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COLUMN

Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Kodos

Andrew C. Thomas

If ever I was convinced about the failure of two-party democracy, it’s this week, as consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader announced his return to the ring to the sound of boos and catcalls from the Democratic loyal. Nader’s announcement, nearly one week after the final implosion of the campaign of similar thinker Howard Dean, was not only brilliantly timed but wonderfully illustrative -- that America’s two-party system is to blame for many of the problems it faces, and that its voters deserve more that two choices with large piggy banks.

The idea that Ralph Nader is singularly responsible for Al Gore’s defeat -- and hence George Bush’s victory -- in the 2000 election is laughable, and nothing more than a continued, convenient ploy by a band of sore losers to cover their own failings, such as Gore’s inability to win his home state of Tennessee, and other circumstances beyond their control, such as the highly questionable conduct of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (a Republican), who oversaw the removal of thousands of legitimate black (read: Democrat) voters from the rolls. Whatever votes may have been siphoned from Gore are a complete wash when every other factor is considered -- including Gore’s own supposed electability.

And the idea that Nader, or someone like him, will somehow be the big spoiler is equally laughable -- and certainly not because anyone will have “learned anything” from the last election. The continued fragility of the voting system is underscored by the actions of Diebold, the producer of unreliable electronic voting machines, and its CEO, Walden O’Dell, who has a gross conflict of interest with his role as a Republican fundraiser and his commitment “to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president.” Ironically enough, it’s this sort of shady dealing that Nader has crusaded against in his role as a consumer advocate.

Nader is no fool; clearly his decision to oppose both the Green Party and the Democrats at this level is not a move to support President Bush; it’s far more likely that his move is to ensure that disenchanted Deaniacs will keep an active interest in the management of their country. Nader’s presence as a voter’s advocate, therefore, can only serve to help the Democrats in the long run; the party needs a strong platform, and not just a weak opponent, in order to win over this country, and no one will be more pressing on the issues at hand than Nader.

Nader’s role in the 2000 election should have been a wake-up call for voting reform, but not just by replacing unreliable punch card voting methods. Surely Nader’s role must be to remind us that choosing between the lesser of two evils every four years is no way to guide a country towards prosperity. Third parties will remain jokes and spoilers in the eyes of voters, who are resigned to coin flipping or peer pressure to make up their mind between two similar entities, unless they are given more options.

Once again atop his soapbox, Nader has an opportunity to make his message heard. And this would be an excellent time for him to plug voting reform -- the very issue that brings to mind his name. Nader is on the record for supporting preferential ballot methods like instant runoff voting, and a man of his prudence could certainly bring the issue up with a minimum of humiliation. Certainly there are many other issues that deserve attention, but if there were ever an issue calling out to Nader and his remaining supporters, it’s got to be this.

Nader’s legacy is a proud one; he’s a man who has fought tirelessly for many years in the interests of the people. As a man whose political career has been fashioned from the same cloth, his symbolism cannot possibly be overlooked. Whether he will choose to throw his weight behind the Democrats is ultimately irrelevant -- this kind of pressure can, in the end, only help them face up to their own responsibility and learn to work together. And isn’t the spirit of grassroots democracy and cooperation the message Nader is trying to spread?