The Atlantic Monthly is perpetuating the Ralph Nader myth, blaming him for Bush’s election in 2000. This is, at best sloppy journalism; at saddest, extreme denial; and at worst a plain lie. Here are just a few of the actual facts:
* A Progressive Review study of poll results throughout the campaign found no correlation between Bush’s percentage change and that of Nader except in July and August when the change was minimal.
* For example, in September of 2000, Gore’s average poll result went up 7.5 points over August, Nader’s only declined by one point. Similarly, in November, Gore’s average poll tally declined 5.7 points but Nader’s only went up 0.8 points.
* In Florida, it was also true. In nine successive surveys in which Nader pulled only two or three points, Gore’s total varied by seven points. As late as two weeks before the election, Gore was ahead by as much as seven to ten points.
* As Michael Eisencher reported in Z Magazine, 20% of all Democratic voters, 12% of all self-identified liberal voters, 39% of all women voters, 44% of all seniors, one-third of all voters earning under $20,000 per year and 42% of those earning $20-30,000 annually, and 31% of all voting union members cast their ballots for Bush.
* According to exit polling, those who voted for Nader were disproportionately under 30, independent, first time voters, formerly Perot voters, and of no organized religion. Sixty-two percent of Nader’s voters were Republicans, independents, third-party voters and nonvoters. In other words, many of his voters did not naturally belong o the Democratic party.
* The public had a cynical view of both major candidates with 41% believing that both would say anything to win votes. Barely half considered either major candidate honest and trustworthy. And an astounding 51% had reservations about their own vote.
* Perhaps the most important, but seldom mentioned, factor in the outcome was the impact of the Clinton scandals. 68% of voters thought Clinton would go down in history more for his scandals than for his leadership. 44% said that the scandals were somewhat to very important and 57% thought the country to be on the wrong moral track.
* In short, the individual who did the most harm to Gore (aside from himself) was Bill Clinton. If Gore had distanced himself from the Clinton moral miasma he would probably be president today.
* Kevin Zeese points out that had Nader not run, Bush would have won by more in Florida. CNN’s exit poll showed Bush at 49% and Gore at 47%, with two percent not voting in a hypothetical Nader-less Florida race.
* Gore lost his home state of Tennessee, Bill Clinton’s Arkansas and traditionally Democratic West Virginia; with any one of these, Gore would have won.
* Nine million Democrats voted for Bush, and less than half of the three million Nader voters were Democrats.
Zeese also notes, “The Democrats lost the 2002 congressional elections, the California and New York governorships, and many state legislatures throughout the country.”
Surely Nader is not to blame for those defeats.
SAM SMITH is the publisher of the Progressive Review, where this essay originally appeared.