Editors’ Note: Former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, a longtime contributor to this magazine, strongly objected to contributing writer Ben Adler’s recent blog post “Delusions of Third-Party Candidates,” which cast a critical eye on the Third Party Presidential Debate held in Washington, DC on November 4, 2012. The debate included Green Party candidate Jill Stein, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson, the Constitution Party’s Virgil Goode and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson. Nader moderated the debate and takes exception with Adler’s account on both matters of fact and opinion. We post his reply below:
Ben Adler is ignorant of history and the contributions of third parties in a two-party duopoly. To him, third-party candidates are implied third-class citizens, not having equal rights to run for elections. To him, major party candidates do not become spoilers, do not steal or siphon votes—all politically bigoted language when exclusively applied to third-party candidates. Small party candidates that evening were not delusional; they said the word “president” with the conditional “if” or “as” and mostly in answer to such questions. Adler does not even know that Gore himself does not “blame” the Green Party; it was, he has said, stolen from him in Florida and that he should have won Tennessee, his home state, which, everything the same, would have put him in the White House. As for the 5-4 Supreme Court “selection” blocking the Florida recount, one can only guess Gore’s comments.
His complaint about the Green Party turning away journalists is bizarre. The Green Party had no role in hosting the debate. They were invited to the debate and did not determine entry.
Calling Busboys and Poets a “miniscule venue that highlighted the laughability of the assembled candidates’ pretensions” is another example of ignorance. Busboys and Poets is THE celebrated venue in Washington, DC for prominent authors, politicians, civic leaders, poets and other literary figures domestically and from abroad.
Adler is wrong to think the subjects presented that evening were those of “left-wing views.” Why are they “left-wing,” except from a National Review viewpoint? Most of the following so-called “left-wing views” have majoritarian support: raising the minimum wage, addressing climate change, stopping wars, rebuilding public works, curbing corporate crime, expanding Medicare for all, enhancing civic culture and power, increasing direct democracy, promoting renewable energy, reducing the Pentagon’s budget, reducing the deficit, expanding consumer protection and regulation. His example of a left-wing view was “corporate welfare,” which conservative/libertarians call “crony capitalism” with even greater antipathy.
The sequence in which the candidates answered questions was based on how many state ballots they were on. The candidates didn’t mind. Some thought going later gave them more time to think about the question. This was hardly a “measure of a candidate’s validity.”
Under two-minute time pressures, candidates often cut to the chase and gave a list of their positions. Does Adler know anything about political debates with four candidates? Later in the debate the candidates explained their positions when the opportunity presented itself, as did Jill Stein on the Green New Deal.
Adler mocked Gary Johnson (“most ridiculously”) who speculated he could actually have won the election “if someone gave me $50,000.” What he said was $50 million.
Another mistake: they did not “all agree” to support a binding, national, popular vote referendum process. Virgil Goode did not.
Adler is wrong that you can’t balance the budget without both cutting entitlements (presumably he means Medicare and social security budgets, not corporate entitlements) and raising taxes on the non-wealthy. Rationalizing the healthcare system cuts the burden on Medicare enormously, including huge billing fraud and abuse. Cuts can be made on the vendor side that oversells everything in a fee-for-service racket. You cut military budgets, corporate welfare, raise taxes on corporations and the wealthy to the level of the prosperous sixties, get market value for the commons (public lands, public airwaves, government R&D given free to launch most modern industries etc.)
He misquotes me on the two parties. We repeatedly staked out areas where there is almost no difference, especially on “doing” anything significant regarding corporate power, military budgets, aggressive warring, money, corporate crimes, Super PACs, bailouts and the minimum wage.
Finally, Adler might take a trip to Canada where a multi-party system, with its ups and downs, has produced a much more humane country and, should US corporate interests stop their pull down predations, would continue to do so. Smaller parties participate in Canada’s national debates, they do not face gerrymandered districts and they have a chance to become larger parties.
Ralph Nader and colleagues