Green With Anger

by Dan Pollock | 11/2/00 6:00am

Trade your vote? It's a bizarre concept. Why would you vote for anyone other than the candidate of your choice? Yet a group of Al Gore supporters have gotten together with a group of Ralph Nader supporters in order to create a website that asks voters to trade their Nader vote in a competitive state with someone voting for Gore in a non-competitive state. This rather sad scheme for trying to prevent the hemorrhaging of Al Gore's candidacy is in itself pathetic, because it admits that Al Gore's only chance of winning the presidency is with Nader's help. Rather than waiting until the last week of the election and trying to convince people to abandon Nader in order to prevent a Bush presidency, Gore should have convinced them through the power of his accomplishments, his ideas and his beliefs. A Bush presidency may be an anathema to many liberals, but Ralph Nader is right when he says, you should vote for whomever you believe is the best candidate. One of the biggest problems with our democracy is that too many people already feel like they are voting for the lesser of two evils. A Gore loss is Gore's fault, not Ralph Nader's.

For Republicans, the Nader/Gore feud couldn't come at a better time. With George W. Bush securing a narrow-lead in the polls, Bush is more than happy to sit back and watch Nader torpedo the Gore presidency. In fact, the Republican Leadership Council recently released an ad that showed Nader bashing Gore. Apparently based on the principle that the enemy of thine enemy is thy friend.

Is Nader really a factor, or is this all just Gore hysteria? After all, it is possible that if Nader weren't running, most of the Nader supporters would be sitting at home on election day. But assuming the Nader supporters would have otherwise voted for Gore, there is no doubt that Nader will affect Gore's chances. If he gets even 4 to 5 percent of the vote in the "swing" states of Maine, Pennsylvania, W. Virginia, Florida, New Mexico, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, Tennessee and Michigan, it could tip their electoral votes to Bush and give him a landslide in the electoral college.

Because of this contingency, many Gore allies have called on Nader to resign from the race in order to prevent a Bush presidency. Nader, who admits he has no chance of winning the election, and never intended to be the spoiler for Gore, has refused to resign. His main reason for running was so he could get 5 percent of the popular vote and qualify the Green Party for public financing in the 2004 race; a resignation now would cost him all that he has worked so hard for.

Voters considering Nader know his reasons and seem to have the attitude that even if they disagree with him on certain things, it doesn't really matter since he won't win. They are simply voting to protest the hegemony of the two-party system, or the favoritism towards corporations or any other single issue. Yet, the whole purpose of voting for president is to select the person whose philosophies you agree with the most and who you feel is the person most qualified person for the office of the president.

Maybe the solution is for the Gore team to change their tactics. If Gore really wants people to change their vote, he needs to convince them to do so, not out of fear of a Bush presidency, but based on Nader's campaign positions. On military spending, Nader would slash the military budget by 20 percent -- cuts so drastic that we would be required to pursue an isolationist foreign policy. Nader believes in putting strict labor provisions in our trade treaties but fails to mention what he would do if such a policy led to the collapse of those agreements. Nader agrees with most Republicans on at least one issue. He told Time magazine that if he had been in the Senate, he would have voted to impeach Clinton. But most incredible of all, Nader has proposed raising taxes (at a time when the government has an unprecedented budget surplus), in order to pay for a national health care system.

If Gore does lose the election, the next Democratic nominee will have to figure out a way to neutralize the Green Party threat. Since the Green Party will presumably have its $12.6 million, it may not be as easy to disarm them as it was for the Republicans to shut down the threat from the Reform Party. The next nominee's only choice will be to adopt some of Nader's policies -- policies that could very well guarantee the Republicans another 12-year presidential monopoly. The question is not whether liberals care if Gore loses to Bush but whether they care if the Democratic party returns to the days of liberal, but losing, candidates.