Why I'm Voting For Ralph Nader

by Jonathan Wallace jw@bway.net

I voted for Ralph Nader in 1996 because I could no longer stand President Clinton's dishonesty and weak management style. I will vote for Nader again this election because the Democratic Party has become a captive of big business contributors and no longer represents its traditional constituency, though it claims to.

In two recent articles, I wrote that our democracy increasingly requires complacent candidates of mediocre intelligence and an easily-deceived electorate; and that increasingly we have the illusion of a democracy in place of the real thing. Since I believe these things, I have no choice but to vote for Nader because he shares many of my beliefs and is not beholden to the money.

In voting for him I must disregard the warnings of those who say that Nader will split the Democratic vote and throw the election to Bush. I live in New York, a state that is safely in support of Gore, but I do not think I would vote any differently if I lived in a chancier state. My reasoning is that if we all voted always on the assumption that a vote for a third party was dangerous for this reason, there would be two evil results. There would never be any reasonable prospect of a third party coming into existence, because it would have to cross that "vote-splitting" threshold in order to gain momentum. Secondly, it would be impossible for any voter to send a signal of disapproval to his or her former party; out of fear of "vote splitting" we would always vote for our former party on the theory that it was marginally better than the other, no matter how beholden it was to interests of which we disapproved.

Since the creation of a powerful third party seems to me one of the few measures which could save an endangered American democracy, and since the Democrats have forfeited my trust, I am voting for Nader and the Greens. I am very conscious of the dangers of electing a president who will appoint the "wrong" Supreme Court justices but am taking a longer view than that. Kant's categorical imperative says that we should only commit those actions we want everyone to do. I think this easily extends to voting for a third party candidate, even though the outcome may be that only a few of us will actually vote for him. Because if we only did those things we thought everyone would do, change would be impossible.