Do the math

You don’t have to be a newshound to read the polls. Almost all of them predict that the November presidential election will come down to a near-even split between Republicans (who want four more years of George W. Bush as president) and Democrats (who want Senator John Kerry to take the White House). Lately, it’s been heartening to see the polls showing Kerry with a razor’s-edge lead. But there’s no doubt, in a two-way contest between the two major parties, that the outcome will be close. But—oh yeah—wait a minute.

We’re not looking at a two-way contest. With Ralph Nader running as an independent—along with his brand-new running mate Peter Camejo—the election easily could angle against the Democrats.

Allow us to put this in one obit-like paragraph. We are great admirers of Nader’s legacy as a consumer activist. We also have become genuine fans of Camejo—an articulate man who ran a principled campaign as a Green candidate in last October’s recall election. We agree, in fact, with much that the two of them say about what is wrong with the country.

But are we happy these two are in the race? Not by the longest shot. Could a Nader/Camejo ticket tip the election to the incumbent, George W. Bush?

You bet it could.

Both Nader and Camejo deny they will serve as spoilers in the election. But on this topic, these two intelligent men seem to get bewilderingly irrational. There is no denying that Nader served as a spoiler in the 2000 race. Running as a Green, he shaved off votes in crucial swing states. The plain fact is that Nader took 97,488 votes in Florida, a state where Bush won over Gore by a mere 537 votes. In another swing state, New Hampshire, Bush won by about 7,211 votes, with Nader taking 22,198. You do the math. Winning in either state would have won Gore the election.

Yes, the Democratic Party is flawed and far too beholden to the special interests and corporations that tend to run things in Washington, D.C. But Nader’s infamous line that the Republicans and Democrats are the same—“tweedledum and tweedledee”—is as false now as it was in 2000. How does Nader think he can compare liberal/moderate Democrats like Gore and Kerry to radical conservatives like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft?

Some people hypothesize that Nader and Camejo will run mainly in states like California, where the electoral votes likely will go to Kerry anyway. But in 2000, Nader did the opposite. It’s a fact that he spent the final week of the 2000 campaign in swing states, including Florida! When Rolling Stone asked Nader in 2000 if he would have any problem providing the margin of defeat for Gore in the election, Nader replied: “I would not at all.”

That’s wrongheaded. It’s arrogant. And it’s not deserving of the Nader we used to admire. Where’d that other guy go anyway?