Ralph Nader: Third Parties Are Not Spoilers

Third Parties Are Not Spoilers
Open Letter to the Wall Street Journal
By Ralph Nader at Nader.org

How unbecoming it is for the self-styled freedom-loving Wall Street Journal (“Ron Paul Nader?” Dec. 21) to use the politically bigoted word “spoiler” to describe a hypothetical Ron Paul-Libertarian party presidential run.

Why is a third-party candidate called a “spoiler” when the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties, that have given us a spoiled political system (corrupted by the highest bidder) are never referred to in such a pejorative way? These two decaying parties do not own the voters in this country, though they act that way through their many state laws obstructing outside competition.

Since all candidates are supposed to have the equal right to run for election, then they are either all spoilers of one another in seeking votes or none of them deserve to be called “spoilers.” Candidates from smaller parties are not second-class citizens. After all, either of the major party candidates “takes away” far more votes from the other than any third party candidate does.


IPR Notes:

Ron Paul was the Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 1988, and is seeking the Republican presidential nomination this year, as he did in 1988. There has been media speculation that he might go Libertarian again, and Paul has not ruled it out, although his goal remains to win the Republican nomination. Another former contender for the Republican presidential nomination this year, former NM Governor Gary Johnson, has already jumped over to the Libertarians.

Ralph Nader sought the presidency as a Green in 1996 and 2000 and as an independent in 2004 and 2008. He is not running this year.

In the last 27 years, 1992 was the only presidential election year when neither Paul nor Nader was an independent or alternative (“third”) party presidential candidate in the general election.

17 thoughts on “Ralph Nader: Third Parties Are Not Spoilers

  1. Dale Sheldon-Hess

    Mr. Nader, please, please, please, read Gaming the Vote! (William Poundstone, 2006.) Here, have some excerpts: http://rangevoting.org/CandCloning.html

    Voters have preferences. Voting methods are an attempt to aggregate them, in order to find a societal preferences. Kenneth Arrow won a Nobel prize for this stuff, so let me tell you what the mathematical/economic definition of “spoiler” is.

    The technical term is “independence of irrelevant alternatives” (IIA). It means, if A wins in A vs. B, then in A vs. B vs. C, B should definitely not win (it should either be A or C.) Plurality voting fails IIA. (And before anyone says otherwise, so does instant runoff voting.) That means that sometimes a third party will change the outcome simply by running, unless voters tactically vote for the lesser of two evils (and if enough people do that, a third party will never, ever win.) But you are only ever a spoiler if both 1) lose 2) change the winner by running.

    I suppose it’s possible that, if a Democrat weren’t running, that the Green party might win a race against a Republican, but that’s not enough for the Democrat to be a spoiler! It must also be the case that, if the Democrat does run, the Republican wins. If you believe that’s the case, you have to show that that’s the case, but none of the data I’ve ever seen supports that assertion. (I’d love to see some though!)

    If you want this to change, you need to change the voting system, to something that succeeds at IIA. Approval voting and score voting do so. Misunderstanding the definition of “spoiler” and crying about it changes nothing.

  2. Rob Banks

    If you believe that’s the case, you have to show that that’s the case, but none of the data I’ve ever seen supports that assertion. (I’d love to see some though!)

    Here’s some data: http://www.meforum.org/13/how-did-muslims-vote-in-2000

    CAIR’s surveys purportedly show that Muslim voting intentions underwent a sea-change within a few months of November 7. A CAIR poll of 1,022 individuals, released in mid-October, found that 40 percent of eligible Muslim voters now planned to back Bush, and just 24 percent for Gore; Nader had quadrupled his ratings to 20 percent. Only 8 percent registered as undecided.44

    In a straw poll conducted during a Muslim leadership meeting in Chicago on October 17, 2000, an audience of 200 persons (again, strongly biased toward Islamists) responded with 69 percent for Bush, 12 percent for Gore and 16 percent for a third or fourth party candidate.45 Between October 27 and November 2, IslamOnline.net held an online poll of 446 presumably Islamist respondents and found Bush with 54 percent, Gore with 9 percent, and Nader with 34 percent.46

    The alleged final numbers, according to a CAIR poll released after the election, were 72 percent for Bush, 8 percent for Gore and 19 percent for Nader.47 Nationally, in a “post-election telephone poll,” the AMA found that “more than 80 percent” went for Bush, 9 percent for Gore, and 10 percent for Nader.48 If Ralph Nader had not run on the Green Party line, the figures for Bush would have reflected Muslim and immigrant dissatisfaction with Gore to an even greater extent. (This is not because Greenism is popular with Muslims but that they were attracted to Nader’s Lebanese background and his outspoken views on the Middle East.)

    ….

    An “exclusive exit poll” of 350 Florida Muslims, apparently conducted by the AMA and reported on its website, found that 91 percent voted for Bush, 1 percent for Gore, and 8 percent for Nader.83 The Tampa Bay Islamic Center estimated that 55,000 Muslims in Florida voted and that 88 percent of them favored Bush.84 If true, this would mean that Bush’s majority among Muslims in Florida was far more than his several-hundred-vote lead over Gore.

