Readers respond to "An Open Letter to Ralph Nader Voters," by Charles Taylor.

Published March 18, 2003 8:38PM (EST)

[Read the open letter.]

Taylor has it backward: It was the Gore voters who changed history.

Had they voted for Nader-- and thus been just a bit more "idealistic" -- we would not be in the various crises of corporate control, erosion of civil rights, and threats of war in which we now find ourselves.

-- Jeremiah McAuliffe

Charles Taylor has it right in his sarcastic thank-you.

I remember heated arguments with friends, most of them upper-middle-class yuppies who were voting for Nader as a "protest," who talked about politics as though it were a video game or some other form of virtual reality. If they didn't like what they saw completely, they seemed to think they should be able to customize the world into a shape they wanted. Their basic argument was, "So we have a conservative in office for four years. In another four America will be ready for Nader."

The hubris, narcissism and myopic views of these misguided people -- and the American left -- proves itself time and time again. No room for compromise. Only room for some otherworldly "justice."

Gore wasn't perfect, and he was terrible on television. But at core, the man had a decency and a vision that's tragically lacking in Washington today. The justice the fools who voted for Nader gave us was short-sighted and fatally flawed. And we're all paying the price for it.

-- Jonathan Field

As one of those so-called white (read: human), middle-class (read: average), college-educated (read: I read) people who propelled a dimwit frat boy into the White House by voting for an articulate thinker, I have startling news for Mr. Taylor. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

No one who believes that their vote counts for something in a purported democracy needs to be told that they voted for the wrong person by voting for the right person. Taylor is practicing the same convoluted double-think of backroom backscratchers that has produced two indistinguishable major political parties and 20 years of political tedium.

As for his demographic analysis of the Nader vote, so what? If the Nader vote had been primarily female, gay or black, he certainly would not be letting loose such sophomoric and contemptuous snorts.

-- Conrad Spoke

I'd like to thank Charles Taylor for demonstrating that the American right wing aren't the only people who can manage a resounding whine when things don't go their way. What with all that complaining about "political correctness" and "the liberal media," I was beginning to think that we'd lost our edge in this regard. Apparently, it's a talent we haven't allowed to atrophy, after all.

As someone who voted for Ralph Nader -- and would do so again had the same election been held today -- I find the substance of Taylor's article to be laughable at best, utterly disheartening at worst. Laughable, because from my perspective Al Gore's principal distinction from Bush was that he was pro-abortion and slightly less anti-environment. Disheartening, because it's clear that Democrats have learned nothing from the spanking they took in the last two elections.

Invading Iraq was first proposed by President Clinton back in 1998. Clinton at least had the sense to realize it couldn't be done at that time, thanks to the total lack of support for the idea both here and abroad. Had the World Trade Center been destroyed in the first attempt, he might have pulled it off, and I find it hard to believe that Gore would have done things much differently. Besides, if it weren't for the fact that the Clinton administration kept defense spending at Cold War levels in spite of our having no major enemies during the '90s, the current Iraq adventure wouldn't have even been possible.

Ralph Nader was the only one of the major presidential hopefuls from 2000 who showed any real inclination to go a different way.

Gore's cozy relationship with Hollywood, the record industry, and Bill Gates leads me to believe that consumers would be no better off on the intellectual property front. While he seems a bit more enlightened about the environment, he accomplished remarkably little as either a U.S. senator or a vice president for the environment. In fact, he seemed to have come to the realization that smoking is harmful only in the last few years.

Even the current administration's Three Stooges approach to conflict with our allies might not have been much changed. Clinton, thank goodness, knew better than to preach to them constantly. Gore has never demonstrated this trait. For better or worse, Clinton excelled at making people think he was on their side on an issue, no matter what that issue was. In other words, Clinton was a master politician. Despite his experience, Gore never was.

From my perspective, it's Taylor and other "old-line" Democrats who should be polishing their M-16s right now. They, and the Republicans, managed to lose my vote by unerringly nominating the least qualified presidential candidate available. In past elections, I've voted for Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton (twice). I would have voted for Bill Bradley, and did in the 2000 primary. I probably would have voted for Jesse Jackson had he run against Bush. I'm clearly not that choosy about Democratic presidential candidates, but I expect them to behave as though they have a pulse and a conscience.

The message is clear: If you want my vote, earn it. Nominate someone who can it least understand what it's like to be poor or middle class in this economy, who at least occasionally encounters a well-heeled special interest he won't suck up to, and who can articulate his positions without sounding like a dimwit or a living teleprompter.

-- Craig Orsinger

I want to offer my congratulations to Charles Taylor for the appropriately cutting congratulations he offered to the Naderites. However, I'm afraid there's little chance that he'll move the true believers. At least, that's what my personal experience tells me.

I have found that appeals to these paragons of idealism invariably fall on deaf ears. I used to have many Naderite friends, but all of them, without exception, attacked me with defensive hostility when I offered them congratulations much like Charles Taylor's. I wish it were otherwise, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the Naderites electing Republicans again in 2004.

-- Ian Jackson

Let me say this: I didn't vote for Nader. I think he has no business being president. He was a one-issue candidate who would have had no support for his administration on either side of the aisle.

