Monday, June 30, 2008

Ralph Nader on This Week with George Stephanopoulos

Ralph Nader was a guest on the June 29th program of This Week with George Stephanopoulos. A video of the interview can be found here. For about 4 minutes, George Stephanopoulos and Nader talked about Nader's recent criticisms of Obama. Stephanopoulos then asked the following:


Here's what I don't get. Is there any doubt in your mind that Barack Obama would be a better president for your issues, for the things you care about, than John McCain?


Nader replied:


Well, anybody would be better than the Republicans.


Stephanopoulos then asked why Nader trained all his fire on the Democrats, Nader protested that he was simply answering the question he had been asked, and Stephanopoulos replied that this was driven by issues that Nader had raised that week. Nader did go on to spend about 30 seconds making a number of criticisms of McCain.


To see firsthand how much Nader was training his fire on Obama versus McCain, I went to Nader's website at http://www.votenader.org/. The initial screen is split in two with "Corporate greed, Corporate power, Corporate control" on the left side and "People fighting back, Nader/Gonzales '08" on the right. Across the top is the question "Which side are you on?". Although I'm sure this was not intended, it reminded me of George Bush's statement, "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror." In any case, I continued on to Nader's blog at http://www.votenader.org/blog/. Looking down the page at the entries, I saw negative comments about Obama on June 28th, 25th, 24th, 23rd, 20th, 18th, and two posts on the 16th. There was also an explanation on June 26th of what Nader had meant when he accused Obama of "talking white". In any case, I saw no negative reference to McCain until the last mentioned post, the second one on June 16th. Hence, it does seem that, at least recently, Nader has been training most of this fire on Obama.


I have no idea why Nader appears to be focusing on Obama. I can only guess that he thinks that more of this potential votes will come from current Obama supporters. On this topic, there is an interesting entry on June 18th that promotes something called VotePact. Basically, the idea is that a pro-Nader Democrat finds a friend or relative who is a pro-Nader Republican and they agree to both vote for Nader. This keeps either of them from tilting the election toward the candidate who they like least, the so-called "spoiler effect". This seems a bit naive. You are counting on your friend or relative to keep their word and vote as they have promised.


A much more effective method to empower voters to vote for third party candidates without worrying about the spoiler effect would be Instant Runoff Voting. Briefly, the idea of this system is that every voter ranks the candidates according to their preference. If a voter's first choice has no chance of winning, then that voter's second choice is counted. If the voter's second choice then has no chance of winning, the voter's third choice is counted (and so on). You can find more information on Instant Runoff Voting here.


The Nader site does have a short post on Instant Runoff Voting here. The post's support seems to be a bit tentative as it states the following:


Nobody knows how IRV will actually work in the United States - no matter what its fervent supporters may hope for. It has to be tested and also clarified within the context of local, state and national campaign funding laws.


These statements may well be true. Still, it does seem that Nader could do much more to address the spoiler issue and, in so doing, greatly strengthen the potential of future third parties. On this topic, I'll repeat the following excerpt from an open letter to Ralph Nader that I originally posted nearly 4 year ago:


I think that Nader could best publicize this issue by running his campaign to promote his positions but dropping out just before the election, stating that he is forced to do so by the current system so that he does not act as a spoiler. He could then recommend that his supporters vote for the candidate who has best taken up his positions or that he most supports. That, at least, would give him some political leverage and the major parties, as well as the people, might give a little more thought to addressing this issue. In any case, this would be much more responsible than acting as a spoiler.


I still think that this would give Nader more leverage in promoting his issues, especially the obstacles faced by third parties. Of course, I'm not counting on him doing this. Still, I hope that he will at least become more balanced in his criticisms of the candidates.

1 comment:

Morgan M said...

When you run as an independent, you don't have money behind you to spread around. I would focus my resources on the opponent leading at the time. It makes financial sense.
Additionally, one of Mr. Nader's issues is that there is no differences or choices within the parties. Sen. Obama has stated he is change. Since it is a central issue to both campaigns, it makes sense that it would come up a lot, doesn't it?

Here are my thoughts on running for president:

I'm firmly of the opinion that you cannot 'spoil' a vote, or 'steal' a vote simply by running in opposition and stating your issues. I suppose you could by hinting at or agreeing with one audience, and then later changing your mind on that issue. I suppose you could by hiding key details about previous business dealings that may in the future cause harm to our reputation. I suppose you could by backing an electronic voting system proven to be easily hacked and compromised. I guess a mobile team of legal experts filing complaint after complaint in courts across the country to challenge your opponents right to be on the ballot, that could do it. Convincing the media not to give your opponent air time wouldn't hurt the effort...the stealing of votes that is. A perpetual whisper into the wind 'He's Crazy' just to tie things up in a neat little package. Certainly, all good ways to steal votes. But when you simply put yourself out there, and say it like it is, no splash graphics or multi-million dollar budgets, and millions of people vote for you and not your opponent? I think that's called your opponent 'Losing Votes'. Can you imagine, had Mr. Nader been given equal air time and not been blocked from ballots, how many millions of people would have cast their vote for him? There is a reason he resonates with so many Americans, this summer take the time to learn about Ralph Nader. You have nothing to lose by listening, and maybe doing a little followup, what you have to gain is priceless, American Pride.
(links to Nader info)

Sen. Obama's response to Nader was disapointing for me. Change, for me, would have been him acknowledging the man, his rights and his efforts for America (he sorta said 'atta boy) and if he had to say 'he's just looking for attention' (oh, he did) he should have rightly added 'and so am I, we all are, it's an election, a race, a competition. (oops, he didn't)
That is the kind of change I am looking for.

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I became interested in U.S. budget and economic matters back in 1992, the first time that I remember the debt becoming a major issue in a presidential election. Along with this blog, I have a website on the subject at http://www.econdataus.com/budget.html. I have blogged further about my motivations for creating this blog and website at this link. Recently, I've been working on replicating studies such as the analysis at this link.

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