Happy Election Day, everyone! On days like this, I repudiate our two-party system.
The year 2000 was a nightmare year for those who support third parties. To this day, people have the fear that not only is voting for a third party equivalent to throwing away their vote, but that the result of voting for the best person for the job can be getting stuck with the worst person for the job.
So first things first...
Ralph Nader did not cause Gore to lose to Bush.
It’s really difficult to make the argument that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the 2000 election, for multiple reasons. There were only 560 votes separating George Bush from Al Gore. That’s essentially within every margin of error, which when it gets within the margin of error, means that there’s too many other factors that could have affected it to say with any confidence what caused Al Gore to lose and George Bush to win.
Every 3rd party candidate got over 600 votes, which means that if any one of those third party candidates had potentially dropped out and those votes had gone to Al Gore, he would have won too. So once you start to make those arguments, you open up a can of worms that you just cannot put back. Almost half of the Democratic Party voters stayed home, so who’s to say that the people who voted for Ralph Nader, if they didn’t have the choice of Ralph Nader, wouldn’t have stayed home or voted for somebody else anyway?
In Florida, CNN’s exit polling showed Nader taking the same amount of votes from both Republicans and Democrats: 1 percent. Nader also took 4 percent of the independent vote. At the same time, 13 percent of registered Democrats voted for Bush! Again, Gore couldn’t hold his own base and because of this, he lost. The Democrats don’t say one word about the fact that 13 percent of their own party members voted for Bush. [-Source]
Though true that many contributed to the outcome, and so many hold a level of responsibility, pinning the blame on Nader in any way but a small fraction is not accurate. One may as well pin the blame on the communist party candidate, or the weather, or the possibility that 600 people were up late that night watching Seinfeld reruns and couldn't be bothered to go vote the next day.
Perpetuating the idea that we HAVE to vote for one of two parties in certain circumstances, in my opinion, does more harm than good by suggesting immediate short-term negative effects have greater importance than delayed long-term positive effects.
Looking at this another way, let's say Nader had done even better, to the point of gaining 15% of the vote. Bush still wins in this case, but the result is that in 2004, Nader gets to be a part of the debates. The likely result of this would be even more people voting for Nader in 2004, perhaps winning let's say a third of the vote. Another possibility is that one or both of the other two parties has to adopt planks from the third party platform because of its huge and thus dangerous (to them) popularity.
Now we have something very interesting. Perhaps Nader actually wins in 2004 or 2008. Perhaps he doesn't and the people are better off anyway because their policy positions have been adopted by the Democrats and/or Republicans. Perhaps such a strong third party forces changes in the way we vote in general, like proportional representation and instant run-offs. It could have even forced Bush to have had a different second presidency entirely.
Whatever the result, I think if more people had voted for Nader, we'd all be better off right now, not worse. This is especially considering the fact that he has long supported a basic income guarantee.
"The arguments are overwhelming. I could debate this out of my little finger, against anybody put up to start arguing that giving people a basic income would reduce their incentive. It would give 'em more time to get more skills, to upgrade themselves, to live a better life, to learn how to play a musical instrument. I mean what's life for?" [-Source]
A basic income has been part of the Green Party platform for years. Had more people been voting Green this century, it's therefore possible we'd already have it implemented. We also might be a bit further away from roasting our planet by now.
And so it's not that too many people voted for Nader. It's that too many didn't.
(By the way, if you've never seen the documentary about Nader, it's on Netflix and a really interesting watch.)