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Don’t Fall for It: The Nader Myth and Your 2016 Vote

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

Ralph Nader’s 2000 run for the presidency is often blamed for Al Gore’s loss to George W. Bush. (Sage Ross / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Once again, fear is being ramped up to manipulate progressive voters into voting for what they do not want, Hillary Clinton, instead of someone who represents their values. The fear of Trump is the card being played this year and to justify it people are being told that Gore lost to Bush in 2000 because of third party candidates. One of the most effective pieces of political propaganda in this century has been the Nader Myth, which says that Al Gore lost in 2000 because Ralph Nader ran for president.

This myth is repeated by many Democratic Party operatives and people in the media, who are essentially serving as Democratic Party spokespersons. Since the Democratic Party’s method of convincing people to vote for Hillary Clinton is fear of Trump, people should be prepared with the facts around the 2000 election so they can dispel the Nader Myth.

Ben Jealous Calls for the Facts, Then Ignores Them

One recent example was Ben Jealous, the former Sanders’ supporter who has endorsed Hillary Clinton and, as a result, got a spot on the stage at the Democratic National Convention. He debated Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate, on Democracy Now and brought up the Nader Myth, saying:

“We can’t deny the facts of the past. George W. Bush got into the White House because Al Gore lost by about 900 votes in Florida. Ralph Nader got 90,000. The reports, the studies that went back and looked at those voters said 60 percent of them would have gone for Gore if Nader wasn’t on the ballot there.”

Since Jealous couched his claims in “facts,” here are some additional facts that turn Jealous’ claims on their head and show the real truth—Gore lost to Bush on election day with a little help from Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas who stopped the recount in Florida.

The key state to focus on is Florida, but it is important to remember that Gore lost his home state, Tennessee, and lost Clinton’s home state of Arkansas. If he had won either of those, he would have been president.

In Florida, Bush won the votes of 308,000 Democrats, that is 12 times more Democrats than Nader’s mere 24,000. Gore also lost 191,000 self-described liberals to Bush, compared to less than 34,000 who voted for Nader. In addition, half of all registered Democrats did not even bother voting. For about one million Florida Democrats it was: Vote Bush or don’t vote. If one percent of any of those categories had voted for Gore he would have easily won Florida.

CNN’s exit polling showed Nader received the same amount of votes from both Republicans and Democrats: 1 percent. Nader also took 4 percent of the independent vote. Had Nader not run, Bush would have won by more in Florida. CNN’s exit poll showed Bush at 49 percent and Gore at 47 percent, with 2 percent not voting in a hypothetical Nader-less Florida race. (See articles at end of article for more details.)

A media review one year after the election found that a full recount would have resulted in a narrow Gore win and that the biggest problems were unclear ballots (remember the Palm Springs Butterfly Ballot) and voting errors by Democrats, which cost Gore 15,000 to 25,000 votes, which would have been an easy win for Gore.

Can’t Vote Green because it Could Lead to War

In the interview, Jealous went on to play the war card. He claimed the cause of the Iraq War was voting for Nader, a third party peace candidate:

“And the reality is that we cannot afford to end up with having an Iraq War because we narrowly lose the White House to somebody who should not be in there, as we did with Bush.”

Jealous’ forgets Clinton voted for the Iraq War by stumping on behalf of Hillary Clinton he negates his concerns about war. Clinton has never met a war she didn’t support and she is responsible for coups in Honduras and the Ukraine and the devastation of Libya.

He may not know that before the 2003 invasion, in February 2002, Al Gore gave a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations where he gave all-out support to President Bush’s war policy. Among the things he said:

“President Bush deserves tremendous credit for the way he has led the nation in a highly successful opening counter-attack in the war against terror.”

“Since the State of the Union, there has been much discussion of whether Iraq, Iran and North Korea truly constitute an ‘Axis of Evil.’ As far as I’m concerned, there really is something to be said for occasionally putting diplomacy aside and laying one’s cards on the table. There is value in calling evil by its name. …”

“[T]here are still governments that could bring us great harm. And there is a clear case that one of these governments in particular represents a virulent threat in a class by itself: Iraq. As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table. To my way of thinking, the real question is not the principle of the thing, but of making sure that this time we will finish the matter on our terms.”

“In 1991, I crossed party lines and supported the use of force against Saddam Hussein, but he was allowed to survive his defeat as the result of a calculation we all had reason to deeply regret for the ensuing decade. And we still do.”

“The question remains—what next? Is Iran under the hard-liners less of a proliferation threat than Iraq? Or less involved with terrorism? If anything, Iran is at this moment a much more dangerous challenge in each area than Iraq.”

From his own words, it is evident that Gore supported George W. Bush post 9/11 war on terror of, including an attack on Iraq, and may have gone further and attacked Iran. So, no Mr. Jealous, it was not the election of President Bush that caused the war, it is the ideology of two political parties that favor militarism as a response to international issues.

If Not Nader, Why Did Gore Lose to Bush?

The reality is that Gore lost hundreds of thousands of votes to Bush in Florida that he should have won. The Democrats needed to make Nader into a scapegoat because they did not want to admit the real reasons that Gore lost to Bush.

The real reasons would have challenged Democratic Party orthodoxy of Wall Street and war that still dominates the party today. Al Gore was one of the founders of the corporate Democratic Leadership Council. He, along with Bill Clinton and other corporate Democrats, believed that taking funding from big business interests and doing their bidding was the path to defeating the Republicans.

The Democrats, unlike the Republicans, couch their corporate policies in language that sounds Populist. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did this for healthcare reform. Their plans protected the insurance, pharmaceutical and for profit hospitals from a single payer, improved Medicare for all system that would have put people, not profits, first. They claimed their plans were best for the people, when they were really best for their corporate donors.

Al Gore also had a long record as a supporter of a large military budget and US wars. He even joined the Vietnam War voluntarily to show his support for that war. The military industrial complex is a major donor to the Democratic Party and selling weapons has been a good business for Democratic presidents to pursue. The Obama Administration has sold more weapons than any president since World War II.

Gore compounded his corporate-militarist image by selecting Sen. Joe Lieberman as his vice president. Lieberman was about the most hawkish Democrat in the US Senate and an avid supporter of Israel. He was also essentially the Senator representing the insurance industry.

If the Democrats admitted that their selection of a corporate-militarist ticket is what cost them the election, it would turn their big business funding base against them. Rather than move away from selecting those kinds of candidates, the Democrats blamed Nader for Gore’s defeat and continue to this day to nominate similar candidates.

The Real Reason for Gore’s Defeat is Why this Election is Not a Landslide

The Democrats should be land sliding the incredibly weak Republican ticket but they are neck and neck in national polls because Clinton has a similar big business, pro-war record as does her vice president, Tim Kaine.

Clinton-Kaine are still likely to win but they need to instill Trump fear to drive voter turnout. Trump fear is a fraud. The electoral college map, the demographic shifts in the country and Trump’s hateful campaign, turning off major groups of voters, ensure that Hillary Clinton will be the next president.

There is no reason to vote in fear. Don’t fall for the Nader Myth, now you have the facts.

More:

Tim Wise, Why Nader is Not to Blame, AlterNet, November 7, 2000

Irene Dieter, Dispelling the Myth of the 2000 Election, California Greens, May 2003

gjohnsit,The Ralph Nader Myth, Daily Kos, December 6, 2013

Kevin Zeese co-directs Popular Resistance and served as Ralph Nader’s spokesperson and press secretary in 2004.

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