The Nader Effect

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.

A Moral Quandary

I was checking out my Facebook the other day and happened to glance at a couple of the ads on the right-hand side of the posts. I saw a brief note about a test that would tell me which candidates for President I was most in agreement with. I thought it would be amusing to find out how close I was to the man I planned to vote for in the election so I clicked on the link and took the test. It consisted of a number of questions in various categories from economics to the environment. A few seconds after completing the test I was told that I was in almost total agreement with….Jill Stein.

Who the Hell is Jill Stein, I wondered? I knew there were other candidates for President besides the Big Two, but I hadn’t really paid much attention. Like so many others in this country my attention has been directed toward the two men who have paid out a nauseating $1 billion apiece to buy the highest office in the land — much of it coming from the hated corporations who are now running this country. I checked Jill Stein’s web page (such as it is) and discovered that she has raised a paltry $300 thousand in her efforts to win the Presidency. Hardly enough to win her a place in the state legislature. But I also learned that she is a remarkable woman. As her web page notes:

Dr. Jill Stein is a mother, physician, longtime teacher of internal medicine, and pioneering environmental-health advocate.

She is the co-author of two widely-praised reports,  In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, published in 2000, and Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging, published in 2009.  The first of these  has been translated into four languages and is used worldwide. The reports promote green local economies, sustainable agriculture, clean power, and freedom from toxic threats.

It was Dr. Stein’s fierce stand on the environment that placed us close together in our thinking about politics I realized. I have noted, as have others whose blogs I read, that there has been precious little said about the environment by the Big Two during recent months and this has disturbed me a great deal. I regard it as THE most important issue in this election. And yet the two principal players seem to have ignored the issue completely. This places me in a moral quandary.

I was critical of some of my friends back when George W. Bush was running for President because they had determined to vote for Ralph Nader. I felt strongly (as I still do) that this was throwing a precious vote away that would end up landing “W” in the office of President of the United States. I was convinced that this would be a very bad thing, and I was right. So I hesitate to throw my vote away on a Green Party candidate who hasn’t a snowball’s chance of winning the Presidency.  Hence the quandary: it’s a question of throwing away my vote or violating my principles. But then I recall that Dante tells us Hell is a frozen wasteland with relentless winds. A snowball would survive in such an environment, and the environment is the key issue here. So I wonder. What do I do? What would you do? I am eager to get your comments on this difficult issue.

Where’s The Shrub?

When George W. Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, recently endorsed Mitt Romney reporters asked Romney whether he expected to get the younger Bush’s endorsement. (Let’s call him “the Shrub” to distinguish him from his father, “the Bush.) No one seems to know, and apparently the Republicans aren’t eager to hitch themselves to that particular horse. You remember — the one that led us into two wars and left a huge budget deficit after sneaking into office under questionable circumstances (and the assistance of Ralph Nader). The Republicans in general would prefer if we forgot that and blamed Obama for the mess. As a recent news story mentions, “In a presidential contest dominated by concerns over the economy, government spending and federal debt, the Republican candidates have been loath to acknowledge the extent to which the George W. Bush administration’s policies contributed to those problems.” Indeed.

In any event, it would seem that the Shrub’s silence will be encouraged as Romney hopes to distance himself from what he apparently regards as a political pariah. The Shrub himself also seems to want to remain in the distance — working on the building of the Bush Presidential library at a local university. “‘For now we’re just staying out of it,’ George W. Bush spokesman Freddy Ford said Thursday, declining to comment on a possible endorsement. Ford said Bush was focused on promoting and developing a presidential library bearing his name at Southern Methodist University.” Is it possible to develop a library consisting only of comic books? I’m just askin’.

But it would appear that the Shrub’s father (the Bush) doesn’t seem to want to remember his son’s legacy as 43rd President of the United States. We are told that his picture is hidden in the Bush’s office behind a flag. The Bush was actually a pretty good President, as Presidents go these days. His son’s performance must have been a severe disappointment as the Shrub was clearly on anyone’s list of the ten worst Presidents this country has ever had. Henry Adams thought Grant was living proof of the flaw in Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the Shrub would be even stronger evidence. But then Darwin allowed for occasional anomalies so perhaps his theory is safe.

In any event Mitt will have to soldier on without the endorsement (for the time being) of George W. Bush — though he has that of both the Shrub’s father and his brother Jeb. You remember Jeb: he was former governor of Florida and led the charge to pass a law giving permission for people in Florida to shoot first and ask questions later. So, how’s that working out?