Point & Counterpoint: Voting Gore or Nader

I find it particularly ironic that I have been invited by the opposition to convince liberal progressives to vote for the presidential candidate they really want to vote for — Ralph Nader of the Green Party. Unfortunately, too many of these bright and forward-looking people have been dissuaded by the false logic that “a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.”
It is true that liberals who would vote for Gore in a two-way race between him and the rice kid rom Texas might, in this multiparty race, vote for a third-party candidate and thus draw support from Gore, ultimately resulting in a Bush presidency.
Certainly, we progressives recoil at the thought of four years of Bush in office, and we fear the consequences of such a scenario. But even if a strong Nader showing results in a Bush win, we can still feel justified for voting Nader because, in the long-run, a Bush presidency, as opposed to a Gore presidency, might actually help the democratic cause of the many in their battle against the elite few. In their decision tomorrow, progressives need to think big and vote for Ralph Nader.
The standard argument propagated by the Naderites to sway the Bush-scared Gore supporters to their camp is that there is no reason to vote for Gore because he and Bush are identical: They are both corporatist free-traders with human-based rather than ecologically based ideologies, and they are both unwilling to confront the issues that are of real concern the to the progressives of this country. To this, the loyal Democrats respond with a laundry list of differences between the two, pointing particularly vehemently at the nasty Supreme Court justices that Bush would likely appoint. And the Bush-scared liberals are left on the fence once more.
But the problem with the argument that Bush and Gore are identical is that it forces Nader supporters to ignore how truly horrid and incompetent Boy George is and how a Bush presidency, much more than a Gore presidency, would result in a plethora of policies that would favor the rich and the powerful at the expense of the masses. We must come to accept this fact.
Yet we can still feel justified in voting for Nader, even if it results in Bush winning, if we think a little bigger. If Bush wins, his administration will almost surely be a disaster and an embarrassment in the eyes of the American public — an assertion with which I think most progressives would agree. (I am astounded that such a pathetic candidate has been able to do so well so far. Certainly, this has more to do with Gore’s failings than with W’s merits, which are virtually non-existent.) But we would survive — hopefully — and in 2004 he would run again and lose badly, either to whomever the Democrats run or, more optimistically, to a Green Party candidate, who would be aided by $12.5 million in federal funds should Nader get 5 percent of the popular vote in this election.
During the debacle that this administration would likely be, a movement might build in opposition to this figure, Bush, of everything that is wrong with America (i.e. money, corruption, celebrity, stupidity, blind Reaganist optimism). Unfortunate as it might be, the left needs something clearly bad — not ambiguously bad, as in the case of Clinton/Gore — to oppose in order to unite and make themselves heard, and a Bush presidency would provide that.
Now consider the alternative: Gore gets elected, and widespread complacency results among the lefties, who foolishly think that they’re being looked after and defended. No progressive movement builds, and the corporate-friendly, pro-profits/anti-people policies of the current administration continue unhindered. Meanwhile, the nation becomes nauseated with the Gumpish Gore (and twelve years of “Clinton/Gore”) and elect whoever his Republican opponent is in 2004. In this hypothetical scenario, nothing is accomplished for the causes of the people, and no progress is made.
So, my fellow liberal-progressives, think big when you vote on Nov. 7. Nader almost surely won’t win, and we might end up with Bush for four years, but in the long run, that’s exactly what we want.
Joe Malherek is a senior in political science and welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]