A Republican friend of mine smiled when I said I might vote for Nader in the next presidential election. I could see him mentally calculating the extra vote Bush would get and Gore lose.
I am not going to vote for Nader although I did support him in the California primary. I still embrace his ideas and believe his plans match my vision much more closely than those of the Republican or the Democratic nominees. Yet, I will not waste my vote on the Green Party candidate in November.
There is a time for experimenting with voting. It's called the primaries. A number of candidates for both major parties tried their hand. Candidates who did not do very well in primaries eventually endorsed another about whom just a short time ago they were saying very unkind things. John McCain and Bill Bradley ultimately realized that one of the two finalists is better that the other, even if the candidate is not him. And both had to forget about the mud thrown at them by the two eventual nominees.
Nader should follow McCain and Bradley's example. He should look carefully at the two finalists and choose the one who comes closest to his ideas. Clearly that's Al Gore. Nader, in fact, has acknowledged that the Democratic nominee has been using his language as he attacks HMOs, tobacco and oil companies. He shouldn't write it off as rhetoric. Americans began supporting Gore when he started sounding more like a populist, and they aren't going to let him back down when he becomes president.
Gore is clearly Nader's candidate, as he is mine. The Democratic nominee's views on education, taxes, and likely Supreme Court nominations, match mine much more closely than Bush's.
The Republican nominee has put on a good show, particularly as he moved his Party to the ever-elusive center. His stance on immigration and other Latino's issues such as bilingual education give him a veneer of qualities traditionally associated with Democrats. Yet, Bush's fundamental beliefs are those of the Republican Party, which center around the idea that government should provide little help to people. In essence, Bush's beliefs make him a strong candidate for people who need no help-the rich and the powerful, those who already have all they need. They believe individuals who have resources should keep them, and those who don't, should get them by themselves. So when Ralph Nader tells us that he would give a grade of "D-" to both major party candidates, I find him an unfair judge.
In fact, his superficial assessment reduces the esteem I hold him in because he sounds no different than other politicians whose words need to be taken with a grain of salt. One needs to look not only at what they are saying, but also at what they have done.
What Nader has said during his campaign makes me leery about what he would do as president. When he states that liberals' support of Gore is "legitimizing what you think is illegitimate," Nader sounds very much like a standard politician and diminishes his stature in the process. Nader's labor support, his record as a consumer advocate, and his stand on the protection of the environment were all important reasons why I voted for him in the primary. But his most appealing quality was his integrity. When he unfairly attacks other candidates and lumps together positions that are clearly different, my sense of his integrity is diminished.
Voting for Nader in the general election might just tip the scale in some states toward Bush, particularly considering the closeness of the race. It's quite likely that Nader might take away enough votes from Gore to hand over Oregon, Washington, Florida and some Mid-Western states to George Bush. Politics consists of compromises. As voters, we cannot get the ideal candidate but often must be satisfied with a merely acceptable candidate. Often our first choice does not have a chance to win. Voting for our first choice may mean we'd end up with the third or even fourth choice. That's what happened to those Republicans who voted for Ross Perot in 1992. Their votes helped Bill Clinton get elected by siphoning two million votes from George Bush. Will Nader do the same to Gore? Not with my vote.