergal 06.30.04 at 12:00 pm

Oh for proportional representation!


digamma 06.30.04 at 2:15 pm

I’ve never understood why people talk about proportional representation during Presidential elections. Are we going to genetically engineer a President who is 49% Kerry, 48% Bush, and 3% Nader?


Paul 06.30.04 at 3:33 pm

Maybe wealthier individuals than I can try to buy Ralph out of the race. Myself, I’d rather contribute to John Kerry now, when it counts.


Doug 06.30.04 at 3:45 pm

“Nor, for that matter, did Ralph Nader go wrong after decades of doing good. The qualities that liberals have observed in him of late–the monomania, the vindictiveness, the rage against pragmatic liberalism–have been present all along. Indeed, an un-blinkered look at Nader’s public life shows that his presidential campaigns represent not a betrayal of his earlier career but its apotheosis.”

“‘Ralph could have had a consumer agency bill in any of three Congresses,’ liberal consumer activist and former Nader associate Mike Pertschuk told Martin. ‘But he held out for the perfect bill.’

“The final defeat came in 1978. Again, Nader’s strategy was to impugn every Democrat who harbored any reservations at all about the bill. … He so alienated Democrats that, as the measure went down to defeat, one reportedly said as he voted no, ‘This one’s for you, Ralph.’ House Speaker Tip O’Neill told The Washington Post, ‘I know of about eight guys who would have voted for us if it were not for Nader.'”

“Liberals today who anguish over Nader’s insistence that no important differences exist between the two parties should note that this belief dates back more than two decades. … As Nader addressed a gathering of supporters in 1981, according to The Washington Post, ‘Reagan is going to breed the biggest resurgence in nonpartisan citizen activism in history.’

“Of course, that did not happen. But twelve years of Republican rule failed to dim Nader’s conviction that little difference existed between the two parties.”

“As Nader embarks upon his fourth protest run against the Democrats in as many elections, there is something slightly ridiculous about the shock of his liberal critics. They still don’t know who they’re dealing with. Nader is not a heroic figure tragically overcome by his own flaws; he is a selfish, destructive maniac who, for a brief historical period, happened upon a useful role.

“In the waning days of the 2000 election, some of Nader’s campaign advisers urged him to concentrate on uncontested states, like New York and California, where he could attract local media without competition from the major-party candidates and win liberal voters who needn’t fear tipping the race to George W. Bush. Instead, he chose a whirlwind tour of battleground states, campaigning in Pennsylvania and Florida, where votes would be harder to come by but more consequential to the outcome of the race. Liberals assume Nader tried to maximize his vote total without regard to how it affected Bush and Gore. The truth is that he actively sought to help Bush, even at the expense of his own vote total.

“It’s therefore both comic and sad when liberals take Nader at his word that he does not believe he affected the outcome of the 2000 race. The website patiently explains how, if Al Gore had netted even 1 percent of Nader’s 97,000 Florida votes, he would have overcome Bush’s 537-vote margin. Like other liberals, the people behind the website seem to think, if they could only persuade Nader that his candidacy might help reelect Bush, it would dissuade him from running. More likely, it would have the opposite effect. The real mystery is not why Nader would do something so destructive to liberalism. It’s why anybody ever thought he wouldn’t.”

( but you know, read the whole thing.)

There is nothing that will persuade Nader not to run. What we have to do is persuade people not to vote for him.


harry 06.30.04 at 6:59 pm

bq. There is nothing that will persuade Nader not to run. What we have to do is persuade people not to vote for him.

I don’t get to vote, and wouldn’t vote Nader this time anyway. But why does it turn out to be so hard to persuade people not to vote for him?
Anyway, I disagree. If you want Kerry to win you should be trying to persuade people who wouldn’t be voting for Nader to vote for him.

PR wouldn’t help in Presidential races, sure. But run-offs would. Having a run off would have surely won it for Bush in 1992. I don’t know what it would have done in 1996, because Clinton wouldn’t have been a candidate, nor, most likely, would Dole, so who knows? I’m all for a more democratic way of electing the President. But be careful what you wish for.


Nicole Wyatt 06.30.04 at 9:08 pm

Single transferable vote is the way to go here.


Jonathan Lundell 07.01.04 at 12:05 am

Gore’s biggest problem in 2000 was that Democrats voted for Bush in numbers that dwarfed the vote that Nader received. Can Kerry do better? He seems to be having a hard time giving people a positive reason to vote for him. Maybe ABB is his best strategy, but I doubt it.

Digamma, people talk about PR in the context of presidential elections because we don’t elect a president, we elect electors. If states elected electors with STV (choice, or preferential, voting), that’d be a step in the right direction without needing a constitutional amendment.

Of course, direct election of the president via nationwide IRV would be (conceptually, at least) the simpler solution. But it would require a constitutional amendment, and it would require a uniform nationwide voting system and centralized counting.


Miss Representation 07.01.04 at 1:29 am

How about we on the left stand on principle and support Nader’s right to run, instead of acting like the talk radio right in trying to find the essential gotcha moment where he is revealed as an egotisical fascist (he’s egotisical? um, isn’t Kerry, just a lil’?) or running him off the ballot in Arizona (isn’t that where the Texas Democrat state legislators camped when decrying the unfairness of getting boxed out on the redistricting issue?). After all, do you think anyone who still wants to vote for Nader now would vote for Kerry under any circumstances?

And, practically speaking, maybe we should hold off on this chant until we confirm that the Dems won’t do everything they can to prove they are best at shooting their own feet by selecting Gephart as Veep?


drkimball 07.01.04 at 2:46 pm

i can’t believe you stupid whimpering losers. complaining about ralph nader – someone who has literally dedicated their life, money and time to address the very issues that YOU complain about. you are all a bunch of slaves, cowering under john kerry’s nuts only (yes, ONLY) to defeat bush, even if it means ignoring someone with true integrity in order to embrace yet another consumate career politician. well here’s an evolutionary perspective for you – maybe this country NEEDS another 4 years of bush to get its head straight. maybe we NEED to start ianother horseshit war, kill another 10,000 people and screw over the bottom 70% of the population another 4 years BEFORE people like you realize that it’s time to stop playing this lame political game and stand behind someone who will take a radically different approach to our problems. and for anyone on the “left” that supports kerry – let’s see where this jackass get us in 4 years. if the best you can say is that he won’t get us into another ridiculous trillion dollar war, you might want to start thinking about raising your pathetic expectations.


Iron Lungfish 07.01.04 at 11:17 pm

Yeah, Nader had enough “integrity” to specifically target Gore in battleground states, instead of trying to build a viable Green party in safe liberal states where he’d get more votes but fail to endanger the Gore campaign. Nader doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the people who die or get screwed over by a Bush presidency, because Ralph Nader and his constituency have the comfort of living in a tidy bubble of white upper-crust affluence.


harry 07.03.04 at 2:24 pm

bq. Ralph Nader and his constituency have the comfort of living in a tidy bubble of white upper-crust affluence

Be careful — that’s exactly what Republicans like to say about Democrats. They have some data on their side I believe. Do you? If so, I’d really like to see it. Or is it just what comes out when you don’t have an argument?

Comments on this entry are closed.