There was considerable controversy surrounding Ralph Nader’s various attempts to become president of the United States. The most controversial election was almost certainly when he ran against George W. Bush and, according to some, ruined Al Gore’s chances of becoming President. In Florida, as we know, Bush defeated Gore by only 537 votes while Ralph Nader was garnering 97,421 votes as an Independent candidate. Many would conclude, despite Nader’s denial, that this cost Gore Florida, a pivotal swing state.
But we are dealing here in what logicians call “counter-to-fact conditionals. We are saying, in effect, what if….? Anyone can play that game and there never really is a winner. Let’s agree that, given all the election “irregularities,” George W. Bush would have won in any event — whether or not Nader had run independently, though I have my doubts.
In the present election there is a very attractive Green Party candidate in Jill Stein. She is very bright and has impressive credentials; she is much more qualified for high office than at least one of the two major candidates currently running. One worries that the votes that go her way might otherwise go to Hillary Clinton and in losing those votes Hillary will lose the presidency to Donald Trump (perish the thought). It is quite possible, given the Nader effect as I would call it. Even if we allow that Bush would have beaten Gore without Nader running, there is always a shadow of a doubt.
In many ways Jill Stein is for me the most attractive alternative in this race. Ideologically speaking, I am closer to her than I am to either of the other two. But I will vote for Clinton because I don’t want to throw away my vote (Stein can no more win than Sanders could get the Democratic nomination. I just won’t happen.) And I don’t want to see Trump elected and spend the next four years (undergoing therapy) worrying that my vote helped put him into office.
Hillary is not perfect. Disturbingly, she is a favorite of the corporations like so many of her political friends. The appealing thing about Sander’s run was that he knew the real battle is with the giant corporations. Sanders understood that if we are to hope to reestablish this democracy as a government of the people, the corporations must be put in their place. Well, we saw how that went. The monied interests on the left (and the right?) took control of the Democratic machine and saw to it that Hillary Clinton was nominated. Not that socialist, Sanders.
But Sanders — who is also ideologically closer to Jill Stein than he is to Hillary Clinton — endorsed Clinton because he is a political realist and he knows she is the only one in the group (and there are more) who can beat Donald Trump. And beating Donald Trump is and must remain the main objective of any voter with a grain of sense who cares about this country and the values (cloudy though they are at times) that this country stands for. Trump is simply not an acceptable candidate for the highest office in this land. Period. Moreover, Hillary is a gifted and intelligent political animal who would do a commendable job as president. She knows where the skeletons are buried and she knows how to play the power game. Despite her flaws, many of which have been created by the opposition, she is the only reasonable alternative.