  3. Rob Banks

    More to the point, the whole issue you discuss @2 even comes into play if you believe there is a lesser evil between Democrats and Republicans, rather than (as many of us believe) they are two hands of the same evil corporatist elite.

  4. ATBAFT

    First they want to kick libertarians out of the tent, then they call us spoilers. Find a way to accomodate Ron Paul’s views within the GOP or STFU.

  5. Catholic Trotskyist

    There is always a lesser evil in every democratic situation. Get over it. Nader caused the Bush Administration; at least he’s finally not running for President, finally retiring from his criminal behavior.

  6. NewFederalist

    Sorry CT but that dog just won’t hunt. Nader no more “caused” the Bush Asministration than Perot caused the Clinton Administration. Richard Winger has overwhelming evidence that shows that Clinton and Bush would have won anyway.

  7. Darryl W. Perry

    There were SEVEN people not named Ralph Nader on the Florida ballot who received more votes than the Bush margin of victory… why not “blame” one of them?
    Better question:Why not blame Al Gore who was unable to win his home State?
    Ralph Nader (Green) 97,488
    Patrick Buchanan (Reform) 17,484
    Harry Browne (Libertarian) 16,415
    John Hagelin (Natural Law) 2,281
    Monica Moorehead (World Workers) 1,804
    Howard Phillips (Constitution) 1,371
    David McReynolds (Socialist) 622
    James Harris (Soc. Workers) 562

    Also, David Leip provides a scenerio that would have thrown the 2000 Presidential election to the House of Representatives:
    a change of 5,381 votes (0.0051% of national total) in four states between Bush and Gore results in no electoral majority. The election would have been decided by the U.S. House of Representatives.
    Florida – 269 votes (0.0045% from Bush to Gore);
    New Mexico – 184 votes (0.031% from Gore to Bush);
    Wisconsin – 2,855 votes (0.11% from Gore to Bush);
    and Iowa – 2,073 votes (0.16% from Gore to Bush).

  8. paulie Post author

    First they want to kick libertarians out of the tent, then they call us spoilers. Find a way to accomodate Ron Paul’s views within the GOP or STFU.

    I don’t think the hypothetical Nader is addressing here is Ron Paul running Republican, but Ron Paul running Libertarian again.

  9. paulie Post author

    There is always a lesser evil in every democratic situation

    No, there isn’t. Two sides of the same coin.

    Nader caused the Bush Administration

    Nader actually helped Gore, not Bush. The only thing Nader caused was for Bush to have to steal the election, otherwise he would have actually legitimately won. Not that it matters. Bush=Gore.

  10. Upstartgreen

    The Democrats have to keep telling the spoiler lie. Lying is the only way they can get votes.

  11. Steve

    @ 10 – Paulie, I think the hypocrisy being pointed out here is that the WSJ and others in the GOP establishment don’t want Ron Paul to have influence in the GOP but they get upset at the idea that Paul’s voters won’t loyally go Republican.

  12. paulie Post author

    I don’t see Nader advocating the Republicans should accomodate the views of Paul and his supporters.

    I would think Nader would be more interested in seeing the Republicans broken up, not fixed (other than in the same sense as a pet animal gets fixed).

  13. scott

    I find myself unsure how the GOP could possibly accommodate Paul and his supporters. Gingrich’s rhetoric shows that maybe the GOP is willing to bend on monetary policy. But all 3 of the remaining GOP candidates besides Paul are war-mongers. This ought to be a deal-breaker. It ought to be a given that Paul will not endorse the GOP candidate–the GOP spreading the meme that Paul is disloyal is just a way to fool gullible Foxnews viewers.

    The GOP should be quite happy if Paul doesn’t run as a 3rd party candidate–that’s all they can realistically ask or expect given their fundamental differences with Paul.

  14. paulie Post author

    I find myself unsure how the GOP could possibly accommodate Paul and his supporters. Gingrich’s rhetoric shows that maybe the GOP is willing to bend on monetary policy. But all 3 of the remaining GOP candidates besides Paul are war-mongers. This ought to be a deal-breaker.

    I agree re: war and peace, but I think any rhetoric from Gingrich about monetary policy is only rhetoric.

    It ought to be a given that Paul will not endorse the GOP candidate–the GOP spreading the meme that Paul is disloyal is just a way to fool gullible Foxnews viewers.

    I don’t see Paul endorsing the Republican ticket unless Rand Paul is the VP candidate, and I see that as a low probability with Romney and no possibility with Gingrich.

    At that point a Paul alt party run is a possibility, but a low probability one.

  15. Deran

    CatTrot = Democrat flack. Admit it, you have nothing to contribute to any discussion of independent or third party politics. You are a Democrat troll, plain and simple. Fessup.

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