There is a myth that comes around every four years that needs to be put to rest after more than a decade. It usually references Green Party candidate Ralph Nader as the cause of Al Gore’s loss to George W. Bush back in 2000. The difference in the vote between the two major party candidates in the state of Florida was less than 600 votes and Nader received almost 100,000 votes in that state. A similar scenario played out in New Hampshire and if Gore had won the Granite State he could have won even without Florida. Presuming that without Nader in the race Gore would have gotten even a small percentage more of the votes than Bush in either of those states, the reasoning goes that he would have won the Presidency. We would never have heard of hanging chads or Kathleen Harris and there would have been no Supreme Court decision on the election or disappointment that Gore did not take the fight further but gave up before his supporters felt it was over. If you research it enough you will find that both sides in the controversy have shown statistical evidence to prove beyond a doubt that 1) Nader cost Gore the presidency and 2) Nader did not cost Gore the presidency.
I voted for Al Gore, but if a candidate cannot inspire the electorate enough to vote for them instead of migrating to a third party then the blame should rest on the candidate’s shoulders, not the American citizens who have every right and responsibility to vote for whomever they believe is the best candidate. It is nobody’s business to tell anyone else how to cast their ballot. Every citizen has the right to vote for the candidate that best speaks to them. Those who felt Ralph Nader was the best candidate believed it because the other two did not inspire them or tap into their needs and wants. There is no such thing as a wasted vote. This country was not intended to be a two-party system and we really need to do something to fix it so that other candidates have a real chance of winning.
The number of people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was 2,882,995. Patrick Buchanan took almost half a million votes, most of which would have probably gone to Bush if Buchanan had not been in the race. There were 14 other candidates on the ballot who secured an additional half million votes, some of which may have gone to Gore and some of which may have gone to Bush. All of them together made up about 3.5% of the vote total. The vote total for all of the candidates was 105,405,100.
In subsequent elections the dire warnings were sounded about the Nader effect (and it’s not just the Democrats who use this to try to convince people not to vote for third party candidates). The Republicans and Democrats are both happy to have people believe there are only two choices. In this election there are Republicans who fear that Gary Johnson may hurt Donald Trump and Democrats who fear that Jill Stein will hurt Hillary Clinton. Stein, in particular, is being labeled a spoiler long before the election even happens. I’m going to vote for Clinton but if her diehard supporters don’t have any more faith in her than that then she has a lot of work to do between now and November.
The crux of it for me is this. The FEC states that 51.21% of the voting age population voted in 2000. Take out those who cannot vote, such as felons in some states (and these days those without proper identification) and you still have about half of the eligible population sitting on their hands (or with their heads up their asses) and not exercising their right to vote. The American Presidency Project lists the highest percentage of voter turnout in our recorded history as 81.8% in our centennial year of 1876. According to 270 to Win it was a close election with Samuel Tilden winning the popular vote by about 300,000 votes and Rutherford B. Hayes winning the election with one more electoral vote than Tilden. If only we could get anywhere close to 81.8% today it would be a miracle. Or 70. Or 60. The lowest voter turnout total according to the American Presidency Project was 48.9% in 1924. Since 1972 it has never been higher than 60%. That means the likelihood is that at least 40% (and probably more than 50%) of the voting age population is likely not to vote in 2016, leaving a hundred million or more votes on the table.
The real reason Gore lost in 2000 is not that Nader secured a couple million votes, and it won’t be Jill Stein’s fault if she gets a million or two million votes and Clinton loses. The real culprit is the half of the country that doesn’t care enough about their future or the future of their children or grandchildren to get off their asses, turn off the television, and head to the polls. So don’t lambaste those who really believe that Ralph Nader or Jill Stein, Gary Johnson or Emidio Soltysik, or even Vermin Supreme is the best candidate for them. They have the Constitutional right to vote for the candidate of their choice, and at least they care enough to go to the polls and do their civic duty. Instead of attacking those who do vote, even if it’s not for your candidate, put some energy into getting people energized enough to vote for the person you want to win. If your candidate, whether it’s Clinton or Trump or one of the others, doesn’t speak well enough to the masses of apathetic citizens staying at home then maybe there is something wrong with their message. Or something wrong with those people who don’t care enough about what happens to the country to do something to create the future they want. Either way it’s not the fault of those who cast their votes for the candidate of their choice.