Wait ’til the country asks for it
The major error in the article “Smash the Nader Backlash!” and the thinking of Green Party Naderites is that the Democratic Party needs to be pushed to the left. While it may be an admirable position and a goal for the future, it appears the nation isn’t interested in any leftward movement at this time.
When the voters begin to replace some of the radical righties with moderates, we will see the beginning of a drift to the left in the nation. Then, when some of those centrists are replaced by liberal or progressive candidates, we will see the leftward movement indicating the nation is ready for some of Ralph Nader’s proposals.
Until then, we would be wise to continue supporting centrist Democrats to prevent the nation from drifting farther to the right and allowing a reactionary GOP from undoing many progressive successes. Retaining what successes the left has made is every bit as important as making new successes.
I guess my gut reaction was to be angry with Nader also. But what I am angrier about is the media.
I feel angry about the media, and the inability to get them to tone down their attacks. They use the tool of repetition to their full advantage, but when they put a Democrat on their programs they barely allow them to voice an opinion. There are no liberal talk show hosts on television or radio. And NPR has become National Republican Radio, with tiny snippets or teasers of left-wing thought.
Please let us stop playing into their hands by attacking each other, and let’s gang up on the media so both the right and the left can be heard.
Grand Junction, Mich.
Could Nader compromise?
So Marc Cooper cautions us, “Leftists, so often obsessed with their personal political purity, are going to have to learn that the art of politics is in combining forces and building coalitions.” Exactly what we Democrats have been trying to explain to the Greens.
No matter how noble our goals, we can’t accomplish any of them unless we make strategic compromises with the other guys. Had Nader won the presidency, could he have accomplished anything without accepting compromise? Particularly since the majority of the electorate is not interested in any drastic shakeup of the status quo.
I have supported Nader and his causes since my childhood, but now he is just another enemy to reckoned with along with the Republicans. Sure, he had the right to run. But, considering what he accomplished in clearing the way to the White House for Bush, one has to question the sincerity of his stated objectives.
In search of progressive love
This is one of the best articles I have read about the aftermath of the 2000 election. Thank you for reminding the fractured Nader and Gore progressives that we have serious challenges ahead — challenges that can only be met by cooperation.
Issuing recriminations and dividing into splinter groups will ensure that we accomplish nothing while the centrist Democrats and Republicans do cooperate to undermine environmental laws and accelerate the pace of global trade.
The content of this article is an embarrassment to the author and this site.
How can you possibly consider making your point, “Republicans are trying to brush off allegations that some blacks in Florida were cheated out of voting as groundless paranoia,” given the fact the polls in the counties you have cited are predominantly staffed by Democrat workers?
I wholeheartedly believe discrimination is alive and unwell in Florida. I can easily believe black voters would be snubbed at the polls as you’ve described.
We all see the extent to which the Democrats intend to push the issue in Florida. We have all seen incidences of voter fraud in several other areas of the country. Based on what rational logic, do you feel that poll workers in Florida would possibly turn away any group of people who were so likely to vote in their favor?
The ballot used in Palm Beach was designed and submitted by a Democrat. Based on what logic do you feel a ballot would intentionally be created to make it difficult to vote for either candidate, let alone the candidate that the designers wanted to succeed?
When one vote equals many
If our country did not have an Electoral College, the present crisis would not exist. It is that simple.
Since it amounts to no more than a way to end-run the democratic process, we need to rid ourselves of this anachronism if we intend to have a true democracy.
In fact, one could even say that the Electoral College may, in this case, have allowed 300 Republican votes in Florida to carry more weight in deciding the next president than 230,000 Democratic votes in the country. That works out to one Republican vote being worth about 767 Democratic votes.
As long as winning the Electoral College is viewed as the only solution to this crisis, we are proposing the cause of the crisis be the solution to the crisis.
