by Lisa Aliferis and Jon Brooks
Some liberals still like to play the alternative-history parlor game called “What if Ralph Nader Hadn’t Run For President in 2000?” The chain of events in this butterfly-effect narrative unfolds something like this:
- Without Nader on the ballot, the votes he received in Florida go instead to Al Gore, giving Gore the presidency, uncontested.
- George W. Bush becomes a spokesman for Valvoline instead of the nation’s 43rd chief executive
- Under President Gore, Sept. 11, the Iraq War, the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and the financial crisis never happen. The nation enters into a Pax Americana in which prosperity reigns, the environment is protected, and Honey Boo Boo is taken into the care of child protective services.
You know, something like this, courtesy of Saturday Night Live:
Anyway, Nader himself paid a visit to KQED Public Radio’s Forum show last Thursday to discuss his new book, “The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future.” And of course, the hour-long talk turned a little heated over — what else — the 2000 election.
Host Michael Krasny’s first question was on whether people who were not so thrilled with President Bush still blamed Nader for his election. Nader chuckled and calmly said he had “a hundred different answers.” Then he detailed the myriad other issues stemming from that kooky election. “It’s as if I was to blame for theft of votes in Florida; I was to blame for the Electoral College! In what other country can you come in second and still win the presidency?” Nader said.
The two went on to discuss Nader’s book, corporate influence in politics, civic engagement, and so forth. A few minutes in, someone named Dan called in and said Nader’s run in 2000 was one reason why Bush won the election.
That’s where Nader started to get a bit testy.
“He’s a perfect example of thousands of people with that attitude, and he probably calls himself a liberal or a progressive,” Nader said of the caller. “First of all, 250,000 Democrats in Florida voted for Bush. I got 97,000 votes. Why don’t you blame the Democrats? Why don’t you blame the Electoral College? Gore won the popular election. I’ve talked to Gore about this. He doesn’t blame the Green Party. He blames himself, for one. He couldn’t get his home state of Tennessee… Look, Bush got more votes from Gore than I did…You don’t want to give voters a choice? You basically want to say to voters shut up you’re not going to have another candidate you believe in, you have to either choose between Bush and Gore? It’s so anti-democratic, but we grow up with that two-party duopoly embedded in our mind…”
Later in the show a caller named Tim had the floor and he pushed Nader. Hard. (You can read Nader’s response, but we recommend listening to the audio.)
Audio: Ralph Nader berates a caller for being a “political bigot”
“First of all,” caller Tim said, “I want to thank you for being you and what you do for this country, as a great patriot and a great intellect and all that.”
“On the other side, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive you for the 150,000 Iraqis that were killed and the environment and the gutting of our country and the economy for letting Bush get in, because I really hold you responsible for that .Gore would have been a thousand times better than Bush, as much as I hate the two-party system. It was high stakes, you should have known that. [You] should have bowed out gracefully for what was coming — a tremendous storm that we’ll be recovering from for years.”
Nader replied, starting off relatively calmly then building to a fever pitch:
“Gee, you didn’t blame me for Afghanistan. Why did you stop there? How about sun spots on the moon? You see, this is an extremely crippling attitude by people – you are basically saying to the American voter that they should not have the right to vote for candidates of their choice. You just shut up and get in line and vote for one of two corporate parties, because one may not be as bad as the other but both of them flunk. Every four years, with that attitude, both parties get worse; both parties get arrogant; both parties dial for the same Wall Street dollars; both parties turn the government against the people. You should know, by the way, that Clinton and Gore got a resolution passed in Congress in 1998 urging the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Bush used that with his lies, along with Cheney’s falsehoods, to invade a country that did not threaten us. Notice this, the Democrats in Congress, apart from the 2000 election could have stopped the war. They could have filibustered it. They could have stopped the war. They could have stopped Chief Justice Roberts’ nomination, they could have stopped Alito’s nomination; why are you exonerating these people?”
“I’m not, I’m not,” Tim interjected.”I hold you responsible for that event.”
“See, that’s the sign of a political bigot!” Nader said. “Because I am lawfully a presidential candidate in that year. I want to give people more choice, the constitution allows that, and you’re saying the voters should not have a choice to vote for me — or anyone else — other than Gore and Bush. Well, let me tell you the two parties do not own the votes in America. They think they do, but I think they have to earn them. And I believe in a competitive democracy and I can make these arguments and many more until the end of the day, but it will not change your mind because you are a political bigot! Emphasis: political!”
Here Michael Krasny softly observed that it was “still visceral” for Nader after all this time and moved on.
And while we’ve taken this trip back to 2000, The Onion released this election year analysis by zeroing in on Florida and reminding people that whichever candidate gets more votes is more likely to win the state.
Their tagline is “The Onion’s Election 2012: We Decide, Not You.”