Nader must be vilified because of the popular notion that the two major parties are entitled to your votes, and if you have any agency at all it’s to prevent the more terrible of the two from taking the reins of power. That’s how Gore, despite running an uninspiring campaign where he benched uber-campaigner Bill Clinton and chose the hawkish and moralistic Joe Lieberman as his running mate (thus turning off a great many off the liberals whose votes many feel were Gore’s birthright as the Democratic nominee), gets let off the hook, as do the hundreds of thousands of Republican-voting Democrats (in Florida alone), while “Ralph Nader” becomes shorthand for the folly of idealism.
If Hillary Clinton loses the 2016 election to the odious Donald Trump, you can bet the blame will not fall on Clinton for failing to win over a portion of the left repelled by her record of censorship, failed military interventionism, drug prohibition, and crony capitalism, but rather it will fall on what Salon‘s Amanda Marcotte is already describing as the “attention-seeking dead-enders” or “Bernouts” who will vote for Jill Stein.
There’s nothing wrong with holding your nose and voting for the candidate you believe has the best chance to defeat another candidate who you consider an existential threat to the country. There’s also nothing wrong with refusing to confer legitimacy on a major party candidate you don’t feel deserves it, even if you begrudgingly could live with that candidate over his/her opponent.
But it’s also perfectly fine to reject the binary system which produced the two most disliked and distrusted presidential candidates in history, in the hopes that next time (and yes, there will be a next time) the concerns of voters who want no part of the Democratic and Republican standard-bearers will have a greater voice. Remember, no party has a right to your vote.
The unpopularity of the two major party candidates, and increased number of voters who are unaffiliated with the major parties, is leading to increased discussion of third party candidates this year. Seeing Clinton take a considerable lead over Trump also makes it easier for voters to vote their conscience as opposed to being concerned with scare tactics based upon the 2000 election. Jill Stein presents an alternative for those we preferred Sanders over Clinton. With the Libertarian Party choosing candidates who are not doctrinaire libertarians, and who are far to the left of Clinton on social issues, foreign policy, and civil liberties, they are attracting interest from both the left and right.
CNN held a town hall last night with Libertarian Party candidates Gary Johnson and William Weld. This included an appeal for Sanders supporters. They will be holding a town hall with Green Party candidates Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka on August 17.
Polls of Sanders supporters have been quite variable as to how his supporters will vote in the general election. A recent CNN poll showed that Jill Stein receives 13 percent, Gary Johnson receives 10 percent, Donald Trump and none of the above each have 3 percent. (Yes, I’m aware of those internet polls which show that over 90 percent of Sanders supporters will not vote for Clinton. They are meaningless, and even these numbers from CNN are quite significant).
While Reason would prefer Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, those who support any third party candidate have a common interest in debunking the common arguments against rejecting the major parties. They have an excellent analysis of the 200o election, with reasons for liberals to consider a third party candidate. They debunked the argument that Nader was responsible for Bush beating Gore with facts including:
What that oft-cited factoid leaves out are the inconvenient truths laid out by Jim Hightower in Salon way back when, including the fact that only about 24,000 registered Democrats voted for Nader in Florida, whereas about 308,000 Democrats voted for (wait for it…) Bush! Further, approximately 191,000 self-identified “liberals” voted for Bush, as opposed to the fewer than 34,000 who went with Nader.
After further discussion, they concluded with reasons why the left opposed Gore in 2000 and have even more reason to oppose Clinton this year:
Of course, with Clinton’s neocon views on foreign policy, right wing record on civil liberties, hostility towards government transparency, and social conservatism including her work with The Fellowship while in the Senate, she is far closer ideologically to both Joe Lieberman and George Bush than to Al Gore. Out of office, Al Gore actually became far more liberal than he was in his earlier years. I hope that pressures from the left cause Hillary Clinton to be more liberal as president than throughout her career, but am not very optimistic of that outcome.