Of all the nonsensical arguments used to defend the Electoral College, none are more wrongheaded than those which claim it isolates mistakes and irregularities in individual states. The Electoral College magnifies the potential for error by making it easier for a few thousand erroneous votes in a single state to alter the outcome of the election.
In a nationwide popular vote, it’s much less likely for the margin to be as close as it is in Florida this year. Mistakes and regional corruption are likely to balance out in the nation as a whole.
And while the Electoral College allows small states a greater voice, as Seth Gitell notes, this is not exactly democratic. The US is no longer a loose federation of autonomous, aristocratic states as it was in 1787. Voting rights should no longer belong to the states, they should belong to the general public.
We don’t need Nader
Marc Cooper is well known for not giving a free ride to conventional wisdom on the left, and he sees all too clearly the weaknesses and shortcomings of the Green Party. So I’m surprised to read his vigorous defense of the presidential campaign Ralph Nader conducted with reckless disregard of his progressive allies in the labor, civil rights, feminist, and environmental movements. Cooper must be clinging to the fantasy that a minor party can rise to major party standing under the present political structure — even though it has happened only once, 140 years ago when the Whigs collapsed on the verge of the Civil War.
Imagine how would you feel if you were AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, having just spent millions of your members’ dollars and having asked them for their time turning out the vote for Democrats and Al Gore. Sweeney and other progressive allies asked Nader to abandon battleground states and mine votes in safe states — as Pat Buchanan did, thus not burning all his bridges with the Republican right. Have conservatives become smarter than progressives?
There is a Blue-Green front, and it consists of those labor and environmental organizations that supported Al Gore: the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, etc. And they are linked to a wider movement including the NAACP, NOW, NARAL, and the Human Rights Campaign. With well over one million real members and hundreds of active chapters on the ground, do you think they really need Nader’s scattered and anti-political purists?
You can’t enter a coalition with a person who takes a “rule or ruin” approach to cooperation. Coalition means compromise, finding the lowest significant common denominator. Nader’s presidential campaign shows he’s incapable of being a dependable coalition partner. Organized labor, African Americans, Latinos, feminists, gays and lesbians, and mainstream environmentalists might just discover they can make progress without Nader’s intransigent fringe.
Guilty by default
As a California voter, I felt confident I could vote for Nader without helping Bush. My decision came down to if I wanted to help the Green party get federal funding in 2004? I decided I didn’t want them to have it.
I do not question Nader’s sincerity, and I share the frustration that corporate money has hobbled any influence the real progressives within the party might have. In a two party political culture, third party movements are inherently coalition busters that help the rivals stay intact.
There is a broad progressive presence in America that could, if organized, expand and exert real political influence. But there are alternatives to vote-seeking political parties.
Santa Maria, Calif.
Forget Lee Majors — Ralph Nader is the real “fall guy”
I applaud your column and sentiments despite the fact that I am a staunch Republican and Bush supporter.
My admiration goes out to Ralph Nader for his ethical campaigning and adherence to principles. It is my hope that these will infiltrate the Democratic Party so that we can once again have a party of the common man, the downtrodden, etc. While I do not agree with a lot of this, I do feel that unchecked corporate greed is just as much to be feared as a completely socialist agenda.
In any event, while I hold neither major party up as an example of probity in their quest for power, I think the current Democrats (Clinton, Gore, and that crowd) display the most egregious hypocrisy from their post-election shenanigans.
Anything to eliminate that lust for power from the political landscape is very beneficial.
William H. Phinizy
While I did not vote for Nader and never will (he’s too socialist-leaning to suit me), it is patently ridiculous for the Democrats to cry foul, argue for votes, and then denigrate Nader’s effort. Unless people are puppets, like the narrow-minded union workers, yellow dog Democrats, those on government handouts, and people who have a bias for more government, they will vote for the candidate of choice.
If Nader or anyone else wants to be a viable force and choice, then such candidates are wasting their time going after the Republican and Democrat voters. They will not switch in large enough numbers to elect a third party man. However, if they will go after the other half of the population that doesn’t vote, then real pressure can be exerted on the two major parties. It will take a lot of work but when the growth begins to form from that sector, the members of the Republican and Democrat parties will be forced toÊeither ÊworkÊharder or swing over to the third party.