But with our political system as it is, alternative party candidates are, in my opinion, the only ones that will save our politically cynical, jaded selves.

Sure, these candidates have no hope of winning. But maybe that's not the role they are supposed to play at this point in American history. Perhaps their role is just to stand for something -- to speak up and be heard and give hope and heart to those like-minded citizens who feel alone, isolated and disenfranchised, who feel that they truly have no voice in our government because their only option is to go with the ideologically less offensive major party.

And maybe it is also their role to lose. To possibly destroy their political lives in the service of the citzens of this country by strengthening its political system. They are role models for the rest of us for the choices we are going to have to make.

Dark times are here, and I am just as resentful as you that I have to deal with them. We are going to war and neither we as united citizens nor a world in protest can stop it. So what are we going to do?

In November 2000, a small minority of individuals made the best decision they could using the information they had available and voted for a third-party candidate. In 2003, we feel we can judge them.

How will the future judge us? Could we of pro-peace be the villains who hamper the war effort and prolong the carnage that a strong and decisive first strike would have avoided?

Well, we will soon find out the answer to that question. Until then, I too am making the best decisions I can using the information I have available and preparing myself to be judged by history.

-- L.A. Harkness

Come on, Charles. You're bright enough to know that the Democrats must be thanking God for Ralph Nader's campaign. Now they can blame him for every evil thing the Republicans do. The Republicans gut the Constitution, and Democrats roll over for them? Blame Nader. The Republicans botch the economy, and the Democrats barely raise a complaint? Blame Nader. The Republicans steal the election in 2000, and the Democrats barely raise a protest? Perhaps they knew they'd need Nader as a scapegoat, and rolled over on that one too.

The funniest thing about pieces like Taylor's -- and similar screeds from Joe Conason and Eric Alterman, all decent reporters with bugs up their butts -- is that they seem to come from a kind of mirror world. In this other world, the Democrats never gave up on the poor, or ousted the radicals, or supported the death penalty, or let Clinton bomb countries without getting U.N. or congressional approval, or nominated the Ashcroft wannabe Joe Lieberman. Indeed, in this alternate world, the Democrats were Nader's Raiders, utterly unflagging in defending this country's magnificence. The bizarro Nader conjured up in these pieces is little more than a Ross Perot-style crank who has no business in politics. This is a fantasy not too far removed from the right-wing's imagery of Clinton as a moral degenerate and murderer.

Face it, guys. Gore has free time these days because he ran a lackluster campaign. His party failed to challenge the Republicans at the most important moments. His party failed to energize its natural constituencies, even squandering the support Clinton enjoyed, and set its hopes on corporate supporters and adopting Republican strategies. And the Republicans were, let's face it, better organized, better funded and more powerful.

Yeah, I voted for Nader. I did it because he was a candidate I wanted to see as president. I'd do it again today, for the same reasons -- but also for the sheer spectacle in watching dolts like Taylor, Alterman, and Conason morph into Rush Limbaugh when his name is mentioned.

-- Brian Siano

Charles Taylor is missing the point. The important point is not that all those Nader voters really blew it, but rather that it's absurd that our system punished them -- and all Gore voters -- for voting their conscience. Unlike countries with more recently formed election systems than ours, in America voters have to try to guess the outcome of the election to decide if it's safe to vote for the candidate we really want. It's madness. It doesn't have to be this way.

There's a system called the Condorcet system, a refinement of the basic "instant run-off" system, which neatly corrects this problem. A quick Google search on "Condorcet" will give the interested reader -- which should be every citizen -- all the details.

I'd hoped that after such a farcical excuse for an election, there would be a clear outcry for electoral reform. Instead, there was a bit of grumbling, and then we all went back about our business. Americans seem to have forgotten that we have the option -- and the obligation -- to reform our system when we become aware of correctible flaws.

If we don't stop whining about the "unelected president" and focus on the real issue of needed electoral reform, we'll never give thoughtful people the option of voting for the candidate they like, instead of against the candidate they fear. Voting for Nader was an act of misguided hope by many who are rightfully disillusioned with our suffocating two-party system. Our system let them down and made them wrong for choosing the candidate they really wanted. Let's reform the system rather than attack good people for voting for the candidate who best represents them.

-- Roy Feague

As one of those last-minute vote changers who were swayed by Democratic pleas to back Al Gore instead of Ralph Nader, I have to say I heartily regret that decision and not just because Bush won. If I needed an illustration of the Democratic Party's bankruptcy in the cojones department, your open letter listed several fine reminders of their generic lack of leadership.

The real reason all those interesting and scary things are happening in the Congress now is the 2002 election. The vast majority of the Democratic Party rolled over and played dead to a wartime Republican administration and signed a blank check for whatever crazy mess the president wanted. Of course they lost their tiny majority in the Senate, two years after Nader ran.

Do we now feel free to absolve the Republicans of responsibility for the current situation?

This kind of backbiting is exactly why progressives can't get it together -- we're too busy attacking each other. Get over it. We can't afford this anymore.

-- Angeli Primlani

Thank you so much for putting in print what I know so many liberals feel. I long for a day next year when a Green Party member rings my doorbell and tries to get me to support their cause. I can guarantee you that I won't be nearly as nice and polite as you have been in your letter.

-- R.D. Vega

By Salon Staff

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