The American people do not like radical solutions. For a third party to be viable it must be conservative. Why not espouse a return to the Constitution instead of offering more government? That is a radical solution that will appeal to all if it is presented properly. At present, all we are getting is the mantra of more goodies to everyone, tear down business, more control, etc., which translates to loss of freedom. Give some real alternatives that are viable and people will join the effort.
Donald E. Clem
Fairfield Bay, Ark.
Nader’s barking up the wrong bush
Marc Cooper — and Nader supporters in general — constantly blame the Democratic Party for “countenancing” such things as welfare reform, a forced march into HMOs, millions without health insurance, the horrific rise of the very profitable prison industry, and the related continuation of the war on drugs.
Blaming the Democratic Party for these developments blatantly ignores reality. It’s like blaming the rear-guard for the rout. As for where to assign blame, look to the spirit of the times and the vast-right-wing conspiracy known as the Republican Party, which has stood in the way of changin, or actively pushed us toward, all of these horrors and many more too numerous to list. Also look to citizens who don’t vote.
By sticking with the Democrats and engaging other folks in the party in constructive dialog and debate, our arguments will be made stronger and objections to our policy made more clear and open so that we may improve our proposals. Compromises may be reached and over time the line of progress will move in a sensible direction. Let’s get into the party and help shape the party to what it should be, rather than badger it from the sidelines of history.
Why does America’s progressive left constantly ignore the fact that most of the planks in our platform are resoundingly rejected by voters? Why must we live in a left-wing fantasy land, rather than accept and deal with the fact that most “normal” Americans just don’t understand where we’re coming from?
Is Nader a dodo, or just going the same way?
Dear Mr. Cooper:
You should be blue in the face if you are trying to justify the unjustifiable. If you believe protecting the environment, protecting patients and worker rights, and providing health insurance are really needed social policy, then Nader’s strategy is not simply bad but unethical. Acting out of good conscience requires first appreciating the consequences associated with one’s actions. There was no way that a person on the left could vote for Nader in good conscience for the following reasons:
- Clearly, the result of Greens voting for Nader rather than Gore is that Bush is very likely to become president. In the short term, that has undesired effects on all the issues I mentioned previously.
- The long term results are even worse. Provided the Greens consistently siphon off 2 to 4 percent of the normally Democratic vote from the left, the response from both parties will be to move farther away from left-wing positions. The Democrats will move to the right because they cannot win by moving to the left. If they did try to move left, they’d lose more votes from the center (votes that would go to the Republicans). Since the Greens are unlikely to ever get enough votes to win future elections under the current system, it follows that the long-term policy consequences of a Green Party are quite bad.
Your claim that you voted for Nader out of conscience may be true but, in my view, it was not a vote of good concience (i.e., reasonably likely to produce a socially good outcome judging by your ideals). The backlash you report on is an appropriate response to Nader who, by tilting at a windmill, managed to run himself, his supporters and the country into a wall. If there was the political equivalent of a Darwin Award , then Nader should win one. Don’t be surprised if your exhortations fail to move very many people.
Ignoring the obvious
If our country did not have an Electoral College, the present crisis would not exist.
Since it amounts to no more than a way for the rich and powerful to have a final say in the selection of the president, the Republicans can be predicted to support and defend this outmoded and outdated mechanism for end-running around the democratic process. They will legalistically maintain that it must be followed to the letter and that we cannot rid ourselves of this anachronism.
They insist, as do the major media that they own, on ignoring the fact that if Bush wins the election while trailing his opponent by 230,000 votes. In effect, those voters have been disenfranchised. The votes of 388 Floridians will have voided 230,000 votes of citizens outside Florida, not to mention the 2.7 million votes for Nader, many of whom would have voted for Gore.
As long as the winning of the Electoral College is viewed as providing the only solution to this crisis, we are heading into big trouble. We are looking to get the solution to the crisis from the very cause of the crisis.
Instead, we must look for a new resolution that will honor all voters. One where every vote counts. We must move on to the next step on our road to democracy. We need a new solution. One that honors each voter. One that honors true democracy.
We need to quit ignoring the obvious.
Still too close to call
Clearly, the margin of error in counting votes in Florida — and possibly other states, as well — is larger than the differences between the candidates. For any state where this is true, the state should be considered a tie and these states should not contribute any votes to the Electoral College.
Any other decision effectively makes the choice of the US president random, which is a pretty pathetic situation for a so-called democracy. This would motivate states to update their systems to more accurate ones. There is no reason we can’t get the margin of error much smaller.
As a liberal and one of the eagerly-awaited Florida overseas absentees, I should be glad that Al Gore will soon be one up in the polls, thanks to me. Instead, I consider it a shame that I blew my opportunity to make a difference for once.
The last few days have proven to me that a vote for the two-party system in this election really was a betrayal of democracy. I’ve realized that those who voted for my first choice, Ralph Nader, were the ones who brought our system out into the light, and I wish I had been in their ranks. In doing so, the Naderites have absolutely proven their contention that democracy is a delicate mechanism. They brought the vote too close to count and have (unwittingly) shown us that even a simple counting machine can threaten our freedom of political expression. How, then, can we continue to ward off the more powerful machinery of the political and commercial groups which dominate the political system today? Those who voted for Nader should take heart. If I had it to do over again, I’d usher Bush into the White House rather than subscribing to cynicism for another four years.
Geoffrey M. Long
Here’s how we should do it …
This type of thing has been going on all over the US for many years and no one paid any attention to it. How does anyone really know if their vote was counted, either by machine or by hand? There should be a national standardization of voting machines that automatically calculate the votes, and leave people out of it. When you add people to the picture, you open up the element of cheating, and that goes for both parties.
Voting should be done on Saturday and Sunday, like the “backward” Third World countries do. In addition, the media should be forced to shut up until all polling places are closed across the country. The “people’s right to know” is a lame excuse for tilting the final outcome.
Why isn’t Bush demanding a recount?
It seems that George W. would, above all others, want to clear the air of impropriety that now exists in Florida. We think that he would be the first to request a recount and another after that if necessary, that he would want to eliminate even the slightest doubt surrounding the fairness of the ballot, and fully and publicly address the concerns of the elderly and Latino and African-American voters. Instead, it seems he and his team want to hurry this process along. Why? What’s his hurry?
He has said that the American people need this resolved, that we deserve an answer. Yes, we do. We deserve the right answer, an honest answer, and a complete answer. We do not want our questions and concerns minimized and dismissed, we want them addressed. The more than 50 percent of us who did not support his bid for office would like them addressed, and are we not critical to his future success?
He has said that he wants to begin to lead the American people, but in order for him to lead, do we not have to follow? How does he expect that we would accept and respect his leadership if these irregularities are not completely explained?
He has said that he wants to gain the trust of the American people — is now too soon to start?
Give me one good reason
If there’s some reason why state lines on the map should supercede a simple majority of all US voters, it certainly does not appear in Seth Gitell’s article.
I’d like to see some more substantial argument for the Electoral College before deciding it’s an anachronism that should be discarded.
Just like the Philippines
I am a naturalized citizen from the Philippines and I am very disheartened to learn that the United States is no better than my former country. We brag that our country is the bastion of democracy in the world yet thousands of voters were disenfranchised because of some dirty tactics of those in power. The actions of the Republicans are very shameful. Instead of cooperating and helping to look into the irregularities in Palm Beach, and making themselves appear to be on the side of protecting the sanctity of the election, they go ahead and show their real identity: power-hungry, dirty politicians.
I guess the Democrats are just politicizing the election when they demand an investigation into massive irregularities. I guess it’s just okay to declare yourself a winner when the recount is still on. If Bush is really a deserving leader, the best thing for him to do is to be quiet and let the process take its course.
What kind of nation are you?
With the US penchant for preaching to other nations about human rights, surely the denial of voting rights to persons convicted of a crime who have completed their sentences constitutes a gross denial of human rights.
When such manifestly unjust laws are administered in such a sloppy, incompetent manner one can only wonder at what sort of nation perpetrates such hypocrisy.
Gerard R. McEwen
Get over it
It is ridiculous that you are adding to the hype. Enough is enough. The election is over. The Gore supporters in this neck of the woods (Tampa Bay) want to end this madness of making Floridians look like asses. Bush is not the Antichrist and this nation will survive with him as president, although our reputation as a world leader may not. As Clinton put it, let’s get on with the people’s business.
George & Tanya McGowan
How we do it in Scotland
Your commentators Steven Hill and Rob Ritchie are incorrect in stating that elections in Great Britain involve an instant run-off method.
In the United Kingdon we still have (for the Westminster Parliament) elections in which members are elected from single-seat consituencies on the basis of relative majority, i.e. whoever gets the largest number of votes gets in. I believe there have been members of parliament elected on about 30 percent of the vote in their constituency but a small proportion are lucky enough to have genuine majorities. I haven’t seen statistics for the 1997 general election but it certainly used to be the case that the entire House of Commons was elected by under 50 percent of the electorate. Thus, relative majority voting delivers low voter-effectiveness. (Since your two main parties are much more dominant than their equivalents over here, that may not be the case in the US.)
For the new Scottish parliament a curious hybrid system is used whereby 73 members are elected from individual consituencies (using traditional relative majority voting) and a further 56 are elected on a sort-of proportional system, seven each from eight electoral regions. The seat distribution from the parties’ regional lists is weighted against parties already represented in that region. This modest concession to proportionality did allow the Greens and Scottish Socialist Party each to get one member elected.
For the European Parliament, in which all member countries are expected to use a proportional system, the UK last year used regional lists for the first time and again some smaller parties gained representation. (It also, incidentally, saved Labour from total humiliation.)
National Agent, Scottish Green Party
Come on MoJo
After reading the linked article, your story appears slanted.
The author uses the term “just months” before the election, but the article in the Palm Beach Post was written five months before the election — at which time the problem had been discovered and people notified of the error.
Further the Post article indicates the errors were based on name similarities. Your writer expresses concern only over votes that may have been lost by Vice President Gore. Also, by including an unflattering photo of Governor Jeb Bush appears to imply carelessness or worse on his part.
I look to Mother Jones for a different approach to the news, but truth, fairness, and responsibility should be foremost.
Information breeds discontent
I think this election may have provided Americans with an incredible amount of information that most of us never knew — how the electoral college officials get their positions, how ballots are counted, transported, mishandled, how the mechanics of voter registration and the actual voting process can be manipulated, for example.
While many people are aware of these problems, most whites have not experienced being prevented from voting as a systematic ordeal. Only when white people start feeling pressure will any action be taken.
College isolates problem
The fiasco in Florida makes a very strong case for keeping our electoral college system. If the popular vote were all that mattered, every mistake, miscount, or irregularity in every county of the country would have the potential to paralyze the election — like the problems in Palm Beach County have now. With the electoral vote system, the problem is relatively isolated.
Too stupid to vote
There is no more disenfranchisement in Florida than in any other state. The only lesson we can draw from this election is that Gore will not stop the race-baiting and divisive hate-mongering until there’s a recount that suits him.
We’ll see how much you publish when we get some Gore people convicted of voter fraud in Missouri, California, and Wisconsin. If those people in Florida are so stupid that they can’t figure out the ballot that the Democrats approved, they are too stupid to be allowed to have a say in this country.
As an election judge, I don’t understand why the people who say they mistakenly voted for Buchanan didn’t say